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Dr Scott Hollier - Digital Access Specialist Posts

ANZ requires blind man to visit branch during Coronavirus crisis to collect bank refund or money lost

As a digital access specialist, there are times when issues arise that force people with disability to respond to things that are so completely unnecessary that there doesn’t seem to be any logic to it. I’ve just had  one such instance happened to me, and thought it was a great case study into the challenges of digital access.

ANZ bank sent a letter to me, which in itself is logistically difficult to read as I’m legally blind. In the letter which my daughter helped read out to me, it stated that due to the bank making errors in its deductions for cash payments, it had provided me with a refund of $16.74. Always happy to receive money that’s unexpected, I assumed that this would naturally be credited back to my account.

However, as my daughter continued to read the letter, it indicated that in the same envelope was a physical bank cheque which would need to be cashed at an ANZ bank branch. The letter stated that if this cheque was not cashed in a relatively short period of time, the money would be donated to charity.

Under normal circumstances this would be a bit challenging in itself: taxi fares for a round trip to my bank alone would cost more than the cheque is worth, and in the digital age there’s no reason they couldn’t  have told me about the payment via the SecureMail facility in my online banking, and just credited the amount to my account.

However, this isn’t a normal time: due to the Coronavirus when our society is being required to stay away from non-essential travel and self-isolate, my bank has threatened to take my money away if I don’t physically appear at an ANZ branch which goes against all the messaging currently coming from the Federal and state governments.

So, in essence, ANZ have sent me a letter saying they owe me money for a bank error but will also be taking it away from me shortly as I have no mechanism to effectively go to an ANZ branch to bank it. I tried calling ANZ but each time the automated voice said that based on my responses my request wasn’t important enough and hung up on me.

This perfectly illustrates why ensuring people with disability have effective access to digital content: if the letter was provided via an accessible secure portal and the amount added to my account, there would be no issue. The irony is that ANZ have very accessible banking products, even winning an Award for their digital access, so if they’d just used the channels available to them it would have been quite effective for me. The bigger issue though is that people with disability that have respiratory conditions may have also received a similar cheque, and it’s beyond comprehension that vulnerable people should be asked to visit a bank at this time.  

I’m not planning to cash my $16.74 now due to the Coronavirus crisis recommendations by the government. However, if I were in a difficult financial situation which many people who have just lost their jobs are, then ANZ would have created a whole lot of movement by people at a time when it’s least preferred.  I challenge ANZ and other financial institutions to consider the needs of people with disability when planning these processes

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W3C WAI publishes XR Accessibility User Requirements draft

I’m excited to report that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) working group that I’m involved in, has recently published its first public working draft of the XR Accessibility User Requirements (XAUR).

The draft was developed by the W3C WAI Accessible Platform Architecture working group’s Research Questions Task Force (RQTF). The purpose of the draft is to provide guidance on the accessibility of XR – an umbrella term to cover the spectrum of hardware, applications, and techniques used for virtual reality or immersive environments, augmented or mixed reality and other related technologies.

The accessibility aspects of the XAUR looks specifically at the implications for users in the XR space. As described in the Abstract, “This document lists user needs and requirements for people with disabilities when using virtual reality or immersive environments, augmented or mixed reality and other related technologies (XR). It first introduces a definition of XR as used throughout the document, then briefly outlines some uses of XR. It outlines the complexity of understanding XR, introduces some accessibility challenges such as the need for accessibility multimodal support for a range of input and output devices and the importance of customization. Based on this information, it 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.”

Examples of scenarios and guidance provided in the XAUR include the ability for a vision impaired person to zoom into a second of an XR environment without losing context, overcoming current XR issues across proprietary platforms which don’t contain an accessibility feature set and guidance on providing sign language support. A presentation about the XAUR that I did at the recent OZeWAI conference can be viewed in the video above. The draft will continue to evolve and feedback is welcome.

Scitech: a web accessibility case study

Scitech is a household name in Western Australia. Scitech’s work over the past three decades has brought cutting edge science to everyone from adventure-ready kids to inquisitive adults – igniting a lifelong curiosity in the process. Recently Scitech decided it was time to take on a different kind of adventure: building a new website that ensured effective access for people with disability – with fantastic results. Here’s some insights into Scitech’s accessibility journey.

Screenshot of Scitech homepage

As the new website neared completion, a website assessment was conducted by the Centre for Accessibility’s Dr Scott Hollier to determine its compliance to the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standard. This involved testing with several automated accessibility tools and code validators, a variety of different assistive technologies including screen readers on desktop and mobile devices along with dictation software and several different browsers across Windows, Mac, iOS and Android.

Once the technologies and a baseline were determined, sample pages were identified for the testing. This included a range of pages based on typical content, multimedia content, event pages, interactive elements such as forms and date pickers, and the home page. Once the assessment was complete, it was found that overall, the Scitech website worked well in broad terms, but some accessibility issues needed to be addressed.

Video playback

One of the issues picked up in the testing was that the initial video playback lacked controls. This included controls for fast forwarding and rewinding videos and adjusting the volume. With the issue identified Scitech were able to replace the video plug-in with a more accessible video player, ensuring that all control functionality for the video was available.

Descriptive links

Screenshot of Scitech education page

A common accessibility issue is the use of descriptions such as ‘click here’ ‘or ‘read more’ which are difficult for screen reader users as it’s not clear what the ‘click here’ or ‘read more’ will do. Taking this feedback on board, Scitech worked to ensure their links are more descriptive so that it’s now clear what links will do if selected.

Colour contrast

Screenshot of Scitech exhibition page

A common accessibility issue that can creep in during development is issues relating to colour contrast. This may be through the use of colour alone to identify a change which makes it difficult for people with a colour vision impairment, or poor contrast overall. While the Scitech website prior to launch had considered contrast, there were some elements where colour alone was used and other sections where the recommended 4.5:1 colour contrast ratio had dipped in places. Taking the feedback on board, Scitech rectified the the issues ensuring that the website has an excellent use of colour.

Screenshot of Scitech find us page

Form fields

In the initial review, there were some form fields such as the Search box which were difficult for assistive technology users to pick up. This issue was easily addressed, and the search box now works well.

Mobile Orientation

Another issue that was identified in the accessibility assessment and testing related to screen orientation whereby some elements would not view correctly in both portrait mode and landscape mode. This would mean that if a person had their mobile device mounted in a particular position, there would be aspects of the website that didn’t function correctly. Scitech worked with their developers to address this issue and the website now works great in both portrait and landscape modes.

With the new Scitech website now live, it’s great to see that its accessibility journey is largely complete with ongoing vigilance from its development and content teams to ensure that accessibility issues don’t creep back in.

Many thanks to Scitech for the opportunity to provide the assessment.

W3C WAI publishes WCAG 2.2 first public working draft

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)  Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI Accessibility Guidelines Working Group has published a first public working draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2.

The 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.

According to W3C WAI, the development of the WCAG 2.2 draft will likely feature up to 12 additional Success Criteria, providing additional guidance for users of mobile devices and users of e-books.

In this initial draft, the Success Criteria 2.4.7 Focus visible from WCAG 2.0 and 2.1 has been changed from level AA to level A. In addition, there has been a focus on one new success criterion: 2.4.11 Focus visible (Enhanced) for Level AA implementation. These changes make the original Focus Visible an essential requirement, with the new Success Criterion providing updated guidance at Level AA on optimising its implementation.

The New Success Criterion is described as follows:

“When a User Interface Component displays a visible keyboard focus, all of the following are true:

  • Minimum area: The focus indication area is greater than or equal to the longest side of the bounding rectangle of the focused control, times 2 CSS pixels.
  • Focus contrast: Color changes used to indicate focus have at least a 3:1 contrast ratio with the colors changed from the unfocused control.
  • Contrast or thickness: The focus indication area has a 3:1 contrast ratio against all adjacent colors for the minimum area or greater, or has a thickness of at least 2 CSS pixels.”

The changing of Focus Visible to Level A, and the specific guidance on border size and colour contrast at Level AA, is likely to significantly improve the web navigation experience for people who have vision or cognitive disabilities.  While it is very early days on the WCAG 2.2 development, it is an encouraging beginning and has the potential of providing some additional support while the next-generation Silver standard remains in development.

Feedback on the draft can be provided to W3C via the WCAG 2.2 GitHub process or by e-mail public-agwg-comments@w3.org.

PWAC + OZeWAI 2020 conference highlights

This year 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 Industry by 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!

Of course 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.