Accessibility Is Joyous

Let’s Celebrate Accessibility & Inclusion

It’s the 3rd Thursday in May so I am writing my ritual blog post for GAAD (Global Accessibility Awareness Day)

2016 Calendar with a red ring around may 19th

Mark Your Calendar For GAAD

It seems like every day is a Global this or International that day – indeed, often days have multiple causes assigned to them. It can be all to easy to switch off & carry on as normal and to be honest a lot of the time I think that we all do.

Why do I choose to celebrate GAAD?

Firstly I live and work in accessibility:

  • I’m immersed in it, I believe passionately that inclusion is good for both individuals and society. 
  • I use Assistive Technologies as well as supply them and I benefit from accessible products and features.
  • As I have blogged previously 1 billion people with disabilities is not a niche, it’s a demographic megatrend.

Secondly, GAAD is a community day it’s not designed to raise money the sole purpose is awareness. Jennison and Joe the founders have done a great job of energising the global accessibility community to get behind the day and share their knowledge and experience.

GAAD is paying it forwards

It’s about sharing skills and knowledge with new people, exposing the wider world to the work that is important to enable many people to participate fully in an increasingly digital world.

Thirdly and it’s a related point, that sometimes working in accessibility can be a bit of a lonely job. Many colleagues are the only person in their company in that role so GAAD is also a chance to come together and celebrate with friends and make new ones.

GAAD is a day when we can help demystify accessibility

As Gareth Ford Williams says “Accessibility is not a dark art” today is our chance to shine a light on and spread the love for accessibility.

Along with the Atos team of Accessibility Specialists and a bunch of amazing speakers we’ll be gathering at our HQ in London for an all day celebration. We’ll be sharing stories and knowledge both hands on and virtually.

For those that are interested, there will be a captioned live stream of the presentations.

Captioned live stream (10am – 4.30 pm)

I plan to post the recordings afterwards for those that can’t be with us in the day.

Truly celebrate GAAD because accessibility is joyous.

Jumping For  Joy

People Jumping For Joy

Enjoy your day I know I will enjoy mine.

Accessibility is Personal

It’s that time again.

It’s late May and that means one thing in the Accessibility world: #GAAD (Global Accessibility Awareness Day).  It’s the annual online & offline event Dreamed up by Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion to reach outside of the sometimes insular world of accessibility and share the passion for making technology and services available to everyone regardless of disability.

GAAD logo

#GAAD is a great thing and each year it gets bigger and bigger. Over the last few years I’ve gone from attendee at events to organising them – this year we’re teaming up with the BBC to hold an all day event in our headquarters in London.  My hope is that we’ll attract and interact with a bunch of people that don’t normally consider that accessibility touches them.  It may not yet but the likelihood is that it does already and it is almost certain that within their lifetimes all of the participants will find that they prefer to use adapted and adaptive tech because it makes their life easier.

Accessibility is Personal to Me

Accessibility is personal to me for several reasons:

I owe my education to accessibility.

I have used assistive technologies for 15 years now and freely admit that I would have struggled to complete my masters without using things like Dictation and Text to Speech Tools (Dragon Naturally Speaking and Texthelp Read & Write).

I owe my job to accessibility.

Yes it is my job to provide accessibility products and services, but without access to them my own working life would be a lot harder.

Accessibility will mean my parents stay independent for longer into their old age.

My father is deaf (uses a hearing aid) & has mobility problems, my mother is visually impaired (cataracts) although neither would identify as being either.  Both benefit from being able to use technology that has been personalised for them.  Both love their DORO mobiles and their Ipads.

Accessibility is personal to users – It is allowing personalisation.

Everyone is unique, we all have different needs and use technology in ways that suit our needs.  Accessibility is all about allowing people to do stuff in a way that suits them best.  Sounds a lot like user preference right?  Alastair Sommerville (@AcuityDesign) refers to accessibility as “Extreme Personalisation” Watch the interview with Alastair that we did for Axschat a in February.

I really like this concept but some of the most useful accessibility features for making content easier to digest are widely used things such as larger text, reduced white point reminders, speech recognition, once upon a time these things would have been extreme they are transitioning to the mainstream.

Every time I get frustrated with accessibility and the challenges of delivery, I take a step back and think of the things above, I remember why I love accessibility.

Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

On fonts and dyslexia

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is around using special fonts for people with dyslexia.

There has been a lot of stuff about dyslexia friendly fonts over the years starting with comic sans, read regular and most recently with open dyslexic and dyslexie. There are various claims made as to their efficacy.

Here are samples of the two most common fonts aimed specifically at dyslexia

Sample of Open DyslexicSample of Dyslexie Font.

They certainly attract a lot of attention in the press and on social media.

I know they are trying to be helpful but I don’t like them or find them helpful.

As a dyslexic person I find myself reacting very negatively to them not just because they are portrayed as a panacea but because they are not to my taste. They are very clunky and unattractive.

On a (screen) tablet,pc or phone I have a preference for well spaced highly legible text on a just off white background as I find that the glare from pure white slows me down.

Other people will have other preferences. This is important.

Allow people to chose – don’t assume that what works for one will work for another.

This study would appear to show that they are not as effective as they claim.
http://www.luzrello.com/Publications_files/assets2013.pdf

Here is a link to Adrian Roselli’s write up from CSUN on research findings presented there.

http://rosel.li/031415

The article below is a good balanced read from a typography point of view.

http://www.commarts.com/Columns.aspx?pub=6950&pageid=1785

It’s commonly accepted amongst the UK dyslexia community that sans serif fonts are preferable on a screen see the British Dyslexia Association pages:
http://bdatech.org/what-technology/typefaces-for-dyslexia/

However layout contrast and font size are at least as important if not more so than the font choice. Configurability and personal preference are therefore key.

Signage fonts generally are designed with legibility and intelligibility in mind and there has been a lot of research into creating good ones. They have to work for people who’s brains are already under significant cognitive load from driving.

The award winning gov.uk uses a signage font “New Transport”
Sample of New Transport

And a personal favourite of mine (including the research) wayfinding sans
http://ilovetypography.com/2012/04/19/the-design-of-a-signage-typeface/

Example of wayfing sans

Interesting Yet Inaccessible: To Share Or Not To Share?

Image

My Dilemma

Today I got called out on twitter by David MacDonald – a fellow accessibility professional for reposting a tweet by Jared Spool which contained an image of text.

I frequently get faced with a dilemma when someone posts content that is not accessible yet I find interesting and worthy of sharing.

David MacDonald calls out Neil for retweeting an image of text posted by Jared SpoolDo I share?

When I make content I strive for it to be accessible but a lot of stuff on social media is not created by me but I may think people would like to know about it.

Do I never share?

That would stop me from sharing a lot of interesting stuff on principle. But what little content I did would be fully accessible.  Maybe if you consider social media to only contain ephemera then this should be your course of action.

Do I fix other people’s content?

In this case I have fixed someone else’s content.

However it’s taken me much more time than the collective effort of all the people who created the original content and responded to it so is not realistic on every occasion:

What about when the medium is innately inaccessible?

Twitter is a short form medium. I wish that it provided the opportunity to create alt text inbuilt. I wish that the default mobile clients supported these features – they don’t yet. As a consequence sometimes I share stuff that is not accessible.

The Text In The Offending Image:

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.

You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before.

Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” — Neil Gaiman

Digital By Default

This week I spent a day and a half at the National Digital Conference (twitter hashtag #ND13).

It was interesting talking with civil servants, members of the third sector and businesses about their interests and efforts to growing digital engagement with the wider public.

This is part of a strategy called Digital by Default being led by the Government Digital Service (GDS). They put forward some compelling facts and figures on the benefits to individuals and society in general for their approach. They are responsible for the new UK government web site that recently won the Design of the Year Award.

Here are the GDS core principals:

A list of the ten Gov.uk design principles see text below.

1 Start with needs*
2 Do less
3 Design with data
4 Do the hard work to make it simple
5 Iterate. Then iterate again.
6 Build for inclusion
7 Understand context
8 Build digital services, not websites
9 Be consistent, not uniform
10 Make things open: it makes things better

The idea is to make services available primarily via the Internet. The web is the first point of call and the premise is that it will bring benefits for the user

We had some really interesting speakers on a range of topics from Martha Lane Fox, Lord Young, Phillip Blond and Emma Mulqueeny.

The First Major Topic Was Assisted Digital

This is what GDS say about Assisted Digital.

“The Assisted Digital team at GDS is working with departments to develop assisted digital support for digital services. This will give the 18% of UK adults who are offline access to digital by default services”

Read the Cabinet Office Assisted Digital Strategy

Assited Digital is NOT about accessibility the GDS believe that they have that covered in their strategy when they say “build for inclusion”.

And lets remember that digital accessibility only works if the users have the Assistive Technologies to interact with and the knowledge if how to use them.

Some of this Assisted Access of this will mean Digital By Proxy as the “Default” services are accessed on behalf of citizens who cannot access them unaided.

Another core strategy is to teach digital skills to those that currently don’t have them. A large contingent of this group is made up of people with disabilities and the older population. Many of these people are effectively socially excluded. The idea is that they get help right now but they will be encouraged to become more and more digitally independent.

The thing that struck me was that whilst there was a lot of talk about the huge benefits of getting people online, how much money people will save, how it empowers consumers and makes access to government services and information easier and more streamlined but little thought on the other effects it might have.

To me it seems like we are missing a few pieces of the jigsaw:

We don’t routinely provide Assistive Technology to all citizens that need it.
Grant provision for AT whilst excellent in Higher Education and available in the workplace is missing for the wider population on disability benefits.

The Access to Work scheme is a net contributor to the treasury. Other Government schemes such as Motability have given many people much greater independence, so why not have a targeted scheme for access technologies along similar lines.
Without the AT and the skills to use it there’s a lot of wasted effort making stuff accessible.

Furthermore many of those that currently use face to face analogue services now value the human interaction – the visit to the Post Office or Council office might be the only human contact they have. Phillip Blond made an interesting point – isolation and loneliness has a more immediate detrimental effect than smoking.

I applaud much of what the government digital strategy is attempting but I will leave you with these questions:

If all we go digital does it not bring it’s own perils?

Is it not like squeezing a balloon – with actions (the stated benefits) in one direction causing reactions (challenges) in another direction?

Footnote

I’m a naturalised digital citizen – I’m connected all of my waking hours and my digital presence is awake even when I am not. I have many connections and virtual interactions. I can work from anywhere and yet I chose to brave the rush hour crush. Why do I do this?

There is something valuable about proximity and the spontaneity of old fashioned analogue contact. If all our transactions go digital the. We need to find another and better way of engaging with the socially excluded.

Hands squeeze a balloon and it bulges outwards.

Kew Gardens Tropical Extraveganza

Deep purple orchidsYesterday I was lucky enough to visit Kew Gardens to see the Tropical Extraveganza exhibition.20120220-111935.jpg

The displays of tropical flowers and orchids were quite simply beyond anything I have ever seen anywhere.

I went a bit snap happy with my iPhone camera and thought that I would share some of these pictures.20120220-112004.jpg

If you get a chance to visit Kew Gardens in the next couple of weeks I strongly recommend that you take the opportunity.

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These Vandas are very fleshy and opulent.  I have some similar purple ones at home but have never seen colours like the orange and yellow ones below.20120220-112056.jpg

Vandas are epiphites something I did not appreciate when I first had one so I watered it to death.  You can see the green roots on these plants also photosynthesise.

20120220-112404.jpg

 I wish I had the space to hang a display of plants like this.20120220-112225.jpg

This orchid below reminds me a bit of a narcissus.20120220-112156.jpg

 

As you enter the greenhouse you are confronted with towering displays of orchids.A pillar of orchid blooms

20120220-112310.jpg

But its not just orchids that were on show there was a profusion of other plants too. 

  Floating flora20120220-112344.jpg

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