2016 Year in Review

Though it was a year with mixed feelings for me personally, from accessibility prospective, it was a fabulous year. A quick recap of 2016:

Have a great session and happy 2017! Let’s continue to make the world a better place to live!

Some challenges faced by people with low vision

I happened to be a person with low vision and see some situations challenging if not impossible. Feel free to comment if you have observed any other challenges or have solutions for some of these. I’m also writing solutions that I usually practice or something I think of. Be informed that my solutions my not work for you.

Challenge Solution
Unable to identify status of elevator This happens mostly in the corporate buildings where functional buttons up/down are provided at side of doors but display would be at the top somewhere; instead display should be at the right above the functional buttons
It’s easy to identify inside the elevator when flash light gets turned off on selected button but when elevator is crowded, it may not be easy hence having auditory announcements would be highly helpful
Identifying counters in bank / hospitals Though auditory announcements are made about our token number and counter to be where one should report, often counter numbers are not clearly visible. clear signage would be helpful
Identifying Conference rooms / name boards I just ask people around as name boards are kept at height on the door; instead they should be at 5.5 feet of height as that works for most. Another option is use of phone camera to view the board. But in most offices, photography is prohibited.
Identifying bus number and names It’s easy at the bus stations especially with bussess of Andhra Pradesh Transport department where name board are displayed at lower height on the left side of bus; but it’s difficult to identify a bus when you need to catch on mid way. I usually call driver in advance
Knowing new openings around you Often we see new business open around us but unless they have clear boards, it’s not easy to identify them. Mostly I get to know about new businesses when I go with my wife

One possible solution for many is to carry a telescope but it looks odd to see something with telescope on road side. There could be many more challenges. feel free to comment.


Tribute to Louis Braille on his birthday

January 4th is birth anniversary of Louis Braille. Louis was born in the year 1809.

Blinded in both eyes as a result of a childhood accident. But he has accepted his disability and adopted the the life with blindness. That attitude not only gave him a successful life but also became inspiration to the society. Perhaps, Braile happens to be the first ever accessible medium to enable people with vision impairment to read and write and Braille is only script that enable people who are deaf and blind to read write.

It’s true that today there are many technologies such as screen reading software to help visually impaired to get education and of course everyone should adopt to current technologies. That said, still it is recommended that Braille is taught to school children and encourage them to read a lot of books. As sighted people can learn to spell only when they see and read, it’s true that Braille is the only format that would help people with blindness to see and read through touch. Of course, assistive technologies do provide options for people to read by character but often children do not concentrate doing so; but with Braille, same will happen automatically.

So to conclude Braille and modern technologies are equally important and let’s pay a tribute to Louis Braille on his birth anniversary. Thanks to everyone who are celebrating this day across the world.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities – what’s happening in India?

We recently posted about Theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities. As we are gearing up to mark the occasion tomorrow, here is a quick list of a few events that are happening in India.

In addition, there are several events happening across the country and I’m happy to see awareness towards inclusion is growing.

Way to go and greetings to everyone on the eve of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.


Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities – theme of International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2015

The United Nations has announced this years theme as Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities. This is certainly an area that we all care about and work for.

Background on International Day of persons with disabilities

he International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been commemorated since 1992 to promote awareness and mobilize support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development. The Day works to promote action to raise awareness about disability issues and draw attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.
Source; The United Nations Website

About theme and sub themes

As per the United nations, approximately there are about a billion people living with different disabilities across the world. How many of them are part of mainstream society? Some examples of exclusion:

  • Are people with disabilities allowed to study in mainstream schools across the world?
  • Do all of our environment such as schools, offices, railway stations, bus stations, airports, universities, entertainment places, restaurants, movie theaters are built in a way that people with disabilities can use?
  • Most people think people with hearing impairment may lead an easy life and just that they can’t hear… How many people with hearing impairment are able to get quality basic education? How many of them are making to collage?
  • To day everything is going digital and mobile first concept is growing. How many websites and apps are accessible to people with disabilities?
  • Let’s not go so far; can our own house accommodate a guest who uses a wheel chair?

  • If there is a person with disability in any conference, why do people look at them as someone special?
  • Can people with disabilities shop independently at a grocery store?

Ah… there would be no end to this list. But we should step-up and look into these aspects if we really respect the occasion of marking International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Just hosting a few events with big speeches doesn’t really makes any difference. An action plan is needed and that too a meaningful one.

Sub themes:

  • Making cities inclusive and accessible for all
  • Improving disability data and statistics
  • Including persons with invisible disabilities in society and development

I think these are pretty reasonable and essential tasks for any human to lead a life with dignity. To make this occasion a real success, a few things that we can do:

  • Identify barriers within and around our house, work place or school and report to concerned authorities. Report in a way that our feedback is constructive, include rational and possible recommendations
  • Actively follow up on issues that we have reported
  • If you work in digital space, make sure whatever you develop is accessible and meet with accessibility standards.
  • Spread the word about inclusion and accessibility
  • Educate schools on how they can include people with disabilities
  • If you live in India, promote and join hands to make Accessible India Campaign (PDF) a grand success

There are several initiatives happening across the world to make it a better place to live for all and theme set by The United Nations is certainly a good fit. Let’s contribute and make our world accessible.


Keen to build a career in the area of Accessibility… where to start and how to grow?

I think it’s people who encourage me to write a few posts and this time a former colleague from HCL Technologies. He is a visual designer and his question to me via Twitter is:

Hello Srinivasu, How’s work at Deque Systems? I’m a visual designer and wants to specialize in Accessibility. Your guidance is appreciated on where to start.

Thought writing a post would not only helps this friend but may be of help to many.

Accessibility is an unique and respectable profession in industry. Uniqueness of Accessibility career is that it’s not only fulfill responsibility of a professional duty but also creates social impact. Here are a few pre-requisites to make career in the area of accessibility.

  1. Passion
  2. Patience – growth in accessibility career or business would certainly take time but brings a lot of satisfaction and success one day
  3. Ability to think from diverse user prospective
  4. Ability to think both as tester and developer

Here is my story how I began my journey in the area of accessibility.

In 2003, when I was working for The National Association for the Blind, Karnataka Branch, with the help of a few volunteers, we have developed a website for the organization (First snapshot of the website on Internet Archive). Website has a great design, used HTML and tons of JavaScript (you can guess website have a lot of layout tables!). We were passionate to use drop down menus and images. After building the whole website, we have realized that we were building a website that caters to the needs of people with vision impairment, which includes imparting training in information technology. Interestingly we have also realized that website we have developed does not work when browsing with assistive technologies! That’s then we started thinking of alternatives.

In 2005, a good friend and teacher Shilpi Kapoorasked me if I would want to make a career in the accessibility and I have accepted her offer. So that’s my start in the area of accessibility at Net Systems Informatics India Pvt. Ltd (Now BarrierBreak Solutions Private Limited.

To begin career in the area of accessibility, first one needs to decide in what area would they be keen to bring in change.Some of the areas that needs attention from accessibility prospective are:

  1. Physical infrastructure (buildings, transport, environment etc.,)
  2. Web Accessibility
  3. Documents accessibility
  4. Accessibility of education
  5. Electronics Accessibility
  6. Accessibility training (need to choose area of interest)

… and much more!

Sadly (or luckily) there are not many formal training offerings in the area of Accessibility. Reason I say lucky is because self learning is much powerful than class room learning. One can learn to the extent of what he or she would want.

Here are some resources to get started on Accessibility. Note that since I primarily work in the area of web accessibility, below list may not have enough resources on other areas of accessibility.

I was almost began to list several resources but to luck touched me through Rakesh Paladugula, who shared an excellent resource Web design resource from University of Minnesota Duluth.

This post would follow a series with advice and resources in specific areas.

Good luck to build a career in the area of accessibility.

International White Cane Day – 15th October

A white cane is used by many people who are blind. It helps as a mobility tool and comes in different varieties such as a long cane, foldable cane. 75% of the cane is painted with white and 25% is painted with Red colour.

15th October is marked as White Cane Safety Day. This observation has started in the year 1963 by the United States of America and then recognized in several countries. Objective of this day is to raise awareness on mobility and independent living of people with blindness.

History of White Cane

Blind people have used canes as mobility tools for centuries,[3] but it was not until after World War I that the white cane was introduced.

In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who became blind after an accident and was uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.[citation needed]

In 1931 in France, Guilly d’Herbemont launched a national white stick movement for blind people. On February 7, 1931, Guilly d’Herbemont symbolically gave the first two white canes to blind people, in the presence of several French ministers. 5,000 more white canes were later sent to blind French veterans from World War I and blind civilians.[4]

In the United States, the introduction of the white cane is attributed to George A. Bonham of the Lions Clubs International.[5] In 1930, a Lions Club member watched as a man who was blind attempted to cross the street with a black cane that was barely visible to motorists against the dark pavement. The Lions decided to paint the cane white to make it more visible. In 1931, Lions Clubs International began a program promoting the use of white canes for people who are blind.

The first special white cane ordinance was passed in December 1930 in Peoria, Illinois granting blind pedestrians protections and the right-of-way while carrying a white cane.[citation needed]

The long cane was improved upon by World War II veterans rehabilitation specialist, Richard E. Hoover, at Valley Forge Army Hospital.[6] In 1944, he took the Lions Club white cane (originally made of wood) and went around the hospital blindfolded for a week. During this time he developed what is now the standard method of “long cane” training or the Hoover Method. He is now called the “Father of the Lightweight Long Cane Technique.” The basic technique is to swing the cane from the center of the body back and forth before the feet. The cane should be swept before the rear foot as the person steps. Before he taught other rehabilitators, or “orientors,” his new technique he had a special commission to have light weight, long white canes made for the veterans of the European fronts.[7]

On October 6, 1964, a joint resolution of the Congress, HR 753, was signed into law authorizing the President of the United States to proclaim October 15 of each year as “White Cane Safety Day”. President Lyndon Johnson was the first to make this proclamation.
Source: History of White Cane on Wikipedia

If you see a person with blindness, though your intention is to help them, it’s not a good practice to grab their hand and take along. It’s important you approach, ask and then assist. There was an incident where a blind man was waiting on a roadside having his white cane, suddenly someone took his hand and made him cross the road without asking or listening to him. After crossing the road, stranger asked him where he would want to go and reply was “I was waiting for a friend and didn’t want to cross the road” 🙂
Resource: Tips to assist people who are blind and visually impaired from Vision Australia


Raising awareness is rather important to build accessible world – Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Developers are awesome, designers are awesome too! Always willing and keen to put in an innovative effort and bring a wow experience to consumers; then why is that they don’t care about accessibility? If you think they don’t that’s wrong; They absolutely don’t see people with disabilities / elderly as their enemies and never intend to build something that does not work for all users. It’s just that most of them doesn’t know about these segment of user base. Because they must have never come across people with disabilities and do not know how they use technologies. Let’s be realistic, those of us working in Accessibility industry, each one has come to this industry either with an experience or for some, it’s need for own self. So raising awareness plays an important role to build inclusive experiences.

Thanks to and Joe Devon, who thought to create a platform to raise awareness on accessibility by marking 1 day every year as Global Accessibility Awareness Day. It all started in the year 2012 and initially it was celebrated on 9th May but to consider vacations in some regions, it was decided to have this day on every 3rd Thursday of the May.

There are bunch of events happening across the world – may they be in-person events or virtual events… So much energy is floating to bring in awareness about accessibility. Visit Events page on GAAD website to see what’s happening around you.

Do you think you are too late to the party and you wish, you were aware of this earlier so that you can plan something? No panic, you can still do something. Some quick ideas:

  • Are you an android / iOS user, enable accessibility options from your settings and use phone for about a few minutes using in-built screen readers. For android, it’s called talkback and for iOS, it’s called VoiceOver
  • Meet with your friends and start talking about accessibility of places around you; like if you are at work, see what are the barriers you see from an employee who uses a wheel chair prospective.

More ideas you will find on GAAD website. Wishing everyone a happy accessibility (a11y) day!

If you are tweeting about GAAD, do NOT forget to use hashtag #gaad. Let’s have it trending!

DesignDay meet-up at Bangalore – slides and resources

It was nice to be at July meet-up of DesignDay. Here is a recap of the event, my slides and as promised some resources!

What’s DesignDay?

DesignDay is a platform for designers to meet, discuss and solve problems together. The event started by introductions including name, what do they do, what can they offer to community and what would they been doing if not coming for DesignDay! Wow, within just about an hour, having about 20 participants, we were able to get ideas for 6 upcoming DesignDay topics, volunteers who could help in organizing. Also there was a huge list of what each one was doing if they were not at DesignDay and that include traveling, playing, sleeping, shopping etc., Thank you guys for sacrificing all that you generally do and for your commitment to DesignDay and enthusiasm to learn something.

Theme for this month is “Accessibility” and there were two talks delivered by another friend (his name is also Srini) and myself.

Srini talked about challenges that people with disabilities face on day-to-day basis with particular reference to persons with visual disability as he has first hand experience with our friend Raghavendra Satish Peri. He started off with an exercise asking people to stand facing towards the door, then he played a video where people could just hear the music. Then asked folks to come back and tell what did they watch until then? Some said it was a award ceremony and some said it was a dance! It was actually a magic show! He continued talking about inaccessibility of basic things like Coffee maker, medicines etc.,

Then I spoke about accessibility with reference to web sites and apps. Gave them a few exercises such as trying to search flights on a travel website without using track pad, exploring a movie site with a screen reader (turning off the monitor). Thank you guys for volunteering. Also, showed them hands-on Accessibility testing using WAVE by WebAIM. See below my slide deck and full text will follow in a few days!

As promised, here are some resources I was talking about:

Then there was a jam session where participants were divided into four groups and they were given two problems to solve:

  1. Two groups working on to host a party at home for their friends who includes one person with visual disability, one hearing impaired, one motor disability
  2. Two groups were working on arranging a fun event at office that is entertained to all their colleagues who includes 1 visually impaired, one hearing impaired, one person with motor disability and one with learning disability

Participants were expected to come up with top 5 challenges they face and possible solutions. They have come up with fantastic list of both problems and solutions and we should be writing some of them here in due course. Meanwhile, if you could think of these scenarios and have your list of problems and solutions, do write in here; would be great to hear from you all.

Overall, it was a great event. Looking forward to more!

Accessibility Testing – how to motivate coworkers?

To mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day, throughout the day we will be posting a few articles that hopefully would inspire you to take yet another step towards including accessibility into product roadmap.

Often we hear that implementing accessibility is difficult, costs more money and so on. This is true if we think of accessibility post engineering the product, but if we think of accessibility right at the design stage, the cost would be minimal.

Testing is important for any product to have rich quality, it’s equally important to include accessibility testing as part of the recess. It would be great if testing is carried out by variety of users including people with disabilities, elderly etc., but to get started one can perform initial audit using web based tools like WAVE by WebAIM etc.,

If you are new to accessibility and would want to bring in a fun element, a fw things that you can do is grab your team into a room, run WAVE tool on the web page and show them the number of errors, secondly and this would be usually powerful that ask teams to use the web page / app only with keyboard (without mouse). Specially, it would be an eye opener, when they interact with modal dialog boxes, drop down menus etc., One more thing that you can do is install NVDA Screen reader and ask team members to interact with app by switching off the computer screen. This way folks realize the importance of accessibility and how people with different disabilities use the internet.

So on the occasion of this Global Accessibility Awareness Day, why not doing this along with your co-workers and send in your experience!