Transcription: Web Axe Episode 86 (EDUCAUSE Review, AHG Preview, HTML5 Audio with Terrill Thompson)

[Introduction, woman's voice over music] Welcome to Web Axe, practical web accessibility tips. Web Axe dot blogspot dot com. Web Axe. Web site accessibility. Web standards. Web Axe dot blogspot dot com.

Dennis: Hello and welcome to Web Axe Podcast number 86. This is your host Dennis.

Ross Johnson: And I'm Ross.

Dennis: Welcome again, Ross. How's it going?

Ross Johnson: Pretty good. Pretty good. Happy Halloween.

Dennis: Happy Halloween to you. [Sound of wolf howling.] Spooky...

Ross Johnson: Heh-heh. So have you done anything scary lately?

Dennis: Late last night, I twittered a modification of the Accessible Twitter avatar.

Ross Johnson: I did see that.

Dennis: Wasn't that funny?

Ross Johnson: Yeah. I liked it.

Dennis: He's like this devil-dracula [Ross laughs] modification, so it's pretty funny. Look that up if you haven't seen it, folks. Of course, today's..

Ross Johnson: It'll be there for a limited time, right?

Dennis: Well, it's not actually, I didn't actually my avatar on Twitter. I just twitpic'ed it.

Ross Johnson: Ah.

Dennis: Yeah, it's a long story. [Ross laughs.] Anyhow, so today is Halloween, October 31st. Of course, this podcast will come out a few days later, but it's fun always to talk about Halloween.

Ross Johnson: It is. It is. Are you dressing up this year?

Dennis: Ah, I'll just usually do my monster mask thing, the kids are dressing up and going trick-or-treating so it's going to be a good time.

Ross Johnson: OK. Wasn't sure if maybe you'd go as, like, the WCAG guidelines.

Dennis: Ha ha ha ha. Yeah, I should think of something clever like that for next year.

Ross Johnson: I don't know how you'd do it. I guess you'd have to have a bunch of papers and they could say WCAG guidelines on the front.

Dennis: I could attach some assistive technology to myself.

Ross Johnson: Ha ha. You could be a screen reader! That'd be easy enough.

Dennis: Yeah. Anyhow, OK so we have a few articles to discuss. The first one is a new article from WebAIM, Using VoiceOver to Evaluate Web Accessibility. If I'm not mistaken, I think they did an NVDA one, article like this in the past, but anyway, there's a new one. I went through the article. I haven't actually done it myself yet, which I need to, but it's not too long, not too short an article with some good practical tips on evaluating your site with the VoiceOver screen reader so it's pretty neat. Have you used it much? VoiceOver?

Ross Johnson: I haven't. You know, I've read a lot about it, but I haven't actually gotten around to giving it a shot.

Dennis: Yeah, I've turned it on on my somewhat new MacBook. And it's pretty cool. I've tried it out, but haven't done anything, any serious testing yet. If anyone out there has some good tips, please leave a comment in the show notes.

Ross Johnson: Yeah, 'cause I haven't gotten any further than opening up a document and having it read that, but it seems like it works pretty well.

Dennis: Oh yeah. If you're aware, it's not directly related to web accessibility, but on Twitter, I suppose if you're looking for an accessibility related tweet from more than a week or so ago, you’re going to have a hard time because Twitter doesn't provide that service. You're either going to have to use Google or there's a couple other Twitter search specific web applications out there and one of them is called TOPSY. T O P S Y dot com. It also does photos and stuff, too, I think, but one of the main options is for tweets so you could search for tweets that go further back than just a week or so. It's a pretty good tool. I've used it for a week or so and I'm pretty happy with it so far.

Ross Johnson: There's plenty of times where I've come across a tweet on my BlackBerry and I try to find it later, maybe a few days later, and it's hard to find, so I'll remember this one.

Dennis: It has trending topics, too. I haven't tested the site itself for accessibility, but it's mostly text so I would hope it's somewhat accessible.

[Music and man's voice sings "Web Axe"]

Dennis Lembree. OK now I know you put this one in our show notes. Tips for Designing for Colorblind Users.

Ross Johnson: Yeah, I came across this article on Design Shack. You know there's been a lot of articles in the past about colorblind users and accessibility, but I thought this one did a particularly good job giving examples in how to get around common colorblindness issues. Something as simple as, you know, using shading on, you know, greens for example, can help differentiate two different areas, or if you're just using two different shades of green, maybe that wouldn't work.

Dennis: Yeah, they have several really good examples.

Ross Johnson: It's the sort of thing that's easy to kind of forget, especially if you're just designing, you actually have the visuals, they really play an important role in accessibility.

Dennis: And Joe Dolson has also recently come out with an article explaining about colorblindness. I think I put that in the October link roundups. You could find it there. It's good stuff, good stuff from both folks.

[Music and man's voice sings "Web Axe"]

Ross Johnson: Then I came also across this — it's actually a book, but it's been published online, and I haven't had a chance to look through it, but it looks really interesting. It's called "Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design". It's a web accessibility book as it relates to design. It's published for free. You can get a print version, it looks like, but the entire book is online and has some pretty big testimonials like Jeffrey Zeldman and Roger Johansson and Cameron Moll.

Dennis: Nice. I'm looking at the footer. It says it's written by Shawn Lawton Henry who is of the W3C. Good stuff. It says you can get a print version if you want to print it out, but who wants to print it out these days?

Ross Johnson: It looks good.

Dennis: Very nice. Check that out. Let us know what you think.

[Music and man's voice sings "Web Axe"]

Dennis: And now, the main segments. I spoke again with Terrill Thompson of the DO-IT program at University of Washington, and we discussed the EDUCAUSE conference down in the LA area which was just a couple weeks ago, and various topics including HTML5 video and other good stuff, so thank you again, Terry, for coming on the show, and here it is.

Dennis: I have Terrill Thompson on the line. Hi, Terry.

Terrill Thompson: Hi, Dennis.

Dennis: How are things with you?

Terrill Thompson: They're doing well. Can’t complain at all on this lovely October day.

Dennis: The weather's definitely cooling down and getting a little rainy.

Terrill Thompson: Yup.

Dennis: So you've been pretty busy of late. Besides, I guess I should ask you for a short introduction. You were on the show once before, so welcome back

Terrill Thompson: Thank you.

Dennis: And before we get into everything going on, can you give us a brief introduction of yourself?

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, I'm Terrill Thompson, I am Technology Accessibility Specialist at the University of Washington, and I work there with a project called DO-IT which is Disability, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology, and we've been around since the early '90s with our first National Science Foundation grant to work with kids with disabilities who are starting in high school and pursuing challenging careers, primarily in science, technology, engineering, and math. So we've had a number of grants over the years to work with the kids themselves, as well as with their schools and with post-secondary education institutions and employers to just sort of carve out a path from high school into college and into careers and to eliminate some of the barriers that stand between those kids as they're trying to pursue their dreams. So that's kind of what DO-IT is all about, and I work on several grants currently. The one that I spend the most time on is one called AccessComputing and that again is funded by the National Science Foundation. And I apologize, I'm at home as we speak now so you're probably going to hear some dog noises in the background.

Dennis: Ha ha. That’s all right.

Terrill Thompson: Ha ha. Just one of those things. And it's Saturday so the dogs know we’re going hiking after this interview. They're a little rambunctious.

Dennis: Nice. You might hear some kids over here in a little while.

[Laughter from both.]

Terrill Thompson: Good we're casual.

Dennis: Yeah.

Terrill Thompson: So Access Computing is focused on broadening the participation of people with disabilities in the computing field. There's recognition on the part of NSF that diversity in the computing field is a good thing. It's good for computing, it's good for the country, and so they’ve funded us repeatedly now to work on projects to broaden participation. That includes working with kids to encourage them to pursue computing fields and exposing them to how exciting and cool computer science is as well as working with faculty members in computer science and others in post-secondary education to make computing more accessible to those students. So it's a pretty exciting project to be part of and as part of that and the various other grants that have funded my position over the years, I do travel quite a bit doing workshops and trainings and going to conferences, and so you mentioned that I had been pretty busy lately, and we’re kind of in the middle of the Fall conference season. They sort of seem to be seasonal. You get lots of things going on in the Spring and lots of things going on in the Fall. I really enjoy this time of year. A couple of my favorite conferences are EDUCAUSE, which I just got back from, and Accessing Higher Ground, which is coming up in a couple of weeks, so, really cool.

Dennis: Right, so I know you wanted to talk about EDUCAUSE so why don’t you go ahead and tell us what you did there and what goes on. That's in Southern California, right?

Terrill Thompson. Yeah, it rotates, and so it's a different place each year. I think it was in, I believe it was in Denver last year.

Dennis: Oh.

Terrill Thompson: Or maybe that was 2 years ago, I get them all mixed up. [Dennis laughs.] But I've been going to EDUCAUSE since 2002 and every year except one. And it does rotate around quite a bit. It was in Anaheim this year, which was nice. I took the kids down and did Disney on the weekend prior to the conference, but it is the higher education technology conference. Very huge deal. EDUCAUSE itself is an association, a non-profit organization with 16,000 or more members representing 2000 educational institutions, so pretty much every college and university has members at the table, representatives at the table, representing all facets of IT, so you've got web developers, you've got administrators and CIOs and there are people who manage computer labs and anybody who has anything to do with technology on a higher education campus could potentially have some role in EDUCAUSE.

Dennis: So it's US, though, right?

Terrill Thompson: It is international and quite a few international people attend the conference.

Dennis: Oh, OK.

Terrill Thompson: It's primarily U.S. and Canada, but yes, there's some international presence. Quite a few folks from Japan stopped by our booth. EDUCAUSE has gotten behind an IT Accessibility Constituent Group, and that's kind of the role that I've been playing over the last few years is chair of that group.

Dennis: Oh.

Terrill Thompson: And that's, you know, people who are working specifically to promote technology and accessibility within EDUCAUSE and to get that message elevated within EDUCAUSE as an organization. So we're trying to find ways to pioneer accessibility within the trade show and the conference as well as in EDUCAUSE publications and other venues trying to raise awareness with all of these IT people, you know, how important accessibility is and what sort of steps you can take to make sure the technology is accessible.

Dennis: Right. So did DO-IT have the booth there?

Terrill Thompson: Well, it was a constituent group hosted effort, so it was really all of us from the constituent group pitching in and working on it. My travel there and my work on that project was funded by the Access Computing grant. But it ultimately was about a dozen institutions that had a role in putting together what ultimately was called the IT Accessiblity Center. This was kind of a conference within a conference. We had 600 square feet on the exhibit hall floor which EDUCAUSE provided, too, and half of that was a theater where we had presentations and the other half were demo stations where we had interactive, uh, opportunities to talk with and interact with people who stopped by and just wanted to talk about accessibility or wanted to check out their websites using assistive technology, that sort of thing.

Dennis: Very cool.

Terrill Thompson: In the theater portion, we had 22 sessions so we really scheduled this like a conference.

Dennis: Wow.

Terrill Thompson: Had accessibility talks throughout. Some of those were by vendors because we did ultimately have 7 corporate sponsors who helped to offset the cost. These were all companies that have taken some steps toward accessibility and want to talk about accessibility, and so this is good to have them there to share their thoughts about strategies they’ve used to implement accessibility in their products and so forth. And a number of talks by CIOs and senior IT leaders. Those I think were the best received of them all. As they were talking, they had peers dropping by and listening to what they had to say, and these are all CIOs who have had some experiences with accessibility on their campuses so they had some real-life things to share.

Dennis: Yeah.

Terrill Thompson: What accessibility is all about and, you know, some strategies for addressing accessibility on their campuses. So all in all, it was a really good productive time, I think. And after the conference, toward the end of the conference, the IT Accessibility Constituent Group got together for their annual meeting and we mostly just sort of asked what just happened, how did we think it went and what do we do from here. We all sort of agreed that it was successful. We needed to figure out how do we measure success and what was the goal of the center and a couple of ideas that came up were that we were there to provide answers to visitors' questions about accessibility, but a lot of people at EDUCAUSE really don't come with questions about accessibility, they haven't really given it much thought. So I think a greater goal was probably to raise awareness, just to simply educate the people about the fact that accessibility is an important issue that they need to be thinking about and we did have lots of opportunity to talk to vendors and to help them understand accessibility better and encourage them to make their products accessible and to talk with the senior IT leaders on campus, the CIOs, about accessibility. Are they asking for accessible products when they are making purchases? Is accessibility a documented requirement in their RFPs? Do they have accessibility policies? You know these are all the sorts of things that we had an opportunity to explore and would like to continue exploring with this audience. Very exciting afterwards now. There's quite a bit of talk right now about accessibility on the CIO discussion list. EDUCAUSE hosts a discussion list for CIOs and there’s a discussion right now happening about evaluation tools that people use on their campuses for measuring accessibility and tracking it, so it’s great to see that that discussion is actually taking place.

Dennis: Yeah, definitely.

Terrill Thompson: We have a number of action items for moving forward over the next year to just continue on this moment.

Dennis: Great, so a similar group will be there doing a similar thing next year?

Terrill Thompson: Um, probably, we're not sure what form that will take. We don't know whether we'll have an IT Accessibility Center, whether EDUCAUSE will support us at the same level they did this year. They were up front from the beginning that this was a pilot, and they have to now evaluate themselves and they'll be back huddling trying to figure out what just happened from their experience, you know, whether they want to continue doing the same sort of thing. Another challenge for them is that they had a number of constituent groups, not just accessibility, and so this was a test to see whether it's the kind of thing they could replicate for all the other constituent groups as well.

Dennis: Ah.

Terrill Thompson: That might be kind of tough to pull off.

Dennis: OK.

Terrill Thompson: So we’ll see. If they don't support us, maybe we can seek grant funding to explore it independently, but we certainly want to have some sort of presence and just continue this discussion and continue to raise awareness.

Dennis: Do you know where EDUCAUSE is going to be held next year?

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, it's going to be in Philly next year. So if folks out there are listening and are in higher education and involved in any capacity in technology and would like to join this effort, then the IT Accessibility Constituent Group is the group to get connected with. There are actually 200 members now or close to it, so it's a very big group and very active and lots of people are really involved and we meet. Now we're going to be sort of doing off-season on a once-per-month teleconference schedule, but the first Wednesday of every month, we’ll get together and talk about progress and goals and keep moving things forward. I guess we'll put the URL up on the...

Dennis: Yeah, I was going to say, I was looking at the home page. Its just EDUCAUSE. E D U cause dot E D U. And I see even that they’re on Twitter. I don't know if that's active but it's the same. EDUCAUSE is all it is. E D U C A U S E.

Terrill Thompson: The constituent group home page is a little trickier to get to, you can just Google "EDUCAUSE IT Accessibility Constituent Croup" and that'll get you there.

Dennis: OK, but if you could send me the link, I'll put that one up too.

Terrill Thompson: Regarding Twitter, they actually had a really active Twitter presence at the conference. They had Twitter back channels for each session.

Dennis: Oh yeah?

Terrill Thompson: So there was an overall conference back channel. They used to be in Boulder, which I really enjoyed going there just because Boulder was a great place, but it's not far away now and it's easy enough to get a cab and head to Boulder or usually somebody's got a van or a car that they've rented.

[With the talk of Boulder, the conversation transitions to the topic of the Accessing Higher Ground conference.]

Dennis: Yeah, the first year I went was in Boulder, and I went to that hotel. Last year was the new one. So I am going to miss it this year.

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, there's some great stuff happening and I've been looking through the schedule to get a sense for what I'm going to be doing. I've got one or two presentations plus a DO-IT booth there, but I like to take in some of the other sessions that are going on too. I see that Jamie Johnson is going to be doing a session on designing media for mobile devices.

Dennis: Oh!

Terrill Thompson: Dean Brusnighan from Purdue is going to be talking about the captioning efforts that they’ve done there. I guess cthey've done quite a bit with captioning their video at Purdue. They've had a pilot project that it'd be interesting to see what kind of strategies they use, what kind of model they use, and how effective it was.

Dennis: Definitely!

Terrill Thompson: Lisa Fiedor of North Carolina State is going to be talking about Moodle accessibility, Matt May is going to be talking about accessible PDFs, there's a session on Drupal accessibility, and one that I'm actually really excited about is Jared Smith's moderated panel on "Do we need to change the web accessibility game plan", which I think is building on the blog post which you may recall back in April, there was on the Rebuilding The Web blog, there was a post kind of to that, I think it might have been titled the same or similar, "Do we need to change the web accessibility game plan?" That generated 61 comments and it was huge before they closed down the comments, you know. Some incredible discussion there. People were really brainstorming and tossing around ideas and debating so I think this is an opportunity to do that same sort of thing live. Just to extend that discussion, see where that leads us.

Dennis: Wow. That sounds like some great speakers and some great sessions. You're making me feel bad that I'm going to miss it.

Terrill Thompson: Well, it's not too late. [Terrill and Dennis laugh.]

Dennis: Hmm.

Terrill Thompson: You or anybody in your listening audience who wants to go, I certainly recommend it. It's a great time to learn a lot and to network with key players in the field.

Dennis: And the fees are low too; it's not expensive at all.

Terrill Thompson: Yeah. They’ve got a session there that, I guess it's in some ways related to Jared's panel and it was motivated by kind of the same ideas - could we doing something different basically and my session is on crowdsourcing accessibility, subtitled "Can accessibility be fixed for free with community help", and part of that I think is motivated by being a parent where I'm always telling the kids to pick something up and they usually reply "well, I didn't do that, that was my sister who did that." So I'm always trying to instill in them that if it needs to be picked up, pick it up, you know. Doesn't really matter who made the mess, just pick it up.

And so you know, I think that same thing could apply to the web, you know, we could point fingers, well, this is inaccessible, that you need to fix it, and obviously, that ultimately is what needs to happen, but in the meantime, if it's possible for us to fix it, just fix it. So that's the idea that I want to explore. What can we do to just fix things? That also comes from my start in this field back in the early 90s was in the independent living movement. I was coordinator of a computer training facility in an independent living center providing computer training to people with disabilities. It was very much a grassroots organization with a lot of it being consumers active in ADAPT. Are you familiar with ADAPT?

Dennis: Sounds familiar.

Terrill Thompson: It's kind of the sort of radical branch of the disability right movement: the folks who get out and do civil disobedience, and, you know, they're very strong activists in trying to get accessibility. And so there were a few ADAPT actions that I was involved with back in those days. We'd do things like go to Greyhound with a bunch of people in power chairs and everybody tries to ride the bus and Greyhound didn't have any accessible busses and you know, it was all just sort of to raise awareness and to get Greyhound's attention and to get the media's attention. We would do things like go to a business that doesn't have an accessible parking space and make one. [Dennis laughs.] You know get out the paint and the template and this parking space suddenly is an accessible parking space. [Both laugh.]

So it's the same idea, you know, with the web. You get an inaccessible website. Well, there are tools available that can allow you to add alt text or to add labels to inaccessible forms, modify the heading structure, add ARIA if it needs that, which a lot of sites do now. So part of this session is going to be theoretical, I'm just kind of exploring this idea - can we fix things just independently and is there any sort of efficacy in that model? Does that have some place in this puzzle of accessibility and part of it's going to be a technical session where we look at some of the tools that are available to help with that, like WebVisum is one, Serotek, the makers of System Access, have a community called See Saw, which is community-supported accessible web where they're all doing this kind of thing. IBM had, for a while, a social accessibility project. They built a really elaborate tool to support people logging accessibility problems as they encountered them and then those would go into a queue and another group of people would go through that queue and hammer out solutions.

And each of these all kind of work the same in that there is a central database of fixes, and people who subscribe or use the same tool have access to those. They go to a website that has been fixed, then they get the solution layer on top of the actual original website. So they get a fixed web page even though the actual original code may still be inaccessible. Greasemonkey plays a role in this, too. I mean tens or hundreds of thousands of scripts that people have written, some with accessibility in mind. I think it has a lot of potential to serve up accessible scripted content that fixes the accessibility problems on pages. So we'll be looking at some of those tools and kind of walking through how somebody might use those to fix accessibility. Captioning too, I really think maybe it's possible to get more videos captioned if we all just sort of jump in and obviously we have to prioritize, we can't caption everything but you know amass this army of people who do a little bit of captioning 5-10 minutes a day — think how far we could get. And a real model there is the TED Open Translation Project. TED talks, the "riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world". That group. That conference. They've got 12,000 translations and 79 languages by 4003 volunteer translators according to their current stats that are up on their website right now.

Dennis: Wow!

Terrill Thompson: And they use DotSubCom as the tool where they put up video on the DotSubCom site and then it's just wide open for anybody to caption that or subtitle that in any language and then these 4000+ volunteers jump on it and get the job done. So we've got 12,000 subtitles and it's all volunteer, so I think if TED can do it, maybe higher education can do it too, because we've got a lot of videos and anyone else with an interest. If there's video content that is interesting, that people might be willing to put some time in captioning, maybe we can just tap into that and encourage people to jump onboard and help out and just do it. Just make things accessible.

Dennis: "DO-IT". Right. [Both laugh.] So yeah, it's a very interesting idea and I've heard of some of those ideas and solutions you know, here and there, I've heard about them before, but when you talk about them altogether, it really takes on another meaning. You know, it's just like a kind of movement.

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, and you know, this has been going on for a number of years and right now, we've got all these little isolated communities like the ones I mentioned: See Saw, WebVisum, and the stuff that IBM had done, but they're isolated. They're not working together and it just, the success that TED has had in igniting their fans into action makes me wonder if it isn't possible, and you know, it's really a social engineering problem.

Dennis: Yeah.

Terrill Thompson: How do we get this social movement rolling? Get everybody participating. I really think we can accomplish a lot if everybody participated even just a small amount.

Dennis: Your session on that sounds very interesting so you'll have to share after the conference is over.

Terrill Thompson: Yeah. Hopefully we'll have a lot of people there because if there's just two, then it's going to be hard to convince them that they can make a difference.

Dennis: I'm sure you'll have a good group [Terry laughs] as long as you're not competing with Matt May or somebody. Ha ha!

Terrill Thompson: That's the trouble with conferences. There's always so much going on. Usually, I'm presenting and I'm wishing I was next door listening to somebody else.

Dennis: Yeah. OK, well let's move on.

Dennis: Did you want to speak about this Accessible University 2.0?

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, this is actually a tool that I use in some of my presentations, depending on the topic. But just for basic web accessibility it's a great tool um, that can be used to educate people about accessible web design. And actually I used this at EDUCAUSE in my — I did a basic web accessibility session in the IT Accessibility Center and used it there. And over the summer I used it a few times in workshops that we did with students where we're teaching them accessible web design techniques. We did a number of, well a couple of workshops over the summer, um, focusing on that and um, using Accessible University for that purpose. But basically it's a website — a mock website that was originally developed in 2002 by AccessIT — that was a grant that I was on previously, funded by NIDRR of the U.S. Department of Education. And we developed this site that had each — it was a full-blown website where each web page within that site had just one problem so you could really focus on that one problem. So for example, like one page would have images without alt text, and another page would have a data table that wasn't marked up properly, and another page would have a form on it. So, it was really easy then to just open up the source code and look at that one problem and then talk about the solutions.

Dennis: Mmm-hmmm.

Terrill Thompson: But it was kind of difficult to maintain because you have so many pages, and kind of difficult to distribute and difficult for other people to use because, yeah, I knew it really well since I developed it and could jump right to the page met my particular needs for an example, but other people might not be so familiar with it. So we just updated that with AccessComputing funding, and the new model is that we have basically two pages — three pages depending on how you look at it. But there's a before page that is not accessible — it's just one university home page that has, um what is it — sixteen problems I think.

Dennis: Mmm-hmmm. Yes, sixteen. I'm looking at it right now [laughs]. I was checking it out last night seeing how many I could find.

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, so it's kind of a fun game, you know. Here we have a page with sixteen problems. Can you spot 'em all? And so we do this interactively if I'm in a presentation. You know, let's just all sort of walk through this and try to figure out what the sixteen problems are, and that gives us an opportunity to use web accessibility plug-ins and toolbars or to test the page with a screen reader, so we can really look at techniques for evaluating web accessibility as we do this. And then um, then there's a page that lists all the problems and describes them in quite a bit of detail and talks about what the solutions are to each of these problems. And then we have an after page that implements those solutions. And all of this is well-documented in the source code — there are a lot of comments in the source code and we try to keep things nice and clean so people can study the code and really learn then from this model. So it's there for anybody to use in their presentations.

It actually was motivated initially back in 2002 by the fact that I was giving trainings and I always was looking for bad examples.

Dennis: Mmm-hmmm.

Terrill Thompson: And it seemed like invariably the bad examples that I had kind of tucked away to use weren't bad examples anymore. Which is a great thing, they fixed their accessibility problems [both laugh] but my bad examples went away, so I was always hunting for more bad examples. So it's kind of a catch 22, you know, you want them to improve but you don't [laughs].

Dennis: Well this page looks like a great exercise. So...

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, I'm looking for ideas too for things to add to it. I know already I want to add a CAPTCHA to the form because that's obviously a big problem and...

Dennis: Ah, great idea.

Terrill Thompson: Challenging implications in terms of how do you solve that, but so that definitely is one thing I'd like to add, but I'm open to any suggestions as folks look at this. You know, what other features could we include on it that you know, expand the sixteen problems to some higher number and really touch upon all the things that people need to be aware of as they're working with accessibility.

Dennis: Definitely. I'm just looking at the page trying to think of something [laughs]. I suppose you could always add some multimedia or a modal window or something like that.

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, well there actually is a modal window.

Dennis: There is?

Terrill Thompson: That's one of the sixteen that you didn't find [laughs]

Dennis: Oh-oh.

Terrill Thompson: If you try to submit the form without entering any of the required fields...

Dennis: Oh, OK.

Terrill Thompson: You get a — an error pops up.

Denis Lembree: I see that.

Terrill Thompson: That's in a modal dialog of sorts. And you — first of all, that's not communicated to screen readers the way that it's rendered, and you have to click off of it in order to make it go away. And it doesn't work at all in IE [laughs].

Dennis: Ah, great great.

Terrill Thompson: So that's an opportunity to introduce ARIA and to um, you know, and talk about problems that don't necessarily have a real clear solution. There might be multiple solutions. But it definitely could be done better than it's done in the before page so the discussion page talks about what some of those options are and you know, pros and cons of each.

Dennis: Well we'll put the URL in the show notes of course, but if you're listening now you can go to and that's where it is.

Terrill Thompson: Yep.

Dennis: Great work. So you've been doing some experiments recently with HTML5 and audio and video?

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, this is true.

Dennis: You want to tell us about it? And some, I guess, video search on DO-IT?

Terrill Thompson: Yeah. It's been an area that I've kind of been dabbling in for a while, and the video search application has been around for a while. Um, but both with audio and video I'm really intrigued as are a lot of people by what HTML5 brings to the table. Um, the audio element and the video element are just so straightforward that it's very easy to add media to your web page. But then the question is, how do you do that in a way that's accessible? And the spec is constantly evolving so support for it within browsers is constantly evolving and how accessibility is gonna be addressed is a moving target. But I really see potential there. And so I've been playing around with that both on my personal site with audio. I'm looking for — I have a separate — I have a couple of blogs. I've got the one at and I've got a music blog where the hope is I'll be able to sort of upload music as I create it rather than waiting until I have a polished product, but kind of just this constant stream of new musical ideas and you know, just using that as one uses a blog. But I really want that to be accessible because I know that, you know, I'm constantly hearing from blind friends about stuff of mine they've listened to so I really want it to have an accessible player they can easily go play and you know, seek throughout a song or fast forward or jump to another song in the playlist, that kind of thing. So HTML5 does provide that capability. With audio it actually has been really fun to work with. The default controller if you just use the HTML5 audio element and a couple of source elements so you have media that any browser can play, so I've been monitoring how the browsers support accessibility if at all. And the only one that's fully keyboard-accessible is Opera, and it's actually not fully keyboard accessible. You can tab into the media controller to the individual components of the media controller so you can tab to the play/pause button, the slider, and then over to the volume control. But on the slider, there doesn't seem to be any way to control that slider. You can tab to it but you can't do anything with it.

Dennis: Mmmm.

Terrill Thompson: So. Just, obviously that's a bug, and you know, you sort of expect bugs at this phase when the spec very much changes from week to week practically and browsers are experimenting essentially with how to implement it. Screen reader support is kind of hit and miss. I've blogged about this so you can see all the results of these tests on my blog. But what I ultimately did because the default controller is not reliable in terms of accessibility across browsers, I created a custom controller that is accessible. It uses input buttons for everything, and there are title attributes on all those input buttons that are read reliably by screen readers; there's a bright yellow border around each button whenever it receives focus so you can tab through the player and it's very easy as a keyboard user to see where you are, you know, what you're focusing on. I implemented accesskeys although accesskeys are controversial I do feel like this is an application where accesskeys really do have quite a bit of value because you might be reading a page, you know, a screen reader user might be somewhere else on the page entirely, reading content, but they want to play or pause or otherwise work the media player, and so having accesskeys to do that so they don't have to go all the way back to the media player.

Dennis: You talked about any browser, but we're leaving out IE of course.

Terrill Thompson: Right, yeah. IE at this point doesn't support video or audio at all. So it's kind of interesting - I never even mention them [both laugh] when I'm talking about which browsers support elements and how do they. I always talk about Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome, and I just don't even mention IE. But IE9 - I haven't actually looked at that yet, I need to look at their early builds. But it does I understand support audio and video. So, and then there's the issue that everybody talks about as to what the ultimate format of the media is gonna be.

Dennis: Right.

Terrill Thompson: And different browsers support different codex, both for audio and video and so at this point it looks like we're probably gonna have to have two different versions which is unfortunate but a small problem.

Dennis: Or three. With WebM — cause IE9 I believe is only gonna support WebM.

Terrill Thompson: Uh-huh.

Dennis: So then we'd have Mp4 and Ogg.

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, well I think all those that support Ogg are also gonna support WebM.

Dennis: Oh, okay.

Terrill Thompson: I don't know that Ogg is ultimately gonna have a place but um, at least that's my understanding. But I'm just kind of reading it from the periphery too, so I could be wrong about that, but I'm pretty sure that Firefox and Opera which support Ogg are moving towards WebM support, as is IE, and so Safari is the lone hold-out on WebM. And there's hope that Apple will come to the WebM table.

Dennis: Right.

Terrill Thompson: But we'll see.

Dennis: So the blog you mentioned is this "Creating Your Own Accessible HTML5 Media Player"?

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, and I think there are a few other posts kind of related to that. Um, because one of the other challenges was — sense there are browsers that don't support HTML5 media, even, you know, older versions of the browsers that do, um, then we need to have a fallback. So I wanted to also find a fallback player that would also be equally accessible, and so I wrote some blog posts kind of exploring that as well. And ultimately I have created for audio and HTML5 player that uses the Yahoo! Media Player for fallback and the Yahoo! Media Player has got a lot of accessibility built into it. It's a very nice player in and of itself, and probably could stand alone and as the player without using HTML5, but you know, my goal here is really to explore HTMl5 [laughs].

Dennis: Right.

Terrill Thompson: So I'm just using the Yahoo! player for fallback.

Dennis: OK.

Terrill Thompson: But that seems to be a nice combination. So I talk a little bit about that in my blog. I've got another blog post in my mind that needs to come out, I need to write it up. I actually have a working player that supports playlists. So I think most of my examples previously had just been a single song. But I do have a working playlist player that I'm wanting to— since my audio blog is a WordPress blog I'm creating a WordPress plugin around this player. So maybe others will be able to use this.

Dennis: Oh, definitely. I could find a use for that. Very cool.

Terrill Thompson: So with video then, so that's — most of the work I've done has been kind of on the personal side. But video introduces some new problems, and a lot of the kind of core structure is the same — being able to seek within a video, move forward and backward. For video search, the seeking within a video is a critical feature. Obviously you search for content within videos and what we have set up on the DO-IT Video Search site is the captions are all parsed out and stored in a database and then you do a query of the database and it comes back then with any place where what you searched for — if that appears in the caption tracks then that's what comprises the search results. And so, then a person can click on any of those results and go right to that point in the video where that word or phrase is being spoken.

Dennis: Ah. Very cool.

Terrill Thompson: So what we did previously is we set that up using the JW FLV Player. And we played around with a bunch of different players but that was one that seemed to be the most accessible and that met our needs for searching within the video. But we can do the same thing with HTML5, and so that's what— it actually isn't live yet but we're working on an HTML5 implementation of that with the JW FLV Player as the fallback for those that have browsers that don't support HTML5 video. So the challenge yet is — in terms of accessibility — the spec is still evolving.

Dennis: Yeah.

Terrill Thompson: And so, how ultimately are we gonna support captions and subtitles, 'cause we have our videos translated into Japanese at least a few of them, and we're working on getting them translated into Spanish. So we'd like to give people a choice, so they can click on English, Japanese, or Spanish and then the subtitles change accordingly. And um, the current HTML5 spec on the WAT Working Group site — you know, we've got two HTML5 specs sort of working in parallel, right? There's the WHATWG and the W3C.

Dennis: Right.

Terrill Thompson: And the WHATWG evolves more rapidly and then ultimately the W3C sort of adopts that at some point and I think the W3C spec right now is a June spec so it's a few months behind but the WHATWG spec was updated yesterday or last week, but at some point in the last few months they introduced the track element, which is finally some acknowledgement that HTML5 needs to address accessibility and can do so with this track element perhaps. That's the current proposal. And the track element has a kind attribute, with values such as captions, subtitles, and descriptions. And so if you have a track with kind="captions" then that would be the technique for specifying a caption file and synchronizing that with the media. So that ultimately is looking like the direction that it's going to be heading, and so we're sort of monitoring that and looking at ways to implement that. There's a lot of experimentation out there on the web — people that are playing around with this and you know, getting it to work and so, we're among those who are playing with it.

Audio description is an area that doesn't get nearly as much attention as captioning but really is equally important to a different group. But we're looking at that but um, as the spec currently reads, the description — if the track element has kind="description", then that is defined as "textual descriptions of the video component of the media resources, intended for audio synthesis". And so, rather than, when we usually think of audio description we think of audible recording — audio recording of a narrator who speaks the description, you know, who describes content that blind people can't see.

Dennis: Mm-hmm.

Terrill Thompson: But what they're proposing here is that that be written out in text and then a screen reader reads it. And so, in some ways I like this idea, but I haven't seen the research on its usability. I think somebody was doing some research in that area to see how users respond to that.

Dennis: Yes, I mean this solution sounds really good to me. I took a look at it before. And I think, well from what I saw you could have - it's trackgroup, right? And within that you could have multiple tracks. So you could have um, you could use those say for different languages or you could have the um, audio description in addition to a caption or something like that.

Terrill Thompson: Uh-huh.

Dennis: I don't know. The coding and the theory behind it all look pretty good to me. So I hope it moves that way.

Terrill Thompson: Yeah, so it's got a lot of promise. I wasn't — as I was studying the spec I didn't see that there's a way according to how descriptions is defined — a way to define an audio file as that description. It seems to be relying solely on text.

Dennis: Mmm.

Terrill Thompson: But obviously audio in some contexts is going to be the preferred method for delivering audio description. So, and then of course there's probably going to be issues as to what — you know, licensing issues surrounding what type of file will be supported as the audio description file. That'll be the same issues as, you know, with other media, whether it's going to be MP3 or Ogg Vorbis or what-have-you.

Dennis: Yeah.

Terrill Thompson: But um, another thing that's really exciting is that Mozilla is working to extend the audio API and I don't know if you've seen that, um what do they call it — the Audio Data API I think. But they're providing access to a lot more data — to just the raw audio data within audio files that allows you to do processing of that audio, both read and write. So you can manipulate the audio on the fly.

Dennis: Oh.

Terrill Thompson: I've seen some experiments with that — it's supported now in Firefox 4 beta, and it's just a Mozilla thing. Hopefully other browsers will jump on it because I think it has a lot of potential but they have proposed it as an extension of the spec. But some of the examples that I'm seeing out there — Javascript based graphic equalizers and you know, just different filters and phasers and things that you can use to you know, manipulate the audio that you're listening to, all Javascript-based. So one thing that comes to my mind as an accessibility solution that could take advantage of this is a problem that we ran into with DO-IT Video Search and using the JW FLV Player. The JW Player actually supports closed audio description, and it's the only player I know of that does this, where you can have a separate audio description track as an MP3, synchronized with the video, and I like that idea like because I think it's easier to persuade people to implement this solution if it's just— they just record it, they can save it as an MP3 — that's a very simple process for people. If we talk about the need to remix their audio track with the program audio, then we're getting into a more technical process that not everybody is gonna be comfortable with. And so, but if you don't do this remixing — I mean, that's what the professionals do. If we hire out audio description, they're gonna record their narration and then they're gonna remix it and they're gonna need to adjust the program audio down in some places so that there's ample contrast between the audio description foreground and the program audio background. But if you've got two separate tracks, then what happens sometimes is the program audio is just too loud and the audio description can't be heard. In DO-IT videos, we strategically script the videos themselves so there's room for audio description, but still there's usually some sound, you know, some background activity or some music or something. And the audio description then might not be all that audible with that program audio, and so...

Dennis: Yeah, that's tricky.

Terrill Thompson: So I'm thinking with this access to the raw audio data, then it would seem do-able to do some audio ducking, where the player listens for the volume of the program audio, and listens for audio description, and when audio description is coming, then it adjusts the relative volumes of these two tracks so that a certain ratio is preserved. You know, so you want to be a certain number of decibels higher for the audio description you know, than the program audio and so it can on-the-fly make some adjustments so that that happens. You know, it might not be as smooth as if somebody were to do that manually, but if we're looking for solutions that are easy to implement and things that we can encourage everybody who's making video to implement and practice, then you know, I think we need to have some of these automated solutions in place, 'cause not everybody has the money to farm out their audio description to get it professionally done. So we need these other solutions.

Dennis: Yeah, definitely. That would be a great solution.

Terrill Thompson: So, that's definitely one I'm going to be playing with over the next few weeks or months, so I'll probably be blogging about that if I find something useful. So I guess I encourage everybody to keep an eye on for further developments in all these areas.

Dennis: Definitely. Yeah, definitely let me know when you put up a blog and I'll help promote it.

Terrill Thompson: OK, thanks.

Dennis: That's great stuff you're working on. And I appreciate you coming on the show again [laughs].

Terrill Thompson: I appreciate you having me.

Dennis: Yeah, so um, sounds like another busy Fall for you, and thanks again for sharing, and we'll keep in touch.

Terrill Thompson: OK.

Dennis: OK Terrill, take care.

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