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Impact of-accessibility-on-technical-writing

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A presentation delivered at the Society for Technical Communication (STC) India chapter annual conference in 2004 at Chennai. It talks about the importance of accessibility in software and …

A presentation delivered at the Society for Technical Communication (STC) India chapter annual conference in 2004 at Chennai. It talks about the importance of accessibility in software and web-applications with a focus on technical writing or user documentation. It also takes into perspective the US laws such as Section 508.

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  • Mnemonics - A method or system for improving the memory e.g. a formula or a rhyme
  • Transcript

    • 1. Impact of Accessibility on Technical Writing Mohammad Qais Mujeeb, is currently the Director – Technical Communication at Ascezen Consulting Pvt. Ltd
    • 2. Topics to be covered • Accessibility • Section 508 • Scenarios and Cases • Assistive Technologies • Adaptive Strategies • Ways to make documentation accessible
    • 3. Introduction Most of the consumer and business services are provided through the Web today. Every one has the right to basic services, irrespective of their age, language and physical or mental abilities. More than 54 million Americans experience some activity limitation due to chronic health conditions or impairments. Number of RSI affected people among an estimated 25 million computer users in India, is rising at a startling rate. Web content should be made accessible to widen the reach and help people with disabilities.
    • 4. Accessibility: Some Definitions • Ensuring that content can be navigated and read by everyone, regardless of location, experience, or the type of computer technology used. • The quality of a system incorporating hardware or software that makes it usable by people with one or more physical disabilities, such as restricted mobility, blindness, or deafness. • The degree to which software can be used comfortably by a wide variety of people, including those who require assistive technologies like screen magnifiers or voice recognition.
    • 5. Accessibility and Usability Accessibility and Usability walk hand in hand as they have a common objective. And that is… To improve the user experience
    • 6. Section 508 In 1998, the U.S. Workforce Reinvestment Act amended Section 508 to include technology and the World Wide Web. Section 508 of the U.S. Federal Rehabilitation Act: • Ensures people with disabilities access to goods and services provided by the federal government. • Requires access to electronic and information technology procured by Federal agencies. • Requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.
    • 7. Section 508 [contd.] Section 508 requires that: • electronic and information technology (EIT) • purchased or developed • by federal agencies • be accessible to • people with disabilities. If a product, including documentation, is not accessible, the product might not be considered for government contracts
    • 8. Paragraph A of Section 508 Paragraph A of Section 508 reads, "A text equivalent for every non-text element shall be provided (e.g., via 'alt,' 'longdesc,' or in element content)." Paragraph A requires alt text for every "non-text element." Images are just one example of “non-text elements”. Other types of non-text elements include: • • • • • • Flash animations Shockwave files Video files Audio files Scripts Image maps
    • 9. When does Accessibility come into picture? Accessibility is most commonly discussed in relation to people with disabilities, because this group is most likely to be disadvantaged if the principles of accessible Web design are not implemented. Let’s have a look at some Scenarios…
    • 10. Scenario 1 Imagine using the web without a mouse… • People suffering from arthritis, carpel tunnel syndrome or a broken wrist • Move on web page using <TAB> key Challenges: • Number of Tab presses required to reach the actual content. • Logical Sequence of Tab order • Provision of a shortcut key to enter /exit a Flash plug-in
    • 11. Scenario 2 Using the web without seeing the page Imagine a situation when you have to use the web without seeing the web page. Try this for an unfamiliar website. Challenges of using a Screen Reader • Requires Alt text for pictures, images, etc. • Can’t differentiate between ads and real content • Reading data in tables can be confusing
    • 12. Some Cases Let us have a look at some cases where accessibility is required and how accessibility features can help.
    • 13. Case 1 Online Shopper with Color Blindness • Mr. Lee, an online shopper, has Red/Green Color Blindness • Problems Faced: – Poor color contrast on Web sites – Discounted prices, indicated by red text, appearing brown – Required fields on forms, indicated by red text • Probable Solutions: – Using proper color contrast on Web sites – Discounted prices can be indicated by mentioning it in brackets – Required fields on forms, can be indicated by using asterisks (*) – Use of style sheets, as they can be over-ridden by personal style sheets through browser support
    • 14. Case 2 Reporter with Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) • Mr. Jones, a reporter, has developed RSI and is unable to type • Problems Faced: – Inability to use mouse and keyboard for prolonged hours – Lack of keyboard equivalents/shortcuts for mouse driven commands in the web-authoring software at his office • Probable Solutions: – Using Access key feature on Web sites having a long list of links – Using the new version with full keyboard support
    • 15. Case 3 Online student who is deaf • Ms. Martinez, an online student who is deaf • Problems Faced: – Inability to utilize the audio lectures in the online courseware • Probable Solutions: – Making available the transcripts of lectures – Captioning of all audio lectures
    • 16. Case 4 Accountant with blindness • Ms. Linda, an accountant at an insurance company that uses web-based formats over a corporate intranet • Tools used: – A Screen Reader which generates a combination of speech output and refreshable Braille output • Do these tools work? – Tables are marked up with column and row headers – ALT text is provided for images – Expansions of abbreviations and acronyms are mentioned, the first time they appear on a page
    • 17. Case 5 Supermarket assistant with cognitive disability • Mr. Sands, who works at a supermarket, has Down Syndrome • Problems Faced: – Difficulty with abstract concepts, reading and mathematical calculations – Faces difficulty in searching for items and calculating totals • Solution: – An Online grocery service Web site with consistent design and navigation.
    • 18. Case 6 Teenager with deaf-blindness, seeking entertainment • Ms. Kaseem, a teenager who has low vision and is deaf – She wants to find out about restaurants where she can go with friends. • Problems Faced: – Inability to read small font size – Problems with multimedia virtual tours • Tools used: – Screen Magnifier – A Screen Reader which generates refreshable Braille output – Personal style sheet on the browser which makes all web pages display as desired – Captioning of audio and description of video
    • 19. Assistive Technologies Adaptive Strategies • Case studies in the previous section validated the role of assistive technologies and adaptive strategies in making the content accessible. • Assistive Technologies and Adaptive Strategies can help make the web sites and their content, accessible.
    • 20. What is an Assistive Technology? • An assistive technology is the hardware and the software that helps people with disabilities use a computer. • Assistive technologies typically provide specialized input and output capabilities not provided by the system Software Examples • Screen Magnifiers • Screen Readers • On-screen Keyboard • Speech recognition programs Hardware Examples • Head-mounted pointers • Braille output devices
    • 21. What is an Adaptive Strategy? Adaptive Strategy is one that is adopted while developing the content, designing the output format and actually writing the content. Examples • Providing alternative text for images • Setting up a proper tab sequencev
    • 22. Making Documentation Accessible To make the documentation accessible to users with disabilities, the following changes can be made to the documentation: • Provide all online documentation in HTML format • Define text, color, and spacing in the style sheet • Add text descriptions to graphic elements • Ensure that color alone is not used to convey meaning • Include table summary data and labeled table elements • Document the accessibility features of the product
    • 23. Making Documentation Accessible 1 Provide all documentation in HTML format • HTML can be read by assistive technologies • Most documentation tools offer conversion to HTML • HTML 4.0 fully integrates style sheets
    • 24. Making Documentation Accessible 2 Define text, color, and spacing in the style sheet • The size and style of text, the foreground and background color, and the spacing of information can affect the accessibility of documents • Using a style sheet can not only make the documentation more accessible but it can also improve the appearance of the documentation.
    • 25. Making Documentation Accessible 3 Add text descriptions to graphic elements • Adding text descriptions to graphic elements is necessary because assistive technologies, such as screen readers, cannot interpret graphics. • Writing short alternative text, not exceeding 150 characters in length. • Short alternative text can be added to graphics by using the ALT attribute of the IMG element.
    • 26. Making Documentation Accessible 4 Ensure that color alone is not used to convey meaning • Using color as the only way to convey important information can cause problems to color-blind users. For example, we are using the blue and red colors to identify the visited and unvisited hyperlinks. We can change these links such that an unvisited link appears blue and underlined and the visited one changes to bold, red and underlined.
    • 27. Making Documentation Accessible 5 Include table summary data and labeled table elements We can follow these guidelines when creating data tables-  • Summarizing the table contents by including a table caption, by introducing the table in the surrounding text, or by using the SUMMARY attribute of the TABLE element. • Including column headers in the table. Providing row headers if these headers make the table easier to navigate. • Using markup to associate data cells with header cells. • Using relative, as opposed to absolute, widths and heights in defining table cells. Specifying a fixed size for a table might introduce formatting difficulties if the user resizes the window in which the table is displayed
    • 28. Making Documentation Accessible 6 Document the accessibility features of the product Accessibility features in a product should be documented too. The description of accessibility features should include • How to use keyboard shortcuts and mnemonics • How to change font and color of a web page • How to customize menus and toolbars • How to use an alternative style sheet to format files
    • 29. Conclusion • Accessibility is about ensuring that content can be navigated and read by everyone, regardless of location, experience, or the type of computer technology used. • Section 508 of the U.S. Federal Rehabilitation Act ensures people with disabilities can access goods and services provided by the federal government. • Assistive Technologies and Adaptive Strategies can help make the web sites and their content, accessible. • Knowledge of working with adaptive technologies would help us a lot. • Accessibility features of a product must be documented. • Accessibility issues apply for documentation, as well.
    • 30. References • http://www.section508.gov/ • http://www.access-board.gov/ • http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/508/508home.html • http://www.webaim.org/standards/508/checklist • http://www.w3.org/ • http://www.trainingcafe.com/macromedia/accessibility/intro duction.asp?offset=0 • “Making Documentation Accessible to Users With Disabilities” by Gail B Chappell • White paper on “Complying with Section 508: SkillSoft’s Strategy for Making Business Skills E-Learning Accessible to All”
    • 31. Questions ?