Monthly Archives: February 2008

Accessibility Testers Wanted

AccEase is urgently looking for testers with mobility impairments to work with us in our “real world” web site testing service.

You will need to be someone who uses assistive technology to help you use computers, e.g. voice recognition, sticky keys, pointer or any kind of mouse substitute etc.

We need someone who can work to deadlines, is reliable and who can sometimes work at short notice. You don’t have to be a geek, just interested in using the Internet in an ordinary way.

This is, of course, paid work, but is fairly irregular. It suits students and people working either at home or someone in or looking for part-time work. You can be from anywhere in NZ.

If you are interested email asap with your full contact and other details.

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Web Accessibility

The United Nations International Year of Languages

Today was the International Day of Mother Languages, launching the United Nations International Year of Languages.

It is also the International Year of the Potato. So there you have it, two of life’s necessities, language and spuds! Both sustain us.

At the launch event we had presentations on the status of two of our national languages, on Pacific languages, and community languages. It was the presentation from the Deaf community that particularly made me think. Rachel Noble, who is CEO of the Deaf Association celebrated the status of NZ Sign as our third national language. She pointed out that under our law it has the highest status of any Sign Language in the world.

This is all well and good but where next? As with a good deal of legislation, there is the law but there are no resources to make sure it really works. We have a school curriculum but there needs to be more. Rachel raised the question of how to ensure there is progress. Should there be a Sign Language Commission like the Maori Language Commission? Do we need a national Sign Language strategy like the Maori Language Strategy? How do we promote the discussion to decide what needs to happen?

Watching a Signer is pure communication theatre, and very beautiful. Although I miss most of it, and can’t really learn it, I still enjoy watching while I listen to the interpreters. (We need more of them too.)

Perhaps with the assistance of UNESCO here and other supportive organisations, government and non-government we can make some progress this year. Languages matter!

2008 Languages Matter!

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Filed under Disability Rights, Information Accessibility

Webstock 08

Webstock 2008 was even better the second time around. It was entertaining, thought provoking, and most important, full of good ideas. I came away feeling encouraged about the future of accessibility. Although I didn’t learn a great deal that was new from Shawn Henry’s excellent presentation, it was good to reconfirm what I know. It was also important to hear about developments in the WAI WCAG standards and to catch up with Shawn and other accessibility aficionados.

One unexpected pleasure was the presence of disabled people. Not many of us, but still we were there and our needs, along with dietary requirements were generally accommodated. Most obvious were the NZ Sign interpreters. Many presenters obviously had no idea about how to work with them and made their job extremely difficult by speaking very fast. They also told me that speakers had not provided material in advance in a field with very specific technical language. They deserve a medal for their hard work.

The food was good, the entertainment was lively as was the company. But what was with all the cats? Geeks must all be cat people, as I am myself. Felines featured in many presentations, although Kathy Sierra managed to introduce a puppy of two!

For those of us looking for inspiration there was some seriously good stuff. It was great to see a greater emphasis on people as well as the cool technology. Russell Brown provided some interesting media analysis for media junkies like me. There were some thought provoking sessions on tech business.

A surprising number of presenters drew on the past, and I mean over one hundred years ago to provide insights on the future. Who would have thought that Florence Nightingale would have provided inspiration to twenty first century technologists to use and analyse data more fully.

Amy Hoy’s Usability for Evil was enlightening, and Damien Conway’s dire take on Web 2.0 had us all falling about laughing while giving some clear messages about the difficulties experienced by long suffering end users, and Jason Santa Maria had great overheads.

I can’t wait to put some of the ideas into practice.

I sense a growing maturity in the geek community, with what I always call the “gee whiz technology” culture being tempered with a more balanced and healthier focus on the people factor.

And as one of the few people there old enough to remember the original Woodstock I can assure everyone that Jimi Hendrix lives!

Read what other bloggers are saying.

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Accessibility user testing rules OK!

In my experience there are some people who really “get” the whole idea of accessibility, be it web or anything else. They understand the need for web site accessibility testing in the real world with disabled users. There are others, who have learned about its importance, sometimes through bitter experience. They too now understand the need for accessibility testing.

There is still a fairly large group of people who do not understand at all. It is not necessarily malice aforethought, although there are perhaps a very few who think that we crips and blindies and the like are such a small minority that we are really just an irritating nuisance.

But many people still genuinely and sincerely think that if you tick all the boxes for the web standards it will all work like magic. I wish it would, Standards are the basics. Get them right and it won’t be as hard to fix the rest. Web standards are objectively measurable. Many of the other elements which contribute to a truly accessible and usable web site are not objectively measurable. For example, there are still big debates around the use of colour, and in particular colour contrast. Look and feel is another contentions one, as is good navigation, never mind the level of language used on the site.

Standards will, and can, only go so far. The rest is up to planners, designers, information architects, web builders, techies, information managers, content writers and everyone who maintains the site. Listening to and learning from the people who use the site is critical, and learning from their experience, good and bad, will make the real difference between an accessible and usable site, and an inaccessible and user unfriendly site for disabled and older people and everyone else. A lot depends on how much the site owner cares about the customer.

AccEase people are passionate about making sure that all of the information for all of the people all of the time is a reality. To this end we will be increasing our user testing services soon to help web site owners make their sites more accessible. Watch this space!

Testing web sites with disabled people and implementing the test findings will make a difference, not only to us, who are after all 20% of the population, but to other users as well.

Nothing about us without us!

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Filed under Information Accessibility, Web Accessibility