Accessibility Discussion: Informal Learning in Action

One of the lectures I attended this afternoon was canceled. An astute member of the audience stood up and decided that he would probe folks in the room about what they already knew about accessibility. He probably realized that there would be people in the audience who were passionate about the subject and he wanted to hear what they had to share.

Different people shared their definitions and experiences with trying to make their online courses accessible. In the end we walked away with a number of interesting thoughts and resources.

One woman shared a video of her experience in testing a site with someone who was visually impaired. The student was working with a website that had the ‘narrator’ on. They were using the mouse to scroll over items on the page. You could see the student’s frustration as you heard the narrator describe every item on the page. There were too many elements.

It actually made me think that creating pages with simple and shorter navigation is much more accessible than having multiple elements in a left-hand menu.  Also, providing some real estate between objects on a page might help the visually impaired find or move around a page much more easily.

In listening to the conversation, I gathered that several of the people there were frustrated with their efforts to make things truly accessible and 508 compliant. Many were most likely running into faculty or developers who didn’t see the value or simply didn’t understand what accessibility and true 508 compliance meant.

Here are a few of the notable resources that were shared (that I recorded):

Please note, I got many of these sites on my own after just listening to the conversation and looking them up on my own.

I felt that it was an incredibly valuable discussion; in fact, it was one presentation/session where I actually learned a great deal because I was learning from my peers. I mentioned this to an older gentleman who was sitting near me, and he only commented that he wasn’t sure what “was garbage” and what “was not garbage” from all that was shared and discussed. It occurred to me that he probably wanted ‘an expert’ telling him or lecturing to him rather than relying on the knowledge of his peers.   I simply replied, “But that’s like the nature of the web, you have to look through things and sort of determine this on your own.”

One man’s trash is another person’s treasure. He had a valid point, but in many of the topics shared at tech-conferences like these there is little or no expertise available because the topics are so new. You have to build knowledge or figure it out on your own or with the help of others. Is this a generational thing wanting expertise on topics to be fed to you while you passively learn?

Trash can be treasure (interesting art photo of trash - you can click on the image to view the original page it is featured on)

Trash can be treasure (interesting art photo of trash - you can click on the image to view the original page it is featured on)


2 Responses to “Accessibility Discussion: Informal Learning in Action”

  1. 1 Christy Tucker February 24, 2009 at 2:30 am

    Having space around elements on the page is very helpful for people with mobility issues. If your fine motor control is less than perfect, having a bigger target helps. Granted, many people with mobility issues don’t use a mouse at all; they use a keyboard and tab through everything.

    Ditto for visually impaired users. I’m actually quite surprised that they were using a mouse at all, but if the student had limited vision I suppose it would be possible. It’s why we changed the dropdown menus to be keyboard accessible though.

    Skip links are really important to avoid that frustration of listening to every element in repeated navigation over and over again. Whether it’s in a left-hand menu or a top menu or wherever, being able to skip over all of that is the really critical part. Simpler menus with fewer choices are probably better though. For usability, we’re better off with multiple clicks with a logical sequence to get where you need than cramming too many things on the screen to prevent it from taking more than two clicks. That’s the case for everyone though, not just an accessibility issue.

    WebAIM is another great site to add to your resources. Check out their recent survey of screen reader users to see how they actually use websites and the variety of navigation techniques.

  2. 2 Christy Tucker February 24, 2009 at 2:31 am

    Oops. Bad html. Feel free to go into my comment and fix that.

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