From my point of view: Views from our voice activation analyst.

13/07/2016 Edited by Mike Taylor Senior Accessibility Analyst (DAC.)

Introduction

Welcome to the third post in our series of ‘my point of view’. The point of this series is to give a true indication of how we believe society and the technological advances have improved our lives. Our post this week has some comments from our voice activation analyst.

During my lifetime I have seen technology move on in leaps and bounds. Without these developments I would not have been able to achieve what I have in my life so far. Technology meaning computers, has allowed me to do my GCSE’s, A-levels and do my degree. Without computers I would not have been able to do these due to the amount of writing that would be required, as I have difficulty writing because of my disability.

Unfortunately voice activation software was not up to the standard that it is today, meaning that I was not able to use it at a time when it would have been the most useful. As a result I had to build up my skills using a computer without assistive technology doing such things as learning to touch type, and learning to use an ergonomic mouse. Even if voice activation software was up to the standard that it is now, I would not have been able to use it for the majority of my education. This is because my primary and secondary schools were both welsh medium, meaning that most of my education was in welsh, and As things stand currently there is very little welsh language support in the assistive technology world.

Increasingly we are living in a digital era, where more and more of our lives involve the internet and technology. This has allowed me greater freedom and control, as it allows me to do things such as shopping and banking from the comfort of my own home, instead of braving it in all weathers to do so. Also this means that planning a day out becomes less daunting as less phone calls are required to find out about the facilities for people with disabilities, (so long as the information is accurate and the facilities are usable.)

We are living in the 21st century, where things keep changing and progressing more and more each day. Yet still the progress of how disability is viewed is going slow. Things such as the Paralympics have brought disability to the forefront with increased awareness of it, but from my experience people’s views still have not changed. I go through town and still get stared at for being in a wheelchair, and on occasion I still get people talking loudly and slowly to me. Things have come so far, but from what I can see they have a long way to go.

From my point of view: A colour contrast analyst's perspective.

24/06/2016 Written by Mike Taylor (Senior Accessibility Analyst DAC.)

Introduction

Welcome to the second post in our series of ‘my point of view’. The point of this series of posts is to give a true indication of how we believe society and the technological advances have improved our lives. Our post this week has some comments from our colour contrast and dyslexia analysts.

Growing up I found reading (especially reading aloud) and writing difficult, more so than my peers which lead to extra classes specifically for reading and writing. I was eventually screened as Dyslexic three years into secondary school and from then on allowed extra time in exams but I wasn’t aware of any software or equipment that could support me. Over the years of education and employment I’ve found a number of programmes and assistive technologies that support me in learning and performing my duties at work.

My dyslexia means I frequently make spelling and grammar mistakes and sometimes I think further ahead than I write which means I miss out letters, words and sometimes sentences. Word processing software such as Microsoft Word and Voice activation software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking helps a great deal when writing at length. Dictating with Dragon in a Word document eliminates that margin for error and allows me to organise my thoughts much faster and more accurately.

I’ve found Browse Aloud to be a great help when reading a webpage as I can often find it very difficult to concentrate. Browse Aloud will highlight the text and read it aloud to the user which makes processing the information much easier. Sadly this is only available on select websites but I believe every one could benefit from Browse Aloud especially those who experience a learning difficulty or for whom English is not their first language.

Read & Write Gold is software that features a number of useful tools that aid me in reading and report writing. For example Screen Masking which allows the user to view the screen through coloured overlays that can help with reading and Fact Mapper that helps me structure thoughts and ideas.

High Contrast Alternative Style Sheets can be very helpful if I encounter something of low colour contrast when visiting a website. They will often display the page as a yellow or white text on a black background which should make the text easier to read. This can mean however that the user doesn’t share the same user experience as others which is why I encourage maintaining a minimum contrast ratio of 4.5:1 on the default pages. High Contrast Alternative Style Sheet icons or links are often presented as icons or links near the top of the page where they can be found and recognised easily.

Assistive technology has impacted the way I work and learn significantly and for the better. I believe however that more should be done to raise awareness so those who could benefit from it don’t struggle needlessly.

From my point of view: A blind person's perspective.

16/06/2016 Written by Mike Taylor (Senior Accessibility Analyst DAC.)

Introduction

Over the next few weeks we will be publishing the thoughts of our team of analysts, which include people who are blind, people who have dyslexia, colour blindness, limited mobility and other disabilities. The point of this series of posts is to give a true indication of how we believe society and the technological advances have improved our lives. Starting our series are some comments from my colleagues and I from a blind persons point of view.

For my part I believe that mobile technology has exceeded what I imagined it could do when I got my first mobile phone 18 years ago. I remember thinking that it is great I can call, and be contacted where ever I am, but wouldn’t it be good if this thing could announce button functions, announce menu items, read contact info and text messages. Fast forward to now and not only can I do all that, I can do much more including controlling my sky box, to remotely accessing my PC, and producing documents. Oh yes and it’s a touch screen device so I am able to get more access to information and communicate even more independently than I could all those years ago. People in general seem to be less worried about asking me questions relating to blindness or how I do things, although there is still an element of a lack of awareness among some people. Some still assume what I can or cannot do, which I admit is frustrating. If I could ask one thing it would be to please ask questions if needed, I would rather respond to a question and confirm if I can or cannot do something rather than a person take a guess and get it wrong.

Getting started with accessible content: some quick tips

07/07/2016

Introduction

Designing for accessibility is something which should be included in the design and development stage as soon as possible, it’s also something which can be confusing and stressful in some cases, if designers and developers are not familiar with accessibility. The plus side is that it makes your content accessible to as many people as possible, improves search engine optimisation (SEO), which as a result brings more people to your app or website AND ensures they have the best possible experience, resulting in increased customer satisfaction.

Getting started with accessibility

What follows is some tips on getting started with accessible content design from our team, and of course feel free to get in touch to find out how we can help you achieve your end result; our details are at the end of this post.

Screen reader accessibility

Include a clear and logical headings structure, with only 1 instance of a heading at level 1. A clear headings structure will enable users to easily navigate a page and move to a specific section if required, a headings structure should also be used instead of bold or other font changes which are used to create a similar method of getting the reader’s attention. The reason for this is because screen reading software will not announce bold or italicised text by default, and users are required to navigate to a block of text and use another keyboard short cut to identify such items.

Include clear link labelling to inform users what will happen when selecting the link, this will give a clear indication to the function or destination page when the link receives focus.

Include clear form labelling with a clear indication of compulsory items by including an asterisk (*) before the required item.

Colour contrast and support for persons who have dyslexia

Information conveyed by colour alone (usually graphs or charts) should be accompanied by a text alternative to support it.

Text should have a high colour contrast against its background so it can be easily read.

Acronyms and abbreviations should be expanded or explained in their first instance. This will help to ensure users who may not be familiar with their meaning otherwise will understand them.

Italic text and elaborate font styles should be avoided.

The Flesch-Kincaid grade level of an article of text should be up to 12 or below to be easily read by most users, this can be found by opening word and going to file > options and proofing.

Voice activation accessibility

Try to keep the number of links per page below 50 as Dragon voice activation software tags 50 by default.

If / where a Z-index is used, ensure it is set at less than 100 (tags displayed by Dragon Version 12.0 and below won’t be seen if it is set at 100 or more).

Do not use scripting that relies on mouse input alone.

Low Vision accessibility

A good contrast between text and background will help users who have low vision.

When the user hovers over a link, a visual cue should be given such as an underlining or background highlighting to inform users that the link has focus.

How can I find out more?

Find out more accessibility tips on our Youtube channel (external link.)

We are always on hand to support our clients at any part of the design stage, so please feel free to use any of the following methods to contact us.

Office Telephone: +44 (0)1792 815267

Address: Llan Coed House, Llandarcy, Neath, SA10 6FG, United Kingdom

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Making images accessible on social media

06/04/2016 Written by Mike Taylor Senior Accessibility Analyst (DAC)

I am a totally blind person and I use social media both personally and professionally almost every day. Often I encounter a picture will be posted without anyway for myself to identify what it is.
This didn’t really bother me at first, but as time goes on and more accounts are created, the more images are posted and my time-line becomes cluttered with posts which contain fewer words and more images. The result of this is that social media is becoming not so social from my perspective.

Thanks to some fantastic work from Twitter and Facebook this just might be a thing of the past. Over recent months both Twitter and Facebook have taken significant steps to provide ways of making images accessible for blind or low-vision users, by an automatic identification of images when using Facebook, or manually creating an alternative text description (otherwise known as 'alt text') for images on Twitter. Here’s to a more accessible future.

For more information and articles on the steps taken by Twitter and Facebook, check out:
Under the hood: Building accessibility tools for the visually impaired on Facebook (external link).