Accessibility Technology

Google Accessibility Update – Live Blog Post 4 – Gmail

Next up:  Gmail

Alex Gawley, Director, Product Management

Original product was loaded with JavaScript and designed for sighted users.  Last couple years, we’ve been focused on adding much better support for blind users.

  • We now have extensive support for ARIA labelling
  • Manual testing for new features
  • Automated tests for regressions (tests addition of new features to make sure it doesn’t break old features)

Many users still use HTML UI, so still al ong way to go.  Reconciling JavaScript UI model versus browser UI model.

We didn’t spend a lot of time on the navigation model until recently.

  • Complete redesign to inbox and conversation view navigation
  • Clearer model for regions of the UI
  • Navigation labels
  • Main – inbox and conversations
  • Use of arrow keys, N/P and Enter to navigate between and within regions
  • Rational model for managing focus

Alex gave a short demo of how this works now.

  • Focus is given to 1st message in the inbox
  • Jumped into navigation section (inbox, sent, trash, etc.)
  • Jumped back to “thread list” (using the 1st message list in the inbox)
  • Used “N” and “P” keys to jump to messages within a thread
  • Anytime in the main view, you can jump into navigation area by pressing the left arrow
Near term plans
  • Incorporating accessibility design and testing earlier in the development process (ie new compose).
  • Integration testing to prevent regressions

Long term plans:

  • Building in accessibility for all next-generation Gmail interfaces from the outset.

BIG QUESTION:  does this require use of Chromebook hardware?

Accessibility Technology

Google Accessibility Update – Live Blog Post 3 – ChromeOS and Chromebooks

Min and Kenji of Chrome OS team:  Chrome OS and Chromebooks

Leans on speed, simplicity and security of ChromeOS

They’re cheap.

Boot in under 8 seconds, hassle-free, maintenance-free. Just sign in with Google account…all your stuff is “in the cloud.” Idea here is that your stuff is not tied to a specific machine, which is particularly important for people with disabilities who have settings “just so.”

Reviewing features of Chromebook, walked through setup:

  1. Accessibility is built-into OS at setup; spoken feedback provided via ChromeVox.
  2. Select language, keyboard, network.
  3. Email
  4. Select a picture ID
  5. Tutorial

SHARABILITY:  Kenji then walked through how different people can use a Chromebook by logging on with his account in “guest mode,” enabling accessibility features.

Min then asked for detailed feedback via the “Chromebook accessibility trusted test program.”  This is a program where Google will provide a Chromebook to qualified “trusted testers” on a first-come, first-serve basis.  Each participant will be provided with a Chromebook, with the expectation that users will be active testers.

Apply for Chromebook Accessibility Trusted Tester Program:

Program application is open until March 15

This program is available for individuals, not large organizations or federal, state, or local government organizations.

Accessibility Technology

Google Accessibility Update – Live Blog Post 2 – Introductions and Scope

Getting started now. TV Raman introduced himself and is giving a brief overview of the session today. Who’s here?

Alan Warren: VP, engineering
TV Raman, Lead, Google Accessibility

Some of the things that’ll be talked about today:

  • ChromeOS
  • Drive
  • Docs Suite
  • Gmail
  • What Google is doing in the field of accessibility, including all aspects of the Google platform including Chrome and Android.

Head of docs division is here, will discuss where accessibility fits in

AM: Chrome OS, Apps
Afternoon: Android platform will be discussed after lunch.

Alan touched on how Google Apps were developed as very simple tools to begin with, and how accessibility support was a bit spotty to begin with. However, it’s now a key focus. He mentioned how this is built into their testing coverage now.

TV Raman talked a bit about the “broad scope” of things – how Google’s apps are a platform accessed via a web browser. As such, mobile is important part of their strategy (Android). Google is know for innovating in the web space, but the key question is: who does innovation for blind users? As we innovate for sighted users, we will innovate for blind users as well.

A lot of work is being put into the Chrome OS (because it’s viewed as a platform) to provide additional support for blind users. The only way to make accessibility better is to make it simplify it at every level. Raman believes that we can reach accessibility with THIS generation of web technology.

“Every user is different, and we need to build a customizable interface that works for everyone.”

Getting a lot of high-level discussion right now to orient for the day. There seems to be a lot of focus on blind users here.

Accessibility Technology

Google Accessibility Update – Live Blog Post 1 – Getting Started

It’s my first dat at #CSUN13, and I’m glad that I arrived early. I’m sitting in the back of the “FORD A” room, because that’s the only place I can find an open power outlet. My 17-inch MacBook Pro chews through the battery if I keep the screen too bright. I must remember to bring a power strip next time to make more friends 🙂 The presentation room Google is in is a bit smaller than I expected, and I’ve been told that it’ll be standing room only. Seeing as Google has at least 10 people in the room right now, I think that’s an accurate statement.

It’s an all-day session, so I expect to post a lot of (hopefully useful) tidbits here. Did I mention this is my first attempt at a live blog? You’ll have to excuse any typos, poor grammar, or bad language. I tend to write what I’m thinking at the time.

Please leave comments and follow me: @paulschantz

Student Affairs Technology

#SATechCali2013 – or “How to Set Up an Unconference” – Part 1

I love keeping up with the latest trends in Internet technology.

One event I used to attend was the O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco. The breadth of this now “on hiatus” conference was huge and unmatched by any higher ed conference I’ve seen thus far. Where else could you see the biggest names in Internet technology lay out some of the coolest ideas and world-changing work they do? The scrappy startups – some of which made their homes just blocks from Moscone Center – were always there too. Whether it was Werner Vogels from Amazon talking about what it really means to make a data center have “six nines uptime,” or Amy Jo Kim and Buster Benson talking about creating better user experiences through the ethical use of gamification techniques, or talks about “big data” and data visualization, it was a fantastically valuable experience. It gave me all kinds of ideas about things I could do “back home.” What I actually brought back from those conferences and implemented is a topic for another post 😉

The excitement of conference ideas was difficult to convey to my colleagues, much less implement…many ideas were simply years ahead of what most folks were ready to think about. To be fair, some people in higher ed actually do think and write about some of these ideas. The difference is that the people at Web 2.0 were actually DOING them at “web scale.” I began thinking about how I could convert some of these big ideas into something practical and useful for my colleagues who are lifelong Student Affairs professionals.

That’s when I hooked up with Ed Cabellon from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts ( and Joe Sabado from UC Santa Barbara ( Ed successfully put on a couple of “unconferences” (see and for more info), and Joe was interested in setting up such an event on the West Coast. An unconference is in many ways like a meetup; I’d been to a few of those before, and they were all great. After a few emails back and forth about the kinds of things Joe and I would need to do to put on a successful unconference, I did a Google+ Hangout “call” with Ed. It was immediately obvious that this was exactly the kind of thing I needed to do.

As you can imagine, there are a ton of details to attend to, but I think Joe and I are up for it! What I can say for certain is that it will be held at CSUN in early June 2013, and it will have a lot of great, practical ideas about technology that you can take back to your campus and use right away. More to come!

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