Friday, July 11, 2008


I've posted my slides from Tuesday's presentation on slideshare (inclusive universe). However, the flash that is embedded on the slideshare page is not accessible: the buttons are not labeled and the alt-text has been stripped from the PDF. I've sent a comment via their web site. Anyone know someone who works there? I'd love to talk to someone in person.

Therefore, here's a tagged PDF version (inclusive universe). Is anyone out there screaming at their monitor/speakers/braille display? I tested the PDF with Jaws and everything except page 9 seems to come through all right (see notes below). This is definitely an experiment - my first non-html slide set - so please let me know if you have any trouble accessing the slides. I'm more than happy to provide HTML, but do want to give this one a try.

Here's the text for slide 9:

This page intentionally left blank to illustrate the view of gmail to someone who is blind or not viewing the screen for some reason. At this point in my presentation, I did a quick demo of mobile speak on an htc shadow reading gmail...trying to further emphasize the importance of challenging your assumptions about your users.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

today's stew

It's interesting that comments on my previous stew focused on types of toilets (although, I am happy to have learned about the toto 2000). I'm not sure if that means the idea of monetary incentives for accessible web design should be flushed...

This morning as I prepared for my commute to work (the walk to the basement of our house), I was thinking about the comments on Scoble's Will videoblogs be outlawed because of California’s accessibility laws? One of the concerns is limits on personal expression.

Having recently wrestled with making a slideset accessible, I can understand the pain and frustration. I don't have the hours to spend futzing with broken software. I need to get those slides accessible, publish them, and move on. As a working mother, I only have 24 hours per week to do my work - and that goes by far too quickly.

With the civil rights movement, the government literally held doors open to ensure integration in schools and on buses. For accessibility, it almost seems as if we are holding the doors open but forgetting to fix the ramps and railings that lead to them. Those renovations hold a cost that the civil rights movement did not have to contend with. Civil rights is overcoming attitudes; human rights/disability rights not only has to change attitudes but must lower physical barriers as well. That cost - in time or money - is a barrier. How do we remove that barrier? Is it up to the government? The community?

Getting back to personal expression, our laws say nothing about making private homes accessible. In a similar vein, personal web sites are not covered by law. Again, looking at civil rights, if you don't want to let a white person into your home, you don't have to but if you own a business, you must open your doors.

On the web, the line between personal site and public service blurs. I would argue that Scoble's site is not a personal site, he offers a public service - the information he disseminates is astounding (not only in quality but in quantity! :). But, who should pay for the captions of his videos? One of the values of what he is doing is the real-time interaction - streaming video from his phone.

When making information accessible, you can run into a lot of broken tools along the way - as I did yesterday (and let me pause here to apologize for using my blog as a venting receptacle. My purpose is to help make the world more accessible - bitching and moaning is not a constructive way to enter the dialog...I task myself with sending constructive feedback to folks working on OpenOffice and Acrobat and making sure the problems did not stem from my own ignorance). Unfortunately, the reality is that many tools are broken (or not as easy to use as they could be) and making information accessible is not always cheap and easy.

How do we make it cheap and easy? And this need for "cheap and easy" goes both ways. Not only do the barriers to information need to be lowered for people with disabilities - the typical screen reading or magnification software costs more than a desktop computer - the barriers to creating accessible information need to be lowered. So, who should assume the costs?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Eating my own dog food

Yesterday, I presented as part of a social media event and had an awesome time. The other speakers were stimulating and fun.

For the first time, instead of creating my slides in XHTML/javascript (I like Eric Meyer's S5), I used Open Office Impress. I figured, "why not." We're using Open Office for the book and it works pretty well. Plus, I noticed I could export my presentation in tagged PDF. I assumed I would happily and easily generate a tagged PDF and that would be that. So, on I trudged, delivering the file without testing it.

Today, I wanted to publish my slides on my website and on slideshare. So, I opened Acrobat to take a look at the accessibility of the PDF. I knew that the images would not have text equivalents so I was prepared to add those. I was not prepared for the following 4 hours of frustration...which is resulting not in an accessible PDF but in this blog post.

First off, Open Office Impress did not generate a tagged PDF despite me checking the checkbox. boo!

Secondly, when I generated XHTML instead of PDF, I lost all of the formatting and images. boo!

Thirdly, Acrobat only saves about 45 characters worth of each of the descriptions of the images despite giving me a text box that will allow me to enter at least 256 characters (I'm guessing because that's the limit in the HTML 4.01 spec). boo!

I learned a valuable lesson today: all future decks will start and end in XHTML.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

cheap and easy?

At barcampSeattle, Bryan, Dylan, Matt, I, and several others started a dialog about helping people adopt accessible design practices. The summary of our discussion was, "make it cheap and easy." Last week, inspired by a comment from tantek, the dialog continued on twitter. We compared accessible design to green/environmentally-friendly design....and doughnuts. :)

I've been working on a mental stew with the following ingredients:

  • "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about one family's year-long localvore experiement - eating foods raised by themselves or neighbors and minimizing the cost of fuel used to produce and consume the foods they eat.
  • "Vegetable Gardening West of the Cascades" about the benefits of gardening in the Seattle area and how we could eat fresh veggies from our gardens year-round...assuming climate change doesn't shift our winter temperatures too many degrees.
  • We're preparing to paint the outside of our house and I've been researching the greenest option - paint or stain. Which lasts longer? What are the effects on the environment? Where are the materials produced and how much fuel will it take to ship to our painter? The costs and products are not quite there yet, which is frustrating for me as a consumer.
  • My son is toilet training which means many more flushes of our toilets. We received the water bill yesterday and are consuming noticebly more gallons of water *per day.* What if we only had so much water in a cistern or a well and couldn't just pull more from the city? When will I be able to view our water supply like I do our bank account? When we overdraw, it has to come from somewhere.
  • I'm co-writing a book on Universal Design of web applications and I've been tearing apart, challenging, and reconstructing my knowledge about accessibility, disability studies, culture, and web technologies.

As a consumer, I *want* to do the green thing. I want to buy efficient toilets and use the least toxic paint. I am driven by making the world a better place, not only for myself, but for my son. What holds me back are costs and fears. The fears are: How long will the water-based paints last? Will they protect my house as well as paints with pest/herbicides? In Seattle, where there is so much water on wood, this is a big question. The costs are: Water-based paints costs almost twice per gallon than latex paints. Stains need to be reapplied more often. Then, there's what I prefer. I like the way paint looks.

I am trying to understand the point of view of designers and developers who have not whole-heartedly adopted web standards and accessibility. I think they have similar struggles with fears and costs. I believe that most people want to do the right thing but they aren't sure they know how, don't have the time to find out, and fear the costs.

If I were to put in more efficient toilets, the city of Seattle would give me a rebate. I assume the reasoning by The City of Seattle goes something like: We're all in this together, so if more people save water there will be more water for all of us. I guess I get my own tax dollars back when I contribute to the greater good.

While I think there are plenty of reasons to make your sites accessible, perhaps monetary incentives would help. I don't know where we'd get the funding, but imagine if you added appropriate alt-text to all of the images on your site, you could get a rebate. What do you think? Would it work? If we could raise the money, is there a better way to spend it (like buying technology for people with disabilities)? do you have other ideas to make accessible design "cheap and easy?" Is that the right target? Other thoughts?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

flickr experiment

Testing for text
Originally uploaded by anneke boudreau

The process. This is a screen shot taken with my phone then emailed to flickr. I wanted to see what they would do with the text.

First, I edited the title of the photo on my phone from random text (imgnnn) to "Testing" then I created an email with "Testing for text" as the subject and "Will this text show as description?" in the body. Flickr used the email subject as the title of the photo and the body as description. Cool!

On the flickr page for this photo, the actual alt is null. How do you folks feel about that? Since the title is a good equivalent, does the image itself need an equivalent in the alt attribute? I certainly want an alt present on the image element - even if it is null - to indicate that it has been considered. I could repeat the title as the alt value, but that would be redundant. Too bad there isn't a way to associate the heading with the image to indicate they create a single semantic unit, but then again, this whole page is metadata for this a sense the whole page is a single semantic unit.

If you all had this debate while I've been "away," please point me to the archives. Thanks!

Event: Perspectives on Social Media

I'm speaking at an event at zaaz next week that ought to be a lot of fun. Here's the line-up:

"Mobile 2.0: Design and Develop for the iPhone and Beyond" - Brian Fling, Flingmedia

"Money, Media, and Your Mom's Peach Cobbler - Social Media Marketing Done Right" - Justin Marshall, ZAAZ"

Single Athletic Female seeking Single Slender Male - The marriage of social media and metadata"-Samantha Starmer, REI

"Slow Community" - Nancy White, Full Circle Associates

"Inclusive Universe 1.0 - Integrating Universal Design into Social Apps" - Wendy Chisholm

More information at: You're Invited: Social Media Event at ZAAZ Seattle July 8th.