Hey Tiger Nation,
It might not compete with the US presidential primary politics, but it was a huge week for accessibility in the blind community. Amazon and National Federation of the Blind announced they will join forces to improve accessible reading experiences for blind and low-vision students, https://www.facebook.com/ViewPlus/posts/1094262830633546.
Learn from my Mistakes
I’m only on week 4 of my new blog looking at accessibility and already Stevie Wonder, NFB and Amazon on jumping onto my trend. I should be going viral by now, if only I could embrace the whole hashtag thing. Of course, I’m still learning myself to always focus on accessibility. We are working at ViewPlus to clean up our email list and asked our followers to opt in to some new categories so we can better create and direct content to them. On our first couple emails, we used a pretty simple template and things went well. On the final one, we were a bit fancier because we wanted to invite people to follow us on social media even if they didn’t want the newsletters anymore. We need some columns to show all the social media platforms we are on. I forgot to check on the alternate text for the logo and icon images, so they just looked like black boxes to the screen reader. Worse still, the template had a bunch of extra fields we didn’t use. The HTML code was there but empty, so nothing was displayed. After receiving an email from my dad, I tried to navigate with the keyboard and the empty space was full of empty columns and rows. Turning on the NVDA screen reader didn’t help at all because there was no data to explain why I couldn’t scroll down to the text of the message. MailChimp also had a text only version of the message but there was no way to request it without updating my profile, so I need to make sure that option is always available at the top of each email. I was in too big a hurry to get the email campaign out that I didn’t check that the format changes made the email blast inaccessible. I won’t forget again.
Hope is on the way
In my search to find quick ways to create accessible tactile graphics used in everyday life, I’m finding some cool tools to help generate accessible charts and diagrams and talking to some incredible people. I’m still playing with how they work and what they do, but I’ll share them in our private Facebook group when I have something worth sharing. Join Tiger Nation through our newsletter or following us on social media. I’m still not happy with the results of my org chart experiment and financial tables that I mentioned in earlier blog posts. However, the search for tools is making me even more curious.
Learning from others
I spent some time reading over the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics (http://www.brailleauthority.org/tg/). They are comprehensive in many ways but I had the feeling it was targeted at the lowest common denominator in terms of technology and experience. Kids are so computer savvy that I really hope it is possible to find some more straightforward ways to get more accessible tactile graphics into the blind students’ hands at an early age. I may be naïve but I can’t help think that most content creators would want to make things accessible to all if there was a simple way to do so. It seems so much easier to provide a path from the source graphic than have to scan it in from a hardcopy. When text is mixed with graphics, you will have inevitable OCR errors that require human intervention to clean the missed text or graphics thought to be text. Even with a PDF created from document source (not scanned in), the graphic and text are separate, making it less likely errors will occur. I guess my main assumption is that creating an accessible graphic may require a little reworking of the graphic and it easier for the original content author than someone after the fact.
That’s all for now. Until next week….