Monday, 13 October 2008
I did wonder at first if I'd have time to do any assistive techie stuff seeing as the job doesn't really have any of that in it's description, but, in my own way, I've made sure I've got access to JAWS (ah, Daniel, I knew you'd come back into my life!) and I've also been drafted onto IT Accessibility meetings with our IT Accessibility Officer. He'sbeen looking at accessibility of University software - anything from the giant HR system to the VLE. There's not much difference between Oxford and Leeds really - the big companies still don't give much thought to accessibility until afterwards.
However, some emails earlier this morning made me wonder if we might get somewhere with the VLE. They've recently moved from a nice accessible in-house created VLE to a bought in service which isn't accessible (probably best for me not to get started on why they did this!) , but the high heid yins in this bought-in service have agreed to meet up and discuss accessibility - maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge commercial companies?? Let's see how we get on - and once I get JAWS back up and running, I'll have a wee play around with it too..... always like to be prepared!
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
And how do you work out how to use it? A rather nice man called David Bailes at Chorlton Workshop for hsbp has written a whole host of JAWS Guides. Somebody buy this man a pint. Or several.
Friday, 15 August 2008
As I mentioned in last week's blog, we've been working with a blind student who wants to be able to use a screenreader and speech-to-text software at the same time. I tried it out. Doesn't work. UNTIL....... through the wonders of Web 2.0 technology (anRSS Feed) this great site Top Ten Tech Tidbits of the Week by Dean Martin (no not the singer!!!) pointed me in the direction of J-Say which works to bring together JAWS and Dragon Naturally Speaking. I mentioned this to Teresa (who works with me and also loves all this stuff) and she duly got in touch with T and T Consultancy and this morning we had a brilliant demo by Brian Hartgen, who coincidentally also wrote the programme.
It makes a difference when you're being shown the software by the man who wrote it, who also happens to be an end user and blind. He knows it all. Knows it's quirks, could answer all our questions and I could tell our student was impressed. I know I was.
You may say that he's an expert, that he's spent the past 5 years working with this software, but we're not naive, we know the student has a lot before him, that he'll need to learn how to use all 3 programmes, but what I saw today was a truly useful product being demonstrated by someone who has to use it every day. Sure he's still trying to get us to buy it, but there was no hard sell, just enthusiasm for a useful piece of software and a realisation that it could make our student's life much easier. Best demo I've ever been at. Thank you Brian!
I want a copy. New budget, leaving job in a month.... think anyone would notice??
Friday, 8 August 2008
However, with difficulties in navigating using the keyboard, he's been wondering about Dragon Naturally Speaking (I've got to know this quite well over the past couple of weeks!!).
He was also wondering about better Web Access with a screenreader, so we're thinking about JAWS.
The question is do they work together? The simple answer is not really. You need another programme to get them to work together to the best of their ability. We've discovered one called J-Say which has been developed by T and T Consultancy. They are also responsible for J-Tunes which makes iTunes accessible - although I like Apple products for their simplicity they use a lot of graphics which make it difficult to work with assistive software.
I'm saddened by the need to have extra costs associated with assistive technology, but I'm intrigued at the thought that 2 different products designed with different users in mind could be used by one person.
We're getting a demo next week, so I'll keep you posted on how easy it is to use.
Thursday, 7 August 2008
Still at least they'd thought about it in the first place...
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Put in your headings, or we'll come round and get you!
Friday, 18 July 2008
I think we should be very proud of ourselves at CLAUD. The Conference seems to have been a great success. We had an excellent turn out for day 1 with over 50 delegates and speakers and even better at day 2 with over 60. I'm still waiting to hear from Matthew about the feedback forms, but you know you're onto a good thing when you can't hear yourself think during the coffee breaks because everyone is talking so loudly and networking so hard.
We had no speakers drop out at the last minute, no technical glitches (great IT/AV staff at the University of Gloucestershire!!) and interesting subjects to deal with. Our student speakers seem to have gone down very well indeed giving their personal feedback on issues of accessing learning materials. Alistair McNaught from TechDis gave a fascinating talk showing us that we can make things accessible without spending much money at all, with links to free software (he did mention Web 2.0 applications with Delicious) and advice. Even the publisher we had speaking went down well and she was pleased not to have had a mauling - I can't believe anyone would, we're all here to help, but apparently it has had happened to her in the past.
I've still to go through the audio recordings of the talks, but I'm hoping our speakers will be happy to let them be posted on the CLAUD site, and maybe even freely available on here.
A great Conference all round!
Friday, 27 June 2008
It's been quite a task, especially organising it for a venue I've never seen before (others have as the 2006 Conference was there) and with Committee members scattered over the South and South-West of England. This year we got in some great admin help in the form of a staff member in another department (thank you Steve!) doing it in his own time (don't worry, we paid him!), so it's been less stressful and more fun.
I've learnt so much about organising conferences, I've even started looking into organising an assistive technology event in Oxford for next March - I just can't get enough.
So we're in the final stretch with the conference next Thursday, with the numbers finally in and people letting me know what they want for the evening meal on Day 1 (it's two days and residential). The badges have been printed, I've got most of the presentations, I'm sorting out the Braille and the Large Print documents. Fingers crossed for the 3rd & 4th July - off to look into making audio recordings of the presentations to put online - that's where Web 2.0 comes in!
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Last week I was looking into a query for a student about a questionnaire she was trying to fill in online. She's profficient in using JAWS (although she's not a huge fan and is looking into trying out Window Eyes), but was having trouble with the drop down menus ("combo boxes" in JAWS speak). So I thought I'd try it out and discovered a few issues:
- You need to go into Forms mode in JAWS to access the Combo Boxes (that was my error, not theirs!)
- The way the questionnaire was laid out meant when scrolling through it the screenreader read firstly the text of the question, then the question again because it was repeated in the combo box.
- Most of the items in the drop down list began with the same letter - D for Dept or F for Faculty or BA in XXX or MA in XXX - not good when you can't see easily and have to listen.
- The items again were repeated twice, meaning that a lag could occur. If, when I heard the item read the first time and moved onto the next, it would continue to read the previous item because the text is as I said, repeated twice. Now I can tell if what it's reading to me is not what is on the screen, but the student had to get someone to check and go through it again to make sure she'd picked the right options.
- Alt text - being overexplicit and the pitfalls we end up in (like prefixing images with "photograph of") - see also Mike Cherim's Blog on Alt Text
- Title attributes - how best to use them - and that you don't need to use "link to:" or repeat information
- Default text in forms - that you don't need it because screenreaders can cope with blank fields
- Accesskeys - whether or not they are such a good idea (I don't think they are. Along with skip links they are invariably invisible on the page so they can only be used with screenreaders and they often conflict with the keys that technology already uses)
- Textsize Widgets - those buttons you can use to increase text size on a page, although you can already use your browser for this function - and to quote Patrick "Text size widgets are evil and Patrick hates them..."l
It all reminds me of a mnemonic I use quite a lot: KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.
Monday, 9 June 2008
So how does Twitter fare with JAWS? Pretty well it has to be said:
- It's easy to navigate around, with a simple layout, that shouldn't put anyone off using it.
- There is some repetition of words in JAWS, probably owing to information in the alt text field, so that when you go to sign-in it says "Please sign in, please sign in user name edit" and "Please sign in password, password edit". It's good to have the alt text, but the repetition gets a bit annoying. A case of over accessibilitising (if that's a word?)
- There are icons you can click on to add tweets to your favourites list as well as delete. These are nice and clear when you look at them on the screen. Rolling the mouse over them also gives nice alt text, but when JAWS reads, all you get is "icon underscore star underscore empty" and "icon underscore trash". Having looked at the underlying source code this is because the title is favourite this update or delete this update while the img_alt is icon_star_empty and icon_trash. I don't know if there's a way to change my JAWS settings to allow it to read the title or if it wouldn't make more sense to change the img_alt to the same as title?
- Couldn't seem to input my phone number easily when JAWS was on. It kept telling me that there were no heading 4's on the page when all I wanted to type was +44 to start off my phone number. Is this a JAWS setting issue or the application? I know the navigation quick key for heading 4 is the number 4, but even when I went into Forms mode to add the numbers, it didn't switch off.
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Proof that Web 2.0 isn't just about social networking and throwing sheep at your friends in Facebook.
Is disability only an issue in the non-virtual world? About time it wasn't.
Friday, 23 May 2008
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Today is day 2 of a student sitting exams with JAWS. So far so good, no phone calls to tell me it's packed in and collapsed and the student has been hauled off with stress. I'm pleased.
Day 1 involved no crash of equipment either, just a few niggles and they would come when I was in the midst of trying to sort out coffees and teas for a meeting. (How the venue could have thought that it was at 5 and not 3, I don't know, when I had it in writing from them that all would be well at 3!!!)
Yesterday I sat for 2 hours and fiddled around with dear old JAWS and fixed it. I'd say I knew a lot more about it now than I did even 2 days ago.
- Always have a back-up computer in exams for students sitting them with assistive software
- Always save work regularly. If you can link it to a server, even better, but transfer to a safe computer and print it out too. You can never be too careful.
- Reassure people, especially student, and non-familiar IT and college staff, that the world won't collapse if JAWS talks in a slightly odd voice.
- Work on improving the situation for next year!
Monday, 12 May 2008
When you're writing something, your aim is to get your information across as clearly as possible, isn't it? You're making it 'accessible' to your readers, whoever and wherever they are. You want to make sure everyone can read it. So when it comes to writing it and publishing it online you want to think about those who may not be able to read it in standard print and may use screenreaders or other assistive technology. So....
- Basic text/Word document - Microsoft may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's the Word processing system a vast majority of people use. This is where you can start to build in accessibility. Assistive software like JAWS makes use of the Headings and Styles you get in Word documents. Although I've yet to use OpenOffice, the open source document writer, it also has the ability to implement styles and headings, and should also work with JAWS (something I'll try out later). So when you're writing your document/information you want to get across, have thought about it's layout, you really want to use those Headings and Styles. The best information I've come across so far in creating accessibility in Word docs is the TechDis Accessibility Essentials series. I learnt a lot from these and have taken all of their advice on board. It's simple and easy to add in Headings and Styles from the very beginning and can make a huge difference to people who may just need to adjust the size of the font, to those who use assistive technology. Let's stop using computers as typewriters and make the most of them!
- PDF documents - If you've already created your document using Word or another Text based document writer, converting it into an Adobe PDF file is easy with Adobe Standard or Adobe Professional. All of your headings will be kept and it will be accessible with screen readers. Adobe have been improving their accessibility in recent years. PDF image files are frowned upon, and although some users of assistive technology can make use of them, if they have OCR conversion software such as Kurzweil, don't make them available publicly on a website unless you want lots of angry complaints!
- Web pages - In general, if as above, you consider the structure of your information and make sure you have headings defined you will be on the way to improving accessibility. The move these days, I think, is towards XHTML, CSS and XML. These all build on HTML, and whilst not an expert in their use, I can see that XHTML is a cleaner form of mark-up language and that Cascading Style Sheets [CSS] provide an excellent opportunity for adding accessibility and making life easier for the web author. There are a wealth of resources on adding accessibility into your web pages, but don't just think about making sure it gets those little ticks by sticking it through the validator, think as well about the visual impact, how it's laid out, whether you can change the font size and what the font looks like. The RNIB have some nice helpful documents and also will do web accessibility testing for you and run training courses. Their Clearprint information is worthwhile.
- Webcredible - user experience, usability, accessibility design services. Seems all eminently sensible.
- Web Accessibility Initiative - from W3C, the place where the web accessibility guidelines get developed. Can be a bit tecchie.
- Zanet - Accessible Web Business - I've stuck this in because the font size is so tiny! If you're going to advocate writing accessible webpages, lead by example!
- Website accessibility and disability discrimination - gives some sound and basic advice on different disabilities. Also mentions the only case so far to mention web accessibility, that of the Sydney Olympic Organising Committee, who were taken to court for not implementing an accessible website.
Monday, 5 May 2008
- I need to have more patience. If I needed to use this technology tomorrow, it would take me a lot longer to navigate round web pages. I'm so used to quickly looking at the page I'm on and finding my way by sight, it's suddenly a totally different learning experience to using your ears instead.
- There's an awful lot you have to listen too because there's an awful lot of information on web pages and not all of it necessary. I found it frustrating to be greeted by the same navigation list every time I went to another page when all I wanted was to read what was in the main body of text. Happily though, I discovered the wonders of short cut keys to skip between headings and lists of links. They make a huge difference.
- Alt text, alt text, please add alt text!! I found quite a few pages where graphics had no alt text. It's important, and not only for people who use screenreaders. On days when I'm not, it's still helpful to know what the picture stands for!
- Some pages I went to (I did flit around other sites in between faffing with Facebook) had 'Skip To' links but these were only accessible with screenreading software. Please don't hide these! Some people who rely on other accessibility software may find it useful. Having said that though, it can be a hindrance when you are using screenreaders as they can sometimes conflict with other shortcut keys the programme uses.
The internet is interactive, shouldn't we all interact to improve it?
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
A very interesting article on issues still facing many blind computer users - mentions the much hated CAPTCHA image and the lack of alt text for images often about.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
So as a last test, I'm trying this out with JAWS. On the plus side when I went to the webpage, it instantly took me to the login so I could log in.
Some things about Librarything.com:
- Columns: Sometimes JAWS doesn't work with columns very well. It often reads from left to right ignoring that the left hand column is a list of navigation links and that the right hand column is filled with information. You can get some interesting sentences that way! Although most of the columns seem to be tables, which makes navgating easier - T in the JAWS Quick Navigation will take you to the next table and tabbing will allow you to move through the lists. Ctrl+Inst+T will give a list of all the tables.
- Tables: I mentioned Tables a bit above. I think I actually might be getting better at navigating through tables! Hurrah! I find it easier to listen to and navigate through it. There are not as many tables in librarything.com as there are in Facebook which is a definite bonus. It also seems much cleaner and easier to navigate around.
- Alt text: Again there's no alt text for the book covers so you get a large string of numbers which makes you kind of wonder what on earth you're listening to. Still it reads out the columns well and the stars for reviews come out as "graphic star" which is a bonus.
All in all, perhaps it's a combination of my increasing navigation skills with JAWS, but I didn't find librarything.com too bad with JAWS, which proves that something simple can be beneficial to librarianship.
I've done what I said I would do earlier on in this blog and I'm going to take some time to mull over my experiences and blog some more about my general thoughts later on.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
OK, some things about Del.icio.us:
- Navigation - not bad! Not heavy on graphics and quite linear so JAWS read through lists quite happily. I managed to get to the login page and login and read my pathetic three links. Only niggle is the vertical bar which separates the navigation links at the top and occassionally elsewhere on the page- aggggghhhhhh!!!! It reads out as "vertical bar" and is quite annoying!
- Missing heading number 2 - when I went through the headings list, there seems to be no mention of heading level 2. Heading level 1 and heading level 3 and 4 are all present and correct, but not heading level 2. Seems that they have not considered that they could change the size of the headings so that they could use the heading levels correctly.
- They do have alt text for the images, but this then unfortunately means that there are a lot of repeated links when JAWS is just running through the page for the first time.
In general I thought it worked OK with JAWS. Nothing is ever going to be perfect and it's certainly easier to navigate around than Facebook and there is not the heavy reliance on tables as others. The real niggle is that vertical bar - is it really necessary? Would anyone notice if it went missing?
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
- There's an awful lot of tables in Facebook. All those different boxes on the page with friend information, the Wall, the feed list, they're all tables. I'm not terribly au fait with accessing tables with JAWS, but it got quite annoying (I have my verbosity settings high) after a while.
- I am not a number!! There is, as some of you may be aware, nothing in the way of alt text for the pictures, instead it reads as a very long number. In effect you get a link to a person's profile through the picture, but you don't know who the person is because it's just a number....
- There's lots in the way of duplicate links on the page, because of the links on the feed, the Wall and Friends list. Hitting Ins+F7 gives a very very very long list indeed (often with many many numbers!)!
- When I put JAWS in "Say All" mode, it read from left to right across the page from the applications links, skipping out the picture in the middle to read the personal information. On a friend's page this made for very strange reading - going from "Events" to hearing what their religious convictions were!
I'm a novice JAWS user and maybe regular users would navigate round it quicker. On the other hand, not all assistive technology users are expert (think about how many people don't know how to use Word correctly but use it every day!) but most websites are easier to navigate because they are less dynamic and tend to have a more linear structure (if they're written correctly!). It wasn't impossible to navigate around the page, but it was quirky.
There's a lot to be said for social networking. I make use of it and I certainly do not wish to halt its progress, but I would like to see it easier to use for those who rely on assistive technology.
There are a some accessibility groups on F'book who are trying to improve the situation:
There are various other reports:
- State of the eNation report on social networking - which points out various accessibility issues.
- AFB Report on CAPTCHA images in social networking sites
The BBC's accessibility blog had an interesting point to make "we all need to consider ourselves as TAB (Temporarily Able Bodied) and then design accordingly. " It's good practice and I'd highly recommend any web developers to have some basic knowledge of screenreaders and take the time to hear how a website or application "sounds".
Monday, 7 April 2008
It's a great idea to make sure that the information can be read by those who use assistive technology (although I worry that those XHTML Valid buttons seem to have taken over as a way of saying "Look at me, I'm accessible", when the website looks as if it's been written by Jackson Pollock and anything but "accessible" ... I'll rant about "accessibility" another time).
Can the same be said for Web 2.0 applications? How well do they work with screenreaders? I thought I'd take my knowledge of using JAWS and put it to the test. I'm not visually impaired, but I have had conversations with a JAWS user who spends a lot of time online. She also assured me that she'd never had any trouble using (or buying from!) amazon.co.uk - I'd heard it was something of an accessibility nightmare.
So, where to start. I thought I'd take some Web 2.0 applications and see what I can come up with using JAWS (I'll also trawl around the web to see if anyone else has some info on these). Here's my basic list to start with:
1. Facebook (it'll give me an excuse to play with it at work!)
2. Librarything.com - see above for excuse!
3. Del.icio.us - not too enamoured of this, but it could be useful
So I'll let you know how I get on.
Thursday, 27 March 2008
- Students for library presence F'book
- Students against library presence on F'book
- Librarians for library presence on F'book
- Librarians against library presence on F'book
- On F'book all time - wouldn't have to go anywhere else to get to library information
- Library pages on F'book look better
- More informal and user friendly
- Information through updates in your inbox - takes pain out of finding info
- Garner support to get changes to fines, opening hours
- SALF - William Hague wearing a baseball cap - libraries are not fun - fail to see what libs are offering by joining F'book
- Get RSS feed off website
- Changes to fines through F'book - but needs to happen through spirit of the masses
- Keep work and social activities separate - policing through F'book not good
- Bad fit between social use of site and professional personas coming onsite
MR - libraries ARE fun!
Inequality between power of individuals and power of any organisation - much more resources than individual - power inequality
Policing through proctors - worry that people will go elsewhere
Libraries will get onto F'book and people will go elsewhere
Are there other things we should be doing? Improving catalogue?
- Communication - being able to ask people for fines??
- Being where your users are
- Being able to talk to users in space they use
- Get to know who your users are - fans - are they on holiday so can't pay their fines??
- Information being more open - informal when people post queries
- Marketing - making more visible - making the Bod less scary - making librarians less scary :)
Not overwhelmingly compelling??
Best arguement is getting know your users - could do this by focus groups?? Decision makers should sit on the desk (and be trained first!) to get to know users!
Users aren't thinking what's in it for me - it's another way of getting info out
- Devalues the organisation - F'book is social network, about meeting up for coffee not discussing what library books they are borrowing!
- Advertising on F'book - some may be inappropriate
- Small libraries with small number of PCs may not want to have them used up with F'book
- Content - not dependable? Only person who has put info up
- What is wrong with a good library website? RSS Feeds, Library Catalogue
Less appropriate for academic libraries to be on F'book? BL is on there - is aiming to get people in from all walks of life!
Is it such a bad idea?? For Staff Development - RSS Feeds, Pics of conferences, comments
But..... only members can access the information
Concern over privacy and caching from Google
Emma Huber - is this something to lose if we're invading social space? Bookswap will keep going.
From institutional perspective it's a billboard - telling people what is on - this is not an invasion of space BUT it would be an invasion of space if libraries think they will become friends with the users - users will ignore us:
Are we taking it all too seriously - it's a space you can ignore things! Shouldn't be so concerned about infringing about peoples rights.
Go back and bring social into everything we do? Look at catalogues and make everything we do more accessible.
Web2.0 is not just the technology it's an attitude!
I really enjoyed Phil Bradley talking about Web 2.0. Very dynamic. I agree with his idea that we are using the Web in a different way - our computer is more dynamic and we make more use of 3rd party software on-line, applications. Made me realise what is out there - I thought I was up to date!! - and that, frankly, we should just be getting out there and doing it ourselves.
I'm also very impressed with Jane (VHL) and Emma (Linacre) for just going down the Web 2.0 route and experimenting. It's something I think we should be doing at a larger level, but also made me wonder if our users will really be interested in communicating with us by these methods. Early days yet, but nice to know at least some people in Oxford have taken the bull by the horns.
So far no-one has mentioned disability (guess I should have asked the question really!!). This is something I need to look into - how accessible are a lot of Web 2.0 applications.
Let's see what happens this afternoon. A chance to have a look at LibraryThing.com, Del.icio.us and other applications.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
With Web 2.0 initiatives are we blurring the work/life relationship? How will our 'customers' react to us using blogs, wikis and facebook profiles to promote libraries? Do they think it is not our place to make use of them?
Any thoughts welcome!