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Month: June 2017

Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility featured in 2017 Knowbility Awards

The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility (PCWA) course, co-created by Professor Denise Wood and I, has been selected as one of three finalists for an Educational Achievement Award at the  Knowbility Community Heroes of Accessibility 2017 Awards.

The awards are described by Knowbility as follows:

“For the last three years, we have asked our community to nominate their heroes – those people whose dedication to the field of accessibility is having a significant impact on improving equal access for all.”

While being a finalist for the award  is very unexpected, it’s wonderful to have the course recognised for its commitment to upskilling ICT professionals in their efforts relating to the creation of accessible content.

In 2011, Denise and I created the course in response to the release of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and the need to support ICT professionals as to how they could include accessibility in their work practices. As a result, a partnership was formed between Media Access Australia and the University of South Australia to deliver the course. Six years on and 500 graduates later, the PCWA remains  an effective tertiary-backed qualification with information on the practical implementation of web accessibility. The short course is taught online and available internationally, with enrolments from around the world.

The course structure includes information on why accessibility is important, international policy requirements, implementation of the WCAG 2.0  standard to Level AA compliance, the Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) 2.0, and how to evaluate websites based on the WCAG Evaluation Methodology (WCAG-EM) 1.0.  The assignments include the use of assistive technologies, captioning a video, assessing authoring tools based on ATAG compliance, auditing websites and building a WCAG-compliant template. The course is updated before each intake with recent additions including information on the emerging WCAG 2.1 draft and the next-generation Silver guideline developments.

As Senior Lecturer for the PCWA I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Knowbility and our mystery nominee  for their recognition of the course, Such recognition would not be possible without the hard work of Lecturer Dr Ruchi Permvattana and Course Co-ordinator Jenny Webber, and the ongoing support of the course from Media Access Australia and the University of South AUstralia.

If you’d like to sign up for the course, the next intake starts in September. Details can be found at www.mediaaccess.org.au/learn.

Apple WWDC2017 round-up – new products and accessibility improvements  

The annual Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) was held recently in the USA. While there was lots of interesting news broadly, there’s also been a few interesting accessibility-related improvements coming soon to the operating systems of Apple’s most popular devices.

Firstly, the big announcement by Apple is the launch of the HomePod, Apple’s entry into the ever-increasingly-popular Smartspeaker category. Like its competitors the Amazon Echo and Google Home, the Home Pod will have Siri built into a standalone device so you can give commands such as setting timers, playing radio stations and control devices around the house. As I’ve discussed previously the smartspeaker category offers a lot of benefits for people with disabilities such as providing a verbal way for a blind person to get status updates of food cooking in the microwave or for a person in a wheelchair being able to turn on the washing machine if the buttons on the device are out of reach. However, unlike the Amazon Echo which starts at $USD50 for the Echo Dot and the $USD130 for the Google home, the HomePod will retail at $USD350 which puts it at nearly three times the price of the competition.

Apple HomePod

Apple HomePod – image © 2017 Apple

In Australia, the Amazon Echo is not currently available outside of the US meaning that locally the smartspeaker fight will be predominantly between the Google Home and the Apple HomePod. While the announcement is exciting, especially if you use other Apple products already, the biggest issue at the moment is that most of the other Internet of Things devices such as light bulbs and heating systems will only work with a particular type of smart speaker, and in most cases, that is currently the Amazon Echo. Hopefully in the future there’ll be cross-compatibility between our smart devices and smart speakers so that people with disabilities don’t have to be locked into the one ecosystem. There is currently no pricing for the Australian release of the HomePod due in December.

The upcoming version of the iPhone and iPad operating system, iOS 11, has received the most attention by Apple in terms of accessibility improvements. As the release is still in beta it’s important to note that these features may change, but AppleVis has described some of the features as follows:

  • Enhanced Dynamic Type: Text now grows to larger sizes especially designed for users with low vision, and app UIs adapt to accommodate those sizes.
  • Redesigned Invert Colors: While using Invert Colors, media content and images won’t invert with the rest of the screen making them easier to view.
  • VoiceOver descriptions for images: With images, three fingers tap to have VoiceOver describe what’s there. Voiceover can detect text that’s embedded in an image, even if it hasn’t been annotated. Or it can also tell you whether a photo contains a tree, a dog, or four faces with smiles.
  • Improved PDF support including access to forms: Tagged PDFs now receive support for reading detailed information such as tables and lists.
  • Switch Control typing: It’s easier than ever to type with Switch Control. Get access to more predictions, so that you can scan and type whole words at a time.

As a low vision user, I’m particularly excited about the ability to invert the colors without the images also inverting.

Other Apple devices will also receive some tweaks including the Apple TV which is receiving improved VoiceOver keyboard features and Braille display support, some minor tweaks are also coming to improve the Apple Watch and improved Zoom functionality will be added to Mac OS High Sierra. Additional information on all the new Apple products can be found at the  Macromers WWWDC online resource.

City of Fremantle commits to escaping the accessibility island

I recently ran a workshop titled ‘Escaping the Accessibility Island’ for approximately 40 people at the office of the City of Fremantle. The workshop was designed to support the City of Fremantle as it continues to update its web presence and the accessibility of public-facing ICT infrastructure by incorporating digital accessibility techniques across different organisational roles.

The workshop included a hands-on practical exercise of using a screen reader, an overview of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and how it applied across a variety of roles including policy officers, ICT professionals, content producers, marketing staff and communication specialists. The workshop also provided some insights into how to perform visual checks on web content and use an automated tool.

While the workshop provided valuable information in how staff can incorporate accessibility into their work practices, there was also a lot of fun had by all as the practical aspects of digital accessibility were explored.  I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone at the City of Fremantle for the opportunity to provide you with accessibility training.

If you would like to have a digital access training workshop run for your organisation, you’re more than welcome to get in touch.  All the details can be found on the hollier.info Contacts page.