Chris Ashton

fortnight11y issue 19

Your fortnightly frequent11y newsletter, brought to you by @ChrisBAshton:

How Alexa has change the life of a disabled person

  • Colin Hughes describes how his muscular dystrophy can make it difficult to use remote controls. He now uses Alexa to control thermostats, lights and blinds with his voice. Taking inspiration from a video showing how a garage door can be opened/closed with a cheap wireless switch, Colin retrofitted his front door to be voice-powered for £150. This contrasts with a £5000 quote he received from a company, highlighting the financial burden people with disabilities are put under. His command of ‘open sesame’ has to be regularly changed in case passers by figure out how they can enter his home.

Accessibility Best Practices for Classes Using Zoom

  • PDF from The University of Texas. Tips include: don’t require people to turn on their webcams (anxiety, physical tics etc); read screen shared contents and any chat content aloud; use Show/Hide Non-video participants to hide names and profile pictures if recording; do not force mute participant audio (required for deaf students to pin the sign language interpreters); post materials before or after class for students to review.

Accessible Font Sizing, Explained

  • The WCAG does not define a minimum font size for the web: just that fonts should be resizable and of a sufficient contrast. Contrast should be 4.5:1 for small text, 3:1 for larger text (defined as text that is a minimum of 18 point or 14 point with bold), though different screen densities and alphabets mean the pixel size will vary. Browser font sizes are accessible by default, so avoid using px and instead make your font sizes relative to the base font size (usually 16px) using rem/em. About 3% of users change their default font size in the browser settings, and some will override the font-family too (e.g. to OpenDyslexic, which increases readability for users with dyslexia).

Control your iPhone with your voice (and leave Siri out of it)

  • iOS 13 brings ‘Voice Control’, which allows you to use commands like ‘swipe left’ or ‘scroll up’, open apps or take pictures. You can also dictate text messages or notes, and delete text you’ve typed without having to touch your phone. It’s also highly customisable: you can set up shortcuts for inserting your email rather than saying it out loud, or have Voice Control perform custom gestures, e.g. touch-and-hold. This article explains how to set that all up.

Disabled Nurses Find Covid-19 Silver Lining; Hope For More Inclusive Future

  • A Forbes article about three nurses with disabilities, and the opportunities the current pandemic has afforded them. Andrea Dalzell interviewed for 76 hospital jobs and was rejected from them all once they realised she was in a wheelchair. The desperate plea for nurses since March has now meant employers look past her disability, and she’s found a job. All three nurses in the article strongly state that they work as effectively as other nurses.
  • On a semi-related note, #DisabledAndCute is trending on Twitter. I came across this image in a New York Times article, showcasing an ‘accessible party dress’ on manikin positioned in a wheelchair, amongst other manikins. It’s not something you usually see and I liked that the visibility of wheelchairs in social/fun settings is being normalised.
Fashion and Textiles Collection of the Peabody Essex Museum

Making accessible to as many people as possible

  • A Facebook Engineering article describing how the site redesign in React provided opportunities to improve accessibility. Using React Context, heading levels automatically increase as they are nested (i.e. <Heading /><section><Heading /></section> automatically creates a h1 followed by a h2). They use the same mechanism for contextual keyboard commands, to perform actions relevant to the thing that is in focus. Components such as FocusList are wrapped around lists to handle focus and to define up/down arrow key behaviour. A static analysis tool errors when it encounters a form control without a label, and a runtime tool monitors the DOM in real time and visually alerts devs to any inaccessible components.

YouTube Axes Community Captions Feature, Citing Low Usage

  • A feature allowing viewers to contribute subtitles to a channel’s videos will be discontinued on 28th September 2020. YouTube says less than one-thousandth of a percent of channels approved a community captions track in the last month, and only 0.2% of watch time had a community caption track selected. Subtitles ranged in quality, and it is known that some contributors were exploiting the tool to spam or troll its users. Content providers can still provide captions on their own videos, and YouTube is improving its automated captions service.

Going Colorblind: An Experiment in Empathy and Accessibility

  • Sara Novak writes about her three-day experiment using Chrome extension See, to emulate deuteranomaly and better understand the needs of one of her colleagues. This is the most common type of colour blindness, making it difficult to differentiate green and red. She realised that the way she’d been highlighting her emails in different colours was not accessible, and switched to using italics or bold for differentiation. A site Sara used wouldn’t let her fill out a form because it used red and green borders to indicate whether the fields passed validation, which she couldn’t distinguish between.

Diamond: Strides Made in Website Accessibility This Year, But More Work Needed

  • A report from May, which I’ve only now found time to read: accessibility for the Alexa Top 100 websites has improved from 2019 to 2020. 40% are ‘fully accessible on all platforms tested’, vs 29% last year. And 39% of sites are ‘fully inaccessible’, down from 43%. 21% were accessible ‘with difficulty’, down from 28%. An example of ‘accessible with difficulty’ includes triggering a login button but then needing to search for form elements because focus was not given to the modal.

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