Sandi Wassmer - Transcript, e a11


Published on

A transcript of Sandi Wassmer's keynote talk to e-Access 11: 'eAccessibility and the Inclusive Web'.

Published in: Technology, Design
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

Sandi Wassmer - Transcript, e a11

  1. 1. e- access 11: Sandi Wassmer Keynote TranscripteAccessibility and the Inclusive WebSlide 1: WelcomeFirstly, Id like to thank the Minister (Ed Vaizey) for his informative introduction and also forhis ongoing support and commitment to Accessibility. I think we now have a Governmentthat is taking Accessibility and social inclusion quite seriously. Its wonderful to hear weregetting joined up thinking. Im pleased about the fact that the digital inclusion strategy isnow in Cabinet Office and I look forward to seeing what comes out of it.Slide 2: Frank Lloyd WrightIm starting here with a quote from someone who gives me inspiration regularly, FrankLloyd Wright. For the other visually impaired people in the audience, I will recite the quote.I promise not to read every single slide, but this is a very important theme and I want toplant the thought in peoples minds for the day."All fine architectural values are human values, else not valuable."You can replace architectural with internet or technology or any such term, because whatsmost important are human values. Although were here to talk about technology,eAccessibility and policy, were also here to talk about people, the way people interact withtechnology and the ability for people to achieve their goals and to be part of an inclusivesociety using technology. I think its really important that we all remember why were hereand what the goal is.Slide 3: Open & InclusiveThis is a statement that I make fairly regularly. The world wide web - not the internet, thereis a difference - the web is ultimately websites, web applications and the all importantcontent, and the internet is the network infrastructure.(Note: Sandi gesticulates and hits lectern) I knew I was going to do that. Sorry. Thatswhat generally happens when youre blind.(Continues) So, the world wide web was developed to be open and inclusive. The reasonIm saying this now is that Im concerned that its not going to be so. When I say that itsopen and inclusive, by open I mean free to use and available to everyone, and by inclusiveI mean that it includes all members of society. In order to achieve this, we need to beensuring we use Open Standards and that we think about inclusion when we design.When we say that the world wide web is meant to be open and inclusive, the key isaccess. I think that we do tend to obsess a little bit about technology these days andconcern ourselves with the technology being accessible, which is important, but whatsfundamental is that people can access information and that they can access and use thethings they need, so that they can participate in a civil society. Sometimes I worry that wewant everything to be accessible, which isnt always possible, particularly the waytechnology is now. So we need to take a bit of a step back and think about everyone insociety being able to achieve their goals on the internet. Im less concerned if I go to awebsite and my goal is to purchase something, if ancillary video content does not haveaudio description, but if has a transcript that I can read at a later date, Im not thatbothered because the most important thing is that i can access the core content and that Ican achieve my goal on the website. I think we worry about everything being accessibleand need to remember that access and use are the goals. If these more fundamentalthings arent happening, Id rather not have access to the video if it doesnt have an impacton making my purchase. I think we need to focus on what the goals are, what were tryingto achieve and what the purpose of the website is. Its about achieving your goals andgetting access to the information and services you need.
  2. 2. Slide 4: Open StandardsSo, there are two things that will make an open and inclusive web. The first being OpenStandards; when we talk about Open Standards, on the Internet, there is a slight deviation,which is that there is one standard that we use that is not open but its free to use -JavaScript. When we talk about Open Standards on the internet, or Web Standards, wereprimarily talking about HTML, CSS and JavaScript for now. And so for the purposes ofthis presentation, I will refer to Open and Web Standards interchangeably.The key to Open Standards to me is not only the fact that the standards are royalty free,unlike closed standards. I come from a film and television background where IntellectualProperty (IP) was everything, so I like the fact that with Open Standards anyone can usethem. Open Standards in IT are like Creative Commons. Its a very different way ofthinking if you come from traditional media or IT because youre used to thinking "Thatsmy IP. I have to protect it so I can sell it to everyone." IP is the commodity in the traditionalmodel, whereas here the idea is that knowledge is free and to be shared, where skill andtalent are abilities and thats what youre paid for. The concept of Open Standardsunderpins an open and inclusive web.Open Standards encourage all sorts of great things, lots of innovation, collaboration andthinking, open data, open source. Thinking this way inspires open minds. Its how we needto be to move forward. To have an inclusive society, we have to be open and appreciativeand understanding of the differences of all people. I really like Open Standards.Slide 5: Inclusive DesignThe second thing is Inclusive Design. I talk about Inclusive Design over Accessibilitybecause Accessibility is an inherent part of it: Its the blood that runs through the veins ofInclusive Design. When you design for inclusion you think about everyone.Accessibility is a fundamental human right for everyone. And Inclusive Design is -(Note: Sandi hits lectern again) Sorry. Step away from that thing.(Continues) Inclusive Design fosters all sorts of innovation and furthers inclusiveenvironments, technology, education and ultimately advances inclusive society.So, this is all great in theory, but.Slide 6: TechnologyIn practice, where we are now is that mainstream technology isnt inclusive, isntaccessible, isnt usable. Mainstream technology is generally good for some people and notfor others. We talk a lot about Accessibility for disabled or older people and I talk aboutAccessibility being a fundamental human right for everyone.Accessibility is ostensibly free for 80 percent of the people. Accessibility just comes out ofthe box for them. The 80 percent of people who dont have disabilities or dont have thenatural signs of ageing that just happen and arent necessarily labelled as disabilities - Youstart to lose hearing like I have or your eyesight degenerates. When most people thinkabout Accessibility, its about the 20 percent. We focus on the 20 percent of people withdisabilities, but ultimately, again, which is why I talk about Inclusion, is that Accessibility isfor everybody. The reason why - and for the visually impaired people in the audience - Ivehighlighted the word Interoperability. In my opinion Interoperability is the key problem. NotAccessibility.Slide 7: InteroperabilityI say that Interoperability is everything. Why? Because Accessibility cant survive without it.If we cant agree on what the basis of the web is supposed to be, then were not going toconnect and communicate with each other.
  3. 3. Its a technical term generally used in IT. Its about having disparate and diverse devicesthat all communicate with each other and all have a commonality, where they have sharedvalues and common goals. In this instance these are Web Standards and Accessibility.So, the principles at the core of Interoperability are Inclusive Design. The idea being thatthe web would have Open Standards and Accessibility as its foundation and everyonewould agree on the part they play. Everyone says thats absolutely what we need to do,but it isnt happening. All of the people involved in creating the world wide web areconnected to each other, and must work together for the web to be interoperable.To use a non technical way of explaining it, a postage stamp is interoperable. We have asystem that everyone agrees upon around the world.The stamp makes sure your letter gets from here to where its going. Its a system which isdifferent in each country but it is interoperable on a global scale. I hope this illustratesinteroperable in more simple terms.Slide 8: InterchangeableWhen I think about Interoperability and Inclusive Design, I wish they were interchangeable,but theyre not. Theyre completely different things, but they really do sit together.Without Interoperability, Inclusive Design will fail. If everyone doesnt agree on thecommonality of the web, we can design inclusively all we want, but if I have one devicethat does one thing and you have another that does something different, if we dontachieve Interoperability, we wont be able to connect. We all need to agree on what wewant the web to be. And vice versa - without Inclusive Design, Interoperability ismeaningless if we want the web to be accessible to all. If we have Interoperability - if weall agree on standards and yet we dont design for inclusion, then Interoperability doesntmatter. Interoperability in itself isnt the answer but its a start.Slide 9: The 10 Principles of Inclusive Web DesignThe Minister referred to The 10 Principles of Inclusive Web Design that were recentlylaunched on the DCMS website. These are derived from principles that I completelypilfered from architecture. They were 7 principles originally. The background to the 10principles is that we use them as part of our processes at Copious, the web design agencyI run. I wanted to find a way of working, where we considered Accessibility from thebeginning. At the time I developed the original 7 we were buildingwebsites with Accessibility built in from the ground up, we understood technically andfunctionally how to make sites accessible, we followed the WCAG and used alt text, labelsassociated with forms, proper header nesting, semantic structure - all of the things weknow how to do to make websites accessible from a technical point of view but whathappened was that we were doing all these things, building technically accessible sites,but we were testing them with users at the end of the build. We were finding out about realworld Accessibility and Usability issues too late and this didnt work. We learned a lot fromthese users and I wanted to include them from the start.From architecture I found the 7 principles of Inclusive Design on the CABE website, whichled me to the Royal institute of British Architects and found RIBAs Work Stagesdocumentation. I saw that each project had an Accessibility Champion from the start ofeach project who remained throughout to ensure the project stayed on track. I liked thisand adopted both the 7 principles and the RIBA work stages and adapted them for theweb.We decided we were going to have a panel of user experts working with us throughouteach project. At the beginning of the project, our pan-ability panel, as I like to refer to them- some have disabilities, some dont, some want to use a mobile phone, others bring theirlaptops. We have different people, different devices, different abilities and so on.We usually start with research - surveys, focus groups. We get to understand usersneeds. They look at what were scoping and say thats rubbish. Kick that out. We thendevelop a prototype and test it with them. We find out that some assumptions we made
  4. 4. were wrong and chop and change features until we get the core functionality and userexperience right. We finally build the website and our panel tests features as we go along.At the end we do final Accessibility and Usability testing and sit around scratching ourheads because at this point the website is what it needs to be.I dont know where he is, but I have with me today someone that everybody should talk to.Jason Bell, who is the digital media manager at Action for Blind People. Hes been throughthe process and the evolution of the principles because they eventually became 10 duringtwo projects we worked on together, the Action for Blind People and Vision Hotelswebsites.The 7 principles are contained in the Governments eAccessibility Action Plan, which I co-authored. And so the 10 principles will now replace the 7 in the plan.And they are not something that I wrote as theory. Theyve evolved over time and are foranyone designing websites and by design I mean this in its broadest sense, as in productdesign. Websites are products that people interact with. I think the principles are veryuseful. Theyre practical. Theyre not technical. Youll find you really think about whatyoure creating, whether youre developing a website or writing policy, whether youre aweb design agency or a brand. I think if everyone starts thinking about them, not as idealsbut as guidance, it will make a real difference. The ultimate objective of Inclusive Design isto have different user experiences that have equally valuable outcomes. I know theMinister talked about equivalence of service earlier and its an essential component.Everyone approaches things differently: Were not all going to do things the same way.There isnt a one size fits all on the internet. We have different devices, different abilities.Were just going to do things differently. We want to cater for these diverse userexperiences.Slide 10: InteroperabilitySo, how do we do it? We make the web interoperable. If everyone involved in making theweb a whole agrees on what the web is, what it should be and we all agree on what roleswe play in making it so, then its simple.If we have Interoperability, then we have access device neutrality - it doesnt matter whatyour device is.It we have device independence, then users will have choice. If we build on OpenStandards, we are allowing anyone and everyone to contribute. It means there will be amuch more open and free market. We will not have a situation like we do in mainstreamIT, where there is Post Facto Interoperability, with the market being dominated by oneplayer. People who are interested in developing open source technologies will be able todo so alongside others working with closed source and proprietary technologies. As longas everything works together. This leads to a much better, more competitive marketplace. Ithink that will lead to a lot more innovation.Slide 11: ResponsibleSo, who is responsible for Accessibility and Interoperability? Everyone. Everyone who isinvolved in building the web is responsible.Slide 12: EveryoneWho is everyone? Well, for the visually impaired people, Im sorry, but I cannot explain thisslide. Its taken me forever to put this together in a visual form, in a way that explains it tosighted people. Although the web is quite complex, what I tried to do is to explain that whathappens on the web is simple - people want to access content. Thats what they need toachieve.How do they do this? To start, they have different devices. Some of these devices can bephones, assistive technologies that hook into other devices like Braille readers, pointingdevices, switches. Ultimately, the devices can work with each other. Theyre interoperableas they should be. These devices have their operating systems. Then they have different
  5. 5. software - whatever it is that helps you perform your tasks. Some might be assistivetechnologies. These rely on whats called an Accessibility API, which is something thatsays to the operating system or browser, "I have a piece of assistive technology here thatwants to talk to you." Its the hook. Its the intermediary between these technologies. I saidit was complicated.For the purpose of this discussion, Im going to stick to the World Wide Web Consortium(W3C) and its Accessibility arm, the Web Accessibility initiative (WAI) terminology, as thisis the home of the Open Standards and Accessibility Guidelines that govern the webindustry.You are probably familiar with the WCAG, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, whichare primarily for web designers and developers to follow, but there are also two other setsof Guidelines - the ATAG, Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines, which are for authoringtool creators to work to, and the UAAG, User Agent Accessibility Guidelines, which are foruser agent vendors to use.User agents refer to software that renders web content, of which browsers are the mostwell known, but there are also media players, plugins, as well as browser add-ons andextensions. This also includes Assistive Technology, and although technically this is wherethey belong, when it comes to discussions about Accessibility amongst the disabilitycommunity, AT is seen as a separate thing entirely.Authoring tools refer to software used to create web content, such as ContentManagement Systems, Blogs and Social Media.Although the WCAG is being used by those who are interested in Accessibility, the UAAGand ATAG have not been adopted. People dont really care about them as it is a case ofmarket forces. To me, this is really what needs to be resolved before we can have aninclusive web.Im going to pick on the browser vendors now. Where Im at at the moment in my thinkingabout Accessibility and Interoperability is that the browser vendors are the gate keepers.The browser is ultimately the window to content. Its up to browsers as to whether theyregoing to allow the delivery of accessible content. Its also about how content is created, ofcourse. And its also down to the other user agents to make sure theyre accessible, but alluser agents ultimately deliver content to people through a browser.At the moment, Im sure everyone has heard of HTML5. I realise that its being heralded asthe Messiah of the internet, which it is not, but it does offer a really great opportunity tobuild Accessibility into its core, into the specification. There are some amazing peopleworking very hard to make this happen. There are also people who arent, which isfrustrating. There is a lot of discussion going on in the WHATWG, W3 and the Accessibilitycommunity at large. Hopefully well win.But for now, Accessibility comes down to the technology that we use to build websites andto create web content. Many web designers and developers use authoring tools, whichthey invariably manipulate. Accessibility does not come out of the box and so we createworkarounds. Some people hand code HTML and CSS, some hand code JavaScript andsome use code libraries like jQuery.We have to know what tools are best and how browsers render the content we create andhow assistive technology consumes this content. We need to know how to modify mediaplayers so that screen reader and keyboard only users can access them. We need toaccommodate all of these things and it is not always possible. But with HTML5, we have areally good opportunity to build-in and not bolt-on Accessibility. I think that providingaccessible no-brainers within the HTML5 spec just makes sense. Id be happy if they dothat.That hopefully explains where we are and why right now we can work hard to do the bestwe can. The issues, however, are far greater than Government. Government can put
  6. 6. policy in place which is really important, but will not solve the problem. Of course, we allwant to work towards an inclusive society, but the real responsibility lies with the webindustry. If user agents and authoring tools arent accessible, we can only manipulate themand try to make them as accessible as possible. If browsers dont want to display whatweve done, were not necessarily going to be able to deliver an accessible web. So, allthese things need to work together.Slide 13: StandardsIm not suggesting, by any stretch, not to do our best to build accessible websites. Whatwe need to do now is make sure that we use the current specifications and guidelines,standards and best practices, because these things are the tools we have now. We knowhow to build accessible websites. If we have the tools and resources, whether that behuman or financial, and we have the ability to build accessible websites, its ourresponsibility to do so.But we need to think about everyone and not just disabled or older people. We need to bethinking about universality, inclusion, innovation. We need to be creating websites that areuser centred, beautiful, engaging and accessible.Slide 14: HumansSo, Ive finished with another quote. I do like my quotes. I wanted to bring us back to thereason why were here."Human rights are moral principles which apply equally to all human beings, without qualification."This is a quote from one of the worlds leading social anthropologists, Dr Evelyn Kallen.She was one of the first academics to conceptualise human rights in the context ofdiversity. She outlined the processes through which stigmatised minorities are sociallyconstructed and the social, psychological and institutional means through which we caneradicate the stigma. She pioneered our current understanding of human rights. And I amlucky that she inspires me every day, because shes my mother.This quote is really important for us to understand, because we cannot look to Governmentfor all the answers. When we talk about human rights principles, these are not laws.Theyre moral principles. These precede law. As human beings, we all should agree thathuman rights are really important. This is after all what were looking to achieve. Ashuman beings, we are all equal. We should not ever have to qualify that.That is me for today. I want to say thank you for listening to my talk.