What are they teaching them?

Circular logo of University of MarylandEver wondered what a course outline for Universal Usability might look like? The course outline from the University of Maryland College of Information Studies is just one example. The topic is online communications. It gives an idea of what students are being taught and the projects they undertake.

The reading list at the end has a comprehensive list of publications that could be of interest.  The introduction to the course reads as follows:

“This course follows Diverse Populations, Inclusion and Information (LBSC 620) and builds on the concepts of that course. This course focuses on the use and challenges of information services and technologies to provide equal experiences and outcomes to all users. Laws, standards, approaches, component concepts, access needs, and technologies in relation to physical and online information environments.”

 

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Google Maps – how accessible is this app?

picture of a Google map with icons for parking and transportGoogle Maps and similar web and mobile apps are being used more frequently as a means of getting around easily. But the rapid growth of technology often means that accessibility for all is getting left behind. While work continues on the accessibility of the web in terms of text and graphics, maps have not attracted much research and development. 

The study by Tania Calle-Jimenez and Sergio Luján-Mora presents an analysis of the barriers to the accessibility in geographic maps, and explains how technologies and tools have evolved. In their conclusions they claim to have a technical solution that enables maps and map symbols to be intepreted by a screen reader for people with low vision or who are blind. The format can describe elements such as polygons, lines and points which can be interepreted by screen readers for people with low vision.

Download Web Accessibility Barriers in Geographic Maps article from the International Journal of Computer Theory and Engineering

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Inclusive Toolkit by Microsoft

A black circle with the word inclusive in white letteringMicrosoft has produced a great set  of resources to introduce digital designers the the world of inclusive design. You can download separately the manual and activities in PDF,  and the informative videos. The website has additional resources of interest including gaming and film making. There is an opportunity to download the text to the videos so that people using screen readers can access the content. Videos are captioned. Microsoft are living the message with their own web design and content.

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Teaching UD and Inclusion to designers

inclusive design symbolsProfessor Simeon Keates has been researching aspects of universal/inclusive design over many years. In this article he focuses on how designers can acquire the knowledge and skills to gain information about users and apply it to the design.

Abstract: Designing for Universal Access requires designers to have a good understanding of the full range of users and their capabilities, appropriate datasets, and the most suitable tools and techniques. Education clearly plays an important role in helping designers acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to find the relevant information about the users and then apply it to produce a genuinely inclusive design. This paper presents a reflective analysis of a variant of the “Usability and Accessibility” course for MSc students, developed and delivered by the author over five successive semesters at the IT University of Copenhagen. The aim is to examine whether this course provided an effective and useful method for raising the issues around Universal Access with the designers of the future. This paper examines the results and conclusions from the students over five semesters of this course and provides an overview of the success of the different design and evaluation methods. The paper concludes with a discussion of the effectiveness of each of the specific methods, techniques and tools used in the course, both from design and education perspectives.

Download the article from Universal Access in the Information Society,  , Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 97-110

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iBraille: Creating a Mobile App

iBrailleAccessibility guidelines are in place for websites and webpages, but we need to go further and start to consider people with vision impairment who use mobile apps. Making IOS compatible with Braille is the purpose of this study. The authors conclude that a set of development guidelines are needed similar to the web guidelines for accessibility.

From the abstract:  In this revolutionary time of expanding tablet use and app development, universal design and accessibility is paramount to the construction of mobile apps. Some issues in accessibility are easily identified and may be addressed at the onset of software development. However, guidelines for software development are minimal (Sapp, 2007), particularly in relationship to mobile app development. Despite efforts to create universally designed software from the onset, many issues with accessibility are unknown until the app is in use. Similarly, teachers, students, individuals with disabilities, technology specialists, parents, and users of a particular device may identify a variety of different needs and options that make an app user friendly. In some cases, the app may be fully accessible, but successful use of the software requires advanced technology skills (Sapp, 2007), and the development team must simplify the user interface. To address ease of use, the opinions of a variety of different users, especially teachers, who have varying experiences and technology skills during development is critical (Falloon, 2013). The purpose of this paper, is to share the research-based, iterative, and organic process of development that authors used to create the iBraille Challenge Mobile App.

Download Methods in Creating the iBraille Challenge Mobile App for Braille Users

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Media Accessibility Guide

Front cover of service providers accessibility guideMedia Access Australia has produced a comprehensive quick reference guide for accessible communications.  Although the target audience is service providers that deliver support to NDIS participants, it is useful for all organisations that want to make their information accessible. The contents include information on how people with disability access online information, producing and distributing messages, publishing content online, accessible emails, and engaging with social media. Examples of where this Guide may provide useful information include:

  • Setting up a new computer for a person with a disability.
  • Formatting internal documents in an accessible way to help employees with a disability.
  • Creating an accessible website.
  • Ensuring that people with disabilities can access important social media messages from a service provider.

The original guide was funded by Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in 2013.

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Communication Accessibility Guidelines for Events

Picture shows a speaker with a live captioning screen behind showing several rows of text.Event organisers not only have to consider physical access – they also have to consider communication access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, while one in six people in Australia have a hearing loss, this aspect of events is often forgotten by event organisers and venue managers. Communication accessibility is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. While some venues claim that a hearing loop is installed, this may not be sufficient, particularly if it is not functioning as is often the case. Also, not all deaf people wear hearing aids with the requisite “T” switch.

An Auslan interpreter stands next to the speaker on stage.Deaf Children Australia have produced a comprehensive set of guidelines for event organisers covering Auslan interpreters, live captioning, and hearing loop technology. At the end of the guidelines is a useful checklist.

People who have a hearing loss often choose not to reveal this A large captioning screen can be seen over the speakers right shoulderaspect of themselves, consequently organisers receive little, if any, feedback about the efficacy or otherwise of hearing loops. People with and without hearing loss often find captioning useful particularly if they have English as a second language, or if the speaker has an unfamiliar accent. More technical detail on hearing loops can be found on the Clearasound website.

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