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Out and About From Home

2020 September 3
by Amaya Webster

Code Sprinting in COVID

Due to COVID-19 we were unable to have the 2020 code sprint in person at the Educational Testing Services (ETS) campus in Princeton, New Jersey as originally planned. Instead, the decision was made to host it remotely.

During the second week of June, participants from across the United States—and as far away as the United Kingdom—convened virtually for three days, leveraging Zoom, Slack, and Github to coordinate work in teams on seven different projects.

The winning project was Rendering Line Charts on a Braille Display. In just three days the team, consisting of project lead Doug Scheppers of Fizz Studio and Jason White of ETS, managed to turn a rough idea jotted down in an email into a working prototype. Their novel approach enabled quick access to data visualization trends and overviews, including a Web framework that takes line-chart data and outputs a simplified line chart to a refreshable single-line braille display. It also allows a user to select a section and hear the text values. Doug and Jason were so pleased with the results that they have continued to work on the open source project, which they have named SparkBraille.

The additional projects were as follows:

Group one, led by DIAGRAM Community Manager Amaya Webster, focused on automating the Tactile Graphic Decision Tree. The group took the original tree, incorporated the expanded branches created by DIAGRAM’s Tactile Working Group, and created a fully screen reader accessible prototype of an interactive decision tree, designed to help educators determine whether the images they are using need accompanying image descriptions, tactile graphics, or 3d models in order to be most effective and accessible. Despite a few bugs that still need to be worked out, the interactive tree is expected to go live on the DIAGRAM website by the end of Q3.

The second group was led by DIAGRAM’s Technical Lead, Charles LaPierre, and worked together for just the morning of the first day. During that time the group was able to improve the Accessible Interactive’s Library by adding a much needed Web Accessibility section, including the top three tools used for checking web page accessibility and a resource from the W3C for a complete list of WCAG compliance checkers available. The group also added accessibility improvements to the site, which included the clean-up of some overlapping text. By the end of the day, accessibility audits resulted in zero WCAG-AA error warnings. On top of all that, the library now boasts a grand total of  50 items in the repository that are open source, and freely available, software components and tools which can be used to develop accessible, interactive Web applications.

Group three was also led by Charles LaPierre. The group helped with the cleanup effort of the DCMP (Described and Captioned Media Program) video database. Together they have organized the metadata for 400 videos, categorizing each by subject and adding keywords to enhance search capabilities.

Evan Yamanishi of W.W. Norton led the fourth group, which built on last year’s project on Extended Image Descriptions to put together a more generalized solution for progressive enhancement of image descriptions, whether they are set with aria-describedby, aria-details, or even longdesc. In addition to last year’s overlay experience, the group also sketched out a modal dialog experience in which the user can expand an image to reveal more details in a universally designed way.

The fifth group was led by Benetech’s Mathshare Product Manager, Alex Cabral. The group combined their efforts on the accessible sketchpad project to build on the existing Mathshare palette.  The accessible sketchpad was designed for students who benefit from thinking through a problem visually but can’t draw it out, including those with dysgraphia or other fine motor disabilities. The accessible sketchpad allows the creation of shapes that can be manipulated—changing the radius of a circle, for example. This feature has yet to be incorporated into Mathshare, but it is our intent to do so in the future.

The sixth group was led by Neil Soiffer of Talking Cat Software. This group focused on a Web proposal for putting SSML in a web page so an audio rendering of the page can be improved. During the sprint, they created a test web page that inserts a webpage (either local or from the web) and allows a person to mark up portions of it with SSML. The page also included TEXTHelp’s SpeechStream buttons.

Students with Additional Needs in Remote Learning Environments Unconference

DIAGRAM, in partnership with IES, OSEP, Bridge Multimedia and CAST, put on an unconference titled “Students with Additional Needs in Remote Learning Environments”. The unconference targeted parents, educators, and students and, with a total of 3,000 registrants, was a terrific success.

Publisher Faceoff

On April 8th, 2020 we hosted our second Publisher Faceoff virtually as part of the new DAISY webinar series. The 78 attendees represented 45 different publishers, many of which were in the education space. Each publisher submitted an EPUB file for an accessibility audit. The files were then compared to each other, with accessibility best practices highlighted and shared between participants. Showcasing the strides other publishers are already making towards accessibility and specific ways they can do better encourages participants to stay competitive and improve their processes, resulting in an increase in the overall accessibility of EPUBs in the publishing industry.

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