Accessibility Technology

Do We Need to Change the Web Accessibility Game Plan (Redux)?


Trend this hashtag, people!  #GamePlan2015

This is the fourth presentation I attended on Wednesday, March 4 at the #CSUN15 conference.  A cast of the usual suspects:  one of them wears a cowboy hat so he can be picked out in a crowd.  All of them are veteran #CSUN attendees.  The hashtag this motley crew wants to trend?  #GamePlan2015  Give them some love!

Disclaimer:  these are personal opinions

Don’t call it accessibility anymore, call it “information experience”

Have attitudes to accessibility changed within the tech industry over the past four years?  Does web accessibility still have an image problem?  If so, can we fix this and how?

  • Leonie:  yes, it’s improved.  With the exception of the CSUN conference, nearly all the conferences I’m asked to attend are mainstream.
  • Jennison:  I think there’s still a problem, most people think accessibility = blind people.  They don’t understand costs, and there’s a huge emphasis on the price tag.
  • Glenda:  it depends on us.  Are we being a pain in the neck, or are we helping?  There may be an image problem because a lot of professionals don’t necessarily agree on mitigation approaches.  We need ot make sure people fall in love with doing this.
  • Jared:  Perfect can be the enemy of good.  We shouldn’t let legalistic approaches to accessibility scare us…it’s a journey.

What is driving progress today:  awareness, technology, or legislation?

  • Jared:  all of the above.  Technology seems to be the area that continues to get short shrift.  New stuff coming out isn’t necessarily built with accessibility in mind.
  • John:  Leonie, is the UK more mature in terms of accessibility?  I think we may have a different attitude with respect to litigation, but our law is quite a bit more comprehensive.
  • John:  Jennison, what about Canada?  I think fear of legislation – specifically AODA – is driving a lot of the work that’s being done up there.
  • Glenda:  US experience, legislation doesn’t drive innovation, but it often drives the accessibility reality, especially in specific areas like purchasing airline tickets (note the difference between this task now and after December 12, 2015).

Is there a best place for accessibility to be anchored in an organization?

  • Jennison:  it should be driven from within IT.  Accessibility folks need to be embedded within the people building products, i.e. designers, developers.
  • Jared:  building it into the process is the key.  Building architects now build accessibility features directly into their plans.  There are still accessibility specialists out there, but by and large they’re called in to deal with special cases.
  • Glenda:  in life in EDU I was in an IT unit and I built relationships with many areas.  You need to build this into annual review process.

How can we further expand web accessibility into mainstream web design and development education?  What is working, and what isn’t?

  •  Jared:  we’re not really there yet.  We’re making progress, but we’re not there.
  • Glenda:  there needs to be a degree for web experience.  We need to look at building this into the K12 and junior colleges.  Many of us learned by “viewing source.”
  • Jennison:  I think that accessibility camps (these are a bit like a meetup crossed with a hackathon) are a piece of the solution.  We ask questions “how do you score yourselves with accessibility.”  Many companies hire developers out of development bootcamps.  We need to get into those bootcamps (i.e. go where the devs are).
  • John:  Are we making advancements in education globally?  Leonie:  we’re going to be firefighters until it’s baked into education programs.  I experienced this while testing getting a degree in computer science.

Outside of teaching accessibility at schools, how do we attract more tech professionals to come work with us?

  • Jared:  attract them with money!  Practitioners who have these skills can make more money.  You won’t become a millionaire doing this, but you can do well.
  • Jennison:  we need to find opportunities to speak about our field on panels at mainstream conferences and events.  To attract more professionals, we need to be a bit more gracious to people getting into the field.  The “pile on” mentality is still prevalent in many areas.
  • John:  is the money thing a new development?
  • Jared:  it’s been a slow process, but this is definitely a place where legislation has had a significant impact, especially with respect to job titles.
  • Glenda:  there’s something innately meaningful about this work.  Developers at a Fortune 50 company shared how much they loved doing this kind of work (i.e. “I can’t remember the last time I cared about doing my work”).  Mentors are an important part of this process.
  • Leonie:  drawing people into the profession requires a defined profession for them to walk into.  It’s a bit like web development was back in the 90s.
  • Jennison:  if you have an internship program, teach them!  Get them on the accessibility/development team.

What has the emergence of the mobile platform had on our successes and failures?  What lessons have we learned from the mobile revolution?

  • Jared:  giving up on pixel-perfect designs has been extremely helpful in moving accessibility forward.
  • Leonie:  SDKs by major companies (Google, Apple) for native accessibility has helped a lot.  It’s not perfect, but it helps.

What are the biggest things that are still broken in web accessibility efforts today?

  • Leone:  lack of education
  • Jennison:  text only sites
  • Glenda:  testing
  • Jared:  legislation has helped; focus on users matters

What is the single most effective thing our community could do to change the course of accessibility over the next four years?

  • Glenda:  needs to be done by more than just one person
  • Jared:  I think we’re on the right track…keep up the passion!
  • Jennison:  focus on practical, not perfection.
  • Leonie:  stop going on about guidelines, encourage the creative side of this.



Accessibility Technology

Accessibility at the BBC

Presenter:  Ian Pouncey, @IanPouncey

(Be sure to look at Ian’s Feb 23 retweet of theVine video of a guitar playing with a dog drumming.  It’s awesome.)

This is the third presentation I attended on Wednesday, March 4 at the #CSUN15 conference.  Ian’s presentations have been entertaining in the past, so I’m looking forward to this one.

Ian shared a couple quotes from BBC higher-ups:

  • “Everyone deserves the best” quote from Tony Hall, BBC director General, 2013
  • Hugh Huddy quote on the iPlayer

BBC Accessibility Team

  • 3 people responsible for: training, standards & guidelines, techniques, framework support
  • Not responsible for accessibility of sites or apps.  We have 7,000+ content producers, our team would need to be enormous to cover all this!


  • Accessibility for web developers:  this is an online course that takes about two hours and shows how real people with disabilities use their products.
  • Introduction to screen readers:  one-day workshop that provides hands-on use of screen readers, including iOS and Android OSes.  It’s primarily for front-end developers.
  • Question:  is it for Jaws?  Yes, but if the users have NVDA, we provide guidance for them as well.
  • Question:  can you make this training publicly available (laughter ensued).  For the web developer course, we’d really like to, but we may not be able to for competition reasons.

Upcoming training

  • QA
  • UX
  • Product Management
  • Mobile application development

Standards & Guidelines

  • Mobile Accessibility
  • HTML
  • Assistive Tech

Mobile Accessibility Standards & Guidelines

  • Technology agnostic, but platform specific techniques
  • All have success criteria

HTML Accessibility Standards

  • Minimal set of expected standards for our products
  • Standards are unambiguous so there can be no arguing when we engage with content partners

 Assistive Technology Testing Guidelines

  • Currently for screen reader only
  • Not support guidelines
  • Showed a very long list of guidelines that they use for testing

Question:  How do you choose/define your “window of support?”  We have a standard approach for screen readers and browsers.  Generally, we use “current version minus one,” with an exclusion for some versions of Internet Explorer.

Question:  do you have any tools for automated testing?  Yes, I’ll discuss that shortly.

Standards vs Guidelines

A standard is:

  • Must or must not
  • unambiguous
  • Unambiguously testable


  • Should or should not
  • Must or must not that is:  open to interpretation; testing requires judgement

Anatomy of a well written standard

  • Short description:  a document must have exactly one H1 element
  • Rationale:  must be useful, i.e. “Users should be able to use the document’s <h1> to identify its main content.  Documents should have one main subject”
  • Examples
  • Testing Criteria:  Procedure, i.e. “Use WAVE toolbar or similar to generate a document outline, there must be exactly one <h1>”

Secret bit

  • bbc-a11y ruby gem

Standards vs Understanding

  • Understanding is more important than standards, but organizational awareness is more important than understanding
  • Goal is to enable people to do their jobs as easily as possible
  • We don’t want accessibility to be a checklist activity, but we realize that sometimes it does work that way
  • It should be embedded into everything we do so that the knowledge gets “locked in”

Accessibility Champions Network

  • Extends our team’s reach
  • Spreads knowledge and understanding
  • Our eyes, ears, and voice in products
  • Not just for developers
  • Don’t have to be an expert
  • Not responsible for accessibility
  • Shares knowledge

Benefits of being a champion

  • Additional training
  • Closer contact with accessibility team
  • Work with other teams
  • 10% time project
  • Prestige!  Fame!  Glory!
  • There will

Question:  do you do any assessments of the work the developers are doing?  Occasionally, but it’s often more about the frameworks and components that are used in a product.

Question:  How often to accessibility champions answer to their team?  It’s a new thing we’re starting.

UX:  Roles and Responsibilities

  • Visual design
  • Semantics
  • Markup and content order
  • Hidden content

Design is Critical

  • Development may not be the most important part of the project!  This one looked painful for Ian to say 🙂

Beyond Design & Development

  • Product Owners:  encourage training; make the accessible decision, not the easy decision; plan for testing with disabled user
  • Content producers:  understand alternatives, plan for audio desc, subtitling, etc.

Global Experience Language:  GEL

  • Similar to Google’s, but not as well maintained.  It’s a bit out of date
  • Showed an example of an overlay/carousel panel

Document design knowledge

  • Enable design iteration
  • prevents repeated mistakes
  • encourages evidence based desing
  • educates

Code Based GEL

  • Production quality code
  • White labelled
  • Acceptance tests included



Accessibility Technology

Digital Accessibility: 2015 Annual Legal Update

Presenter:  Lainey Feingold & Linda Dardarian

This is the second presentation I attended on Wednesday, March 4 at the #CSUN15 conference.  Thankfully, it’s in the same room as the 9:00 AM session, so I didn’t have to pack up my stuff and rush off to another room!  I have not attended this session in the past, as I tend to favor the more technical sessions.  However, I hear great things about this annual session, so I decided to see if the good press would bear out.  As we’re about to get started, this is truly a “standing room only” session…a good sign? Anyway, this session covers only the last 12 months.

Lainey:  Linda Dardarian could not appear because she’s covering a case of hardwood floors that have too much formaldehyde in it (!)

“Toolbox” metaphor was used liberally throughout this presentation


Slow bureaucrats or Accessibility Champions?  I say, they are accessibility champions in the realm of digital accessibility!  The law is but one tool in the accessibility champion’s toolbox.  The question at issue is really a civil rights question:  do people have the right to access digital content?

Accessibility Champions

Here’s just some of the work by the DOJ around the country:

  • National Museum of Crime & Punishment
  • Nueces County:  project civic action
  • DeKalb, IL (+3) online app accessibility
  • FL County Court records
  • FL state police
  • Peapod grocery delivery
  • Lucky stores

DOJ:  web sites have long been considered covered by the ADA.


DOJ Requires…

  • Apply to web and mobile
  • WCAG 2.0 is standard
  • Web accessibility coordinator
  • Independent consultant
  • Train all staff
  • POst a policy
  • Home page AIP (Accessibility Information Page)
  • Add to performance evaluations (this is interesting)
  • Usability Testing


  • 508 (Access Board finally issues 508 refresh)
  • Applies to purchases by the Federal government


  • Broad application of WCAG AA as standard
  • Covered electronic content [public facing +8 categories of non-public facing content]
  • Expanded interoperability reqs
  • Real time text functionality


  • Feb 27, 2015 (published in Federal Register)
  • May 28, 2015 (open for comment until)
  • Final Rule Published
  • Becomes effective +6 months after Final Rule publishing

ADA Web Regulations?

  • We just don’t know exact dates…
  • We’re waiting for Title 2 (public sector) and Title 3 (private sector) dates of publication.  They never hit these deadlines.
  • See for more info

Legal Advocacy

  • DOJ is not the only player in this space…
  • Toolbox metaphor was used liberally throughout this presentation

Watch (streaming video/education services)

  • NAD (National Association of the Deaf) & VUDU
  • NAD and Netflix
  • NAD and Apple
  • Harvard and MIT (edX open courseware)


  • Math in Seattle (online education services)
  • Student loans (department of education and loan agencies)
  • Youngstown State/University of Cincinnati (course, registration materials).  This applied to both public and private institutions!
  • LSAC (similar to SAT; testing accommodations).  As of now, they are fighting this.


  • Scribd (unlimited online books – “the Netflix of books”).  This was filed in Vermont because the Netflix case was brought there.  They tried to get the case thrown out of court.  Judge seems to understand the issues involved, so I’m hopeful…
  • HathiTrust:  the authors guild sued a collaboration of educators for conversion of materials for educational purposes.

Stay Healthy

  • Communicating print information to blind people via “talking pill bottles”
  • Caremark
  • Walgreens
  • Sutter
  • Kaiser

So much of this information is still inaccessible, including web sites, applications, and more.


  • ACB v GSA
  • Marriott case (software inaccessible to employees)
  • Homeland Security (employee not able to access online content)
  • Montgomery County (NFB handling for employee who can’t use software)

Be Prepared

Digital content is really important for emergency preparedness, and it MUST be accessible to people with disabilities.

  • New York City
  • Washington DC


  • Cardtronics:  ATM (Automatic Teller Machines)
  • NY banks (settlement with 12 New York banks)


  • SoCal Taxi case
  • Airline Kiosk case (rules don’t kick in for 10 years after case won, which was 2 years ago)


  • eBay (web 2.0 sustainability agreement)
  • RedBox case wrapped up this year


  • 9 circuit court of appeals will hear digital access cases
  • Cullen v Netflix
  • Earll v Ebay (verification process that used phone – obviously this doesn’t work for Deaf / Hard of Hearing)


  • Captioned Clips
  • Extended Waiver for ereader


Lots going on around the world, we don’t have enough time to cover that here!  We really need to have a three hour session for this…

Start and End

Phone calls and feedback from the customer.  You have to make your voice heard!

Other Sessions at CSUN, be sure to look up these sessions!

Q & A


Accessibility Technology

The Implementation of PDF/UA and Standardized Access to PDF Content

Presenter:  Karen McCall of Accessibil-IT, Head of Quality Control and Training.  @accessibilit

This is my first post of the CSUN 2015 conference, and the first presentation I attended on Wednesday, March 4 at the #CSUN15 conference.  I have a particular interest in this topic because the latest round of accessibility remediation and content updates my web team and the folks I work with at CSUN are addressing is the vast number of Word and PDF documents posted on the CSUN web site.  I’ve also read a little bit about the PDF/UA ISO standard (thanks @WebAIM list serve!) and am interested in seeing how – or if – this has any impact on the work my colleagues will be doing where “the rubber meets the road.”

Accessibil-IT swagAccessibil-IT folks handed out some “accessible IT swag” just before the presentation:  a key-shaped USB stick.  Nice 🙂  They claim it’s the best swag offered at the conference…we’ll just have to see about that!

This session is divided into two parts:  brief powerpoint slide presentation, then a demonstration of an Adobe Acrobat Pro document that is PDF/UA compliant with Jaws screen reader.

Karen has been working with Adobe PDF for about 15 years, and has written books, given training sessions, contributed to the standard and much more during that time.  She’s also a Canadian delegate to the standards committee.  Contributes to both user experience perspective and technical standard.

This is written into the newly published US section 508 refresh:  documents will conform to all Level A and AA success criteria in WCAG 2.0 or ISO14289-1 [PDF/UA-1].

PDF Accessibility 101

  1. if a PDF is not tagged, it is not accessible
  2. Just because a document HAS tags, doesn’t mean it’s accessible
  3. Read out loud text-to-speech tool is NOT A SCREEN READER

What is PDF/UA?

  • Initiated by AIIM (association for information and image management and adobe systems in 2004
  • Responsible for establishing a set of standards for crating accessible PDF
  • A technical standard for software developers
  • An implementation strategy for achieving accessibility within a PDF
  • designed around the same barrier-free principles behind the methodology of WCAG

Why do we need PDF/UA?

  • To achieve a reliability of expectations from one PDF to the next
  • PDF/UA success criterion are broken down into three parts:
  1. File conformance [ISO 14289-1]; file conformance [ISO 32000-1]
  2. Reader conformance
  3. Viewer conformance

Having a published standard will make machine-readability much easier for vendors like Google, Microsoft and others (think creation & conversion).  Human QA is still going to be needed, but to a somewhat smaller extent.

Question:  will book publishers be required to adhere to this standard?  Not at this time, but we are notifying publishers that there actually IS a published international standard now.  This is part of the reason why we come and give presentations like this at #CSUN15.

Question:  Does the standard cover forms?  Yes, but there’s a distinction between XFA forms and forms created Adobe Acrobat.

As of today, NVDA is currently the only AA-compliant PDF/UA reader.

What’s Different with PDF/UA?

  • It provides developers a framework to build accessibility into their application or output file from the start
  • It eliminates perceived “best practices” or “user preference” from organizational document accessibility practices
  • It’s based on semantics and established document authoring logic

PDF/UA compliant documents will provide a more consistent user experience, which is important for users

  •  Provides a prescriptive PDF interaction model which addresses a broad range of disabilities and facilitates the use of many adaptive technologies.
  • Leverages the applicable WCAG principles for the best in general usability.

Question:  Does it allow for reflowable text?  Yes.

Question:  How does it provide for tagging diagrams?  There is an implementation guide published by AIIM that describe how to do this.  I recommend you have a look at the “Matterhorn Protocol,” which provides a checklist that describes how document remediators should do this.  The PAC (PDF Accessibility Checker) does something similar (note:  PAC developer is xYMedia, their web site is in German) .  Neither of these tools eliminate the need for human quality assurance.  A comment from the audience highlighted the usefulness of the PAC for people who are new to PDF remediation.  The PAC tool is not itself accessible with JAWS (the devs know about this and are working on it), but it’s actually a great “in your face” way of showing you mistakes in the document.

Demonstration of a PDF/UA-compliant document showed some of the useful features for end-users.  This included use of keyboard shortcuts for document navigation by headers, images, links, tables and more.