Panel Discussion

The panel: Mike Davies, Kath Moonan, Bim Egan, Jonathan Hassell, Antonia Hyde, Dr. Panayiotis Zaphiris. Julie Howell moderating.

(laptop batteries are dying so this may not get the whole session.)

JH: PAS78 is going to become a full British Standard.

Better Connected report – accessibility is getting worse, not better?
Bim: No, it’s getting better but we compare sites with their peers and the standards are much higher now. Example: everyone has headings now. Five years ago this wasn’t true. Web probably 200% more accessible now compared with five years ago.
Talks about the problem of Too Much Accessibility – well-intentioned developers adding accessibility features which may hurt usability.

Why are Yahoo! here?
Mike: Y! understand that accessibility is part of their mainstream business. Built a very talented web team. That talent brings accessibility with it as a matter of course. Needs one person with power to see the need and push for it within an organisation. Same story at Legal & General.

Overcoming fear of contributing/fear of making mistakes?
Jonathan: Not sure. Give people the means to express themselves. Give them a voice, which may be text but may also be video. Give them a medium that they are comfortable expressing themselves in. Anonymity of the web is a problem – encourages trolling, which discourages people who have something to say. Barrier to contributing is the audience themselves. Youtube users can be awful. Web hides your disability, but sense of identity is important to people. BSL community a good example here.

And the laptop is onto reserve power. That’s all for today folks…

Ian Forrester – Tools + technologies

Disabled doesn’t mean people in wheelchairs or with white canes. Everyone has differing levels of ability in different senses – accessibility isn’t a minority thing.

Permissions and trust – I can tell from looking at a page if I trust it with my e-mail address etc. How does a JAWS user make the same judgement?

OpenID authorisation uses redirects – problematic for phones and screenreaders.

Dopplr (hi Fiona!) – importing/exporting friends lists is not very accessible. Not sure I follow this one.

Many people need plain english – how does this sit with EULAs and terms that you agree to when you sign up to a service? CC has a good model for simplifying legal bumpf.

Increase accessibility by allowing export to a wide variety of formats. Give users choice.

Use the correct stack. Joost uses SVG with HTML and script. Unfortunately, the product itself sucks.

Stephen Elsden – Building a social network for disabled users

Building a portal for disabled people and those with an interest in disability. Free access, fully interactive, fully accessible.

Simple iconography that works without colour. Give the user control over the colour scheme. Visual tag clouds with numbers next to each item for screenreaders. Avoids jargon – “Popular topics” rather than “Tag cloud”.

Simple, clear comment box and star rating input.

Timescale is quite long – 3 years – so repeat user testing along the way.

“How much do you use the web?” “Not much, only to book tickets, and do the shopping, and chat to my friends, and…”

Tested for A and AA WCAG compliance. Test common tasks across the site, with a range of impairments.

Launch pilot version, then test again in a live environment – iterative improvements to accessibility.

Next phase – add a helpline service that people can ring up.

Jonathan Hassell – User-generated content

About the BBC homepage redesign – “JavaScript often seen as accessibility problem, here it was a solution…”

There are accessible commercial sites (tesco, legal & general) but how to persuade users of blogger, youtube, flickr, myspace, bebo etc. to create accessible content?

Responsibility of site – provide accessible tools. Enable users, regardless of ability. Quick example – only 1 in 4 site-building tools allow alt text to be added to photos.

Will the site owner let users know that accessibility support is available? Monitor if they are using it? If a disabled user can’t access the content, who do they ask to correct it?

Mentions the power of youtube for the Deaf community. Video easier to use than text here. Why have “Plain English” when you can have TV?

Adding alt text or transcripts – get the community involved? Either moderators or just contributions from motivated users.

Doing something specifically for a particular audience can reap benefits. Examples from BBC; enabling primary school kids to learn BSL via interactive Flash avatar; second game builds a play with BSL dialogue.

Another example for blind kids – game uses the stereo sound field to indicate left-right position on the screen. Move train cars from the left, try to get them over to the right.

Antonia Hyde – Rich media for people with learning disabilities

Learning disabilities – very much an underrepresented group in accessibility discussions. Around 1.5 million people in UK. No one size fits all solution for their problems.

Rich media very powerful offline to support people. How can it be used online? Video opens doors, makes things real for people.

People may access websites with support – second person as helping hand.

Example video showing the importance of giving the user control. Too much on the screen for him – too confusing with so much going on. Would like control over that.

Uh oh – powerpoint has died!

How can web 2.0 help? People can contribute, rather than just receiving. But they need control, ability to interact with the site at their own pace.

The more people can do for themselves, the more independence and control they have.

Ajax is powerful – don’t let it become the new pop-up window.

Shows an example of someone using for the first time. Likes the band page. Gets a bit confused about what’s what on a user profile page. Thinks it’s a really good site – not just listening to music but meeting people, making friends are important.

Chris Heilmann – Fencing in the habitat

How to do the right thing and get it wrong.

Making an accessible product is making a good product. Claims of accessibility compliance may not be true – ticking boxes to make the boss happy rather than improve the site for the end user.

Quick fix philosophy: old, broken, unloved product + MAGIC! = shiny, totally accessible site. These people get contracts 🙁

Don’t give old browsers script + CSS if you don’t trust what they’ll do with it. HTML should stand alone without the other two.

Selling accessibility – don’t create a habitat for disabled users. Inclusion, rather than exclusion.

Font resizing widgets – example of something that satisfies managers without improving access. Users will have font magnification set up – don’t shrink text then give them an option to make it big again.

Plugins + widgets cost development time and need maintenance budgetted in. End up unsupported and dying.

“Geeks that care” – the main driver for web sites that work. It isn’t in the spec but we do it because we care about doing a good job.

The easiest way to sell accessibility is SEO – don’t hide stuff from GoogleBot.

Phones and touch interfaces – sells the point that interfaces should be device-independent. Games consoles too – simplifying the interface = success.

Timestamped commenting on video is a potential solution for captioning – user-generated content aiding accessibility. Flickr comments too – alt text which wouldn’t exist otherwise. How do you assess quality of comments?

Technology is the solution when it comes naturally and everyone benefits. Don’t fence disabled users in a habitat.

Steve Faulkner – Making Twitter Tweet

More notes from Accessibility 2.0

Twitter – good example of web 2.0 and potential problems for assistive technology (AT). Focussing today on JavaScript/Ajax – ensure these user interfaces are usable in AT. Also use of microformats by Twitter, particularly <abbr> for dates – not the best way to encode machine-readable data.

Provide correct role + state info for interface elements. Eg. Link as button = incorrect role. Button image with descriptive alt text = incorrect state description. Solution, use a button instead of a link. Use alt on the image to describe the state of the button, not what it looks like.

Dynamic content – make updated content available to AT and notify AT that new content is available. Be aware of how the virtual buffer works in JAWS<7.1 and Window Eyes. There is a 600ms delay on virtual buffer updates after buttons are pressed, which can be a problem if Ajax updates return in > 600ms - the virtual buffer updates before the DOM is changed and everything goes wonky. JAWS 7.1+ has fixed this, but still an issue in Window Eyes. Providing alternative routes to update content can help here. Also WAI-ARIA live regions – not sure about support here.

Write “Content updates occur frequently. If things aren’t working as you expect, try refreshing the page.” and hide this off the page. Crude but effective.

Live region example – interactive word count on a textarea. Gives a sound alert when 30, 15 and 5 characters remaining. Control over type of alert – text vs. sound – should come from user, I suppose.

WAI-ARIA – a mechanism for adding Name, Role and State to existing HTML elements. Politeness level – polite|assertive|rude – tells AT when/how frequently to read changing info back to user.

Implementation/support – Firefox, IE8, Opera, JAWS, Window-Eyes, ORCA, NVDA, Firevox. YUI Libraries, Dojo and Spry support ARIA. Also Google tools.

Accessibility 2.0 – a million flowers bloom

Incoherent notes jotted down during the day.

First up: Jeremy Keith – Open data

Intro with Domesday book and digital preservation. Digital preservation is wrapped up with open formats vs. closed.

Qualities of open vs. closed formats. Open source development – comparison with natural selection. Standardisation – compromised + standardised preferable to proprietry + perfect. However, compare ease of development in Flash vs. pain of cross-browser development in HTML/CSS.

The strength of HTML is simplicity. Simplicity brings a longer lifespan (and wide authorship – low barrier to entry?)

Don’t talk about making the web accessible – talk about keeping the web accessible.

APIs as an accessibility feature – I like this! Make your data available as RSS alongside HTML – woo! Restricted/crippled data is doomed – mentions licensing of OS maps as an example. This is oversimplified – museums have massive problems over ownership of information. Just ignore it and publish anyway? Look at how wikipedia is redistributing museum pictures regardless of permission.

Characteristics of the web – standards, simplicity, sharing.

On rights and licencing – Flickr Commons uses a new licence for orphan works – no known owner. Need to overcome fear and stop assuming the worst. Publish, then apologise if you publish something you don’t have rights to. Don’t lock everything up because of a few doubts.