primary reason for the update so soon after WCAG 2.1 relates to the addition of
Success Criteria to support the needs of people with cognitive or learning
disabilities. The WCAG 2.0 standard, while widely adopted, was often viewed as
being week in providing support to people with cognitive disabilities due to
relevant Success Criteria being placed in the rarely implemented Level AAA
compliance. Support was also largely overlooked in the WCAG 2.1 dot release. As
such, the addition of support to the standard is seen as a welcome update.
2.2 draft also features other Success Criteria to provide additional guidance
for users of mobile devices and users of e-books.
the Perth Web Accessibility Camp hosted Australia’s national accessibility
conference OZeWAI to bring a fantastic combined event in my home city of Perth
for the first time. Here’s some of my personal highlights.
There was a great Keynote presentation titled Global Impact of W3C Accessibility Standards on Business and Industryby Karen Myers from W3C. Karen shared about how the W3C is continuing to support the development of web standards through updates with existing standards such as WCAG, and how groups are also working on emerging technologies. Often in Australia there’s a sense of isolation from the work of the international community, and having Karen speak at the conference helped to bridge the Australian community with the international work.
My own presentation followed on from Karen’s lead, discussing my W3C work involvement with the development of the XR User requirements (XAUR). The presentation focused on the W3C work about user needs and requirements for people with disability when using virtual reality or immersive environments, augmented or mixed reality and other related technologies (XR). The presentation focused on a recent working draft that outlines accessibility user needs for XR and their related requirements. This is followed by information about related work that may be helpful to understand the complex technical architecture and processes behind how XR environments are built and what may form the basis of a robust accessibility architecture. It was great to have an opportunity to present work that had only just been approved for release by the APA working group a week earlier.
From a learning perspective there were several presentations that I found really helpful including Matt Putland’s discussion on accessibility law, Ben Long’s children’s book, Vithya Vijayakumare’s excellent presentation on video accessibility and Jason McKee from AccessibilityShield who travelled over from the USA to talk about How the Disabled Built the Internet. Amazing to think that if a few people with disability weren’t included in critical decision-making in the early days of the Internet, things would be very different for us today.
While the overall quality of the presentations were fantastic, the standout for me this year was titled What does peanut butter have to do with accessibility? presented by Gisele Mesnage. The presentation focused on Gisele’s experience in lodging a complaint against Coles, and how the outcome led to Coles not only addressing the accessibility issues with its grocery website, but also won an Australian Access Award for best corporate website as a result. Gisele emphasised that we need to move our laws from ‘smooth’ laws to ‘crunchy’ laws so that companies will make things accessible by default rather than having a need for the complaints process. It was a great talk and even featured peanut butter props!
no PWAC would be complete without The Great Debate. Now in its 7th
year, the topic for the light hearted banter was ‘Emerging Tech makes Web Accessibility
Redundant’. I was on the Affirmative side this year with each speaker having
only three minutes to try to argue their point. As usual it was a lot of fun for
the audience and the participants.
Thanks to the PWAC and OZeWAI committees for what was a great conference. Links to all the presentation videos can be found in the PWAC + OZeWAI Programme listing.
Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world’s largest consumer technology
exhibition and showcases the products likely to appear in our shops in the
coming months. With over 40,000 new products and concepts on display, it stands
to reason that there are some interesting products that open exciting
possibilities for people with disabilities.
This year the big brands are continuing to refine new products such as foldable smartphones, driverless cars and 8K televisions which may offer promise in the future, but aren’t quite there yet for the everyday consumer with a disability. There were, however, some innovative niche products which are certainly of interest in the disability space. Here’s my pick for some of the interesting consumer electronics likely to help people with disabilities that will hopefully be available soon.
Y-brush: clean your teeth in 10 seconds
look up a list of the most important inventions in recent centuries, the
toothbrush always appears due to its significance to our overall health. It’s
no surprise then that a toothbrush that allows you to brush your teeth in less
than 10% of the time it usually takes was one of the big hits at CES this year.
toothbrush achieves its task by cleaning an entire row of teeth in one go. It
works by inserting the toothbrush in the mouth, biting on it to activate, then
waiting five seconds while it brushes the entire row of teeth. The brush can
then be flipped to clean the other row for another five seconds.
While aesthetically the brush doesn’t look particularly appealing, for people with disabilities it has the potential to be significant. People with a mobility impairment often find tasks such as brushing teeth challenging, so this simple and time-saving process is likely to be helpful for individuals and carers of people with disabilities as no rapid movement is required.
Type invisible keyboard
I was setting up an Android TV box and found it difficult as I couldn’t set up
the accessibility features until I had entered in my account information. As I’m
legally blind, the on-screen keyboard wasn’t much help to me and I ended up
having to hunt down a USB keyboard so I could manually type in my credentials.
This is just one example of where the Samsung Selfie type keyboard could prove
very useful for people with disabilities.
Using the camera in your smart device, you can put your fingers on a nearby surface and start typing as if you were using a keyboard. The camera calculates the location of your fingers on a QWERTY keyboard and starts to input your keys selections. While accuracy may vary, people at CES that have tested the prototype report that after a short bit of training, the virtual typing becomes reasonably accurate. The idea that I always have a keyboard available is something I personally find very exciting when assistive technologies on smartphones and other devices aren’t always available in every situation.
Jumper is one such innovation which was developed by Microsoft and the American
Printing House for the Blind (APH). It works by putting code blocks using audio
to represent sequencing and variables to teach people who are blind and vision
impaired how to code. This may improve employment opportunities for people who
are blind and is a very exciting initiative.
Another interesting product is the Norm Glasses which contain a computer within the glasses. The accessibility aspects of this is that they have the ability to display captions during video playback and are based on Android so it contains basic smartphone capabilities such as the Google assistant and turn-by-turn navigation which has the potential to bring in augmented reality in an accessible way. Still very early days in this space but certainly the potential for real-time captioning and audio navigation could open new doors for people with disabilities in engaging with the environment.
Perhaps one of the most interesting devices from CES 2020 this year is more about its future potential for people with disabilities than what it is currently able to achieve. The Next Mind allows for thought control interaction with virtual and augmented reality. It works by translating thoughts into commands which has a huge potential for supporting people with mobility, speech and cognitive disabilities to simply think about where they want to go or do and the command is represented in the visual interface. While it will also be some time before this is something that could be used everyday, its potential for a variety of disability groups could be groundbreaking.
It’s a great honour and privilege to share with you that my book ‘Outrunning the Night: a life journey of disability, determination and joy” had its Vietnamese translation launch at the RMIT Vietnam Ho Chi Minh City campus.
The translation project began when I visited RMIT Vietnam in 2017 where Đỗ Đức Minh, an RMIT Vietnam employee of Wellbeing Services that supports students registered with Equitable Learning Services, asked if my book could be shared with the wider Vietnamese community through the creation of a translated version. Thanks to his efforts and the dedication of translators Lê Thị Vân Nga and Đào Thị Lệ Xuân over 14 months, the translation was completed.
The book launch focused initially on the book contents, discussing topics relating to my early life and diagnosis, the importance of family and friends, education and employment, the need to give back and the challenges associated in getting out the front door. The presentation then turned to the Vietnamese translation itself and how the translation team led to the translation of the book into Vietnamese as a paperback and professionally recorded audio book. After the presentation, a book signing took place where 100 paperback copies were provided.
The development of the Vietnamese translation of the book and audio recording would not have been possible without the generous support of the following people and organisations:
Do Duc Minh, Student Aid Co-ordinator RMIT University, Vietnam
Tran Le Nhu Phuong, Safer Community Advisor, RMIT University, Vietnam
Dao Lam Duy Duong, Alumni, RMIT Vietnam
Le Thi Van Nga, Translator
Dao Thi Le Xuan, Translator
Vu Thi Tuyet Mai, representative of Cristofoffel Blinden Mission (CBM), Vietnam. Sponsor of the Vietnamese translation.