The NFL Needs to Learn From the MLB When It Comes to Accessibility

I’ve written a time or two about the accessibility challenges with MLB and that league’s internet offerings. To the credit of the various advocates who have worked with MLB to improve things, MLB has resolved the vast majority of issues around the accessibility of what they offer on the web and in various apps. In many ways MLB could be a model of how to handle accessibility for live sports and screen readers.

 

Unfortunately like much of accessibility, it seems we have to go over the same ground time and time again. This time it is with the NFL and many of their offerings. As just one example, the NFL now has an iOS app that could serve as a model of what developers can do wrong for app accessibility. Nameless controls, poor support for VoiceOver and more. Even the NLF’s main mobile app page is a dizzying array of accessibility challenges. Thus far emails and phone calls to various contacts I can locate for the NFL have gone unanswered. It is really unfortunate that it takes this much effort to make progress but I guess it is time to crank things up a bit and try to get some attention from the NFL around accessibility.

Sad State of Technology Press and Accessibility

Any study of the journalism business will show that even today by and large the media does not understand disability or accessibility. Typically we get stories on one of the two ends of the spectrum of possibilities. Either stories talk about everything being horrific or they tout things that are basics that people with disabilities accomplish as being something magically fantastic. And that’s assuming you get coverage at all.

 

The lack of coverage is I suppose a bit frustrating to me on a personal level at various times. Last year I found it interesting to see how the work Apple did around accessibility in their Maps app getting absolutely no coverage in the mainstream tech press. And now the same tech press is trumpeting improved versions of several Yahoo mobile apps as a sign of rebirth at the company with no reference to the reversal in accessibility for many of these same apps. As an example, the updated fantasy football app has become all but unusable on the iOS platform with Apple’s VoiceOver screen reader.

 

I hold no illusions here. I know how the news business works and recognize that accessibility isn’t something viewed as important enough to cover, let alone understand, by most of the press. It is though I suppose a bitter pill to swallow at times to recognize where one does and does not stand within the mainstream universe.

Amazon Corrects Accessibility Regressions in Amazon Fresh App

Recently I wrote about an update to the Amazon Fresh app that was supposed to make the app more accessible but actually did the reverse. A little more than a week ago, Amazon released a second update that had the actual accessibility fixes I suspect were supposed to be present with the first update. The app now works better than ever with VoiceOver. Amazon Fresh currently only delivers groceries in the Seattle area but if you are in the delivery area, the service is worth a try.

 

The improvements involved giving correct names to multiple controls in the app. It makes shopping significantly faster.

Amazon Fresh iOS Update Has Accessibility Issues

Amazon Fresh offers grocery delivery in the Seattle area. One of the methods you can use to place orders is with an iOS app. The app was updated today listing accessibility improvements as one of the items addressed in the update.

Something must have gone wrong because the app actually introduces some critical accessibility problems that make it tough to use the app at all. Most notably, in an area where you shop by isle names, the isle names went from perfectly readable with VoiceOver to generic names of “isle title”.

Similarly, when you pick an isle, all the products listed now get the name of “item title, item price”. Ironically the price per ounce and such actually reads correctly as a number.

I have reported these issues to Amazon. If I hear back I’ll update things on the blog.

Take Note How You Purchase MLB Gameday Audio

With baseball’s opening day just a couple days away, a friendly note for anyone who might not have purchased a Gameday Audio subscription yet. MLB is advertising this year that if you subscribe to Gameday audio on a device such as an iPhone, one subscription will work on the device as well as the MLB.com web site.

While this is true, the reverse is not. That is, if you subscribe to the web site version of Gameday audio, that account will not work to listen to audio on a device such as an iPhone. If you go the iPhone purchase route, use app settings to add your subscription to the MLB.com web site and avoid paying for two subscriptions.

Mixing Sound From Multiple Computers on the Cheap

At both home and work I use several computers and have grown tired of the clutter from multiple sets of speakers filling my desk. Still, there are times when I want to hear the audio from more than one computer at a time, so don’t want to use the typical switchbox connections for switching computer audio along with keyboards and monitors.

 

After exploring various options, the solution that has worked well for me is The Belkin Rockstar. It is nothing fancy and primarily intended to plug multiple headphones into a single audio device. But audio being what it is, it is just as easy to use the unit to connect multiple audio sources to a single set of speakers. At just under $12 from Amazon, along with some audio cables from Deep Surplus, the entire solution cost me less than $20.

 

This is definitely a low-tech solution. Anyone who works with audio will recognize one of the limitations of this solution is that the more devices you connect to a simple device like the Rockstar, the lower the volume of all the devices ends up being. Audio quality does not degrade though with this setup beyond the volume level. For me the system has been working well for several months and works well even when multiple computers are producing speech at the same time.

 

You can connect a total of five sound sources to the Rockstar and one set of speakers. The device comes with one audio cable ending in a standard male 3.5mm (1/8″) jack hard wired into it. When used for the default purpose of connecting multiple headphones, this is the cable you would connect to the audio source you want to share. When using the Rockstar, as I am to connect multiple sound sources, whatever audio source you connect to this hard wired cable has the loudest audio in the resulting configuration. There are five 3.5mm female ports on the device. Use four for additional audio sources and one to connect speakers or headphones—whatever you want to use to listen to your computer audio.

Uber iOS update Makes Service Worth Considering When Using VoiceOver

Uber bills itself as “everyone’s private driver”. I’m sure the marketing folks behind the service can give a full description about what’s supposed to be great about the service. To me, I think of it as a service trying to merge technology with taxis and improve on the situation.

The basic premise behind Uber is that you use your smart phone or a web site to request a driver and get notifications about how far away the driver is, ratings from other users about the driver, automatic credit card billing for the ride and such. As someone who has a need to take a cab from time to time, I was intrigued when I first read about the service and that it was available in the Seattle area. This was met with disappointment when I first tried the Uber app because it failed miserably with VoiceOver.

To Uber’s credit they recently updated the app to improve the VoiceOver experience and I can say that the app now works quite well with VoiceOver.

I’ve had the opportunity to try Uber for rides a few times recently and can say that if the service is available in your city it is worth exploring.

To be clear, Uber is more expensive than a traditional taxi. Rates differ in each city but as an example in King county Washington, where Seattle is located, taxi rates are as far as I know today $2.50 to get in a cab and $2.70 per mile. For comparison, Uber charges $7 to get a car, $3.75 per mile with a $12 minimum charge.

Although my sample size is small, I will say that the Uber estimates about driver arrival times so far have been accurate to within a minute on every ride I’ve scheduled. In the more than 12 years I’ve taken traditional cabs in Seattle, estimates about arrival time, let alone actually getting a cab in the areas where I travel, has always been at best an adventure. I know my last experience involved more than a 60 minute wait and at least three calls to the cab company.

For me Uber won’t replace all my traditional taxi use. As I mentioned, the price is clearly higher. Yes you can make the argument that you get what you pay for but I won’t necessarily always need the level of service Uber offers. Still I’ll give the company credit for addressing the VoiceOver and am fortunate to be in a position to support the accessibility efforts with my business from time to time.

I mention Uber to blog readers who may need another transit option to explore. If Uber is in your city, it is worth exploring.

Paciello Group Conducting Survey on Mobile Accessibility

The Paciello Group, who do a variety of work in the accessibility arena, are conducting a survey on mobile accessibility. Details on the survey page indicate that the results will be publicly available in a tabulated format and are intended to assist people in understanding where to direct focus around mobile accessibility.

The survey asks 15 questions around many of the basics you might expect. Topics covered include, devices used, operating systems used, sources for learning about accessible mobile apps and pages and some high level biographical information. The survey takes just a few minutes to complete so consider filling it out.

Time For The Media to Step Up Real Reporting on Disaster Recovery Relief Act

News coverage today is filled with talk of the U. S. House of Representatives passage of $50 billion in “recovery” for states impacted by Hurricane Sandy. It would be great to see some enterprising media outlet use this as an opportunity to really get behind the details of this kind of government spending, instead of just covering the political back and forth that is commonplace in any government action today.

Reading the bill, you see some fairly exact dollar amounts going toward specific programs. It would be nice to see the media answer some of the following:

  1. Who determined the exact amounts deligated toward all the categories listed?
  2. How is the money getting spent? Track it down to say amounts of $1,000.
  3. There are a lot of reporting requirements listed in this law. Who is going to read these reports and do what?

I’m sure those more familiar with politics and government spending will say the details in this law are standard for disaster relief. That is part of the problem with how our government spends money today. A disaster happens, we rush to spend money, then starting at some point after the government checks start flowing reports of fraud, scams and such start rolling in. This is our money being spent and I for one think we need to start getting a lot more accountability of where the money is actually going.

Why I Dislike the Term A11y to Represent Accessibility

I am sure that a campaign to eliminate the use of the term “a11y” is a campaign I’d lose, were I even to try and start it, but after reading the term “A11y” so many times in the accessibility world, I just have to say that I still think it is not the best way to represent accessibility to the broader community. I’m someone who’s been in and around the accessibility business for more than 25 years now and when this term first started cropping up a few years ago, I had to ask what it meant. For those who are curious, the 11 in the a11y is meant to signify the 11 letters between the letters a and y in the word accessibility It is my understanding that this shorthand originated in the twitter world, where there is the 140 character limit.

 

I understand the practical desire to save characters and all but for me there is just something off-putting about this shorthand. Unless you are in the accessibility world, I daresay you have no idea what a11y means even today. I also understand each community develops jargon and terminology but part of the accessibility message is about reaching out to those who don’t understand what’s involved in the space. That may be the technical of how to do accessibility. It may be raising awareness that people with disabilities are not defined by our disabilities. I just find the term accessibility more welcoming.

 

I’m also a sports fan and I don’t see the football community adopting the term ff6l or the baseball community using b6l to represent football and baseball respectively as examples.

 

I recognize others may have different opinions and this short commentary likely falls in the category of the proverbial tree falling in the forest and that old question about it making sound if no one hears but at least here accessibility is likely to be the term I continue to use.

 

What’s your opinion? If you use the term a11y to represent accessibility, why do you do so? Do you think people outside the accessibility world understand what the term means?