millinery

Oct. 26th, 2012 10:17 am
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
My built-in china cabinet has long since ceased to be a cupboard to showcase hand-me-down wineglasses and become a closet for hats. Now I've outgrown that space, and my coat closet, too, has become overridden with hatboxes. Veils and feathers, fascinators and caps, boaters and fedoras.

What I'm saying is that I have a lot of hats.

I have almost as many metaphorical hats, though sadly they lack the trimmings of the physical kind. Usually I juggle my professional interests adequately, although every fall I come to terms anew with the reality that, for three months, my contributions to Dreamwidth are what I give up to make room for teaching. This year is slightly tighter than usual, because of membership on the Odyssey Award committee, but at least much of the time spent listening to audio books is time that would otherwise be dead space.

In any case, here is a description of the 48 hour period of which I'm currently in the center.

  • Yesterday morning, go to work as a digital archivist, where I've been having more opportunities to code of late as I've been contributing fixes and features to a blacklight/Hydra digital library portal we will be launching Any Day Now, and where I've been helping to manage our Open Access Week activities.
  • Leave after a short day to teach two sections of the children's and young adult SFF class I teach with Amy.
  • Get home at nearly 11 PM, go to bed, and wake up at 4:30 AM (on a gorgeous, starry autumn morning, Orion and Jupiter high in the sky) to catch the early train to New Haven for code4lib New England, where I'll be presenting on
  • On the train I'll be listening to audio books for the Odyssey Award committee;
  • when I return home I have some reading to do for Kirkus Reviews.


I do like hats. I like how they look and how they feel, how each one makes me into a slightly different person. But sometimes having so many gets a little complicated.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (loc)
I'm used to thinking of myself as having an invisible disability, because out in the real world, I do. It just occurred to me that in the Internet, where nobody knows you a use a wheelchair unless you tell them so, my disability has a tendency towards the visible. I probably let through about 5% of my dictation errors in blog posts but 40% of my dictation errors in online chat; people who regularly interact with me chatting online have learned to decipher the bizarre word salad that sometimes comes through. If I'm communicating (chat, Twitter, e-mail) on a mobile device, my recognition errors get even weirder, because the mobile recognition has its own strange features.

So to people with whom I communicate online, I have this big obvious disability. But in person, I pass for able-bodied. Sure, I'm usually carrying this very strange bag around my waist, and I'm usually not clicking away with my laptop in public, and sometimes I'm wearing one of those Bluetooth headsets that has a big flashing light in order to make you look like a jerk who spends all day on a Bluetooth headset. But I don't look not able-bodied, I just look strange.

It's just odd that most people pass on the Internet, whereas for me, the Internet is one of the only places I don't pass. (Technically I could pass if I proofread better, but proofreading is really difficult in IM/IRC.)


On an entirely unrelated note, I just registered for my first ALA Annual. It seems terrifyingly large, but I'm required to go for the Odyssey committee. (Odyssey Committee FTW!) Booking my flight on Egencia was a wonder of accessible web design, where even the seat selector was fully keyboard accessible. The ALA Annual scheduling website, however... Not so much. I suppose it's no surprise. Every few years ALA redesigns all of their websites to be worse than they were before. :(

CSUN

Feb. 24th, 2012 12:40 pm
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I'm so jealous of everyone at CSUN 2012. Have a great time, everyone! Fix the world for us!
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
My last post was several weeks ago, about my disappointment with Apple. In the spirit of fairness, I must update that story.

Rather inexplicably to me, that post went, in a small way, viral. (I suppose that explains the trolling the post was getting, which at the time to me came completely out of the blue.) It must have showed up on some Mac message boards, and eventually got forwarded to people in Apple administration. Kudos to Apple that they thought the situation warranted contacting me; a few days after the post (early December) I received a response to my initial e-mail from early October. The e-mail was not from somebody in the accessibility team, to whom I had initially reached out, but from somebody on the customer relations team.

Over the next several days, I spoke at length with a helpful, professional, kind Apple customer relations employee. She was as helpful as one could reasonably be under the circumstances. She asked me what I really wanted at this point, and I told her that primarily what I'd just wanted was the opportunity to buy an iPhone. She helped me through the process and made it as painless -- as it were -- as possible. The only other thing I wanted, I told her, was the knowledge that Apple was receiving my feedback about the difficulty of using the iPhone from the point of view of this one mobility impaired user. She assured me that my e-mail to the accessibility mailing list going unread was an unfortunate fluke.

Only time will tell if any of that was true. I've been saying since this new iPhone came that I wasn't sure if I was going to keep it, but I've tested my way all the way through my window of being able to decide to send it back, so I guess I've decided to keep it. Today I'll be putting together an e-mail for the accessibility group of questions, bug reports, and feature requests. That e-mail, again, is only from the point of view of this one mobility impaired user. I will also post those here, not in the spirit of complaint, but in the spirit of sharing with interested people about the different ways some people use devices.

I'm still really unsure about this phone. I've been at a pretty steady pain level since I got it, because there really is no way to use it without hurting myself. All of the accessibility features make it possible for me to use it, but not painless. Common sense would dictate that if a device is painful for me to use, I shouldn't use it, but there does seem to be a genuine utility to having a smartphone. I survived fine without a cell phone for years, but I will admit that NextBus is something of a killer app.

I can't shake the feeling that I'm making a foolish decision.

...Except that there's this vain hope, this little spark within me, that maybe my experience means I am actually more likely to be listened to by Apple when I send them my list of feature requests, and maybe by using this device I can improve the experience of using handheld devices for all people with mobility impairments. Or at least the people whose mobility impairments are similar to mine.

Anyway, again. I want to say thank you to Apple for responding to my complaint about being nibbled to death by inaccessible ducks with the courteous and professional handholding I received. I wish my initial inquiry had received a response, but I'm willing to accept for now that the situation was a fluke. Like I said, only time will tell.

I'm leaving comments closed on this post as well, because I'm going to link to it, in the spirit of fairness, from the prior post. That post is still generating hits, and I'm an extremely conflict-avoidant person. I don't want the trolls to follow the link and leave comments here.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I love Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I couldn't be employed or a member of online communities without it. But that doesn't mean there aren't things about it that make me gnash my teeth. Here are my top three quality-of-life-affecting bugs which have been introduced in the past couple of versions:

  1. The newly introduced inability to use "spell" commands in the flow of normal dictation. It used to be that an utterance could be "And the characters are named Bob, Lily, spell echo india lima oscar november whiskey yankee, and Ahmed." Now there has to be a pause-for-command on either side of the spelling command: "And the characters are named Bob, Lily, [BREAK] spell spacebar echo india lima oscar november whiskey yankee [BREAK], and Ahmed." Unless you dictate all the time you might not realize how incredibly disruptive it is to thought and flow to have to break like that. In my daily life there are any number of words I have to dictate with spelling commands which are just not worth adding to the dictionary, because I might dictate them three times total. The way it used to work was perfect. (Version 11 change, I think. It might have been version 10.)

  2. The brand-new feature of the sleeping microphone to hear random background noise as a "wake-up" command. It's become comical how frequently I'm speaking with a friend or coworker and I suddenly have to indicate silence while I say "go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go to sleep," while meanwhile my computer processes whatever utterances at has heard in the interim, often to exceedingly disruptive effect. If you use a computer hands-free, using the "microphone off" command instead of the "go to sleep" command is pretty much impossible, at least without some kind of foot switch. I really hoped this bug was going to be fixed in the first NaturallySpeaking 11 patch, but instead they just introduced new commands for direct tweeting and Facebooking. (Version 11 change)

  3. The dropped letters/doubled letters in non-Select and Say windows. This didn't used to happen. If you complain about it to Nuance, they just say they don't support non-Select and Say windows. It's really bad, and happens non-deterministically. Sometimes the first character of a dual-key sequence gets dropped, so, for example, "select all" turns into "a" (since "select all" is "control-a"). (Version 10, I think)


Aside from the bugs, here are my top Dragon feature requests:

  1. A couple of versions ago, Dragon introduced the ability to operate (e.g. Select, bold, delete) on a word which is repeated multiple times in the window. You say something such as "bold Dragon", and a number appears next to all of the incidences of the word "Dragon". Then all the dictator needs to say is "choose 2" to choose the second incidence of the word "Dragon." This is fabulous. Now, Nuance, could you add this feature that when I say "choose 2" Dragon hears me uttering the command "choose 2", and not the dictated text "choose 2"? Four times out of five, Dragon thinks I am saying anything other than "please select the item with the big red 2 next to it". (I'm calling this a new feature, not a bug to fix, because it never really worked right.)

  2. I would love a revamp of the advanced command editor and the Command Browser in general. It is, ironically, fairly difficult to navigate all of the features of the Command Browser via voice . It's also difficult to do any kind of nuanced sharing of commands between two different computers. And while revamping the Command Browser/advanced command editor interface, is there any way the documentation could get a revamp as well? Those "advanced command editing with Dragon version #" books are pretty basic, and don't get into the rich features in any depth.

  3. Could there please be the ability to press the Windows key in an advanced command? The Windows key is not the same as CTRL-ESC, although both of them pull up the Windows start menu. It is a single key which sends its own key binding, and multitude of programs require the Windows key in particular.

  4. Could you consider working with vendors who make other accessibility tools (e.g. JAWS, NVDA, Qwitter) for better interoperability? Right now, it's impossible to use any of those tools entirely hands-free with NaturallySpeaking, unless you buy the $900 J-Say package to interface with JAWS.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
In the bug tracking system jira, which I use all day, the alt attribute for several of the images has moved to the title attribute -- and been removed from the alt. (One way in which sighted people use alt text: my dictation software allows me to dictate the name of a link, and if the user agent supports it, which Firefox and Opera both do, I can also dictate the alternative text for a link. Which would be easier if I could easily see the alt text, but if it's a site I use all the time, like jira or dreamwidth, I can make it work.)

Yes, I'm going to report this bug to the makers of jira. Eventually. When I find a spare spoon lying around somewhere. But if I could fix just one thing about the way people misunderstand accessibility, that one thing would be making sure that people who write webpages understand what the title attribute on images does and does not do.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
It looks like dreamwidth really wants to make a final decision (well, final for now) on what to do about alt and title attributes on userpics. As of right now there are only two users of screenreaders or other non-graphical browsers participating in the poll and conversation. Please, especially if you are a screenreader user or have other accessibility needs which give you opinions about mouseover and alternative text, take the poll, join the conversation.

And it's my bug, so then I will code it. In my copious free time. *grin*
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
On Saturday, after two years without a cell phone, I bought an Android phone.

This afternoon I returned it.

I was excited enough by the phone's features that it overcame my deep aversion for being reachable (and my steadily growing distaste with El Google). It's not just the many features of the Android phones designed to lay claim to the geek's heart, of course, but also the voice control features, still inadequate but improving with every frequent iteration of the operating system. It's how hard Google pushes the Android accessibility API, although I admit I should have had the first inklings of worry when I read those pages months ago, and saw that Google fell into the trap of frequently equating "accessibility" with "no- or low-vision use".1

Before I'd had the phone 5 minutes, when I was still getting help getting the voice control correctly configured, I discovered I was going to have to take it back. Android's haptic feedback (a fancy name for "the phone vibrates a whole lot") cannot be entirely turned off, and renders it completely unusable by me. Yet that same haptic feedback is specifically designed as an accessibility feature for no- or low-vision use of the phones.

I don't want to read too much into what is fundamentally a bad user interface design on Google's part, here. Haptic feedback is a wonderful thing, but it should be able to be completely disabled based on user option. The fact that it can't be is clearly a UI mistake.

But there's something else underlying here, and it's the idea that accessibility is a set of features which can be added, wham bam, beneficial to all of those adorable folks who need it. As everyone who has spent enough time in the accessibility world understands, one person's accessibility need is another person's spoon-sucking roadblock. (Tactile paving, anyone?) For all I often rant about how easy it would just be to add basic accessibility do applications and websites, I admit in my more fair moments that accessibility beyond the basic is quite difficult, and this is exactly why. There's no big tent that can encompass all accessibility needs. Universal design is lovely and wonderful as a concept, but it's far from trivial: there's no one universal human to design for.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just continue to be unreachable. Which isn't so bad, after all.

ETA:

The Google form for reporting accessibility problems is a marvelous exemplar of my point. On the one hand, they have a dedicated form for reporting accessibility problems! On the other hand, they have this question and set of possible answers:

If you’re encountering a problem, we need to understand a bit more about the issue, so we can help. What screen reader or other assistive technology are you using, if any?
  • JAWS
  • Window-Eyes
  • System Access
  • NVDA
  • VoiceOver
  • Don't know
  • Other


GUYS. They don't even list any screen magnifiers in that list, let alone get wacky with it and list adaptive technologies which aren't for blind or low-vision use. Only slightly fewer of the respondents to be latest WebAIM screen reader survey listed Zoom Text than listed System Access, and that's despite the fact that users of Zoom Text might not have bothered to take the survey because they aren't using screen readers. It's like the people who created that form (and once again, thank you Google for creating that form) can't even imagine how to talk to people who have accessibility needs but don't use screen readers.


  1. To be fair, the Eyes-Free on Android project also continually falls into the trap of using the word "accessibility" when they mean "accessibility for blind and low-vision users". And also to be fair, I do realize that touchscreen devices are a hell of a lot more disenfranchising to blind and low-vision users than they are to many types of people with mobility impairments. I'm sorry. I'm trying to own my "not very disabled" privilege here, but it's hard, because I wanted that phone.[back]
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A while back, I made an inappropriate snarky comment about the lack of transcript/alt text on a web comic. Instead of returning snark for snark, the comic's creator has gone out of her way to jump through all the hoops WordPress puts between a blogger and accessibility. Folks, check out Derangement and Description, Rebecca Goldman's very funny (if you are in archives or libraries) web comic, now with alternative text.

And I wish I could start a meme: pick one web comic, image tumblr, etc, you read which doesn't provide transcripts. Politely (unlike me!), directly approach the artist and ask them if they would be willing to start providing alternative text, descriptive text, or transcripts.

(I decided to do this myself just now, since my first attempt was snarky and therefore doesn't follow the rules of my meme, and discovered 2 things:
  1. XKCD has transcripts already, but
  2. they are hidden from screenreaders because the code that keeps them off the visible screen is the CSS "display: none" which is respected by most screen readers.
Randall probably doesn't even know that there are ways to hide information from the visual screen while not hiding from screenreaders. Therefore, my point one for my meme is to write to Randall and tell him about the CSS he needs. \o/)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
An open letter to those implementing mobile device accessibility:

I know that hands-free mobile device control is difficult, and I am grateful for the amount of voice control which has been implemented so far. The ability to dial a number, send a text, send an e-mail, or leave a memo are all useful. Now here's what I would like to see next:

  • A microphone which stays on until turned off, rather than tap-to-speak. I understand this could have implications for users who don't know how to use it, but then, the same goes for having a telephone in the first place.

  • A 36-item vocabulary, probably native to the phone, of the letters in the alpha-bravo alphabet and the digits 0-9.

  • The ability to start an app installed on the phone by saying "start [app name]". E.g. "start Angry Birds". (No, I have no idea how to control Angry Birds by voice. I just don't know the name of a lot of mobile applications, as I don't have one, because I still can't use one. Hence this post.)

  • A seven-item vocabulary, probably native to the phone, that can be used in webpages: page up; page down; back; forward; show numbers; go to address; press enter. "Show numbers" would put a number next to every clickable or selectable element (much like the Firefox extension mouseless browsing), allowing those items to be selected by dictating from the digit vocabulary.

  • The command "microphone off".

  • The command "dictate here", allowing the user to open up a remote-processed standard dictation window in any field or application.


Now, I will admit that I have never done any mobile programming, and I have no idea what the limitations are for vocabulary recognition. Am I mistaken in my belief that adding another 46 items to the local-to-the-device vocabulary (on top of the ones that already exist such as "send a memo to") is something a contemporary mobile device should be able to handle?

As a bonus, I see in the Android accessibility best practices that all applications should be designed to pay attention to the directional controller as well as just the touchscreen. Great, that opens up the possibility for four more voice commands: up, down, left, and right. That brings us up to 50 desirable items in the native vocabulary.

Can your phone handle that? And if not, can the next generation of your phone handle that? And if not, why not?



(Geeze, I'm starting to feel like I should add HV1569.5 to my default icon.)
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Yesterday, on the DCA blog, I posted "Accessibility and back office archives tools", for which I made a screencast of myself using NaturallySpeaking to use a less-than accessible tool. There was enough positive feedback about the screenreader screencasts to which I linked that I thought there might be some interest in these as well.




In an entirely unrelated aside, when did it become acceptable for un*x programs to start shoving everything -- configuration, logs, state, data -- into /usr/local? (Yes, Tomcat, I'm looking at you.) In my day, whippersnappers, you put your configuration into /etc, your logs into /var/log, your state into /var/run, and your data into whatever was appropriate based on your file system. With obvious modifications based on what operating system you are actually running, maybe using /opt or something instead of /usr/local, etc. In theory, you should be able to get by without even backing up /usr/local, because you could rebuild it completely from source or package, what with all your configuration and state and logs being stored in other places. And as a side effect, it always had a very controllable and knowable size, because it didn't have things like logs that grow arbitrarily if unexpected things happen, and sometimes are exceedingly difficult to roll on a regular basis, and yes, Tomcat, I am still looking at you.

Is this based on a theory of file system management that changed while I haven't been paying attention, or is it just sloppiness based to the new ubiquity of good un*x package management?
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How much time do I spend singing the praises of interlibrary loan? Because of ILL, my coworkers and I are currently passing around the marvelous Protected by the Prince, an absolutely terrible Harlequin about the Prince of Lusitanalpsvillia (or something) and a mousy, bespectacled archivist.

This LOLcats version of the book (irritatingly lacking alt text; come on, people, get with the program) is actually a pretty accurate rendition of the plot, and possibly better written. ArchivesNext is running a hilarious quiz/contest about the book and its premise.

ROFLMAO.

Edited to add: Rebecca at Derangement and Description, creator of the LOLcats comic, is going to be adding transcript or some kind of alt. Given that I rather gracelessly snarked in public instead of privately asking her to add alternative text, this is my public apology and recognition of her coolness.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
The problems with crappy accessibility, illustrated. The National Federation of the Blind has put together some videos of the kind of problems screenreader users run into when trying to use Gmail or Google Docs. It's sometimes very difficult to explain to people without disabilities exactly the complexities of using inaccessible tools, and I really hope that these videos make the misery concrete for people.

Actually I'm kind of thinking it's a good resource in general. Screencasts of using inaccessible websites or inaccessible applications, from users with a variety of needs including keyboard-only, speech to text, high contrast, zoom, etc. Obviously not all adaptive needs will be easily translatable; you can't really show a visual processing disorder with a screencast, for example. But still, a very nifty resource within its limitations.
deborah: The management regrets that it was unable to find a Gnomic Utterance that was suitably irrelevant. (gnomic)
In the past, I've bitched about philosophical disagreements I have with some of the folks over at WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind). So when one of them does something pretty fabulous and fairly invisible, I feel it's only right that I say something publicly.

Dennis Lembree has written a fabulous app called Accessible Twitter, which has an interface as clean and accessible as Twitter's native interface is inaccessible and clunky, which is saying something. I wouldn't be able to use Twitter without it. (Don't get excited; I only tweet for work. Though if you're interested, I'm one of the contributors to dcatufts.)

Meanwhile, the WebAIM folks have put together a nice, very simple, accessible URL shortener. Like many URL shorteners, once the page provide you with the shortened URL it gives you quick links to automatically repost the shortened URL, in their case, to twitter, Facebook, or friendfeed.

At 10 o'clock this morning, I made a suggestion on the feedback form for the shortener that they had a link specifically to repost via Accessible Twitter's interface. There followed a rapid flurry of e-mails between Jared Smith of WebAIM and Denis Lambree, and by the end of the workday, they had implemented this suggestion.

That's pretty awesome, right there.
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I've got another litcrit post bubbling along on the back burner, but in the meantime, if I don't clear out some of these tabs my browser will explode. So here, have some web accessibility linkspam:
many links about web accessibility )
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I'd like to signal boost the community [site community profile] dw_accessibility. One of the things that's so awesome about dreamwidth is that the developers and style designers really care about universal design, and making the site equally usable and beautiful for people with disabilities. One of the ways they do that is by getting feedback from us, the users with disabilities.

It's important for all of us that when questions get asked in the community, those of us who have computing-based accessibility needs pitch in to answer. The most noticeable place we have a shortage is screenreader users; since studies show that there is no typical screenreader user, it would be really valuable to have more than one or two regulars answering questions about what is the best site design first screenreader users.

But we also need people with all kinds of other accessibility needs: voice users, keyboard-only users, people with visual processing disabilities, zoom users, deaf-blind users, people with cognitive disabilities, etc. Basically, if your disability means that site design and site coding have an effect on your ability to use and enjoy the site, you will be a welcome contributor over at [site community profile] dw_accessibility.

Thank you, awesome people. And please signal-boost as appropriate.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Two links today which were both partially inspired by the 20 year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

First, the depressing one: Via Jennison Mark Asuncion, Dennis Lembree identifies several accessibility gaps on the home page of the new section508.gov web site. The site was launched partially in celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the ADA, and some of the accessibility gaps Lembree finds are whoppers: overly styled text instead of heading tags, for example. As Jennison said, what does it say when the chief US gov agency promoting IT
accessibility is not where it needs to be with their own site?


But let's follow with a much more inspiring post: [personal profile] jesse_the_k: "20 Years and a Day for the Americans with Disabilities Act". This essay inspires me to see all the good we've done in two decades. From [personal profile] jesse_the_k:

So, thanks for my life, ADA: many mundane things, and a few great big ones.

The law is not enough; as Cal Montgomery taught me:
Discrimination is always illegal; only activism makes it unwise.


And something I don't say very often, because I'm still pissed off about certain comments about atheism, But thanks, George H. W. Bush, for signing the ADA into law. Because of that law, I have a job.
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It's international "closing tabs so therefore linkspam" day. Actually, that was a month ago -- if you noticed the links at the bottom of this post are fairly dated, that's why.

Scholarly Publishing: California Versus Nature, Institutional Repositories, Humanities scholarship  )


Librarians and archivists: no longer advanced )

Polymers for fuel cell technologies


Awesome thing at my university: "Polymers for fuel cell technologies". Four undergraduate interns are describing their summer research project on polymers for fuel cell technologies. Orthogonal to the science or the topic of the video, all four students are deaf or hard of hearing, and the science and the video is communicated via ASL. And thank you, Tufts Jumble, for presenting the video as being about the science. Because it is.
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Kill Accessibility, a blog post by Gary Barber, made me put me head down on my desk and take several deep breaths.

Barber makes some excellent points about some of the limitations of the accessibility movement. He talks about how accessibility shouldn't be an afterthought, but incorporated into good web design and universal design. He talks about how for many, "accessible" has come to mean "for people with visual impairments". He talks about the weakness of the way checklists are used, and about the low social value of improving your website's checklist.

So why does Barber lose me at the very beginning of his blog post? His first content heading: "We are not Assistive Technology users." I repeat that: "We are not Assistive Technology users." He goes on to say The old UX catch call is never truer here – we are not the users. The disparity between us and the people we are really working for, with accessibility, is sometimes just too great for us to even get a idea of what it is like, no matter how many videos of people using assitive technology we see.

Who is this "we" about whom you are speaking, Able-Bodied Man?

Last weekend I was in a room full of accessibility professionals, about half of whom had visible disabilities. The director of the WAI has a disability. There are people with disabilities on all of the web accessibility mailing lists I'm on. That's not even counting the other parts of the web development community I interact with, the parts that don't have any particular concern with accessibility and yet still have a multitude of developers with disabilities.

We are here. You just aren't talking to us. You just aren't listening.

Maybe the first step in the accessibility community is to recognize that some members of your own community are also the users, and to listen to us when we speak. I don't speak for all computer users with disabilities. I speak for exactly one: myself. But if you don't even know that we are here, each of us speaking for ourselves, you sure as hell are not going to be able to serve anyone in the community.
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This weekend, I attended Boston's first Accessibility Unconference. I expected to be going only for the networking opportunity, but I found the whole experience fabulous. Certainly there were some frustrations -- the location, for example, could have been more accessible by public transit. But overall, it was a great day.

I spoke about Dreamwidth, not surprisingly. Just as others have talked about the rich developer community that's built when you provide a development environment which is welcoming to women and encouraging to newbies, I talked about the accessibility gains that you get from creating a nurturing environment in your open-source community for people with disabilities. I talked about how being encouraging not just developers with disabilities but also newbies with disabilities made it more likely for your project to have a rich and motivated pool of testers using adaptive technology -- which prompted one participant to say something along the lines of, "you should rent those people out; everybody wants actual disabled testers!"

Other people's talks were also compelling. Jeanette Beal talked about low tech solutions for improving independent living, and gave us all a good reminder that adaptive technology isn't all about Web 2.0. I was sad the session on HTML 5 video was pretty brief, although that was all of our faults, because it shared a session with Flash video and we all asked too many questions of the people discussing Flash.

And the networking was nothing to sneeze at, either. I was thrilled to finally meet the blogger behind Dis/positional. I had long, enlightening talks with Judy Brewer (who was puzzled by my starry eyes) and Mike Gorse ([livejournal.com profile] lightvortex), a developer who works on Gnome accessibility. I learned that Patrick Timony, adaptive technology librarian at the DC public Library, is going to be presenting at SAA, and I promised to send those of my coworkers who will be attending the conference to talk to him. I didn't have enough time to talk to him about his interesting ideas about accessibility and archives, but I made the connection!

Above all, I was overwhelmed with being surrounded by more professionals with disabilities than I had ever in my life met offline. More programmers with disabilities. More female programmers with disabilities. At one point I was hard pressed not to start crying. Dreamwidth has been great for introducing me to other professionals, other techies, other female professionals and female techies disabilities. But I underestimated the emotional impact of being surrounded by that many of us in one room.

(ETA: One glorious moment happened when an attendee of the conference was chatting with me (note that my disability is mostly invisible) and she said "I see a lot of visually impaired people here. Are they here to learn about what kind of adaptive technologies are available?" And I responded, "No, they are mostly programmers and accessibility professionals," and she looked thoroughly taken aback. I think my little heart grew three sizes.)
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