Dennis: Hello and welcome to Web Axe Podcast 98: AHG13. This is your host Dennis. This podcast we're going to have three special guests from a conference that I went to recently: Accessing Higher Ground, Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference. It was the 16th annual in Westminster, Colorado at the very nice Westin Westminster Hotel. It was a very nice venue and a good time. I ran into a few folks, you may or may not know in the business. They provided some great interviews and some great information. We're going to speak with Greg Kraus, Jayme Johnson and Kathy Wahlbin. Check it out.
I'm here at Accessing Higher Ground 13, in Westminster, Colorado. I have Greg Kraus with me. Hello, Greg.
Greg: Hey Dennis.
Dennis: Thanks for taking a few minutes time out to speak with me.
Greg: No problem.
Dennis: Just give us a little introduction as to who you are and where you work.
Greg: I'm at North Carolina State University, I'm the university IT accessibility coordinator. I work with developers and contact graders to make sure that everything we produce is accessible on campus.
Dennis: I understand you help out numerous websites across the campus.
Greg: Yes, I work with all the web developers to make sure whatever they produce is accessible and one of the things that we've done recently is to create an accessibility game.
Dennis: That's what your session was about here today at Accessing Higher Ground, Gamification of Web Accessibility, is that the title?
Greg: Gamification of Accessibility. When some people hear that they might think, "Accessibility's not a game; it's a human right and people just ought to do it. It ought to be part of their job." While I agree with that, the reality is a lot of people make accessibility a lower priority.
What I've done is taken gaming principles, things like you have a leader board for who has the most accessible website on campus, or progress indicators to show you have improved over time. We have some scanning tools that go out and assess the websites for accessibility, and they're automated scans, so they're limited in what they can do, but they do give you an idea of how accessible a site is.
Then, website owners come see their data and see, "I'm the 42nd most accessible site out of 430." Then they can go see what my errors are, and what they need to go do fix it. Then they can go and rescan it and see if they can move up in the rankings. It's actually created a lot of good, friendly competition on campus.
Dennis: You can get bonus points, too, right? [laughs]
Greg: That's the new system about to come in about the bonus points.
Dennis: I'm sorry. [laughs]
Greg: These are automated tests, so being able to go in and do things like the manual checks. We're scanning around 430 sites. I don't have time to do manual checks on 430 sites, so I'm going to make it so the website owners can go in and do their manual checks.
For instance, go check to see if you have the visual focus always visible when you're using a keyboard. If it's there, you get to check a box and you'll get bonus points, so your score will improve some.
Dennis: What's that big figure of how many issues were resolved this year?
Greg: Actually, last night, we passed the one million mark. Since we started the system in late February/early March, we've now corrected one million accessibility errors across our campus.
Dennis: That's terrific. Any other plans for this program in the future?
Greg: A lot of the technology behind it I hope to make open source or available in some way to outside users. We have a couple licensing things we have to content with because some of the scanning technologies are dependent upon license technologies, but I'm looking at ways for how to roll this out to other people.
Dennis: Excellent. Thank you again, Greg Kraus, for joining me, and we'll see you tomorrow at the second day at AHG. Cheers.
Greg: Thanks, Dennis.
Dennis: I am here at day two at AHG 13, and I'm sitting with Jayme Johnson. How are you Jayme?
Jayme Johnson: I'm doing good, Dennis. Glad to be here.
Dennis: Thanks for taking a few minutes to speak with me. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Jayme: Yeah, my day job is Web accessibility instructor for the California community college system. We have a special program called The High-Tech Center Training Unit based in Cupertino. I provide training and support to faculty and staff across the entire state of California surrounding issues of accessibility but primarily focusing on Web accessibility.
Dennis: Wow, that's a lot of schools.
Jayme: Yeah, [laughs] it's a pretty fun challenge.
Dennis: We're neighbors, although we haven't seen each other too much around locally in Cupertino, right?
Jayme: Yeah, it's a funny small town/big city thing where we live blocks apart but rarely see each other unless we're out of state at a conference. [laughs]
Dennis: That's funny. You must do a lot of traveling for your job around California?
Jayme: Yeah, with 112 colleges, it makes more sense to send one guy out to a college than to send all those guys to our lab in Cupertino, so I frequently travel far and wide all across California and the nation.
Dennis: Great. You've been going to Sacramento. Can I mention that?
Jayme: Yeah, the chancellor's office is in Sacramento, and it's an exciting thing that's happened recently where the top-level administration is getting interested in accessibility. With the chancellor's office starting to actually walk the talk, they serve as a role model for the whole state and the system, so it's a really nice little feather in the cap lately.
Dennis: That's great to hear.
Jayme: We're looking forward to some good things for the state.
Dennis: As far as AHG here at the conference, you are on a panel?
Jayme: Yeah, I got roped into a panel this year talking during the lunchtime session. I'll be joined by Terry Thompson from the University of Washington and Robert Beech from Kansas City. We're going to be talking about universal design and curriculum, and our experiences and things we've learned to avoid and things we're trying to support more actively.
Dennis: Great. Thanks, Jayme, it's been great speaking with you.
Jayme: You, too, Dennis. See you around. [laughs]
Dennis: Yeah, I'll see you around.
Dennis: I'm back at AHG 13, and I'm sitting with Kathy Wahlbin. How are you today, Kathy?
Kathy Wahlbin: I'm doing great, thank you.
Dennis: Good, thanks for taking a few minutes to speak with me.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Kathy: I'm Kathy Wahlbin. I have an accessibility company called Interactive Accessibility. We work with organizations in all different domains, including higher-ed and a lot of the publishing companies to help them understand what to do with their digital media to make it accessible. That means anything from websites to mobile applications to documents, really any content that they're doing digitally, and help them make it accessible.
Dennis: That's great. You're based in Boston, right?
Kathy: Yeah, that's correct.
Dennis: But, of course, you work all over the country and the world now?
Kathy: Yes, we do work all across the US. We actually have employees from one coast to the other, and we do work all around the world. We're actually doing a project right now out of UK, and we're working with some companies in Australia, as well.
Dennis: Great. You're a presenter here at Accessing Higher Grounds. What are you presenting on?
Kathy: I've presented on a few different topics. On Monday, I did an all-day pre-conference session on mobile, and we really talked about all of the differences between where iOS is and where Android is and where the level of accessibility is. We went through all the different accessibility features that are available in each of those different platforms and really compared them.
IOS is still leading by far, and we went through a lot of the new features in iOS7, and then Android just came out with KitKat, and we were talking about some of the new features that are now available on Android, as well.
Dennis: Very cool.
Kathy: I can talk about the other sessions.
Dennis: Yeah, go ahead. That was the workshop. Are you giving the breakout session, as well?
Kathy: Yeah, I'm doing two breakout sessions. I did one yesterday on the challenges of VPATs. One of the things that always comes up, especially in higher-ed, is they need to figure out whether a product is accessible or not, so they're relying on VPATs. But the challenge is the information that they're getting in the VPATs is not nearly enough to let them know that this product is accessible or what those issues are.
If something is not accessible and they've noted that in the VPAT, they often don't know what the impact is to a person with a disability. Is it my student who is blind is going to have the issue, or is it my student who has a mobility issue? What is the impact of that? There's often not enough detail in there.
We talked about the challenges that organizations face who are producing these VPATs. Often, it's driven by sales, as well. They don't want to put too much information in there because if they say that something's not accessible than the other company they're competing with doesn't have the same level of detail, they can't sell the product. It makes them look worse than it actually is, even if they were more accessible.
We had a really dynamic conversation about what makes a good VPAT, what do we need. We also started talking about the changes in section 508 with the refresh and how that's moving to WCAG 2.0, and how that might actually change the VPAT and what they could be doing now to get some more information and really figure out themselves how and if something is accessible. We went through some of the tools that they could use, even if they didn't have any technical knowledge.
Dennis: Wow, that sounds pretty challenging.
Kathy: [laughs] Yeah, it is. It's definitely a challenge for everybody, both from the organization side and from the universities and colleges around.
Dennis: It sounds like you have a good handle on it and helping out quite a bit, so thank you. Anything else you wanted to mention?
Kathy: I'm doing another session this afternoon. It's actually on responsive design, and we're going to be talking about the impact on accessibility with responsive design.
Dennis: I'll have to go to that, although this podcast will be out after [laughs] this is over. Thanks, that sounds good. I'll try to attend.
Dennis: Also about the mobile accessibility?
Kathy: Right, I wanted to tell you about the new task force that's actually starting up this month under the W3C way. It's the mobile accessibility task force, and really what that task force is going to do is come up with techniques under WCAG 2.0 specifically for mobile. We're not just stopping there; we're actually also going to explore design and best practices, as well.
With mobile, it's not just technical. We're talking about smaller devices and really what are those best practices for design and what should we be doing from an accessibility standpoint to make things easier for people to use.
Dennis: That's great. A lot of people are going to appreciate that work. You're leading that effort?
Kathy: Yeah, actually Kim Patch and I are co-facilitating that task force.
Dennis: Great. Thanks again, Kathy, for joining me, and enjoy the rest of the conference. I'll see you later this afternoon.
Kathy: Great, thank you.
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