Monday, 18 December 2006

I've been meme-sniped

Dan Champion has just tagged me for a meme. I wasn't going to write anything today so here's a quick one.

5 Things you did not know about Grant Broome:

  1. I didn't start University until I was 25. By then I was married, had a mortgage, a 2 year old and another on the way. Our generous government gave us a £4,500 to live on. Cheers. I got a first class honours and my mum was very proud.
  2. Years ago I nearly drowned while swimming off a Majorcan beach. I got caught in a current with my (then) girlfriend and we couldn't get back to shore. The people on the beach made a human chain and got us out of the water. As we sat on the sand, a body washed up on the beach 50 yards from where we were. It was as if the reaper had met his quota and had spared us.
  3. Before Uni, I owned a bike shop called Magnox Cycles in a little place called Glynneath in South Wales. It was a partnership with my very good friend Mike Peck. It was a small business and it didn't pay very well, but I have very fond memories of my time working there. The shop was 13 miles from my house and I rode to work nearly every day.
  4. I am born on the same day as my brother, but we are not twins.
  5. In another life I would be a carpenter. I've just finished building a dining table especially for Christmas. It's designed to seat 10 people and it's partially made from reclaimed pine. It's the first piece of furniture I have ever made and it's not too bad. I enjoyed the experience so much I'll probably make something else.

I was a meme virgin before today. Many thanks to Dan champion for popping my cherry.
I'm now going to tag the Pedleys: Mel and Rich, as well as Jon Gibbins , PixelDiva and Mike Davies.

Friday, 15 December 2006

GIS accessibility

By it's their nature, GIS (Geographical Information Systems) are normally inaccessible to those who can't see them, but many GIS systems are worse than that, and won't even allow keyboard-only or voice activated access, so problems can arise for those within a fairly broad spectrum of disabilities.

I've been collecting data for a while, and some time in the new year I'm going to try and compile my findings into something that the community may find useful.

At this stage I would like to give a hat tip to Mike Saunt from Astun Technology who has been exceptionally helpful. Mike has been working on presenting information in alternative ways to enhance usability and accessibilty of GIS systems. Mike's view is that GIS does not necessarily equate to inaccessible content There are plenty of options available to GIS developers to provide content that everyone can use.

Mike sent an example of his recent work with South Tyneside where information is displayed not only within a map, but also within a table (try typing NE33 2RL into the postcode search for an example).

Now at CDSM (where I work) we do a lot of web testing work which includes many web accessiblity audits with our partners the Shaw Trust. Consequently I get to look at a lot of GIS systems and would endorse this approach as the most accessible I've seen to date. I'd encourage those looking for a GIS solution (or Online Mapping as Mike prefers to call it) to talk to Astun Technologies to see what they can offer. It's very heartening to see companies like this leading the way to ensuring that GIS isn't just for sighted visitors.

Monday, 11 December 2006

Amateur Gymnastics

Last week at the ripe old age of 34, I decided It was time to take up gymnastics. I quickly worked out that Olympic Gold was probably beyond me so I contented myself with learning some basic moves that I could show off to the family. The vision of an intricate series of tumbles and twists ending in a perfect backward somersault landing in the soft golden sand of Aberavon Beach to rapturous applause from all who had seen it was to much to resist so I enrolled in a class and got started.

Fortunately, despite being several stones heavier than while at school, the skills that I had learned there were not entirely forgotten so I confidently managed to run the length of the tumble run and execute some front somersaults (some with a 1/2 twist too!) and sink up to my waist in chunks of safe, soft foam at the end of the run. I was in my element. It would have taken many gallons of strong detergent and a wire brush to scrub the smile from my face as I continued to throw myself around the gym. I was only slightly conscious of the fact that I was 20 years older than nearly everyone else there who must have assumed I was having a mid-life crisis and left me to it while they practised their parkour in hope of a role in the next James Bond movie.

There was all the usual gymnastic apparatus there. I had a quick go on the rings and just hung there for 20 seconds swinging pointlessly without any idea of what to do next. This was followed by a similar experience on the high bar. My aspirations of performing a crucifix spoiled I strolled past the pommel horse - amazed at how gravity affects some more than others and back to the practice tumble run until my legs started complaining.

After 2 hours the fun was over and it was time to go home. The next day I was sore all over and my legs had stopped talking to me altogether. I was nursing whiplash as the result of a dare gone wrong, but it was all worth it and I'm fully looking forward to having another go soon.

I highly recommend those who have been green with envy while watching kids fling themselves yet again into the ball pool at "Jungle Jims" give this a go. I was surprised to find a gym of this type so close to where I live and maybe there's one near you. Go on, give it a try.

Friday, 8 December 2006

My meeting with Julie Howell

It was my pleasure to meet the accessibility legend Julie Howell last week at her new office in London where she works for Fortune Cookie. I have to say that she looked very comfortable in her surroundings and was a fantastic host.

I'd say that it was definately worth travelling on the train for 3 hours, getting stopped and transferred at Cardiff because one of the doors had jammed, getting thrown out of first class - which was the only place we could find seats, and sitting in someone's piss for the rest of the journey to London (don't ask!), then waiting for 40 minutes at a taxi rank in King's Cross in the freezing rain to take us the rest of the way.

I don't want to sound too much like a country bumpkin, but I don't think I'll ever be able to understand the motivation to commute into the big smoke every day. Well done to all those who manage it.

It was great to finally chat to Julie, we'd only bumped into each other a couple of times the start/end of some accessibility events. Julie is settling into her new role well and teased us (I attended with Cam Nicholl and Paul Bristow from the Shaw Trust) with an announcement that she couldn't say much about. Doh!

Good luck Julie, we look forward to hearing more from you in the new year.

Government website petition

This has already been done a few times, so I'm just going to be lazy and quote from Dan Champion's blog:

Ian Fenn (I'm assuming of Chopstix fame) has setup an e-petition at the 10 Downing Street site asking the PM to ensure that websites launched by government comply with WCAG.

Let's face it, Tony needs some good news before he buggers off on the lecture circuit, so it's definitely worth a shot, if only to highlight the continuing non-compliance of the DTI and other high profile government sites.

There are 517 open petitions at the site at the time of writing, and we only need 81 signatures to make the first page, and 9123 to displace the top petition, so get over there now and sign it, you know it makes sense.

Do it now!

Thank you Zeldman

The eagle eyed blogger will notice that I chose Zeldman's template design for my own blog. It's nice and contrasty which suits my own taste and it's pretty accessible.

Some may wonder why I didn't use a more flexible platform such as word press. Well really, I've been putting off this blog for years due to the fact that I could never find the time to put one together. In the end I thought bugger it. The realities of work and hectic family life meant that I was never going to get around to doing it and there's lots of things I'd like to share. I suspect I'll tinker with the style sheet a little at some point. I quite like the new beta blogger. It's quick and intuitive, costs nothing and it will do me fine for now, plus I can say that Zeldman designed my blog!

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Hello to the blogosphere

Well here I am. Hopefully I'll be able to keep this going on a regular basis so maybe people will come back at a later date and get something out of it. I intend talking mainly about work, and particularly web accessibility.

I'd made an attempt at blogging back in 2003, but It didn't really work out. It was more like a diary for myself and blogs really need to be shared by definition

I guess some sort of introduction is necessary, so here's a list of things about me:

  1. I am a Father of 3 children: Naomi (born 1997) Noah (born 1999) and Hannah (born 2004)
  2. I am a husband to my wife Katherine we have been married since 1994
  3. My family is really important to me
  4. I am a Web Accessibility Manager
  5. I work for CDSM Interactive Solutions based in Swansea, South Wales
  6. I really like my job
  7. I used to design and build 3D characters and environments for e-Learning games
  8. I cycle a lot every day for months, and then do little or no excercise for the same number of months
  9. I love making things
  10. I have a first class honours degree in Multimedia
  11. I am very competitive
  12. I will pulverise you in Quake 3 Arena.
  13. Despite being extremely intelligent :) I have trouble grasping vague concepts or subtle suggestions. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of my personality for myself and those I work with.
  14. I learned how to do the Rubics cube when I was 10 and I've never forgotten
  15. Occasionally I will have thought-lock-up, stop mid sentence and stare into a space for a few seconds unable to speak (This is a little unsettling during training sesssions for both the attendees and myself). I have no idea why this happens
  16. I've never run a Marathon
  17. I have never lived more than 15 miles from where I was born
  18. If you dare me to do something, I feel strongly compelled to do it regardless of risk to life, limb or reputation
  19. I'd love to learn several languages
  20. I hate upsetting people