CSUN15 Review & Interviews in Podcast 101

Another CSUN conference has come and gone. This year was the 30th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (Twitter hash tag #CSUN15) held in downtown San Diego, California from March 2 to March 7, 2015 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel.

Below is a podcast with three interviews; some resources on recommended sessions; info on fun special events and activities; two award events; a short Best Of list; about a conference theme; and next year’s dates plus links to conference tips.

Podcast Interviews

I had the opportunity to speak to a few folks while attending; check it out!

Download Web Axe Episode 101 (CSUN15 Interviews)

[transcript of podcast 101]

  • Sandy Plotin: Managing Director of the Center on Disabilities; California State University, Northridge (CSUN)
  • David MacDonald (@DavidMacD) of CanAdapt Solutions
  • Steve A Lee (@SteveALee) of Open Directive

Recommended Sessions

Fun Stuff

I want to give a shout-out to three Tweeps I’ve known online for a while now and finally met in-person: Mike Gifford (@mgifford), Adrian Roselli (@aardrian) and Jason Kiss (@jkiss).

The 30th Anniversary Party featured keynote speaker Mick Ebeling (@mickteg) of Not Impossible Now (@notImposs). It was very interesting and moving—a great keynote.

“Surround yourself with people who make you feel stupid.”
-Mick Ebeling

Geri Jewell, one of the past Keynote Speakers, served as the program’s emcee and introduced performances by comedian Chris Fonseca (who was hilarious!) and musician and humorist, Mark Goffeney.

Once again, happy CSUN birthdays to @Jennison and @MarcySutton. The birthday celebrations sure brought a lot of income to The Cheesecake Factory across from the hotel!

There were a couple sky-diving outings planned and executed, wow!

There was a tandem bike event organized by @MarcySutton, @Nethermind and sponsored by @SimplyAccesses.

Highly successful Sign Language Karaoke event organized by Wendy Chisholm (@WendyABC) in conjunction with @DequeSystems. [Note that eBay and other folks donated to this event but don’t believe it wasn’t announced.]

CSUN15 Photo query on Twitter (no alt text of course, you need to use @EasyChirp for that!)

Added March 22: CSUN15 Flickr Album by @DennisL

Awards

The good folks at @Knowbility held an event to announce and present awards to the Community Heroes of Accessibility. Also, here’s a cool tote bag I picked up at the Knowbility exhibit booth.

Project Possibility (@ProjPossibility) held the SS12 Finals on Saturday morning. Congrats to the winner USC‘s “Stealth Fly” team who edged out CSU Northridge. The team presented a competitive vertical-scroller game to three judges.

Best Of

  • Most popular session: Jamie Knight (@JamieKnight) “Cognitive Accessibility 101″. So much in demand that it was actually repeated the next day!
  • Best Dressed: Sam Ogami of HP. He is one nice, classy fellow!
  • Best slide: Dude, where’s my ARIA?
  • Best nearby restaurant: Puesto (wicked tacos and drinks)

Theme

A theme which became obvious throughout the conference is this: embed accessibility into the development process—everyone is responsible. This topic was mentioned in numerous sessions, and with good reason. Teams must work together; from execs to content owners, to designers, to developers, to quality engineers.

Next Year

The conference next year is planned for March 21-26 2016 (a bit later than usual). There will be a new exhibitor call for papers (in addition to science research and general session), and less paper/Braille programs (more digital). If you plan on attending, you’ll find some great advice in these two articles:

Other CSUN15 Reviews

Link Roundup – Feb 2015

Some excellent recent resources on web accessibility:

Layout Tables Tip

It’s 2015, so hopefully web developers know that table elements should not be used for layout. There are many reasons why CSS for layout is better but at the core, HTML tables are data tables; they’ve always been meant for data.

But even today, sometimes a table is used for layout, for whatever reason—time constraints, lack of CSS skills, legacy code, etc.

If a table is used for layout, add ARIA role of presentation to the table element. This will remove the table elements from the Accessibility API which provides for a better user experience for users of assistive technology, particularly screen readers.

Other elements such as caption, summary, and thead should be removed. See the Microsoft resource ARIA Presentation Table Error.

Here’s a code example derived from a W3C example for the use of role=presentation. The following code in the HTML tree:

<table role="presentation">
<tr><td>Foo bar</td><tr>
</table>

Becomes this in the accessibility tree:

<>
<><>Foo bar</></>
</>

Further reading:

Apple’s Inaccessibility

Apple has traditionally been a great advocate and model for accessibility and technology. Unfortunately this hasn’t been the case lately. One could even argue that default settings and recent designs are even counterproductive to accessibility progress. This includes VoiceOver, keyboard access, and design decisions.

Bug Infested

To begin, let’s reference a recent article by Marco Zehe where he explains major VoiceOver bugs in OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and iOS 8. The two major examples he cites are:

  • When VoiceOver is running on the iPhone, using the Back button (or Scrub gesture to return to the previous page) will freeze VoiceOver.
  • When VoiceOver is running on the iPad, using Safari and the use of WebView components trigger app crashes and OS restarts.

In addition to bugs, I’ve noticed the following blatant accessibility problems pop up in Apple’s products. Each of these alone may not be a showstopper but collectively it shows a pattern of a company that doesn’t care, or pay much attention any longer; a company that’s losing its edge.

VoiceOver Hints

By default, VoiceOver places a large delay when announcing “hints”; this creates a huge lag for the reading of text defined by the aria-describedby attribute. And we all know that the support of aria-describedby is becoming more and more prevalent and essential in today’s world of modern web development. The delay is so long that it creates confusion; developers and testers very often think something is broken.

To “fix” the setting, you must find the deeply buried option and modify the delay time; in System Preferences, go to Accessibility / VoiceOver / VoiceOver Utility / Verbosity / Announcements (in OSX 10.9, it’s the the last setting).

Keyboard Access

A great example of Apple’s inaccessibility is the setting for keyboard focus; by default it doesn’t allow for typical keyboard navigation! A user cannot use the tab key to access all controls in an interface. In order to fix, one must again, search for the appropriate settings and modify. Again, this can be confusing and frustrating for developers and testers, let alone regular users.

To fix, the first step is to go to System Preferences / Keyboard / Shortcuts, and in the last section “Full Keyboard Access”, ensure the radio options “All Controls” is selected.

Let’s refer to the follow articles for more details on how to resolve which includes specific browser settings:

Design Problems

There are two major design issues by Apple recently which hinders accessibility: animations and parallax effects, and flat design.

There are many vestibular-related issues in Apple’s design, most notably during the release of iOS7. The issue continues to iOS8 although iOS settings are now available to help resolve the issue. To reduce parallax-type effects in iOS, go to Settings / General / Accessibility / Reduce Motion.

Also, iOS flat design (and the trend in general) is bad for usability and accessibility. Mostly because flat design creates ambiguity between elements; as the Nielsen Norman Group report states, “flat design hides calls to action“. And by implementing flat design, Apple indirectly encouraged others to do the same.

In addition to Nielsen Norman Group’s finding, another usability expert Steve Krug agrees that flat design is a detrimental practice. Here’s a quote from his book which was tweeted last May:

Hope and Warning

Let’s hope Apple returns to the practice of releasing quality products: everything just works and accessibility is continually improving. And fair warning, after the mobile wars a few years ago, Google tops Apple in mobile operating systems; will accessibility be next?

Related Reading

2014 Year in Review

2014 was surely a much busier year than expected. It started a bit slow, but sure got busy!

In the most recent blog post, the hot topic of Google’s new version of reCaptcha dubbed “No Captcha” was addressed. Although there are remaining challenges, Google’s No Captcha Shows Some Progress.

In a guest post by Jennison Asuncion, a new date for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) was announced. It’s now the third Thursday of May.

In the post Floated Labels Still Suck, problems and fixes are discussed for the terrible design pattern of putting input labels inside input fields.

Great progress for accessibility continues in WordPress; a podcast with two WordPress contributors, Joe Dolson (@JoeDolson) and Joseph O’Connor (@accessibleJoe), was published in September.

Web Axe author Dennis Lembree read Steve Krug’s excellent book, “Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited” and Twittered a series of accessibility-related points. The series was published in the post Tweets quoting “Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited”.

In May, I announced that Easy Chirp now provides accessible images for Tweets. This feature is badly needed and isn’t available on any other Twitter app. Unfortunately, and surprisingly, the feature is grossly underused.

In March, we posted a summary of CSUN14, the 29th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. It was another great event; thanks again to California State University, Northridge. (Look for Dennis at CSUN15!)

On a more personal note, Web Axe author Dennis Lembree released an open-source Accessible HTML5 Video Player in September via his day job at PayPal. He recently changed jobs and is now Product Manager, Accessibility at eBay.

More from 2014: