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Accessibility

A tribute to Joseph Karr O’Connor

Just after about a few weeks that Jim Thatcher has passed away, it’s sad to sad and unexpected demise of yet another accessibility advocate Joseph Karr O’Connor (1953 – 2020). He is one of those people who have contributed immensly in the area of digital accessibility. He is popularly known as Joe and AccessibleJoe. 

I met him for the first time at CSUN Conference back in 2010 and we had a great conversation. When I asked for his business card, his answer was “I’m just CSUN’s Webmaster; I’m not that important person to carry business cards.” that was his simplicity. 

Sure he must have done a great work at CSUN as a Webmaster but also post his retirement at the Universityl, he has contributed a lot to the world of accessibility specially for WordPress platform. He has educated a lot of people about accessibility. 

Joe – you will be missed and may your soul rest in peace. 

Profound regards and condolences to Joe’s family,

Srinivasu Chakravarthula
8th January, 2020
Thank you, John Foliot for letting me know this news through Facebook. 

Intoducing SI a11y (AccessibilitY) HelpDesk

What’s What’s SI HelpDesk?

SI (ServeOM Inclusion)’s a11y (AccessibilitY)’s Help Desk is a platform where anyone who is building a website, web application, mobilie application to ask questions related to accessibility. 

Yes, there are plenty of resources on the web and they are all great and SI a11y HelpDesk is just another helping hand to support individuals and organizations in the area of digital accessibility. 

How to connect with SI a11y HelpDesk?

SI a11y HelpDesk can be reached via voice call or WhatsApp Text on +91 6366 778 991 or +91 9482 506 558. Our phone support works from 9:00 AM (India Standard Time) to 2:00 PM (India Standard Time) From Monday to Saturday. Questions can also be sent using email at support[at]serveominclusion[dot]com. 

Who should use SI a11y HelpDesk?

  • Web Developers
  • User Experience Designers
  • Quality Assurance Personnel
  • Product owners
  • Non-profit organizations working to promote accessibility
  • People with Disabilities

What kind of questions you should ask?

Questions related to digital accessibility including Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, Accessible Rich Internet Applications, Accessibility Testing, Accessible Pattern libraries, Mobile accessibility. Currently we have limited knowledge about document accessibility; however, we shall be able to help you by routing your questions to our colleagues in the industry. 

We encourage you to keep something handy for you to take notes of the conversation. 

Looking forward to having a convesation. 

#GAAD2019Series: 5things to get started with Accessibility

It’s that time of the year again when world celebrates the momentum of accessibility by observing Global Accessibility Awareness Day curated by Jennison and Joe back in 2012. It’s encouraging to see a lot of in-person and virtual events have been already planned.

This year, I will be posting a few things that enable people to begin their journey (those who have not started yet) and it may just become reminder to others who are already contributing their wonderful efforts to make digital world a better place!

Here is a list of 5 things that gets you started with accessibility:

  1. Text alternative for non-text content: It’s easy; all that you need to do is provide alternate text for informative images, active images (images that are links). Ensure no informatiion is conveyed using background images (CSS images). If there are images just for decorative purpose, be sure to mark them up using null alt attribute. Read my earlier post to learn more about “alt”.
  2. Labels for form fields: Ensure that all input fields have associated labels, all radio buttons and checkboxes are associated with their group labels.
  3. Colour contrast: Ensure every element including text has minimum colour contrast ratio of 4.5:1 between foreground and background. You don’t have to do any manual math while choosing colours. Just use either Colour Contrast Analyzer (stand alone tool) by The Paciello Group WebAIM’s contrast checker (online tool)
  4. Keyboard: Ensure all elements are operable using keyboard including drop-down menus, dialog, media players etc.,
  5. Validate your code: Often, a cleaner and semantic code makes a product more accessible. Use W3C’s Validator service to verify that code written is valid and compliant with specifications.

Begin your journey with these 5 things and it will be a great beginning.

World Braille Day

Although it has always been observed as World Braille Day on 4th January, this year, it got true recognition as The United Nations has declared 4th January as International Braille Day.

Louis Braille

World Braille Day is celebrated every year on January 4th because it is Louis Braille’s birthday, the inventor of braille! Louis was born in 1809 in France. He became blind after a childhood accident, and he quickly mastered his new way of living. When he was just 15 years old, he created the system we know today as braille, based on a system of writing developed by Charles Barbier. Over the years braille was tweaked to make it easier to read, and now it’s used the world over!

While Technology is an enabler, it is still important that children with blindness use Braille at the young age. Braille enable them to read with their fingers thus they could improve spellings. Learning spellings would not be practically easy if they do not read and use only audio as medium of perceiving information. For people with deaf-blindness, Braille is the only means of using technology. What is unique about Braille is that just with 6 dots, script is available in many languages world wide. There is a lot of advancement took place in the area of Braille. There are Braille printers which has ability to print large volumes of Braille in fraction of seconds.

Spread the word about Braille and Braille literacy.

Year in Review 2018

2018 has began where we started using videos as a medium of video to send greetings. We have started with a video message on the occasion of new year and birth anniversary of Louis Braille

Judges panel at I-STEM Hackathon consist of George, Srinivasu and Prof. Srikanth
Srinivasu one among the judges at Inclusive STEM Hack-a-than 

During January, 2018 – Inclusive STEM in partnership with International Association of Information Technology has hosted Inclusive STEM Hack-a-than. It has been a privilege to have been part of this event both as a mentor and judge. January has also witnessed grand win of Indian team won against Pakistan at World Cricket Cup for the Blind. Ola has stepped up their efforts to make their mobile app accessible to people with disabilities. It was also heartening to see recognition for Rajani Gopalakrishnan, who happens to be first women with blindness to become a chartered accountant. We have posted about all of these great things in January 2018

January 2018 also recorded great milestone that Web Accessibility Initiative group of W3C has released Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 as a recommended standard. 

Srinivasu speaking at 5P conference

In February, 2018 got an opportunity to present at 50p conference on Accessible Digital Payments. It was for the first time, got an opportunityto talk in the mainstream fin tech industry. opportunity to present about accessibility in mainstream events in the FinTech industry. The room was full for this talk and great to see fabulous pre-planning by HasGeek Team. The conference was well organized. 

In February, I have started using Android and wrote two blog posts one is about Day 1 experience of switching to android and then about one week of life with Android. Interestingly, I did not feel regret though I have been an iOS user for about 8 years. There is a great improvement in android both as a platform and for accessibility as well. 

Shri. Javed Abidi (1965-2018)

On March 4, 2018 The Pioneer in the disability sector and well known disability activist Shri. Javed Abidi has passed away. It was a huge loss for community of people with disabilities in India and many around the world. He has been instrumental for many disability related issues in India. It has been a blessing to know him a bit closely though I have not worked much with him directly. Post I have published to his memory

Inspired by Steve Faulkner, started writing short notes and in the month of March, we wrote a short note on importance of making email promotions accessible

Then to get ready for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), we have started writing about different things and started with missing alternate text. As part of #GAADSeries, in the month of April, we wrote about Using WAVE – Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool by WebAIM and posted some ideas to mark GAAD beyond digital accessibility

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

May was huge, a lot of events took place around the world and great set of events took place in Bangalore. In fact, in Bangalore, GAAD was marked as a month long events. There was a competition for college students, an event for organizations working in the area of disability, a meet up was organized for developers and there was also a gala event. It was great to have Facebook accessibility team has joined us in Bangalore. 

DAISY forum of India has released Simply reading app – an android app that enable users to connect directly with a few digital libraries for people with print impairment. Read our post on simply reading app to learn more. In the month of May, during Google I/O, accessibility team at Google has announced many new accessibility features on android. 

On June 5, 2018 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 has become official. In June, IRCTC has released next generation ticketing system and we have published an accessibility review of IRCTC new portal. 

We have removed Twitter for WordPress plugin and replaced with Accessible Twitter plugin by Joe Dolson and wrote a post that talks about how accessibility has been improved.  

It has been a privilege to present “Accessibility – a game changer” talk to design team at IBM. 

Towards end of June, Mozilla has released Accessibility inspector for firefox

In July, we wrote a tip on inserting widgets into a wordpress post and reviewed Eye-D app. This is a great app – intended to help people with blindness but helpful to all. 

In August, we wrote about prioritizing accessibility issues and app review of 6 by 6 that has currency identifier, magnifier and light detector. 

In September, we wrote about WCAG 2.1 success criterion 2.5.1 Pointer gestures (Level A), events that are happening in October and we have also written about International Day of Sign Language.  

Srinivasu presenting his lecture with laptop
Speaking at Intuit office

In October, I have presented on Building Accessible websites using wordpress at Inclusive Design 24; this was a live event on YouTube and thanks to Intuit for hosting in-person talk at their office. It has been also a pleasure to join annual accessibility summit and dinner hosted by Intuit. I was also part of a great event at The National Association for the Blind, Karnataka Branch to mark International White Cane Safety Day. Towards end of October, attended Empower 2018 and it was great to meet Dr. TV Raman in person. Great conference and awesome products displayed at the exhibition.

In November, Government of India has published revised guidelines for Indian Government Websites and apps. It has been an honour to got an opportunity to work with a few other awesome people on Mobile Accessibility Practices document. 

In December, 2018 hosted Dr. Ramana Polavarapu, Data scientist and VP of Goldman Sachs at my work place (Informatica) on the event of International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I also got an opportunity to witness Wheelchair Tennis Tournament; also addressed students at Sri Ramana Maharshi Academy for the Blind. 

The United Nations has declared 4th January as World Braille Day. Read the announcement.

Thank you for all the support in 2018 and looking forward for a great 2019.

NVDA 2018.4 is now available

Wow, NV Access is such a committed organization that I have never seen them missing a release nor compromising quality in a release. NV Access has just announced release of Non Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) 2018.4. NVDA is a free and open source screen reading software that enable people with vision impairment to have access to use of computer. 

Highlights of this release include performance improvements in recent Mozilla Firefox versions, announcement of emojis with all synthesizers, reporting of replied/forwarded status in Outlook, reporting the distance of the cursor to the edge of a Microsoft Word page, and many bug fixes.

Source: NV Access News

Visit What’s new page of NVDA website to learn about what are the new features and what has been changed. And visit Download NVDA page to download NVDA 2018.4 and update your screen reader. 

Revised Guidelines for Indian Government Websites and Apps has been published – Accessibility related sections

Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has published revised Guidelines for Indian Government Websites and Apps. Ministry has published first version in January, 2009 and after 9 years, Ministry has now published second version to align with current technologies. These guidelines are adopted by Department of Administrative Reforms and public grievances, Ministry of Personnel, public grievances and pension, Government of India. Revised guidelines not only has guidelines for websites but also for mobile applications.

Following sections are related to Accessibiility:

  1.  1.8 talks about Web Accessibility 
  2. 11.4 talks about Mobile Accessibility Guidelines
  3. Compliance matrix has specific set of guidelines for accessibility both for websites and mobile applications

It’s great to see that guidelines are developed based on international standards including ISO 23026, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (India) etc., 

Guidelines are made into three categories; i.e Mandatory, Advisory and Voluntary. 

  • Mandatory: The usage of the term ‘MUST’ signifies requirements which can be objectively assessed and which the Departments are supposed to mandatorily comply with. It is anticipated that there will be no exceptions for a Department not complying with these. In the case of any Department, these guidelines shall apply to all the WebPages/websites under the ownership of that Department. The websites will be checked against these guidelines when audits for compliance are undertaken or for the purpose of quality certification. It is the responsibility of each Department to address and bring into compliance, any non-compliant issues found in any website under their ownership.
  • Advisory: The usage of the term ‘should’ refers to recommended practices or advisories that are considered highly important and desirable but for their wide scope and a degree of subjectivity these guidelines would have otherwise qualified to be mandatory. Departments are, however, expected to comply with these advisories.
  • Voluntary: The usage of the term ‘may’ refers to voluntary practice, which can be for Indian Government Apps & Websites

Guidelines for Indian Government Apps and Websites has adopted Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and document clearly explains principles of WCAG. 2.0. With having accessibility guidelines in places, GIGAW aims to address the needs of persons with disabilities and ensure that websites and applications are compatible on all major browsers and platforms. One good thing is that accessibility guidelines are embedded into the chapters and not provided as a seperate guidelines. Advantage of doing this is less chances that users do skip these guidelines. Accessibility related guidelines can be found under following sections:

  • Chapter 2 (Indian Government Identity) – guidelines 2.1.6.
  • Chapter 5 (Quality of content) – guidelines 5.3.7, 5.4.2, 5.6.1, 5.6.3, 5.6.4.
  • Chapter 6 (Design) – guidelines 6.2.1, 6.4.5, 6.5.1, 6.5.4, 6.6.1, 6.6.3, 6.7.2, 6.7.3, 6.8.2, 6.8.8, 6.9.1, 6.10.1.
  • Chapter 7 (Development) – guidelines 7.5(a) to 7.5(j), 7.5(m) to 7.5(q).
  • Chapter 11 (Mobile App Guidelines) – most of the guidelines under section 11.4.

Read the full guidelines

Recap of Empower 2018

I have attended Empower 2018 – Assistive Technology Conference hosted by Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi from 25th to 27th October, 2018. Here is a recap of the conference.

Empower 2018 has been kicked off by Prof. Balakrishnan of IIT Delhi. In his address, he has welcomed all the participants, speakers, partners, sponsors and volunteers. 

Then, Dr. TV Raman of Google Research has delivered his keynote where he talked about eyes-free communication access, revolution of technology over the years and what it could be in the days to come. It’s amazing to to know Dr. Raman is an alumni of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1984. 

Next there was a panel of speakers talking about accessible CAPTCHA solutions, inclusive interfaces. There was also talk about 6 by 6 app by BarrierBreak. In one of the talks, National Institute of Speech and Hearing has talked about how they leverage on technologies to communicate. One of the example is they leverage on WhatsApp web to communicate with people who are hard of hearing. Other method they do is use Google docs to communicate using text while a meeting is happening. One person will type live and someone else keep editing the same. 

Exhibition was awesome. It’s great to see a lot of products from IIT Madras including affordable note takers, Tactile printers etc., Saksham’s experience zone is just amazing where they showcased MI’s 32″ Television that is fully accessible, folder chess board, audio games, talking BP meter, and much more! 

Here are photos from the Empower 2018

Overall, it has been a great conference and I look forward to attending more of such events. I would also like to see it happening in different parts of the country. 

September 23: International Sign Language Day

It’s great to learn September 23rd is observed as International Sign Language Day. (Thanks to Akhil Paul of Sense International India for tweeting about it). 

International Day of Sign Language is observed every year on 23rd September along with the International Week of the Deaf. The choice of 23rd September as a date is same as the date when World Federation of the Deaf was established in 1951. 

While sign language is the communication language for people with hearing impairment, everyone takes benefit of it indirectly. In fact, communication of every human being starts with sign language. Let’s notice how a two year child communicates of his / her needs; while some children at the age group start to speak, but many just gets started to speak and they do a lot of signals to communicate. For instance, they show a thumb towards their mouth when they needs water. They show their fingers towards credal or bed, when they want to sleep etc., 

Even when people grow up, use of hand gestures to communicate is quite common. Often people show their fingers to a direction to indicate a location (though that’s not the right way to communicate). But that help sometimes. Even if we do not know to communicate in sign-language, since we do a lot of signs in our routine life, it enable us to communicate with people who are hard of hearing. 

Through this day, let’s raise awareness about sign-language and its importance. It’s great to see Braille and sign-languages are being introduced as subjects by CBSE for children with disabilities.

Resources: