Yesterday was the first day of the Web 4 All interdisciplinary conference on Accessibility. David Sloan presented a joint paper written by myself and Brian Kelly. Although watching from afar, resources and connections are beginning to spin out of the event – even for those of us in different time-zones. David has posted his presentation slides on Slideshare, you can view them below, or alternatively, visit David’s slideshare page and view the slides with text equivalent.
On Monday the 7th Internation Cross-Disciplinary Conference on Web Accessibility begins in Raleigh, USA. This year’s conference theme is Developing Regions: Common Goals, Common Problems?. I’m pleased to say that a paper I’ve co-written with Brian Kelly (UKOLN, University of Bath) and David Sloan (Digital Media Access Group, School of Computing, University of Dundee) has been accepted for the conference. David will be presenting the paper on Monday 26th April at 11am (4pm GMT). I’ll link to our paper ‘Developing Countries; Developing Experiences: Approaches to Accessibility for the Real World’ as and when it becomes available following the conference.
If you’d like to follow the conference remotely, consider using micro-blogging site Twitter or Accessible Twitter, either as a registered user or bystander. I’ll be following David’s reports over the course of the W4A Web Accessibility Conference at @sloandr, as well as Brian’s during the parallel WWW conference via @briankelly.
If you’d like to know more about both Twitter and it’s role in facilitating my collaboration with Brian and David, Brian has blogged about our first virtual meeting.
Otherwise, you may have noticed it’s been pretty quiet here at Lewthwaite Towers as I press on with my PhD and complete my ‘Exploring Disability History’ teaching at Sheffield Hallam University. The last two months have been hugely rewarding, hopefully I’ll be putting more into the public domain over the next few weeks – not least because May 1st is Blogging Against Disablism Day! If you’d like to actively take part in this great online festival, be sure to visit the brilliant Diary of a Goldfish.
Yesterday I received an email from the Ann Craft Trust, a national UK charity which works to protect disabled children and adults with learning disabilities from abuse.
The Trust undertake vital work, as recent studies have shown that around 60% of adults with learning disabilities have experienced abuse at some point in their lives. There is also strong evidence that disabled children are significantly more likely to be abused than children who are not disabled.
The charity is looking for a web developer with the time and accessible web skills to do a piece of voluntary work, redesigning their website. This will involve creating a new template to tie in with the charity’s new branding. Visit the current Ann Craft Trust website to find out more about the charity and its work.
If you are interested or think you can help, please contact Charlie Heywood the Marketing and Development Officer for the Ann Craft Trust via Charlotte.Heywood@nottingham.ac.uk . Please copy and paste or forward this call to your networks.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had a lot of hits from people looking for online learning materials to support a new term of CACDAP courses in British Sign Language (tap BSL into the search box if you’re looking for links to video resources). As a result I’ve been thinking about the BSL resources found online more generally. On Tuesday I was at AbilityNet’s ‘Accessibility 2.0: a million flower’s bloom’ conference. An early tip was Australian presenter Lisa Herrod (@ScenarioGirl), a consultant from Scenario Seven, and expert in User Experience for Deaf users. Her talk ‘Understanding Deafness: History, Language and the Web’ blew this subject wide open.
Lisa’s presentation and slides are now available via AbilityNet. A transcript will become available soon.
Lisa’s presentation was a timely reminder of the ways in which Deaf people are often overlooked in internet practice and research:
people tend to group deaf, Deaf and Hearing Impaired users into one big group of people who “just can’t hear. Most of us know someone that has diminished hearing through age or industrial damage, noise etc. But few of us understand Deafness from a cultural, linguistic perspective, i.e. from the perspective of those Deaf who use sign language as a first language and may not be fluent in English as a second language.
British Sign Language is the first language for approximately 50,000 Deaf people in the UK. This gestural language is wholly different to spoken and written English. Lisa highlighted how developments from texting through to video conferencing have had a huge and positive impact on distance communications for the Deaf community. In this sense Web 2.0 provides powerful tools for Deaf people to come together. However, Lisa also showed how internet resources can cause problems for Sign Language users due to an over-reliance on large amounts of complicated text; text that assumes a fluent native speaker. In short, Web 2.0 is effective for Signed collaboration, but the textual basis of content is still a problem.
So far, these observations have clear intersects with accessibility issues for foreign language speakers and people with print impairments such as dyslexia. However, a specific barrier unique to Deaf people online can come in the form of video captioning. In discussion, Lisa identified a vital distinction between captioning and subtitling. Captioning reports speech directly into text, whereas Subtitling is more interpretive and intended for quick and easy understanding. Where a person with dyslexia might watch and listen to a video rather than read a text, with dubbed versions available to French or Chinese viewers, interpretive subtitling allows a Deaf person to understand and take in visual content.
Another powerful message from Lisa’s presentation relates to the global status of BSL more specifically. Early in her talk Lisa refuted a common popular misconception that Deaf people across the world have the same signed language. Spoken English and American English are nearly identical, but British Sign Language and American Sign Language (ASL) are very different. In fact, ASL has more in common with French Sign Language due to a shared linguistic ancestry stemming from the 1800s. As with the development of any language, Sign Languages have grown out of small communities and expanded simultaneously from disparate beginnings. This history forcefully underlines the difference between ASL and BSL, but what does it mean for the web?
BSL speakers are a linguistic minority online. American English is a dominant internet language, and in my experience, American Sign Language also dominate searches and resources. BSL is from the same family of languages as Auslan (Australian Sign Language) and New Zealand Sign Language, but the American orientation of internet culture made it difficult for me as a BSL beginner to find resources relevant to the UK beyond established portals and communities. In these terms, British Sign Language must be prioritised online at every level. Other accessibility concerns may be solved or mediated with international expertise. But the national and linguistic independence of British Deaf culture means that accessible video/text and BSL materials must be prioritised in the UK.
Time for me to sign up for BSL Level 2.
With the all-too-immanent arrival of the next academic year, the conference season is fast approaching here in the UK. Here are two select highlights.
First up is the RNIB’s Techshare conference from the 16 – 18 September 2009 at the ExCeL centre in London. TechShare is a pan-disability assistive technology conference and exhibition. Speakers make up a virtual who’s who of accessibility, including representatives from JISC TechDis, the W3C, IBM, Google and the RNIB. Unfortunately the early-bird discount has now expired – and there are no other discounted rates (that I could find). The costs for 2 days starts at £365 (not including VAT) with a 1 day ticket coming in at £265 + VAT. On-site registration costs more. Pre-conference workshops, accommodation and dinner are extra. However, the accompanying exhibition is free to attend and is open to the public from 12pm to 5pm on 17 and 18 September. Do note, the RNIB encourage registration for attending the exhibition.
The date for the second national conference on Accessibility 2.0 has also been set by Accessibility impresarios AbilityNet for the 22nd of September 2009 at Microsoft’s base nr Victoria Station. If last year’s conference is anything to go by, ‘Accessibility 2.0: A million flowers bloom‘ will be of great interest to those looking to find the cutting-techy-edge of accessible web development, with plenty of food for thought for those of us engaged in Web 2.0 more broadly. This is also a conference with a high precedent for impact. Presentations from last year’s event were freely available in multiple formats after the conference, as were tools and news spinning out in response to presentations.
For those in Disability Studies, academic support and more social disciplines, my tip for a highlight is Lisa Herrod presenting on the use of social networks by Deaf users. BSL is available for delegates on request. Prices for the full day are:
- Full price £195
- Promotional £170
- Student £100 (includes VAT)
I’m pleased to say I’ll be attending Accessibility 2.0 for the second year. I hope to see you there.
Last week I blogged about the InterFace Symposium in Southampton. As with many events, the organisers sought to enhance delegate experiences and communities using a mix of social networks and other Web 2.0 tools (a Ning social network, Micro-blogging with Twitter, online publishing with Scribd). It can be difficult to quickly assess the accessibility of such services and make decisions as to which service is most appropriate – or at least it was until JISC TechDis and Southampton University pulled together to create Web2Access.
Web2Access is a great reference site for anyone wanting to make more informed decisions about applying web 2.0 tools in an accessible way. The resource allows you to search for information in different ways. You can search by activity (for example, collaborative writing or ) and Web2 Access will then give you a percent score on the success of those applications in accessibility terms. So at time of writing Twitter scores an overall 88% , Accessible Twitter scores 95%, Facebook 69%, Ning 72%. These ratings are subjecting and based on manual and automatic tests. If you follow links for each individual service, you can discover more detailed information about how each service scores for users with different disabilities. Alternatively you can browse by Disability or using the Search box on the website front page. There are also useful pages describing how the sites listed have been tested, answering Frequently Asked Questions and linking to useful e-Learning resources.
If you are involved in organising teaching and learning and are wanting to make more use of Web 2.0 services in your e-learning activities, or if you are interested in how Web 2.0 can supplement your existing methods, or events in an accessible way, Web2Access provides a rule of thumb for most situations.