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?

What’s Your Experience: Simple Changes for Appliance Accessibility

Years ago when I worked at the Trace R&D center, I had the opportunity to be on a panel of judges at least once for an engineering class taught by Dr. Gregg Vanderheiden for a competition looking at accessibility of consumer appliances. My recollection was that students hat to come up with a design for a stove to maximize accessibility. TV Lenny, of American TV fame, was the main judge. One of the main criteria for the competition being that the appliances had to be aimed at the mass market while addressing accessibility.


I mention all of this because having just concluded a search for a new dish washer I’m once again reminded of the vast landscape of inaccessibility that still exists in the consumer appliance market. Simple changes could make a big difference.


As just one example, the dish washer I ended up selecting comes from General Electric. It has physical buttons, which in itself is a challenge to find these days. Better yet, when pressed, the buttons make a short beep sound. Great until you realize that the buttons cycle between multiple settings with no way to know where you are at any point in the cycle and no way to get back to defaults.


The simple change here as an example would be to have the buttons make two beeps when they’ve reached the default setting when cycling. For example one button is to select the washing mode and cycles between settings including Automatic, Rinse and a couple others I’ve already forgotten. The dish washer uses the same settings unless something is changed so you might say, great set things once and forget it and most of the time you’d be fine. But if anyone changes the defaults, it is a guessing game when you do not see to get back to known settings. And yet again, had GE just added a second simple beep when the Automatic setting was reached in the cycle, ease of use for people who do not see would be that much greater. By no means perfect but certainly better than what exists today.


I won’t claim to profess to be any kind of expert on who’s a leader in the consumer appliance accessibility space. These are not exactly everyday kinds of purchases for most of us. That said, it would be fun to see a panel at whatever industry tradeshow is the leader in this arena reviewing consumer appliances, much like that class competition I sat in years ago did. I suspect there would be a lot of ideas made available that when amortized over the scale of products sold by any manufacturer wouldn’t impact the bottom line.


I don’t recall all the details of that class competition but I do recall that one team included an optional handle of some sort for the stove for some individuals with disabilities. I also recall Lenny’s advice about that handle and is went something like, heck no, don’t make it optional. Include it in every box, most people won’t use it and will think of it as a throw away but the people who do need it will have it instantly and besides, people love throwaways like that because they think they are getting a better deal.


So readers, what are your experiences with appliance accessibility? Who’s the industry leader? What simple changes would you like to see made in consumer apliances?

Kicking the Tires on WordPress and Updating the Blog

After several years of using MovableType to run my blog, I’ve decided to kick the electronic tires as it were on a different blogging platform. WordPress seems to offer more of the functionality and ease of use I’m looking for with the level of blogging I do.

Reading through blog archives, I also realize my blogging has really fallen off in the past couple years. Watch for that to change in the new year. As a media consumer I tend to prefer longer writing versus the short bursts of content offered by areas like Twitter and Facebook. These are great mediums for finding such material so I don’t see myself departing from those arenas. But I want to get back into more content creation again.

I’m obviously new to WordPress so if anyone has tips on best practices around accessibility or spam protection in comments feel free to let me know.

The WordPress platform seems to work well with screen readers. The biggest challenge I’ve had is with areas such as adding and removing widgets that seems to require one to drag and drop. So far I’ve had to use advanced screen reader functionality or sighted assistance for these functions.

University of Wisconsin Addresses Accessibility of Gameday iOS App

A few weeks ago I wrote about accessibility issues in an iOSapp from The University of Wisconsin app for following Badger football. This is just a short update to say that the University has been very responsive around these issues and corrected the problems I detailed within a couple weeks. The latest update to the app has improved support for VoiceOver.

University of Wisconsin Gameday Football App another Accessibility Disappointment

As I’ve written here previously, I’m an alum of the University of Wisconsin and take pride in having attended the school and my degree. I’m also a sports fan so enjoy following the Wisconsin Badgers and fall Saturdays still remind me of the many rich traditions in Madison that go along with Badger football.


Today I noticed a tweet from @BadgerFootball talking about a new Wisconsin Football Gameday app to stay in touch with, as the name implies, happenings during Badger football games and more.


In just a few minutes of trying the app with Apple’s VoiceOver—a built-in screen reader on the iOS platform—it is a disappointment to see that the University of Wisconsin has once again failed to pay attention to accessibility. Blog readers can search the archives for my last adventures with the Wisconsin athletic department over accessibility issues with football broadcasts over the internet. The service used back then has once again been replaced and to the University’s credit they did provide me with work arounds when the accessibility issues with the broadcast streaming technology were identified.


One can only wonder what processes are or are not in place though to ensure University offerings are accessible. In the gameday app for example, one need only launch the app and use basic VoiceOver gestures of sweeping right to quickly find the accessibility problems. The first items encountered talk about tickets for a game against Northern Iowa. And as a note to UW staff, Northern has a typo in your app where you have it spelled Nothern.


After the first two sweep right gestures, all one finds with subsequent gestures of the same type is a series of seven nameless links. It is this basic problem that leads me to wonder about processes to ensure accessibility. Does the University know about VoiceOver? For apps created for the iOS platform, is VoiceOver compatibility a release requirement?


The nameless links on the app home screen are not the only issues encountered. As an example, following the second nameless link leads to an area of the app called Gameday. Within the Gameday area is a link for Rosters/Depth.


The team depth chart is exposed as one single object to VoiceOver and even worse, read as first a series of position indications and numbers followed by a list of player names. It is impossible to make sense of and even associate player names with their numbers. Major League Baseball has clearly demonstrated making team rosters readable with VoiceOver can be accomplished in their MLB At Bat iOS app.


As just one other example of a basic accessibility issue quickly discovered in the app, there are a series of buttons that appear in many locations. They have names that include “arrow left 72@2x” “arrow right 72@2x” and “but refresh 72@2x”. Obviously one can guess the purposes of these buttons but any reasonable accessibility support of an app would not include such nonsensical names.


I’ll start the process of outreach to individuals at Wisconsin. That said, it is a disappointment to see that this level of inaccessibility exists and something released by an institution under multiple legal requirements to support accessibility and an institution that has a publicly stated accessibility policy that would seem to imply that this app fails to comply.

Judge For Yourself, Is Ticketmaster Audio CAPTCHA Usable?

Much has been written about the accessibility challenges posed by CAPTCHA systems on the internet. Today the most common solution to address accessibility for individuals who are blind is to have some sort of audio replacement for the typical visual verification of characters in an image. Shortcomings of this solution aside, this is the system that Ticketmaster uses when you attempt to purchase tickets.


Recently I tried to buy tickets to a Seattle Mariners game and was confronted with the latest audio offered by Ticketmaster. The web site allows you to download the audio offered as an MP3 and I challenge anyone to actually decipher any words from this jumble of audio. To my ears this is utterly incomprehensible.


I understand the need to mask the audio to some degree but at some point the system still needs to be usable. This simply is not.


I hope MLB and Ticketmaster along with those pursuing accessibility improvements from MLB will take note of this problem and push for a change here.

Disability as a Political Negative

Back in college I took a public opinion research course. One of the tasks in that class was the design and completion of a fairly substantial public opinion survey. Part of that involved completion of a minimum of 20 one-hour telephone surveys. I mention that as background because from time to time when callers ring today, I remember what it was like to need to get enough surveys and will take the time to answer all the questions of whatever individual happens to be calling.


This evening one of the questions basically said something like, “To the extent the following statements are correct, how serious of a concern would you have about voting for the given candidate?” Then were the expected choices such as very serious, somewhat serious and such.


Straight forward enough, mention what might I guess be perceived as the given candidate’s negatives and see how big of a deal they are.


The candidates in question are running someplace in Washington state for state representative. I can honestly say I had never heard of either individual and right now haven’t studied a thing about the given election.


Earlier in the survey it came out that one of the individuals was “sight impaired”. This was talking about the individual and said something about having worked hard from an early age or some such wording. It was the survey reader who used the term sight impaired here.


Anyway, when it came to rattling off the negatives for the individual one of the statements went something like, “The candidate is disabled, not a home owner and doesn’t pay property tax.”


Ironically, a negative for the other guy was something about having failed to pay some tax and ending up with a lean on some property.


I mention all of this just because it was kind of well, I’m not sure how to classify it, to hear disability tossed out in this context. Oh I fully understand the various reasons why disability was mentioned but I really hope one day we get beyond this kind of garbage.

Yahoo’s Tourney iPhone App Worth a Try

Every March I do an annual hunt for an online site to complete an NCAA basketball tournament bracket in an accessible fashion. I’ve yet to see one of the major sports sites figure out how to make this experience accessible. Terrill Thompson’s
accessible bracket work does deserve to be called out though as a positive example of what can be done. And of course if you know of other examples of good web accessibility here please let me know.

This year I opted to give Yahoo’s Tourney Pick’em for the iPhone app a try. Measuring accessibility by the fact that I was able to submit my bracket with relative ease, I have to say this app is worth trying.

The app is relatively straight forward to use. Game selections are made from a multitabbed and multipage interface. Each region (East, South, Midwest and west) as well as the final four are a separate tab when making selections. Rounds within a division are separate pages within that tab. Teams are selected by activating buttons named “pickemcheckmark blank” to the right of the team name.

If you prefer to use VoiceOver’s sweep right and left gestures to explore an app, it takes a couple explorations to figure out the pattern of what button is associated with each team. For example in the East region, once you get to the team area, sweep right gestures read items in this order for the first game with Syracuse selected to win.


Selected, pickemcheckmark blank


pickemcheckmark blank


North Carolina Asheville

The app is by no means perfect. Starting with the fact that “pickemcheckmark blank” leaves room for improvement in terms of button naming for accessibility purposes, you can easily find other instances of oddly named or completely missing names on buttons as you use the app. Live game action views for example have numerous nameless buttons.

Still this app is definitely a positive step. I’ve been able to successfully complete more than one bracket and better yet quickly compare my bracket with family and friends as talk of the NCAA tournament and The Wisconsin Badgers in particular has gone on this week. For the record I have Wisconsin losing to Ohio State as part of the Elite Eight and Michigan State tapped to win it all. But then again I can quickly submit another bracket with this app, at least for a few more minutes this morning.