Blog readers will know that accessibility is one of my interests and I’m always particularly interested in ways to make larger data sets more accessible and consumable. Weather maps for example that allow those who can see to quickly get a sense of the temperatures throughout a region are rarely in my use very accessible when you are not able to see.
I’m also a fan of the do it yourself approach to problem solving when possible so started exploring one of my preferred weather sites, Weather Underground, to see what might be possible.
My basic goals were to try and see what might be possible to get a sense of the coldest and warmest places in a state or country and just the general range of temperatures. Weather Underground makes this delightfully easy with just some basic web address navigation.
The Basic View for a State in the US
Washington State is my current home and with a quick navigate to http://www.wunderground.com/US/WA/ I quickly get a table listing 45 cities in the state and the current temperatures and related details. Activate a temp button that is one of the table column headers and that list of cities goes from being sorted alphabetically to temperature. So I can quickly tell that as I write this, Bellingham, WA, at 45 °F is the warmest place in the state and Wenatchee, at 32 °F, is the coldest.
A quick web address edit to replace the “A” from “WA” for Washington with “I” for Wisconsin lands me at http://www.wunderground.com/US/WI/? Where I can easily say, “Wow it is cold back home,” in my home state of Wisconsin. The warmest place is all of 12 °F. And once again, a quick activate of the Temp button and I can sort by temperature to get a sense of the range of temperatures.
The National Picture
My simple address bar change of web address works great for a state-by-state exploration. But at times I’m curious about the big picture. More address bar magic yields results for an entire country. For example, browsing to http://www.wunderground.com/US/USa// brings up 500 different locations that are part of the US. Ignore the fact that the page title says this is for Wyoming and be aware this also includes territories such as Guam. You’ll have to have a bit of a sense of geography as the table lists just city names but it is a good way to get a sense of the temperature ranges for a country.
Some trial and error has shown me the URLs to use for a few other countries such as Mexico, the United Kingdom, Russia and Australia to name a few. Again use the Temp button to sort by temperature where I see that Australia has a range of 109 °F for the hottest location down to 40 °F for the coldest as of now.
For The Enterprising Software Developers
Situations like this lend themselves to loads of creativity for accessibility. I could imagine an app on any platform that uses touch and the accessibility infrastructure on that platform to use sound and more to turn my little table explorations of temperatures into a customer-engaging accessibility experience.