The 2018 Perth Web Accessibility Camp was held on 15 February and a fantastic day was had by all. About 140 people were in attendance, the largest number in the five years it has been running and was hosted by BankWest in their Perth CBD head office.
Photo: Camp attendees in the Bankwest presentation room
David Masters from Microsoft Australia provided the keynote discussing some of the innovative projects Microsoft is working on. The presentation included some information about how their internal processes support accessibity standards, the Seeing AI app available for IOS devices to help blind users and the upcoming Hearing AI app will potentially help support people who are Deaf or hearing impaired. Ayesha Patterson gave a demonstration of the Seeing AI app on both its benefits and limitations.
Photo: David Masters presenting at the Camp
Greg Madson and Erika Webb from Vision Australia asked in their presentation ‘Are web browsers keeping up with accessibility needs?’. They explained that the merger of many assistive technology providers into the company VFO have had a notable impact on the assistive technology industry, such as the creation of a product called Fusion now available which joins ZoomText and JAWS together. Furthermore, web browsers that have recently innovated such as Firefox have done so with accessibility being sacrificed in the process. Greg and Erika said that its likely the issues with Firefox will be resolved by around May and should restore accessibility, Other bits of information include Narrator in Windows 10 being improved significantly and while browsers continue to evolve, the Web AIM screen reader survey indicated that the preferred options for blind users are still JAWS with Internet Explorer or NVDA with Firefox.
Amanda Mace from Web Key IT did a great presentation on Accessible Gaming. Amanda explained that gaming has many health benefits and its important to make sure that people with disabilities can effectively participate. Amanda explained that the ‘work = reward’ equation, the sense of community with other players and the ability to achieve can make a big difference. Amanda indicated that there are 30 million gamers in the US alone and its important to make sure that controls are designed in an accessible way, adjustable keyboard mappings are available, colour contrast options are included, and captions provided for videos.
Another presentation that was very well received was Vithya Vijayakumare from VisAbility talking about the importance of 3D sound, also known as spatial audio – the capturing of audio in a similar way to how we hear the world. The option Vithya demonstrated was 3D binaural sound and it was amazing how immersive the sound was when using the provided demo on headphones. Importantly, Vithya sees 3D sound as having great accessibility implications in real-world scenarios such as avoiding obstacles.
After lunch, a lot of fun was had with Great Debate V: ‘The Internet of Things is Awesome for Accessibility’. There was much discussion, enthusiasm and ranting by both teams that had three minutes per person to make their case. This year I was on the negative team and made the case that while interesting, it hasn’t quite reached awesome status yet. For the first time in a while the debate was voted to be a draw so perhaps it’s still a little too early to determine its awesomeness level.
Jason O’Neil gave a great presentation on how design systems can encourage accessible, on-brand colours. With a focus on colour contrast issues due to the large number of people with a colour vision impairment, Jason explained how the colour palette can be customised to ensure that the colours selected for a design will support accessibility.
My final highlight was the presentation by Kammi Rapsey from Media on Mars and David Doyle from DADAA presented on a case study about the development of the DADAA website. David made the case that the move to an accessible website transformed the organisation from talking about people with disabilities to talking to them, while Kammi stepped the audience through some of the challenges in getting the web industry on board for accessibility, but how the journey is worth it in the end.
Photo: Dr Scott Hollier presenting at the Camp
In addition to my Great Debate appearance, I gave a presentation about the Curtin research I undertook last year which is related to my upcoming CSUN presentation. I discussed how IoT is not as new as you might think but with connectivity, affordability, environmental data and the ease of communication with digital assistants it’s now a popular reality. I then went on to discuss some of the benefits and issues faced by students with disabilities such as monitoring lecturers to improve their delivery and issues with interoperability. Full details of the research paper on which my presentation was based can be found in the Publications section of the W3C Web of Things resource.
So that pretty much wraps up the Perth Web Accessibility Camp for another year. Many thanks to my colleagues on the organising committee who did a wonderful job and to all presenters and attendees for making it such a great day.