deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
New project DictationBridge will make screen readers play nicely with dictation software: speech-to-text working well with text-to-speech! So excited about this. The first revision will be NVDA and Windows Speech Recognition, followed by Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and eventually other screen readers.

It's being billed as for blind and VI people with RSI, but as a sighted RSI accessibility programmer I am going to love this. Also since I have a cordless headset I might become a person who full-on computes while cooking.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
This trend I'm seeing for massive fonts -- 22 pixels on Medium, 20 pixels (computed from 3.0625 em!) on, when my default size is 13 pixels -- is driving my up the wall. I have my screen set to a certain resolution and my fonts at a certain size which I find readable. When the main body text is that much larger than my comfortable reading range, I have to shrink the heck out of my fonts to be over to cope, and then increase them again when I'm done.

I have my browser set to a comfortable reading size. Why are all these sites assuming I don't?
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.


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]
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
YES YES YES. An excellent post by Dorothea at Book of Trogool, inspired by Dan Cohen, about sustainability and chasing the shiny.

As I've had occasion to mention, scholars generally and humanists in particular have a terrible habit of chasing the shiny. [...]

The answer to this conundrum is not, however, "avoid the shiny at all costs!" It can't be. That will only turn scholars away from archiving and archivists. To my mind, this means that our systems have to take in the data and make it as easy as possible for scholars to build shiny on top of it. When the shiny tarnishes, as it inevitably will, the data will still be there, for someone else to build something perhaps even shinier.

Mark me well, incidentally: it is unreasonable and unsustainable to expect data archivists to build a whole lot of project-specific shiny stuff. You don't want your data archivists spending their precious development cycles doing that! You want your archivists bothering about machine replacement cycles, geographically-dispersed backups, standards, metadata, access rights, file formats, auditing and repair, and all that good work.

YES. We need to be working well with the people responsible for interfaces -- but we need not to be building those interfaces ourselves. (Hopefully, I will soon have exciting news about a project that follows these guidelines. I'm not going to make an announcement until we have it right, though. *g*)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Is there any particular reason that archival collection management tools, vendor provided or open source, are all ridiculously inaccessible? I mean, Proficio appears to have gone entirely out of its way to rewrite a widget set in order to avoid Windows APIs on its Windows-only product, thus rendering it completely mouse driven. Archivist's Toolkit, you are designed in academia with public funding, and you don't even mention the word "accessibility" on your website. And most of the other collection management databases I've tested are just as bad. Would a little bit of keyboard-driveability or non-graphical navigation really kill you?

I mean, I'm not asking everybody to have Moodle's stance on accessibility, but... who am I kidding. I am absolutely asking you all to have Moodle's stance on accessibility.

Remember that time I burst into tears in a meeting because of development manager said "we can't make these decisions thinking about the 3% of our users who have accessibility needs" and I shouted "those 3% are ME, your coworker, sitting right here"? That's how I feel today. It's my job to test the software. It's my job to make recommendations to my coworkers about what product we should be using. And I can't use it.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
What are some of your favorite digital libraries, archives, and collections? I don't mean what has your favorite content, but what is your favorite user interface? Which is easiest, simplest, most clear, most fun, prettiest, cleanest, most accessible, or simply best tied into your everyday workflow? What do you like about it? What do you wish were different?

(You might notice that this entry is crossposted from its new location, I'm going to be cross posting from the new location to gnomicutterance for the foreseeable future, and everybody with a livejournal account can still comment over there using OpenID; your livejournal account is your OpenID account. Anonymous commenting is also turned on, as always. is still going to be a functional address which mirrors all those posts, but I find Dreamwidth's commitment to accessibility and usability makes it more attractive than Livejournal.)
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
All these papers will eventually be available in the Open Repositories 2008 conference repository. I'm linking to all of the placeholders; papers should be up soon.

This will be very limited liveblogging, because I'm typing in the conference and dictating betwen sessions, so I can't say much. Hopefully I'll get some good fodder for my upcoming sustainability post.


Repositories for Scientific Data, Peter Murray-Rust )

Session 1 – Web 2.0

Adding Discovery to Scholarly Search: Enhancing Institutional Repositories with OpenID and Connotea, Ian Mulvany, David Kane )

The margins of scholarship: repositories, Web 2.0 and scholarly practice, Richard Davis )

Rich Tags: Cross-Repository Browsing, Daniel Smith, Joe Lambert, mc schraefel )

Ow. I'm not doing this for the next session. I can blog at the breaks.

many links

Feb. 22nd, 2008 02:40 pm
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
The only way to get all these tabs out of my browser is to actually post some links.

This is one I've been saying for awhile "somebody has got to be working on this". Omeka is creating a free platform to help people create curated digital exhibits. The next thing that needs to happen is a hosted service -- not CONTENTdm style hosted service, but a real hosted curation service including preservation planning.

Republicans utterly refuse to compromise on telecom immunity, while the president insists that anyone who doesn't grant immunity to the telecommunications companies want the terrorists to win.

Why students want simplicity and why it fails them when it comes to research is a good introduction to the idea that the skills learned in googling for facts are not actually going to serve a student who needs to learn how to do complex research. Sometimes we need to adapt to user-perceived needs, but sometimes, as academic or school librarians, our job is to teach our patrons. The trick lies in choosing the right balance.

It doesn't do us much good to have an independent, bipartisan Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board if the President can make it vanish simply by not appointing any members.

The MPAA's numbers about the effect of campus music piracy were vastly overblown. Only about 15% of their losses were due to campus downloading, and only about 3% probably came from on campus networks, but the record companies and Congress are bullying the universities to police anyway.

These pictures are very beautiful and very, very sad. "It will rise from ashes" is a blog post and accompanying Flickr set of images from an abandoned Detroit school system book depository. Trees growing from the soil created by burned then rained upon books; it's a kind of renewal, but renewal not from the typical post-apocalyptic vision of a rich industrial culture, but renewal from... well, I don't want to be too horribly melodramatic and say shattered potentials, so I don't know how to finish the sentence.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
User Studies and User Interfaces

This panel was probably the most useful in terms of immediate impact for my coworkers, just because of the research into OPAC interfaces. (Well, the most useful not counting the DSpace/Manakin tutorial.)

Agreeing to Disagree: Search Engines and Their Public Interfaces )

Static Reformulation: A User Study of Static Hypertext for Query-based Reformulation )

A Rich OPAC User Interface with AJAX )

Constructing Digital Library Interfaces )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanties and Social Sciences: Shaping and Advancing the Humanities Research Agenda

Much of this panel was dedicated to speakers from the IMLS and the NIH talking about their grant funding projects. A valuable talk, but not something that led me to take many notes. The key part of this panel, for me, was Greg Crane's speech, although I've heard him give versions of this talk before. While I've often disagreed with various points Crane has made, the overarching thrust of this particular talk is what I find very valuable. His focus is not a library focus about digitizing collections for preservation or access, but it's specifically a researcher focus: what tools can we add to our resources as we digitize them to give us more than we ever had before.

Humanities Cyberinfrastructure )

Ray @ IMLS on the humanities information landscape )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
So after several posts on my scholarship, here's a series of posts on the conference sessions from JCDL 2007. I'm not liveblogging the conference because there's no wireless in the session areas (on the one hand, WTF? No wireless in the session rooms at a conference co-sponsored by IEEE and the ACM? On the other hand, it probably makes for better framed responses from me not to be liveblogging).

Keynote, Daniel Russell, from Google )
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