Volume 2, Episode 5: Live from Accessibility Boston

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The IAP broadcast live from the 2014 Boston Accessibility Conference held May 10th at the IBM Innovation Center. Mark talk’s to conference attendees Amy Ruell, the president of VIBUG, Lindsay Yazzolino, a research program coordinator at a cognitive neuroscience lab at Massachusetts Eye and Ear infirmary, and the Key note speaker Judy Brewer, who is the web Accessibility Initiative Director at the W3C.

Announcer: Welcome to the IAP the Interactive Accessibility Podcast bringing you the people technology and ideas helping to make your world accessible to everyone. 

Mark: Hey welcome to the IAP. I'm your host Mark Miller thanking you for helping us keep it accessible. Do us a favor if you're enjoy me IAP share it, tell someone about it, hey, even link to it from your accessible website. Um, this is a pre-recorded episode of the IAP we were at Accessibility Boston 2014 and I pulled on three very interesting individuals that were in attendance. The first when you're going to hear from Amy Ruell who is the president VIBUG. After Amy Lindsay Yazzolino joins me she's a research program coordinator in a cognitive neuroscience lab at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary right in Boston where the conference was held and then finalizing it is Judy Brewer whose our keynote speaker for Accessibility Boston and she's also the web Accessibility Initiative Director at the W3C. A very important person in the world accessibility. So, we have three extremely interesting people I hope you enjoy it and remember to keep it accessible. Hey, I'm your host Mark Miller we are live at Accessibility Boston 2014 I'm here with that Amy Ruell. Amy, so where are we at lunch time here. We've done our morning sessions can you tell me a little bit about what you've done so far and what you think of the Boston accessibility.

Amy: Yes, thanks very much. This isn't my first time here at this conference. I am the president of VIBUG which is the computer user group for blind users we meet in Cambridge MIT on the second Saturday of every month and I've enjoyed the key note. We got sort of an overview of what W3C is doing and what the challenges are in accessibility. Then I subsequently went to a session, which was very interesting, on mobile accessibility and I found another those very informative. The conference is also been wonderful in terms of hospitality and food and the opportunities to network.

Mark: Excellent! So, yeah, that mobile conference: I caught part of that as well, that was with Kathy Wahlbin and that's... that's interesting to me because it seems like that that's where things are pivoting right now in terms of accessibility. Where we used to be so concerned about the web and now we're very concerned about mobile - people being able to access content on mobile devices.

Amy: Absolutely I think more and more people using their mobile devices for tasks which they use to devote to with the desktop platform I know myself and now when I travel I rarely bring anything with me larger than my iPhone.

Mark: That's right, well why would you? If you can... if you can cover what you need to cover with something that is that convenient, you know, why would you have anything else? So, I think it makes sense that all this is moving. Now how do you find the accessibility on the mobile devices? Do you find that something that you can you can know the work with pretty well?

Amy: I think the accessibility is generally very good of course iOS has been a platform where Apple has devoted considerable resources and he continues to do so for accessibility with voice over, which is when I use. I think there's still some challenges. For example, on web sites that have Flash or that are very cluttered it can be difficult to navigate on. But generally, because the mobile platforms, the sites tend to be a little simpler they're actually easier to use on an on an iPhone. I think one of the challenges remains a course Captcha, which is a challenge for all of us. And, I think as web sites become more complex it is going to be interesting to see how all of this develops.

Mark: That's right. So, what do you have planned for the rest the conference?

Amy: I am actually, I've got a look and see what session I'm going to do next. I may check out something on NVDA, which all though I know a little bit about I haven't used extensively. And then we'll see from there.

Mark: Great!

Amy: It's kind of a fluid schedule so I'm going with the flow.

Mark: Going with the flow... Alright, well I will let you go look at that schedule so you could figure out your next move and I really appreciate you being on the podcast with me.

Amy: Thanks very much and if people are interested in our group, you can go to www.vibug.org. 

Mark: All right and that will be posted in the show notes as well.

Amy: I appreciated thank you very much.

Mark: Bye, Bye. Hi I am here with Lindsay Yazzolino. Lindsay can you tell us a little bit about what you do and why you're here at Accessibility Boston

Lindsay: Yes, so I am a research program coordinator in a cognitive neuroscience lab at Massachusetts Eye and Ear infirmary in Boston. And I, being that I'm totally blind, I always had a strong personal interest in accessibility, especially because I am such a technology enthusiast... a science geek and a technology enthusiast, I am very much interested in, sort of, keeping in touch with what's going on in the field and accessibility. Especially with the fast pace of technology. I... and particularly now with mobile technology and also cuz of my personal and professional interest in math and science accessibility, it's always a great experience come to accessibility Boston. I've been... I think this is my name fourth time I been... yeah, it's my fourth time.

Mark: So you're a veteran?

Lindsay: Yes.

Mark: So yeah, I actually a caught up with you... you and I said in a session last year on making... There was an individual is tryin' make graphs accessible.

Lindsay: Oh, yeah..

Mark: yeah, and that was very interesting to hear your... coming from kind of a neuroscience background and understanding the plasticity of the brain and all these kinds of crazy things...   and when I was doing this podcast with Mike Guill your name came up because we started talking about plasticity.

Lindsay: on that's cool. Oh, yeah didn't we talk about that after the conference?

Mark: Probably.

Lindsay: Yeah, no, I think it's very interesting to explore these questions of accessibility from a neuroscience perspectives. One of the big, sort of, overarching questions that I look at in my research is how blind people use parts of the brain that normally process vision for non-visual functions. So, how blindness changes the brain in a sense. And, I think this from a basic curiosity standpoint. I mean, it's very interesting but it can also that kinda knowledge can  have really important implications for accessibility and designing interfaces and applications that will benefit blind people to the greatest extent possible.

Mark: Wow, well and I you know, I think that we're in such an exciting time when it comes to... when it comes to how the blind are interacting with technology in the world and things like... simple things like mobile phones are creating new avenues for access that we haven't seen before. And I just can imagine that in a field like yours when you start to marry what you're learning with some of these other potentials out there... you know everybody's got a more mobile phone now, everybody has access to a computer access to the web I think it's just going to get more and more exciting and then 3D printing you know refresher... we have refreshable Braille devices but there's also, sort of, printers that are coming out that are doing even more complex things where you can recreate objects in two dimensions and three dimensions. It's just really exciting.

Lindsay: I agree, I agree I think, I think it's important to understand that. At least in my view, I feel like on what we are learning science and neuroscience background is very much compatible with the needs that we had today. So, when it comes to say... even high tech and low-tech - So, take the 3D printing example so we... some of us in the lab... It was me and summer student that we had last year... we were... realize that there is an issue with blind people don't… blind students, if they want to study the brain there is no currently no accessible brain model. So, we used 3D Printing. We work at National Braille Press and others and designed a 3D printed Braille label brain.

Mark: That's amazing.

Lindsay: So, it's... and absolutely with the high-tech stuff I think that what we're learning about the brain is so... It's just very important to really understand the needs of the user. I think we have this... you in accessibility there's this  theme we come back to of understanding the needs of the end user and, from a scientific perspective, we can really understand perceptually and cognitively what's going. So, I think it's very exciting.

Mark: It's amazing it's amazing to see all these things converge and all of the platforms that you have for your kind of research to actually get out there into public hands. I'm going, actually, let you go because it's one o'clock and the next sessions are starting. So, do you have any idea where you're headed for your next session?

Lindsay: I'm kinda thinking about that possibly it is an NVDA session, there's a couple of web accessibility... will decide in the next two minutes.

Mark: Very good! Well thanks for jumping on Lindsay, I apprehended and I hope you enjoy the rest your time at Accessibility Boston.

Lindsay: You too! Thank you so much.

Mark: You're welcome. Hey I'm here with Judy with - Judy Brewer - who was the keynote speaker for Accessibility Boston. Judy tell me what you think so far. We're into the afternoon here at Accessibility Boston. What do you think so far?

Judy: Sure, well I always love this conference. It's a, you know, it's a community, it's a grassroots activity. The Boston Accessibility group is a great group of folks and they've done this for five years now and so John Crosston, who does the DC Accessibility Conference got the whole series of these going and Jennison Asuncion who has done a lot to help promote those and is one of the people is involved early on. It's a wonderful group of people and the climate at the conference here is always one of you, know very good hallway conversations and very good presentation. So, that's a nice mix. And, it's also something that is pretty welcoming to people who are new to the field and also a place where a lot of accessibility experts who've been doing this for a long time come. And, so they're getting updates from each other and their strategizing about what to do next. And a lot of those same people are ones who were at the table and their Web Accessibility Initiative work at the W3C helping build the next generation of accessibility solutions. So, it's always a great conference and really an honor to have been the keynote for this year. So, that was fun.

Mark: So, you're from the from the W3C. We should make sure that we were clear on that. And, so tell me a little bit about... what was it like to do the keynote and do you really think the you accomplish your goals and tell me a little bit about, like what, what the overall... what you really hope to come out...

Judy:.. so you know it is to some extent it is it's a that's a tough audience because a lot of the people are experts in accessibility

Mark: They know what they're talking about...

Judy:.. I didn't want them to go to sleep I but so one of the things that I tried to do is to say, "Look I want to reset this in the big picture of why accessibility of the web is so critical all around the world, and the important role the people here are playing and helping achieve that." And then, I also wanted to say, "look, you may be focusing on this particular aspect of Web accessibility, or that particular of Web accessibility but there is an amazing amount of technical work at W3C, and what those of us who were in w3c need - who care about accessibility. which is actually most of the staff - but we have a dedicated team that's fairly small working on specifically on accessibility - we need people from different companies, from the disability community, from government from research to come and help us be vigilant about every one of these new technologies that's being built. We probably, at any given time, have about sixty different working groups at W3C and there are literally hundreds of technical specifications an only a handful are specifically about accessibility. The majority of those were actually, you know, about anything from privacy to security to voice to, you know, graphics - and what we want is to have accessibility built into every single one of those so that we have a strong foundation of technical specs. And, so what one of the things I talked about today was all the different aspects of accessibility in the open web platform and that's the cluster technologies centered around HTML5. And with that, you have an environment in which you can take it across all different markets and industries and devices and...

Mark: Was that no graphic pinwheel? [Judy" Yeah...

Mark: Well that struck me and you said... you qualify it, you're like, this is a rudimentary graphic

Judy: Yeah we're working on it.

Mark: it almost look like a kid's drawing up like an atom or something...

Judy: yeah

Mark: But, it struck me when I saw that about just how... how many things tie back.... HTML 5 I think was the center...

Judy: I think for some people when they hear, you know, web standards or they here HTML, there thinking oh that's desktop computing and it still is desk top computing, but it's also gaming, and it's also digital publishing, and it's the entertainment system in automobiles, and its mobile - its all love these areas - it's deployment of software, its data, it's connections with the cloud. And, so, you can use a core HTML, CSS, Document Object Model (Dom) and you know a few other things Aria - Accessible Rich Internet Applications, which is from the Web Accessibility Initiative, that's embedded in HTML and Jetta could secure protocals and so forth. And that's a quarter and then you throw in geolocation, a few other things, you get good support for mobile. You throw in a bunch of specialist fonts stuff, you know, packaging... you get digital publishing - ePub, the joint effort that we have with IDPF, International Digital Publishing Forum. And, you know, accessible text books you can get from that - interactive textbooks. So you get accessible online learning. So all these areas are opened up on a... built on a a foundation accessibility supporting technologies.

Mark: The thing that struck me in, and your talk really highlighted was that: we have you know, to me that the Tim Berners-Lee, the idea of the web - it really was a seed that was planted. And it was planted inside a browsers, right? ...on our PCs. And, at this point in history, I think we've really seen that seed grow into to like a tree and the branches reaching out and touching parts of our lives that we never really realized it would touch. Like, for instance, television is now, you know, one is branches has connected us to television, it's gotin' inside of our cars. It's now reaching out, and not just from the standpoint, of hey we need to make the, you know, our content accessible, but also what its done with mobile devices and how its changing the lives of blind people. Just the ability that its, you know the assertive technologies is giving them. Not just consume that content but to experience the world around them better.  And, it leaves me wondering what the next branch is gonna reach too? And, I think that it's fantastic that the W3C is recognizing that phenomenon now and really working on common platforms, common ways to deal with this and to make it all accessible, so that it is experience by everyone.

Judy: Yeah, and we always have to be planning ahead in W3C's work we have to be looking, you know, sometimes five years out, ten years out, to see where's the technology going to be going next. At the same time as we're trying to, you know, reinforce and expand the accessibility supports and today's technology. So, if you take, you know, you're talking about Tim Berners-Lee and one of the things that's really nice to have the opportunity to work in an organization like that is, you see him at the Summer Olympics and, you know, in the center at the stadium tweeting out a message saying, "This is for everyone." And you know it's not lip service because, you know, he's helped create an organization where people can genuinely work towards that goal. And sometimes it's a lot of needy gritty detail at the technical level to get certain specifications write or to get the interoperability right between a browser and what's happening in the assistive 0:17:38.419,0:17:40.120 technology. And sometimes it's brainstorming and it's like getting a future vision of humm, okay, if you take wearable computing you take immerse virtual environments are any of these, what can you do to have new accessibility supports with augmented reality? So if you're in a public setting, you get information fed to you. And so, what we do in the Web Accessibility Initiative, is we say, "Look there's all these different functional areas... or disabilities that we want to provide support for. It’s vision, it's auditory stuff, it's cognitive, it's neurological. And sometimes we'll work on that by on having task forces that might have a call for a year or two work on it specific area. So, that's what are the other things that... talking about this morning some, was - look there's a mobile accessibility task force. There are a lot of people out there who don't realize that the web accessibility... the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines can be applied two mobile content and to mobile APPs and there's all kinds and information there that can make mobile app's reach a much broader audience if you're thinking about accessible from the design stage. We also have a task for some cognitive accessibility... cognitive and  learning disabilities accessibility. So, I talked a little bit about that. A lot of people who were in different enterprise situation are trying to do accessibility and decide - how do we evaluate for accessibility better?  So, that's what  half of my hallway conversations have been so far today. And, we have a task force for that too. So, a part of what I wanted to do today and I've got some good interests on is saying, "These are some other current projects if you're interested come talk to us... plug in because we love having additional perspective.

Mark: You need the minds... you need the minds to wrap around these issues. And, I'll tell you, that... I'm somebody who's on the phone companies all the time that are trying to deal with the, sort of, challengers of making their digital products accessible and one other questions I get all the time is, "what applies to mobile?" Which of course the answer is the scene the same thing, you know, the WCAG 2.0 guidelines apply to mobile as well...

Judy: ... and user-agent. And we're trying to define that better for people cuz we have the resources but we know that people aren't finding them enough from our site. So, Kathy Wahlbin from Interactive Accessibility [I know her] is co-facilitator of the mobile excessively group. We're encouraging people to join that and sum up what they're doing is to take the existing Web Content Accessibility Guidelines techniques and make some of them more specific to mobile so it speaks to developers better.

Mark: Yeah, make him sound like they're...

Judy:.. yeah, make them sound like they're for mobile because they're very relevant for mobile  I'm sorry, go ahead

Mark: oh, no, no, no... originally whey weren't written with mobile, necessarily, in the forefront so the language doesn't...

Judy: Yeah, it wasn't in the forefront so some of the vocabulary is wrong right now. about it but we have enough in the for full price I have a camel is running a So, the Mobile Accessibility Task force is going to take care that. And then we have are education average working group. One of their priorities now is to try to do easier on ramps to are some other technical materials. So, the people who haven't already been doing web accessibility for multiple years can get more introductory material. It's like here's the concept.

Mark: That's just so necessary.

Judy: or here's a quick and dirty way to check your site and then you can do a proper conformance check after you've done the quick and dirty. Or, you know, here's some tutorials for how to sort out the different ways to um describe images. If it's simple image or complex images.

Mark: Well it's fantastic. I think it's fantastic work for you guys were doing and it was great to hear from you this morning.

Judy: Well thank you it was an honor, cuz I love the conference here.  You know, it's our anniversary this year... two different universities. It's the Web 25, yeah and it's also W3C at 20 later in the year.  And, so, it was a nice time to be able to talk about, kinda, the bigger picture of what we're trying to do on web accessibility for the web.

Mark: Well and I think, you know, 25 years as the web... and you and I have brought up Tim Berners-Lee already in this in this conversation... isn't it amazing how far we've come and I... lots of times when we refer back to Tim Berners-Lee I feel like I'm referring way back to Einstein, like somebody that shouldn't be around any more, but this guy is still out there doing it and how wonderful for him to see in 25 years where we've come from that first mark-up to now and what we're doing for him to be so involved and for us to all have the benefit of that.

Judy: Right down the hall from me where we're based at MIT And I watched the way he interacts with... you know, when we're brainstorming about the new technologies inside of W3C, with the member organizations, with the public. And, it's and it's kinda nice. He's done some very interesting work also with the web foundation. So ,one other thing I'm looking at now is there's a web index, which shows 80 or more different country's. They've done it for I think three years now and they have measures that they use about openness and also some about accessibility. So, we're looking to see how that's lining up across different countries and that's that's gonna be something interesting to watch. And, in some cases, you know, the people who were technology activists may say, "okay we want to push our country 0:23:07.539,0:23:10.789 further in this direction to make it more open. And, they see that there's also this access including some accessibility dimension that's getting measure. And, maybe one of the first times they start thinking like, that should be one of the quality indicators for the web, because as people with disabilities we want access to all of that... all those things you're saying the beginning - the education, the employment, that's the doorway for so much information and interaction with the world. And, we don't wanna leave people out.

Mark: Yeah. No, we don't. Especially when you look at something like technology, which in its core, in its nature it's inclusive. It brings people you just like a mobile device...

Judy: It can be if designers are thinking about it in the early stages.  So it nice to have a chance for a bunch of folks who really get that. You've gotta respect that nature and make sure you're realizing it and pulling it in and paying attention to it for sure. But, that's what... I mean technology makes my life better, your life better, it makes everybody's lives better so why not really have it make everybody's life better. We just got to make sure we're paying attention to that.

Judy: We'll good to be here today.

Mark: Yeah, great to have you and appreciate it. And I appreciate you taking time out to be on the podcast.

Judy: We'll thanks very much Mark.

Mark: Yeah, you're welcome.  This is Mark Miller thinking Amy Ruell, Lindsay Yazzolino, and Judy Brewer and reminding you to keep it accessible. 

Anouncer:The Interactive Accessibility Podcast is brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts you can find the Access Matters blog interactiveaccessibility.com/blog    


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