AI for captioning

A speaker stands at a lectern and captioning sceen is behind his right shoulder
Dedicated captioning screen close to the speaker.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can take captioning to another level claims Microsoft. AI for automatic speech recognition removes the need for a human captioner for lectures in universities and elsewhere. The Microsoft AI blog article and video below focuses on deaf students, but more people are taking to captioning on their phones for convenience.

Captioning helps all students by adding another layer of communication and this point is made in the article. The captioning is turned into transcripts and students have a reference to read after the lecture. They can also have the lecture automatically translated into several languages.

This is a detailed article and covers automatic speech recognition, translations, and a growing demand for accessibility. This technology is not expected to take over from Auslan or ASL as they are languages in their own right. However, this is another example of how technology is helping humans by taking over from humans and bringing the advantages to more people.  

Note on the image at the top: The image shows Dr Ger Craddock at the inaugural Australian Universal Design Conference in 2014. A captioner sat in the room to caption real time. Speaker names and place names were given to the captioner beforehand to prevent errors.

 

Google Search likes great user experience

A graphic of nine computer screens showing different patterns.Websites that don’t work are very annoying. It’s hard to get the information you need when the site is slow to load or badly designed. Now Google Search is in the process of optimising for more intuitive, user-friendly page design in their searches. Perhaps designers could look no further than universal design. 

From next year Google Search will favour websites with great user experience (UX). It won’t just be looking for keywords – it will be looking for a good user experience. Google is one of the large companies that is also promoting web accessibility. So access features should be included in their user-friendly mix.

The title of this short news item in FastCo is, Google Search will now favor websites with great UX.  

“As part of a new set of best practices, the company will start factoring user experience into its search results, as well as the top stories feature in mobile search. Google is no longer just optimizing for information that’s closest to your keywords, but optimizing for a more delightful web. Intuitive, user-friendly page design is about to become even more important.”

Staying vigilant on web accessibility

A pair of hands holding a tablet with a computer screen in the background.  Staying vigilant on web accessibility.Digital infrastructure accessibility and content accessibility are not the same things. Infrastructure covers things like elements that show up on every page and anything related to navigation. Content is anything that can be updated and uploaded. So that’s text, documents, articles, photos and videos. We all need to stay vigilant on web accessibility.

A key point in an informative article from Sheri Byrne-Haber is:

Every single time the content is updated, content accessibility should be reassessed. 

This is particularly relevant if staff or third parties are free to upload content onto a site, or are providing content. The other key point is:

Accessibility is never one-off and done.

Byrne-Haber uses a case study to show how organisations can be left vulnerable to lawsuits if they don’t check regularly for accessibility. Webpages can be accessible today, but next week they might not be because new content has not been assessed for accessibility.

The title of the article is, What’s more expensive than getting sued over inaccessibility?

 

Writing material for websites

A computer screen sits on a desk. It shows a web pageIt’s all very well having web designers familiar with the accessibility requirements in their designs, but what about the people who post content on the website? In many organisations staff write their own material and send it to the webmaster for uploading. But is their writing and format also accessible? It is easy to post a document that might have been originally meant for another reader, such as a submission to a government body, but perhaps an Easy English version should be considered for the ease of access for all readers?

The Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland has some easy tips to follow for those who write content or upload documents. 

Another good example of simplifying your text is the Easy English version of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

User Experience Design

Two children sit in front of a laptop computer. the boy has his arms raised in triumph. The girl points and looks amazed.There are three Universal Principles of User Experience Design according to Christopher Murphy in an Adobe blog. They are: Visual Grammar, Language and Typology, and Narrative Design. Understanding of other principles from psychology, anthropology and economics can be overlaid on these principles. As new technologies are imagined and invented they create problems that have never been solved before. Murphy argues that if you keep the the principles in mind at all times, the solutions stand a better chance of standing the test of time. The article goes on to explain the three principles in more detail. For people who are not involved in ICT some of the ideas and strategies are still relevant to other design disciplines – graphics are used in lots of places.

“As designers working in an ever-changing field, it’s important that we develop an understanding of the timeless design principles that underpin everything we do.” The three principles, “…which should sit at the heart of everything we design and build, are critical and will stand the test of time.”

Service design done with UD principles

Distored digitised picture of young people sitting in a group.Most people think of universal design as being something for the built environment, but it is much more than that. Service design is an important factor in access and inclusion. There have been major disruptions in how we shop, get take-away food, share our accommodation and our cars. Universal design thinking processes have a major role to play in service design. This is the thinking of Airbnb and other similar platforms.

The article in FastCompany lists a few things to think about. Here are the headings:

      1. Let a user do what they set out to do
      2. Be easy to find
      3. Clearly explain its purpose
      4. Set the expectations a user has of it
      5. Be agnostic of organizational structures
      6. Require as few steps as possible to complete a task
      7. Be consistent
      8. Have no dead ends
      9. Be usable by everyone, equally
      10. Work in a way that is familiar
      11. Make it easy to get human assistance
      12. Require no prior knowledge to use

Some of these aspects could be applied in other situations too.

Apps, activities and travel

A man stands on a train platform looking at his smartphone. He is wearing a hat and has a bright yellow backpack.There are many map apps and trip advisor ICT sites currently available and emerging, each with their own focus. But how can we better understand how people will use the apps? And how do the apps impact on activity and travel behaviour? This is an issue researcher Dick Ettema is keen to investigate. Apps, activities and travel: an conceptual exploration based on activity theory, is a very thorough piece of work for anyone with the time to read through it. Activity theory is used as a systematic way of investigating the effect of ICT on travel behaviour, and also how this links with maintaining social relationships.The author argues that with so many apps/ICTs we need a classification system  based on the objectives, practices and embeddedness in community. This would make it easier for researchers to identify differences in the way people use of ICTs/apps, and to identify inequalities in the use of apps. This leads to better understanding equity issues in terms of access to the technology and who profits from them. The full article can be found in Transportation, Special Issue: ICT, Activity Space-Time and Mobility: New insights, new models, new methodologies. March 2018, Issue 2, Pages 267-701.