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.

World Information Architecture Day 2015

Global Conversation

This past February World Information Architecture Day 2014 took place in 24 cities, 15 countries, 6 continents. These stimulating events bring together an international community of world-class Information Architecture minds including academics, practioners, technologists, and business leaders for a global conversation. In 2015 there will be more cities, more countries, more events.

Not A Surprise

I attended World Information Architecture Day 2014 in Pasadena. We were given real world problems to solve for some community based projects and broke into groups to come up with solutions. The group I was in thought up ways for the Los Angeles Metro to increase ridership. When I brought up accessibility within my group I found that very few people knew about it. This is not a surprise.

Search Where The Light Is

I started doing outreach here in Silicon Beach on Jun 2, 2012 when I started the Los Angeles Accessibility and Inclusive Design meetup group. I immediately started going to User Experience meetings and talking to everyone. There is a wise saying: start searching where the light is. In Los Angeles the light is in User Experience with thousands of members and hundreds of active participants in two major meet ups and other groups.

Persistence

At my first User Experience (UX) meeting I introduced myself to someone and she told me that she did user experience research and I told her that I do accessibility. The next thing I knew she had translocated herself to the opposite side of the room. I’m persistent. I kept at it. I announced my meetup events and other accessibility events such as Accessibiity Camp Los Angeles, the CSUN conference, anything I could use to get the message out that accessibility was important and needed and wanted by many people.

Awareness

By the middle of 2013, the beginning of my second year of outreach, I would introduce myself to people at UX meetings and there would be a pause. Then slowly the person would say: “Oh, you’re that accessibility guy.” This was a big increase in recognition. From translocation to recognition in one year. Branding helped: @AccessibleJoe. I kept working the rooms. Some Global Accessibility Awareness Days have happened. They were a big factor in raising awareness. Thanks Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion.

A Big Deal

Due at least in part to my outreach work the need for accessibility is being recognized by a mainstream organization. This is a big deal. The Executive Director of World Information Architecture Day 2015, Lara Fedoroff, has asked me to serve as the World Information Architecture Day Accessibility Director. Whitney Quesenbery is also helping. Lara wants to build accessibility into the events from the beginning. This means creating accessible web sites, paying attention to physical needs at the venues, getting accessibility information to event planners, and embedding accessibility experts into each team in each city.

Offer to Help

The offer to help make World Information Architecture Day 2015 accessible in all the meanings of the word will take teamwork. I’ve contacted a few accessibility experts here in Los Angeles and asked them to help with some preliminary user experience research being conducted by Elisabeth Bentley. I’ll eventually be reaching out to the world wide tribe of accessibility folks before this is over.

LadderDesk™

Startup: LadderDesk™

Santa Monica, California, April 1, 2014

Announcing A Health Breakthrough

Joseph standing on a six foot ladder with LadderDesk trademark on one of the ladder legs typing on a laptop with trees in the background.
LadderDesk™ Glass

Today, LadderDesk™ is proud to announce a Kickstarter campaign to build the latest in health technology, the LadderDesk™. Science has documented the many health benefits of standing desks. LadderDesk™ improves on this proven concept using a technology specifically created for LadderDesk™ we’re calling Gravity™ to actually suck unhealthy vibes down and away from the body. Plus, users of the LadderDesk™ will benefit from cleaner air and a new outlook on life as they view the world from a new perspective. The LadderDesk™ is extremely portable as you can see from the action photo out in the Room With The Big Blue Ceiling. The model displayed in the photo, the LadderDesk™ Glass is also lightning-proof as it has fiberglass sides.

Disclaimer

Curiously enough, heavy weight operating systems don’t do well at the altitude at which the LadderDesk™ operates. Linux, for example, only made it to the first rung. We find that only ChromeOS or iOS are lightweight enough for the top of the LadderDesk™. For more info about LadderDesk™ Tweet @AccessibleJoe.

Mysteries

An editor with some years of experience writing for the web was very surprised when I showed her that our wordmark, in the upper left corner of every page, was clickable and that it takes users to the university mainpage. Face palm. That moment brought up the cavalcade of people who have suggested that we have a Home link on every page. To that I invariably replied that there had to be some mystery in life, people would just have to discover the link in the wordmark. Of course, having discovered that, they will have a lifetime skill usable mostly on every site. But still, there has to be some mystery in life.

Hide The Subject

My first career was in motion picture post production, so I know a little bit about film technique. In “Rear Window” there’s a scene where Jimmy Stewart’s character is talking to Grace Kelly’s character and he’s partially obscured in another room. I saw the movie a couple of times in theaters and observed people craning their heads in an effort to continue to see him. Directors interpose things between the subject and the viewer to increase audience participation.

Hide The Title

A recent redesign of A List Apart has the title partially obscured off the top of the page and the tagline “*For People Who Make Websites” partially obscured off the bottom of the footer. My blind readers will chuckle, but this has caused consternation. Many comments on the site call out the partially obscured title and tagline. A List Apart is an established brand. They can afford to play with it. I applaud their partially obscured title and tagline. Nicely done. Judging from the comments on the site, it sure has increased audience participation.

Hide The Alt Text

What I don’t applaud, though, is what is revealed in this interchange in A List Apart comments:

Peter Müller @pmmueller wrote:
“And the images in the article don’t have any text in the alt=”“ attribute. Forgetful? In a hurry?”

Jeffrey Zeldman @zeldman wrote:
“On the contrary. We quite consciously omit alt text where it is needless, because the image is followed by a title equivalent to the alt text.”

In “Using the HTML title attribute – updated
Steve Faulkner @stevefaulkner wrote:
“If you want to hide content from mobile and tablet users as well as assistive tech users and keyboard only users, use the title attribute.”

On the A List Apart main page there is an image of Karen McGrane but you’d never know it by the alt text, because the alt attribute value is alt=”“ and there’s no title attribute. This is truly a mystery.

Errata

In my post about missing alt for author pictures on A List Apart, Mysteries, I got it wrong. The day after this post, on Twitter, Jeffrey Zeldman replied “Joe, you mistook title for title element. They are not the same. We don’t use title elements.” I do know the difference but I am glad to hear that. I was confused by Jeffrey Zeldman’s earlier statement “We quite consciously omit alt text where it is needless, because the image is followed by a title equivalent to the alt text.” The words “image is followed by a title” I reasoned, surely meant title attribute. So the mystery is solved: A List Apart style guide means to leave screen reader users out of the picture, as it were, when it comes to author pictures.

Facts

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” In other words, everyone is entitled to interpret the guidelines, but not to alter the guidelines. Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 guidelines state: provide text alternatives for any non-text content. The way I interpret the guidelines, those author pictures need meaningful alternative text.