Hello Tiger Nation!!!
After attending my first tradeshow as CEO of ViewPlus, it feels good to have better understanding of the accessible technology space. I’m not so naïve to think that four days in Orlando at ATiA make me an expert and I’ve only been CEO since November 13th, 2015. However, I did meet and talk to a bunch of people at the show who have been involved in the industry for many years. I appreciate all of them openly sharing the good, the bad and the ugly as they understand it. They were patient with my earnest curiosity and barrage of questions.
I do have a bit of an advantage since I have known the founder of ViewPlus my entire life. I’ve heard lots of grumbling about things on his computer not being accessible. It has made me wonder and start asking everyone I meet, “What does it mean to be accessible on a computer?” I don’t have enough data yet to see if there one answer or a variety of them, so I’m writing this blog post in hopes that others will chime in and share what they’ve learned in this area.
It really goes hand-in-hand with the focus on making tactile graphics to allow blind students to access information key to most areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). ViewPlus has been working on it for years, yet I still find many people have no idea you can print directly from Word, Excel or CorelDraw. I digress. Back to the topic at hand.
I asked my dad, Dr. John Gardner, “How can I tell if a program or web page is accessible on my computer? Is it really complicated or what?” In his opinion, it is quite simple, not to be confused with easy. First, you must be able to navigate with a keyboard. Second, it must work with a current screen reader, like the free one, NVDA (http://www.nvaccess.org/). I followed up, “That’s it? If I’m a developer, does this require a lot of work?” His understanding is that if you use Microsoft developer tools, your applications will be accessible. HTML web pages in most browsers are accessible. You might want to make sure that image titles make sense or have alternate text descriptions.
I just downloaded NVDA and am going to start trying it on everything I use to get an idea of how accessible things are. I do have a software usability background, so I immediately see some things may be accessible by the simple two-part definition above but still not easy to use if you cannot see to navigate or text descriptions are poor or non-existent.
It really makes me wonder what I’ll find. Are there some good examples of applications and web pages that are both accessible and easy to use if you can’t see? How hard would it be to improve things dramatically?
Talk to you next week.