Archive for May, 2012

Humanistic, process driven, innovative and academically focused are good adjectives to describe the atmosphere at AccessU 2012. From the trainers to the participants, conversations and stories describing the people that use adaptive technology to aid their daily lives, breathes life into the need for quality accessibility.

Glenda Simms, accessibility consultant at Deque, outlined sensible accessibility techniques using Ginny Reddish, world renown plain language specialist in writing for the Web and Jarred Spool, usability expert, known for using low-fidelity techniques, as her mentors.

Kelsey Rugar, experienced technology executive, Web and mobile user experience designer, joined the conference as a remote trainer, describing the “Rebirth of Slick: Why Design is Cool and Why It Will Make People Love Your Company.”

Whitney Quesenbery,  “user experience researcher with a passion for clear communication“, introduced several process frameworks, including the use of Agile methods, through case studies utilizing:

1 - Open Call
2 - First Friday’s
3 - Hallway and Flash Tests

Whitney’s passion for the work she described was evident in her elegant delivery of the material.

Disability rights lawyer, Lainey Feingold, shared one of many of her most interesting disability rights cases with us over lunch. As an active website user, her client, a blind savvy professional, had a limited number of  accessibility hurdles that she asked a respected finance company to address so that she could independently use its site.  They did not respond to her until she got a lawyer’s help.

The company cooperated and worked well with the client after that point, but it would have been less expensive for the company if they had simply addressed the hurdles at the outset.

Her best advice to companies is to simply respond appropriately to visitors who find accessibility issues on their Websites. This helps to avoid costs in terms of time, money and is simply good business.

Sharron Rush supports Lainey’s use of Structured Negotiations, a disability rights collaborative dispute resolution process that seeks to avoid the need for litigation while producing positive results for both parties.

The lunch keynote, Kel Smith, who describes himself as “a creative technologist, information designer, accessibility advocate and virtual world explorer“, shared his story of why he became an advocate for the disabled. The powerful message he conveyed is to envision possibility, especially when it doesn’t exist or doesn’t seem like it can. His moving video depicted the people who inspire him to dream and to create technology that can help those who are in many cases immobile. Through innovation these people can move objects, be musicians, sing and simply to express.

Ann Chadwick-Dias and Merguerite Bergel, both from the Web Technology user experience and design group at Fidelity Investments, showcased their phenomenal experience in building a usability and accessibility lab. Most notably, the enthusiasm and passion of the team members they have had the pleasure to work with, made their case for collaborative accessibility.

As a training conference, the focus is not only to educate but to confirm the practitioner’s; the individuals and teams who create and deliver accessible technology and information, to remember that elegant and simple is possible even when elegant and simple may not yet exist.

Web accessibility means more than creating Web sites for visitors that are sight impaired. It means building responsive Web accessible information for people with sight impairment, as well as cognitive and learning disabilities. Envision the next “wave” of seniors behind the boomers, those of us who not only use technology but demand that it be available to us at all times. One out of 5 Gen X’ers will experience some type of disability as they age and accessibility best practices will be at the forefront of meeting those needs.

Since August 2011, here at Aviso, we’ve had the pleasure of learning and navigating the world of Web accessibility through building and managing an Agile accessibility team for a client in the health care arena.

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Karen McCall training an Aviso Agile team in PDF validation and remediation - NYC Oct 2011

The practice of creating Web accessible information has great support from the Web community in general as it benefits users of all abilities. More specifically, web compliance requirements have increased in importance in the health care industry creating a need for more education and process development. A champion in the organization is necessary to see the long term impact of building an in-house Web accessibility process.

To prepare and support our accessibility team, we turned to the experts at Knowbility Inc., “a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the independence of children and adults with disabilities.”

Through one-on-one consulting, intensive classroom training and continued support, we work with Sharron Rush, co-founder and executive director at Knowbility, Karen McCall of Karlen Communications, one of 7 accessibility experts in the world, herself a sight impaired trainer. Not to mention the patience and direction provided by Ron Hicks, Knowbility’s business development director, to teach us that accessibility is more than simply running Adobe’s accessibility checker.

I’m honored to have selected my class schedule for the upcoming Knowbility-John Slatin AccessU Conference 2012, an intensive 2 day accessibility training conference in Austin, Texas. Both Cindy Orie, primary marketing researcher and SEO Coach at Aviso, and myself are looking forward to meeting folks passionate about providing quality compliance in the world of accessibility and to learn how we can evolve Agile methods to serve the teams tasked with this rewarding work.

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