Monday, 27 October 2008

Software Solutions To Accessibility

This has been contributed by Girish Managoli, an employee of MindTree.

There are a large number of web users with different needs. How do these people access information? How do they read? What do they actually see? Do they find the web friendly?

There are many types of users with varying needs:
The Visually Impaired: This group typically uses a screen reader (like JAWS) or a screen magnifier (like ZoomText). Pretty layouts, color coordination, nice looking fonts- none of this matters. They look for ways to quickly get to the content not having to wade through a lot of junk. Drop-down menus, pictures without ALT text and not knowing what a link does before clicking are some of their peeves. This group does not use the mouse. They rely on voice inputs. Any website or application that relies completely on the use of a mouse is out of bounds for this group.

The Deaf: This group has no use for sounds and relies extensively on visual content. Non-captioned videos are their pet peeves.

The Dyslexic: Controls that cannot be accessed easily, cluttered links and small fonts put this group off. They would like to have their content organized and the flow predictable.

Other Impairments: This group includes users with motor and neural impairments like cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. Like the dyslexic, this group would like to see their content uncluttered, avoiding unintentional clicks on surrounding links. They would want to quickly access information without having to click or scroll multiple times.

Apart from the above mentioned groups, there are others users like the color blind and the users with multiple disabilities like deaf-blind.

Accessibility is important for all of the above. The web is extremely powerful and has changed lives like never before. It brings them information otherwise inaccessible and enables them to be more aware of the world. It has made them find new interests from around the world. It has made them independent; allowed them to find new vocations and has made a whole new life possible.

Now, it only makes sense to make the web more inclusive.

Software Solutions To Accessibility
I recently stumbled upon an action program that promotes accessibility. It’s called "Scripting Enabled". [1]

The event dedicates the first day to listen to the problems faced by users. The second day is aptly called "Hack Day" where real developers get together to create real working prototypes that solve these problems.

Samples From Hack Day:
The Visually Impaired
The problem: For the visually impaired, Slideshare is difficult to use to find the text. Here’s an example: http://www.slideshare.net/AfshanKirmani/an-introduction-to-graphic-design-presentation

The solution: Easy Slideshare (shown in Figure 1), a hack that extracts and displays only the text from the slides. [2] The figure below shows you the content from the presentation where the tool was able to extract this information.


Figure 1: The Easy Slideshare tool that displays the text of a presentation.

The Dyslexic And The Physically Impaired
The Problem: The controls of YouTube player are small and difficult to access.

The Solution:
1. The Easy YouTube (shown in Figure 2), a hack that displays the video with large controls. [3]


Figure 2: YouTube vs. the Easy YouTube, a hack that displays the video with large controls.

2. YouTube does not make it easy to add captions for videos. Another hack, the YouTube captioner (shown in Figure 3), provides you with the possibilities. [4]


Figure 3: The YouTube Captioner allows you to add captions.

Tips From Developers:
• Using JavaScript to increase accessibility [5]
• Searchability of Flash [6]

Conclusion
How important is accessibility in the context of our day-to-day lives? Is it relevant to us as something more than an academic interest? I would love to hear from you.
Please leave a comment or email me at Girish_Managoli [at] mindtree.com

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References:
[1] http://scriptingenabled.org/
[2] http://icant.co.uk/easy-slideshare/about/
[3] First presentation on http://scriptingenabled.org/presentations/
[4] http://icant.co.uk/sandbox/youtube-captioning.html
[5] & [6] Presentations and links on http://scriptingenabled.org/presentations/

Saturday, 18 October 2008

An Introduction To Graphic Design

This slideshow provides an introduction to graphic design. It illustrates the growth of it, especially during the Web 2.0 age. This was presented by Viraj and Veena, our designers at MindTree Limited.



The slideshow uses images and examples from external sources. The respective owners hold the copyright.

Friday, 17 October 2008

News in Design, Design and More Design

This has been contributed by Rajesh Barde, an employee of MindTree.

With emerging content spanning across several websites, design is becoming a niche market placed within this vast world.

This week you get another interesting player in the market.

Here is your access to it!

What Are The Trends Today?
Real World Comparison

As seen in the real world, readers sip on their coffee and read content that is pushed to them. But in today’s online world, there are several other aspects like the ability to retrieve archives, the ability to categorize favorites, and the ability to make a world of your own here; this coupled with a cup of coffee!

Creating An Online Persona
More than individuals contributing to certain topics on their Blog, they find the need to create a website that does not reveal their identity. This removes bias and subjectivity in running a business/hobby online.

The Features That Come Along With It
It’s quite a thrill to see information being published that would interest a particular audience. And what’s more captivating today is not just the information being pushed forward to its readers but also the features that come along with it.

With this site, the ‘open filter’ works well as it propagates good design. Living up to your work is again a primary objective.

Targeting Your Audience
The rich look and feel of any publication or a website seems to bring in that keen interest in the audience. Especially, if you are targeting to, let’s say designers, you better give them what they want. The visual aspect of this website keeps their readers coming back for more.

Retaining Your Audience
Most websites today do have a way to subscribe or bookmark the content. This is extremely beneficial especially when you look at the competitive industry today. This website uses an 'Add to Favorites' section and also an 'RSS' feed that helps their readers keep in touch with the events and news around the world.