Wednesday 22 September 2010

This September, the website was launched. I've teamed up with a couple of guys and some disability organisations to provide some collective accessibility experience.

This means that will be able to offer multi-user-pan-disability testing, in addition to
  • accessibility consultancy
  • training
  • web testing
  • application testing
  • PDF tagging
I'll be adding articles and other content over the next few weeks, so why not pop over and bookmark it now?

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Expanding acronyms

Acronyms and abbreviations are a pain in the bum. Very rarely do you see a good implementation of these siblings anywhere.

Just recently I was taking a look at Teachers TV and found what I thought was the best solution I'd yet seen; neatly styled title attributes for the text with a link to a glossary page that not only explained the expansion, but also offered a search for other articles with the same reference.

It's not rocket science, but I've yet to see another site that does the same thing.

Nice work.

BRYCS 2009

Climbing-wise, this has been an interesting year for the Broome Family,

Both Noah (10) and Naomi (12) qualified to take part in the British Youth Climbing Series 2009 this weekend.

Noah proved his mettle last year by coming in a respectable 5th while at this time, Naomi hadn't yet started climbing. After passing team trials at Dynamic Rock in Swansea, they started preparing themselves for the Welsh round of the competition, where both kids put in an amazing effort to take 1st place (Noah) and 2nd place (Naomi) in their respective categories.

The National final took place in London on Saturday 20th June at the Westway Sports Centre in London and the competition was amazingly fierce.

The venue would have been great except for a very strange decision to cram all of the climbing into half of the centre; putting most people immobile in a bone-crushing-tightly-packed-standing room-only-fire-hazard pile of bodies while the rest of the venue was mostly vacant. A far cry from last year's competition at Ratho.

In the end Noah came 6th and Naomi 26th (which is still great considering how far she had come in just 8 months of climbing), and Noah at least is looking forward to having another go next year.

Friday 19 October 2007

Hawking toolbar.

I just discovered this fantastic little application for FireFox that helps people with severe mobility impairments. Historically, switch access users haven't been able to get to the toolbar of their browser without help from someone else, so even simple actions like using the 'Back' button have been impossible. One of the best tools on a website for this group of users is the breadcrumb trail which helps them navigate back to points in their browsing history, but many sites don't feature these and may leave some users a bit stuck.

The Hawking toolbar allows some simple controls to be available to the user including the essential 'Back' function. It's free to download and has some really useful features such as grouping links based on proximity to each other and switching between groups rather than tediously highlighting each individual link. It will then switch between links in that group. Very neat.

You can find out more about the toolbar from the Oatsoft website.

While we're talking about tools for people with mobility impairments, I noticed Karl Dawson posted a link that he found which featured people using software called 'Keystrokes'. There's a whole bunch of videos on there that are mind boggling. I never imagined that you would be able to play first person shooters with only your thumb but you can, and people do.

Wednesday 26 September 2007

Text size widgits - quite useful actually

I think the accessibility community has become bored of late. Sites are getting much better, code is getting much cleaner and that leaves us twiddling our thumbs a bit.

But recently there's been a fair bit of discussion over text resize widgits over at 456Berea St. Popular opinion has it that these widgits are not only unnecessary but harmful in that people come to rely on these widgits rather than find out how to resize text in the browser.

This argument baffles me. I hear "Teach a man to fish..." but I don't think that's a good analogy at all. We have to accept that some people will never learn to fish; either because they can't or they don't want to. If they don't want to, who are we to say that they have to?

Those who can't/won't may include:

  1. People who are mobility impaired, particularly those using switch access
  2. People who have learning difficulties

  3. People with cognitive disabilities

  4. People who won't realise the benefit until someone has actually shown them
  5. Infrequent web users

  6. People who aren't confident with technology

I think the last group mentioned here is probably the group that technologists often don't understand very well and have little empathy for. It includes many who are elderly and who are learning about technology later in life. It also includes those who just aren't confident period. I was in a room the other day talking with a colleague and there was a tiny tap on the door. Not sure we'd heard anything at all we kept talking until the door opened slightly and someone shyly and quietly asked something. Not catching what she said the first time I walked to the door and heard her ask "Is this the confidence building class?" I'd never heard of such a thing and was humbled at the thought of it. Naturally I helped her out the best I could and didn't feel inclined to slam the door on her fingers and tell her that she should have been better prepared.

Don't get me wrong, showing people how to resize text in the browser is a great feature. Those who can learn how to do it may benefit enormously. But not everyone will or can learn, and I don't think it's for the designer or developer to say that they have to. It is only their responsibility to make sites accessible and usable.

In summary I'd like to say that both approaches are sound and it's fine to use either (or both). I just don't understand why anyone would say that either is a waste of time.

Update: I meant to post a link to Ian Lloyd's "Teach a man to fish..." demonstration. My esteemed colleague has produced a very nice video demonstration of how to re-size text in a browser.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

Hello again.

Apologies for the long absence, a lot has been happening over the past couple of months, it's been holiday season, so I took a holiday, very nice it was too, and also I have a bit of news:

I became freelance.

I'm officially my own man and this allows me to explore some new ventures. I'm still working closely with CDSM who are still in my opinion the best corporate accessibility specialists in the UK, even though they are focussing more and more on e-Learning and continuing to break new ground there. I'm also still very much in touch with the Shaw Trust who, in partnership with CDSM still produce the most comprehensive accessibility testing service in the world. So I'm very lucky in that regard.

I've been talking with Jim Byrne about being more involved with GAWDS and also to a few other individuals about another venture.

I've also got a book coming out in the new year.

Web accessibility is still at the heart of everything I do and plan to do in the future. It's exciting times.

Friday 27 July 2007

Voice Activation and Flash

Just a quick one, I just thought I'd post a note for accessible Flash developers regarding Voice activation software. Not everyone has had the chance to test using this software so This may be helpful to a few.

Flash applications are typically tricky terrain for Voice activation users (think Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS)). The most common voice commands for HTML pages such as "link" and "image" don't work. In HTML these commands will identify the links or forms on the page and put a little number next to them. By speaking this number you can follow the link or activate the form control. Neat.

Flash reveals the controls via MSAA but Dragon does not seem to have a method of displaying them accurately yet. In fact it seems to struggle with matching links with numbers in simple CSS.

For the time being voice activation users can either rely on the mouse grid method of navigation (very slow) or spoken keyboard commands such as "tab" and "enter". this allows the user to methodically move through the Flash controls and as Flash doesn't tend to have so many links etc. this should be fine. The one thing I haven't been able to test with the guys at the Shaw Trust yet is whether DNS is capable of accessing Flash controls that are "below the fold" either because of a browser scrollbar or a Flash scrollbar. Once I get that info I'll pass it on.

Sorry for the lack of detail/illustrations but I just wanted to share this info before I forgot all about it. If you want some clarification feel free to leave a comment or send me a mail.