Restricted Access Board

Fee Based Distribution

The U.S. Access Board is at the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking stage with 10 new standards, including the 508 refresh, and they are proposing to make some of the new standards incorporated by reference available only by fee and with distribution restrictions. If some of the documents we need to refer to are only available for a fee it will affect us negatively. For those earning less, the impact will be greater.

Comment by Public Resource

David Halperin and Carl Melamud of Public.Resource.Org have written an excellent comment on this aspect of the proceedings.

This issue was brought to my attention this evening by my colleague Sina Bahram who co-signed the comment.

Restricted Distribution

I have been using Section 508 guidelines, covering web accessibility, in my accessible user experience practice since 1999 and I know that the refresh of Section 508 is long overdue so I’m all for getting this information published, but this is the wrong way to go about it.

More onerous than the fee structure, the restrictions placed on open sharing of those documents will have a very chilling effect on my ability to debate the meaning of those documents which is the essence of what we do when attempting to apply the standards.

No matter how they are written, it’s the interpretation of the standards in the fast paced world of accessibility practice that matters. If we can’t freely share and debate the information we will be unable to practice effectively.

I am glossing over some details because it is late and I’m typing this on my phone. Fortunately, the comment referenced above is very thorough and explains the situation very well.

Action Required

I have written to the American Association of Law Librarians (AALL) which has a great interest in open and free access to legal information like this. If you can think of organizations like AALL and can spare a few minutes to alert them to this situation, or you can make a comment about it on the Access Board site, please do.

Hackathons

Brass Ring

A few weeks ago Joe Devon and I discussed accessibility hackathons. Last week on Twitter I asked “Has anyone run an #accessibility #hackathon or have links to information about running one?” I got some great replies. Dennis Lembrée and Jennifer Sutton both suggested I write a post about it.

Sometimes my life is exactly like riding a merry-go-round and grabbing for a brass ring. The time needed to write a post comes around and around but something usually prevents me from doing it, like work or family responsibilities. Or getting ready for my presentations at the International Technology and Persons With Disabilities Conference in a few weeks.

Community Reports

Cameron Cundiff said “for an accessibility hackathon, maybe get devs to contribute to existing open source tools. Less barrier to entry.” I can certainly get behind that, there are some WordPress accessibility tickets to clean up.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Austin Seraphin helped organize #Hack4Access: Philly’s celebration of the National Day of Civic Hacking. I especially like their Rowhome Accessibility Checklist category. Christopher Wink added a link to the list of projects done during the Hack 4 Access 2014 event. Quite impressive and kudos to Philadephia, much accessibility activity there.

Los Angeles, California

Amanda Rush suggested I talk with Sina Bahram, and he referred me to an event I know well, Project: Possibility, a “nonprofit organization dedicated to creating open source software that benefits the disabilities community, and educating students on accessibility and universal design concepts.” Sean Goggin, who runs the whole shebang remembered: “Yep! Joseph even served as a judge at one of the campus SS12 Hack-a-thons.” I remember that it was a very enthusiastic group at the University of Southern California.

Austin, Texas

Katherine Mancuso remembered that the Knowbility Open Accessibility Internet Rally used to be a hackathon. This year I participated in OpenAIR as an accessibility mentor to a team building a WordPress site for A Plastic Brain, a non-profit run by Anne Forrest for survivors of traumatic brain injury (TBI). The competition will be over soon and my team is in first place. Happy to get recognition for TBI and for the work being done by Anne. Sharon Rush of Knowbility said: “Yes was 8 hour hackathon in ’98, evolved to design competition.”

Montreal, Canada

Arthur Rigaud of marvelous Montreal reminded me that there was an accessibility hackathon there in 2012 specifically on videos with Denis Boudreau and Christian Aubrey. Also in 2012 they had a Drupal Accessibility Sprint with Evolving Web, webchick, Jesse Beach, Matt Parker, Mike Gifford, and Everett Zufelt. Montreal is a hotbed of accessibility activity, even if it is around zero degrees Fahrenheit there right now.

Sydney, Australia

Monica O. shared a link to the 2014 Enabled by Design-athon held at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. I especially like the word “design” in the title. As the site says: “The event brings together people from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience (including designers, makers, health and social care professionals, engineers and people with disabilities) to work together in teams.”

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jeffrey Bigham clued me in to ATHack at MIT which is happening now. William Li and Dhruv Jain are running the event. According to the site: “The goal of ATHack is to bring awareness to the important field of developing assistive technologies. We pair teams of students with clients in the Boston/Cambridge community who live with a disability. Each client has a problem in mind which they face because of their disability. Over the course of the hackathon, students brainstorm, design, and create prototype solutions for their client.” I like this approach very much.

Solutions

Each of these events have devised multiple solutions for challenges facing people with disabilities. Especially notable is the Sydney event where people from multiple disciplines participated and the MIT event that is pairing people with disabilities with team members well in advance of the conclusion of their projects. Thanks to all who took the time to contribute to this list of events.

OpenAIR Competition 2014

A Plastic Brain

This year I volunteered to be an accessibility mentor to an Accessible Internet Relay (OpenAIR) project on Team AxIS and was surprised and pleased to be helping an advocacy non-profit run by Anne Forrest called A Plastic Brain in Austin, Texas. Like so many of us in the disability community, Anne advocates for people from personal experience. A Plastic Brain is for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Anne “lives with persistent symptoms from a mild TBI that she received during a June 1997 car accident and continues to recover.”

Cognitive Connections

Nineteen years ago when my daughter Siobhan was just over three years old we finally got a diagnosis of Cri du chat Syndrome and I wanted to start an email list. Lacking my own server, I got a lead to The Brain Injury Information NETwork where, for free, they set up a list for me and I soon was communicating with people all over the world about the severe cognitive, speech, and motor delays common to Cri du chat people. I’m currently contributing to the W3C Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Accessibility Task Force and I also help out with the WordPress Accessibility Team. So when I heard that Anne is working on a WordPress site for people with cognitive issues and she herself lives with traumatic brain injury a lot of things just came together for me. I’m so very glad to be helping Anne and her husband Michael Crider because on so many levels there’s a personal connection. And like with so many personal connections in this distributed world some of us now inhabit, we haven’t even met yet!

Completing the Circle

Just to cinch the deal, the development team is part of Cognizant with headquarters in Teaneck, New Jersey. Where I was born. This is just wonderful! The development team is located in India and when we all had our first meeting I was very glad to hear that when clients require it, they add accessibility. Their team, led by Antonia Jayaraj and seconded by AnanthaKrishnan M (Krishna) also includes Aparna Rajan, Prasath Manoharan, and Renuka Subramani and they are all doing a great job and each of the team members, including Anne Forrest and Michael Crider have contributed multiple times to reaching milestones. The evening of our first meeting, for instance, Michael and Anne created wireframes and a day later the development team had a minimum viable product (MVP) up on a server in HTML. Wow! Go team!

Cognitive Challenge

So this brings me to the heart of the matter, which is the reason the team would like to win the competition. We’ve all done great things for vision, mobility, and hearing, but there isn’t quite as much research for cognitive disabilities. While the W3C cognitive taskforce is changing that, we aren’t done yet. Anne has done much to inform us about her needs and how she makes connections. For instance, she responds better to navigation on the left, so we’ve included that in the design. Low contrast allows her to function better, so though we are meeting the guidelines, the contrast is lower. If there are other OpenAIR teams dealing with cognitive disabilities the AxIS team wants to collaborate with you. I believe that winning will help focus attention on cognitive issues, and the work the international accessibility community needs to do on this topic will be advanced.

Tribe

CSUN 2011

I attended the following panel discussion at the 26th annual International Technology and Persons With Disabilities Conference, at 3:10 PM, Thursday, March 17, 2011:

Do We Need to Change the Web Accessibility Game Plan?

This panel was a discussion of current web accessibility efforts, whether they were effective or not, and how they could be improved, and was presented by:

Jennison Asuncion, @Jennison
John Foliot, @JohnFoliot
Jared Smith, @jared_w_smith
Sandi Wassmer, @SandiWassmer

The word “tribe” was used to describe the people working in accessibility around the world. That wasn’t the first time, but during that discussion I think we really owned it. We were the tribe. And the tribe wasn’t satisfied with the current mode we were in. We noticed that we gathered together almost exclusively at accessibility conferences and talked accessibility with each other. Preaching to the choir wasn’t working. We had to branch out.

Branching Out

Presaging this group revelation was Glenda Watson Hyatt’s @GlendaWH glorious standing ovation at SXSW a few days before for her presentation “Is Your Site POUR?” Those who were there say it was a life-changing experience. Branching out was already working for the tribe. Many more of us have branched out since.

This year I started a Meetup here in Silicon Beach, the Los Angeles Accessibility and Inclusive Design Group modeled after Lisa Herrod’s group in Sydney and Jennison Asuncion and George Zamfir’s Toronto groups. I also started Cities.

No Matter What

The tribe sticks together. 24 hours ago I saw a Tweet by Sarah Bourne ‏@sarahebourne “When the phone rings at this hour, it’s not good. My mom died.” Within minutes she was getting messages of sympathy from tribe members. Lots of them. When a tribe member is in trouble we gather together.

And when a tribe member makes good, we make a big deal of it. When I retired from CSUN earlier this year I was inundated with good wishes. Earlier today @Jennison Tweeted: “I am honoured and humbled to have been recognized today with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.” I think Jennison is still getting congratulatory Tweets.

CRPD

Also in the last 24 hours as we led up to the US Senate vote on the UN Convention on the Rights with Persons of Disabilities there were many posts and Tweets from tribe members. I don’t know if Bill Shackleton ‏@CRPDisabilities counts himself a tribe member, but I think he should. His tireless work live-Tweeting debate, making resources available, urging us all on, is remarkable. This type of giving, without reservation, and without personal gain is the epitome of what being an accessibility tribe member is all about. Three cheers to the tribe!

Joe

Joe was my dad. He was born in 1917 and raised on the wild Atlantic coast in Ballyheigue, County Kerry, Ireland. When my dad’s family slaughtered an animal, other families would come and help, and take parts they could use. When another family did the same, his family would go help, and take parts they could use in their turn. The community shared.

Last spring I visited Ballyheige and stayed in the old schoolhouse my dad attended. The children were required to bring a piece of coal each day, to feed the communal fire. If a neighbor had a piece of wood, and you needed that piece of wood for your currach, you might offer to help two days tending lobster pots in exchange. That’s the way my dad lived all his life, even after he emigrated and came to New Jersey. He always sought ways to help people, to be of service to others.

We called my dad Joe, and me Joseph, to make a distinction between us. All my life I’ve maintained that distinction. I’ve felt that try as I might, I could never quite live up to his example. I felt that I couldn’t fill his shoes.

I recently changed my Twitter handle. It was @csunwebmaster. I wanted something personal, not tied to an institution or job title. I’ve been doing accessibility since 1999. Accessibility is my passion. So that’s part of my new handle: accessible. Jessi R @canadian_diva replied “@AccessibleJoe you changed your twitter handle! glad to know you’re accessible haha.” Well yes, I am accessible: easy to talk to or get along with.

Last night after Accessibility Camp Los Angeles I was talking with John Foliot @johnfoliot and Dennis Lembree @dennisl about Joseph and Joe. John said he always had a tendency to want to call me Joe and we talked about that. I told him about my dad, and how I had come to terms with being worthy of Joe. John said the handle is approachable. I like that.

It’s remarkable how many people can’t spell Joseph. They tend to spell it Joesph. A long time ago I determined that I would give restaurant staff the name Joe when making a reservation. Joe is easier to spell, and certainly much easier to hear in a crowd. So the second part of my handle is Joe because it is easily spelled and understood by more people. Isn’t this what the essence of accessibility is?

Here’s to you, dad, I hope I’m living up to your example.