The Accessibility Checker feature has been part of Microsoft Office for the last few iterations of the software package. It provides a fast and easy way to check whether the content you are producing is accessible to users of assistive technology. By making accessibility accessible Microsoft have left no room for excuses like “I didn’t know how…” or “I didn’t have time..”. You wouldn’t send a document to all your colleagues full of misspellings because you were in a hurry would you? The one criticism that could have been leveled at Microsoft was perhaps they didn’t provide enough support to new users of the tool. As I said above it’s easy to use but sometimes users need a little extra support, especially when you are introducing them to something that may be perceived as additional work. Thankfully Microsoft have filled that gap with a 6 part tutorial video which clearly explains why and how to get started using Accessibility Checker. Part 1 is a short introduction (embedded below) followed by a video on each important accessibility practice; Alternative Text, Heading Styles, Hyperlinks, File naming and Tables. Each video is accompanied by a short exercise to allow you put your new skill into practice immediately. The whole tutorial can be completed in under 20 minutes. This tutorial should be a requirement for anybody producing documents for circulation to the public. Have a look at the introduction video below.
In May 2016 the accessibility team responsible for the GOV.UK domain posted a survey looking for information about the types of Assistive Technology (AT) people visiting the site were using. GOV.UK is the central online hub in the UK for all government services and information and as such, it takes accessibility very seriously. The survey which was open for 6 weeks, was answered by over 700 people and has produced some interesting results. You can read a post on their blog with all the results here.
Around the same time here in Ireland, Enable Ireland and the Disability Federation of Ireland conducted their own online AT user survey which also had some interesting findings. You can read more about that here.
Online Accessibility Vs Personal AT Use
Before comparing the results we must first highlight that we are not comparing like with like here. The UK.GOV survey was at heart about accessibility: the information we learn about AT is in the context of accessing a website whereas the Irish survey was seeking to find out about the range of AT which people use, and their experience in securing it through public or private funding. This will obviously skew the UK.GOV sample towards software solutions (they don’t appear to have asked about hardware like alternative input devices) to support computer access, literacy and visual impairment. Taking this into account what does stand out is the amount of “premium” AT solutions identified as being used in the UK. 29% of those responding to this survey used a screen reader and of these just under 40% identified JAWS as being their solution of choice. VoiceOver was next (but by far the most popular choice for mobile users) followed by just 12% using the free Open Source NVDA. (See graph below).
About 30% of respondents use magnification software, and almost 70% identified high end proprietary solutions like Zoomtext (54%), Supernova (11%) and Magic (4%). Within magnification the lack of a credible open source alternative could help to explain the result. There is a similar situation within literacy support software with Read & Write from TextHelp accounting for almost 70% of the total. Finally it’s no surprise that various iterations of Dragon Naturally Speaking from Nuance accounted for almost 90% of speech recognition software.
Do these results tell us that there is a thriving market for high end proprietary AT software in the UK? Maybe not, it’s far more likely that the people responding to this survey were professionals working in a corporate enterprise type environment which might favour proprietary over open source or inbuilt solutions.
Cost of AT
In terms of cost of AT, the surprise result of the Irish survey was that 62% of AT solutions cost less than €1000 and the UK.GOV results seem to be similar. JAWS and possibly some versions of Zoomtext would cost in excess of €1000. However, all other solutions identified here would come in below that.
It’s interesting to see both the U.K. and Ireland attempting to gather current data on AT use. What these surveys highlight most of all is the need for more comprehensive data gathering to enable us to plan for the future, across the life span: from early childhood to old age. Assistive Technology is a tool for all, but still, far too few people who could benefit from it, are aware of it, or know how to apply for funding for it.
The European Parliament has approved the directive on making the websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies more accessible. This means that people with disabilities – especially persons with vision or hearing impairments – will have better access to the websites and mobile applications of public services.
The updated version of the directive adopted by the Council in July 2016. The directive will soon enter into force, and Member States will have 21 months to transpose the Directive into national legislation.
The rules encoded in the directive reflect the Commission’s ongoing work to build a social and inclusive European Union, where all Europeans can take full part in the digital economy and society.
The text of the Directive covers websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies with a limited number of exceptions (e.g. broadcasters, livestreaming). This is a crucial milestone to achieve an inclusive digital society in which people with disabilities and other users have access to online services and information on an equal footing to other people.
Member States shall ensure that public sector bodies take the necessary measures to make their websites and mobile applications more accessible by making them perceivable, operable, understandable and robust.
For example for someone who is blind this will mean that public sector websites and mobile applications will have text alternatives for non-text content i.e. short equivalents for images, including icons, buttons, and graphics and description of data represented on charts, diagrams, and illustrations.
Or for someone with dexterity issues all functionality that is available by mouse is also available by keyboard. This will help people using alternative keyboards and people using voice recognition. Content will also have to be well organized which will help users to orient themselves and to navigate effectively.
We hope you like our new browsealoud toolbar on ATandMe. We want to reduce barriers between our content and all of our audience.
This support software adds speech, reading, and translation onto websites facilitating access and participation. Online content can be read aloud in multiple languages using natural voice to transform the user’s reading experience.
Please note: Not all features are available at all times within browsealoud
Hover to Speak starts reading the page out loud – this feature is on by default
Play starts reading selected text or reads from the top of the page
Translate Page provides written and spoken translations in multiple languages
Generate MP3 converts selected text into an MP3
Screen mask blocks distractions on screen with a tinted mask
Screenmask blocks distractions on screen with a tinted mask
Text Magnifier enlarges text and reads it out loudWeb
Page Simplifier removes clutter from the screen, displaying only the main text
Settings customise options to suit individual needs or preferences
Help show a simple help page that explains what the browsealoud toolbar does
Are you looking for free expert training and advice is assistive technology?
Then consider signing up for a webinar. There are lots of webinars available within various areas of assistive technology. Some have a charge, but there are many freely available for anyone to take part in.
A webinar is a live meeting that takes place over the web. The meeting can be a presentation, discussion, demonstration, or an instructional session. Participants can view documents and applications via their computers, while join in the discussion by audio or via a live Q&A text area.
Many assistive technology suppliers and organisations are using webinars as a way to share information. Below are a list of a few online webinars that you can register on or listen to archived sessions.
The Global Accessible Awareness Day is today. The purpose of this day is to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) accessibility and users with different disabilities.
This is a really nice video to coincide with the event. It introduces digital accessibility, some reasons why digital inclusion is important, and tips to help you start making your digital technology more accessible, usable, and inclusive.
Getting accessibility right means, you’ll build something that is better for everyone, and better for business!
Tip 1: If you are commissioning an app, software or website, make accessibility part of the contract – refer to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2 (WCAG 2.0)
Tip 2: If you are using an online platform to create your website, use ‘accessible’ themes and plugins,and keep the following in mind.
Tip 3: Design pages so that users may customise their experience of them – changing colours, the size of text, or buttons. Use responsive layouts that will work on different devices.
Tip 4: Always let users know where they are and how they get to somewhere else. Create alternative routes to suit different requirements, like a ‘skip to main content’ link.
Tip 5: Make sure that every action that can be performed using a mouse can be achieved using the keyboard alone. Keyboard only users need to see where they are at all times when they navigate using the TAB key, and tabbing should follow a logical order. Test how easy it is to navigate using only the TAB, ENTER, SPACE and ARROW keys.
Tip 6: Give the user control – provide a pause button, and don’t set audio or video to play automatically.
Tip 7: Choose a video player that allows you to add captions, and provide a text transcript, to make audio and video content accessible. Include descriptions of any important visual information as well as speech.
Tip 8: If an image is important, contains text or is a link, explain this with ‘alternative text’ that screen reader software can read out to users with visual impairments.
Tip 9: Is your text in easy-to-understand language? Use short, simple sentences to aid readability and engage a wider audience.
Tip 10: Give each page a title, and organise the text using headings, paragraphs and lists. Add ‘mark up’ to enable easier navigation and explain features to people who can’t see them – this applies to documents in Word or PDFs as well as webpages.
Tip 11: Make sure that links stand out clearly from surrounding text and let users know if the link will open in a new window or download a document. Links need to be concise and descriptive so that if they are read on their own, people will still know where they go.
Tip 12: Test text and background colour combinations and contrast online to ensure text can be easily read by people who are colour-blind or have impaired vision.
Tip 13: Give visitors time to extend their session if they wish. If your webpage ‘times out’ before people are able to complete forms, this can be a very frustrating experience.
Tip 14: Explain accessibility improvements you’ve made and why, in an accessibility statement and provide easy ways for people to contact you if they are having difficulty.
Tip 15: Please use alternatives [to CAPTCHA] – such as text-based logic problems, or simple human user confirmations. Spam protection like CAPTCHA may shut out potential customers not just spam robots.
The Global Accessible Awareness Day this year is on the 21st of May.
The purpose of this day is to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) accessibility and users with different disabilities. It’s an international event where organizations or anyone is invited to hold an in-person or a virtual event to mark GAAD and invite the public to take part?
Good news: NCBI and their EU partners have recently launched a website promoting digital inclusion: www.digiplace4all.eu. A core feature of this resource will be the creation of a network of digital champions: people who have particular experience and expertise in domains such as: digital literacy, workplace accessibility, workplace accessibility and much more. NCBI’s Mark Magennis has been in touch to ask us to help promote this resource widely in the health, education and employment sectors. We now invite you to visit the site and share it with your colleagues/fellow AT users. This is a great opportunity to create a network of champions who can assist one another in very real and practical ways to become more confident technology users.
One of the things we struggle with is the need to support one another when real issues arise, rather than offering support according to a training calendar/diary. This website is a step in that direction and I hope that you will find it useful. I hope that you might be in a position to take an active role in championing effective technology use in your particular area of expertise. Ultimately, www.digiplace4all.eu has the potential for the whole to be so much more than the sum of its parts. For further information, why not check out NCBI’s Mark Magennis whose video outlines the main benefits and features of the site right here: http://youtu.be/MxSDuqRkTuY
Accessible Information and Communication Technology can be used by people with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Here are two free webinars hosted by Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP). The webinars are aimed to give you the basic principles of accessibility and legal guidelines as well as discover how to procure and create accessible documents and multimedia.
Accessible PowerPoint Presentations
For presentation authors, an introductory look
at how to make presentations more accessible
using PowerPoint 2010.
March 25, 2015 @ 3:00 PM EST
Considerations for Multimedia Accessibility
A high-level look at tools and tips to help make audio and video more accessible. Includes some discussion about captioning techniques.
April 29, 2015 @ 3:00 PM EST
Register online to attend at www.ataporg.org