Course: Developing with Empathy

Today I finished another free web accessibility course. This one is from Google and hosted by Udacity: Developing with Empathy

I find it hard to explain to other developers about having empathy for all web users, not just those who resemble ourselves. Courses like this are a great place to point those who might not be convinced that accessibility is important, especially those of us who work on projects that have little to no legal accessibility requirements.

This course is designed around four concepts:

  1. Providing and managing focus of elements for keyboard and switch users
  2. Constructing pages with good semantics and understanding the accessibility tree in the DOM
  3. A basic look at ARIA features
  4. Putting these together with style

I enjoyed learning about ChromeVox which emulates using a screen reader. The controls take some learning but it’s a useful way to test some of the hidden features of accessibility like aria-required on a form field.

Another helpful accessibility tool from this course is the Accessibility Developer Tools available through Chrome. It lets you perform an accessibility audit on a page and provides tips for improvements.

Here’s an audit of this blog’s front page.

screen shot of the results from an accessibility audit of the Fishy UX front page showing a score of 95
Fishy UX accessibility audit

AccessNow App

A new app out of Canada, AccessNow, aims to crowdsource the accessibility of communities. Maayan Ziv, a wheelchair user, has made it her life’s work to help others know which places are accessible before going out.

As she told CBC News in Access Now uses crowdsourcing to pinpoint accessible businesses

“Recently, I went to a place and there were three steps at the entrance, and I was told it was accessible. I get to the entrance, and there are those steps and then I’m stuck in the middle of the street without any options.”

I downloaded this app for iPhone to check out what’s going on in Austin. The app doesn’t have many places reviewed here just yet, with only four entries showing up for the Central Austin/UT Campus/Downtown area.

screenshot showing 4 map pins
AccessNow map view

In addition to a searchable map display, the app also has a list view. Icons from a green thumbs up for accessible to a red thumbs down for inaccessible help users know what to expect when experiencing a mobility impairment.

screenshot of the list view of map pins
AccessNow list view

Users can outline specific issues in a description.

screen shot explaining the accessibility issues with the Austin Panic Room
AccessNow app place details

Per the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, new construction and any existing construction that undergoes major renovations are supposed to be accessible. I see how this app would be especially useful for rating those places that were built before the act went into effect.

Users who have created an account can add new entries by tapping the ‘add pin’ icon, searching for a place, then entering details. The app provides several tags like accessible parking, automatic door and ramp, as well as an area to type out a description.

screen shot of the add place screen with options to rate how accessible it is
AccessNow add new place screen

Learn more from this interview with the creator.

Sony DVD Software for Amazon Video

For me to be able to watch Amazon Video content on my TV, I have to access the service through my Sony DVD player. It’s a rudimentary display with tabbing through options one by one and using various buttons on the remote to navigate.

photo of a TV displaying software used to access Amazon Video content

To go backwards and forwards in the interface, you use the remote’s “options” button (left) and “return” button (right) as noted at the bottom of the TV screen. What trips me up is that the buttons on the remote are in the opposite positions that they are on the screen.

photo of a remote with the return button on the left and the options button on the right

It’s a small thing but I have to stop and look down at the remote every time and double-check that I’m using the right button. A simple fix would be to transpose the controls on the screen.