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DIAGRAM Goes to Accessibility Camp

2016 December 30

Technical Camp

by Charles LaPierre

All the sessions were very well attended and had a tremendous amount of information to share. The sessions I attended were:

  • “Enhancing Accessibility for Date and Time selector: Lessons Learned” by Alan Souza where we coded a date/time selector and saw how it interacted with a screen reader. Experts in the audience offered alternative ways to accomplish the task and insights into some best practices.
  • “Accessibility Testing Tools for Developers” by Gerard Cohen was very interesting and highlighted a number of automated tools for checking a website for accessibility. Gerard, who is visually impaired, took a selfie of his debut presentation with VoiceOver activated on his phone, and it was so cool to hear how Voice Over told him the number of faces it found in the picture as he snapped the shot.
  • “Time to start exploiting ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) 1.1″ by accessibility expert Matt King, who explained that ARIA 1.1 includes eight new roles and thirteen new states. He pointed out some that had deprecated, I was surprised to learn that one was Drag and Drop. Of course, I had to tell Matt about our brand new Drag and Drop Developers sub-committee and he seemed very interested in learning more about it.

All in all the camp was well attended, well organized and had an outstanding lineup of presenters with substantive content. Many thanks to the event sponsors and LinkedIn for hosting.

Accessible User Interface Design Camp

by Deanna McCusker

I attended the session “Inclusive Design Thinking” presented by Bo Campbell, the A11Y design lead from IBM. This session emphasized the importance of including personas of people with disabilities in the task analysis. This session was similar to the one on mockup and wireframe review which discussed ways to ensure that accessibility is included in product development by including specifications in the design and mockups. Both of these sessions encouraged more A11y awareness in the product design phase so that it is carried forward into the development phase.

The session “Android A11y” given by Renato Iwashima from LinkedIn was a review of Android accessibility features, including the new “voice access” feature which was released at CSUN this year, but is still in beta. I also attended a session on law by disability rights attorney Lainey Feingold. She explained what is and is not currently in the legal code regarding digital accessibility and described her efforts at gaining corporate compliance through Structured Negotiation.

This year’s camp was just as good and informative as last year’s camp, and I look forward to attending next year.

Michigan Image Description Workshop

2016 December 30
by Amaya Webster

The University of Michigan Library and Press hosted a workshop with support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, on Describing Visual Resources in Arts and Humanities Publications.  The purpose of the workshop was to engage invited experts, including DIAGRAM Product Manager Sue-Ann Ma and community members Sina Bahram and Bryan Gould, to collaborate with other groups concerned with describing visual resources. Event host Stephanie Rosen was thrilled to have DIAGRAM members present saying that “we are very excited to add forthcoming content to the DIAGRAM [Image Description] Guidelines. The document has served as a model for our project throughout the process.” Needless to say, we are also excited and look forward to further collaboration with Stephanie and the rest of the University of Michigan Library and Press team. Read their full blog post on the event.

Bay Area Accessibility Meetup

2016 December 30

CA photograph of Deanna presenting at the meetup.harles LaPierre, the Technical Lead for DIAGRAM + and Born Accessible; Deep Datta, Benetech’s Head of Technical Volunteer Communities; and Deanna McCusker, Benetech’s Head of User Experience; presented at November’s Bay Area Accessibility Meetup. This month’s event was generously hosted by Google whose charitable arm,, recently gave Benetech a grant to expand its Bookshare accessibility work globally. Charles Presenting to the participants at the Meetup. Deanna kicked off the presentation by sharing an overview of our Global Literacy Program and highlighting the new features of Bookshare.  Charles then introduced the Born Accessible initiative and the new Accessibility Conformance and Discovery Specification included in the EPUB 3.1 which was met with a lot of excitement. Charles went on to highlight DIAGRAM and our community involvement. He then A photograph of Deep Data presenting to the meetup attendees. demonstrated some of Benetech Lab’s projects, MathML Cloud and Math Support Finder, which have both been released in beta. He also demonstrated the Poet Training Module which, when finished, will adapt the Poet Image Description Tool into a training resource for people to learn how to create quality image descriptions. Deep wrapped up the presentation talking about the opportunities that technologists have in skills-based volunteering with Benetech and participating in open source projects with our partner nonprofits through Benetech’s Code Alliance initiative.

The meet-up was a fun and successful event that reinforced our belief that the work we do with our partners A photograph of the meetup attendees listening to Benetech being extremely important. Community drives many of the projects that Benetech Labs and DIAGRAM choose to work on, and we strive to bring the best people together to work on tough and unique challenges. We believe that rather than work in silos, we should leverage each other’s talents to effect change. In 2017, we’re excited to continue our grant work with Google on technology related to artificial intelligence for classifying and making images more accessible on the web.


DIAGRAM Product Update

2016 December 30
by Amaya Webster

Poet Training Module

While many people are familiar with the Poet Image Description Tool, we have learned over time that what people really need are examples and best practices for creating quality image descriptions. So in 2017 we will be expanding the Poet Image Description Training Module to address these needs. Stay tuned to learn more as this work unfolds.

3D Tactile Standards Working Group Update

2016 December 30
by Amaya Webster

Sadly, working group chair Mia Lipner had to step down so the DIAGRAM team will be meeting after the holidays to determine the best way for the group to proceed. In the meantime, we want to thank Mia for all of her hard work and dedication. We will miss her leadership!

Content Working Group Update

2016 December 30

The Content Working Group reviewed and approved the newest addition to the Accessible Image Sample Book, a section on how to make multimedia accessible, which will go live early next year. During the review process, the group had an in-depth discussion on the unexpected difficulties around embedding and playing closed captions in an EPUB document. After some back and forth with members of the Transition to Accessible EPUB group, it was determined that the problem wasn’t with the EPUB 3.1 specification, but rather a shortcoming of reading systems that will be tested further by the reading systems group. Other decisions made included how to progress with the HTML migration of the Accessible Image Sample Book which is currently underway and the next steps for the Top Tips For Producing Braille-Friendly Content document which is still in the early stages of production.

Developers Working Group Update

2016 December 30
by Charles LaPierre

The Developers subcommittee discussed strategies on how to represent math in an accessible way but still be able to visually render the equation exactly regardless of what reading system is used.

We also talked about coding and “block languages” which were inspired from the recent Hour of Code where tens of millions of students in over 180 countries learned how to program using drag-and-drop “blocks.” The DIAGRAM center will be researching this area further through the work of the Drag and Drop subcommittee, which is aiming to find accessible methods for this popular drag-and-drop user interface.

Drag and Drop Subcommittee Group Update

2016 December 30
by Charles LaPierre

A new subcommittee chaired by Jason White of ETS is gaining momentum. This group will be identifying multiple categories of Drag and Drop and exploring the various ways to make the interactions accessible for a multitude of disabilities.  This will be one of many areas of interest that we will explore in the upcoming CUSN Accessible Interactive’s workshop that will be held on February 28th in San Diego.

Standards Working Group Update

2016 December 30
by Charles LaPierre

We are creating a registry for braille codes that can be included in EPUB books that contain preformatted braille. We are also looking at the future of Diagrammar and how it can be used in RRAI (Repository-Registry of Accessible Images).

TASC Subcommittee Group Update

2016 December 30
by Charles LaPierre and Amaya Webster

Last month the TASC members met for our quarterly meeting where we touched on the topics of speech recognition, emotion detection, virtual reality, drag and drop and the upcoming DIAGRAM Report. Most of the meeting, however, was spent discussing machine learning when Anh Bui, Vice President of Benetech Labs, asked, “if we have a large number of images, is it possible to get to the point where, through machine learning, images that contain math are automatically differentiated from the ones that don’t, and then taken down a path that would have them treated in a way that would make them accessible?” The group was excited at the prospect. Discussion quickly switched from “if” to “how”, with the focus being on how to build a large enough data set and what implementation would look like. If this is a topic you are interested in, make sure to read the next edition of our Digital Digest, where we will be diving deeper into machine learning and its potential uses for accessibility.

Out and About

2016 December 30
  • Attention DIAGRAM community. For those of you in or around Washington, D.C. you may want to check out the PSP 2017 pre-conference session: “Accessibility Is the New Innovation: From Compliance to New Opportunities” on February 1, 2017, sponsored by the PSP Committee for Digital Innovation (CDI).
  • DIAGRAM at CSUN: February 27 to March 4, 2017 in San Diego, California
    • It’s that time again and we’re sure it will come as no surprise that DIAGRAM will once again be represented in force.  Thanks to the success of last year’s Accessible Math Code Sprint, we will once again hold a pre-conference sprint on February 28, this time focusing on accessible interactive scenarios. If you are a developer and interested in participating, please reach out to Charles LaPierre at CharlesL[at]Benetech[dot]org or Sue-Ann Ma at SueannM[at]Benetech[dot]org.
    • We will also be hosting our DIAGRAM office hours party which will take place from 5-7 p.m. PT on March 2.  Please stay tuned for more information as the date gets closer.
    • If you will be hosting an event or presenting a session let us know. In the next issue of our DIAGRAM Digital Digest, we will highlight the sessions and events that will be of particular interest to our community. You can send your session or event details tot amayaw[at]Benetech[org].

What We Are Reading

2016 December 30
by Amaya Webster

A big thank you to all of you who sent us articles to be included in this edition of “What We Are Reading” Please keep them coming! You can send them to info[at]Diagramcenter[org] or to me directly at amayaw[at]benetech[dot]org.

Adventures at the W3C Combined Technical Plenary/Advisory Committee (TPAC) Meetings

2016 October 31
by Charles LaPierre

What a trip!  TPAC 2016 was in Lisbon Portugal this year, our hotel Vila Galé Ópera was walking distance to the conference center and many great Portuguese restaurants.  Most evenings we all went to a nearby restaurant hunting for authentic Portuguese cuisine.  We had great seafood near the harbor.  Our final evening, we found an authentic Portuguese restaurant where we enjoyed braised pork cheeks, and I tried a sardine that was very tasty and reminded me of a smaller smelt that I grew up catching using nets in the middle of the night in Canada.
There were a number of panel discussions and meetings on various topics led and attended by DIAGRAM community members or applicable to our goals and objectives. These included:

  • “EPUB 3 Roadmap: Development and Adoption of EPUB 3.1, EPUB for Education, and beyond” A panel with Rick Johnson from our content working group discussed Vital Source’s role in educational accessible materials through BookShelf.
  •   Accessibility: Electronic Documents and Web Convergence” a panel discussion that myself, George Kerscher and Judy Brewer conducted.  George set the stage with a brief history of how we got to this point with the work he started and helped shape HTML 1.0 and where DAISY and the IDPF all fit into the picture.  I then gave a recap of the Accessibility W3C Note we published earlier this year. I then talked about our new EPUB Accessibility 1.0 Conformance and Discovery Requirements for EPUB Publications, accessibility of the entire publishing chain and the importance of page numbers for books with or without a print copy.
  • One afternoon George Kerscher, Jason White, Markku Hakkenin, Peter Krautzberger, Avneesh Singh, myself, and a number of key players discussed how to get MathML into an EPUB.  At the end we decided that we needed a solution that could display a perfect image of the math with associated textual description and the MathML accessible to a screen reader but hidden visually.  We are continuing to research various options that could facilitate this and then proceed to test these solutions with various reading systems.  This research and possible solutions will then be given to the IDPF as a technique to include for publishers wishing to include MathML in their publications.
  • WCAG Next / WCAG 3.0 aka Silver: Right now the W3C is working on an update to WCAG which is going to be the next Accessibility Guidelines for the Web, and will eventually replace WCAG and go even further to help accessibility.
  • ARIA – Accessibility Object Model:  This new accessibility Object model which is still in the planning phase will help make things on the web accessible without negative side effects such as performance.

Update on the 2016 BISG Awards

2016 October 31
by Amaya Webster

Last month we announced the exciting news that Robin Seaman had been awarded the BISG Distinguished Service Award for her work and efforts in the area of standards and best practices and that George Kerscher was nominated for the BISG Industry Champion Award. We are now thrilled to announce that on Friday, September 30, 2016 George Kerscher won the BISG Industry Champion Award. The award honors an individual whose efforts have gone beyond the requirements of his or her position to advance the publishing industry while embracing BISG’s mission to facilitate innovation and shared solutions for the benefit of all companies and practitioners who create, produce, and distribute published content.  At the awards ceremony Bill Kasdorf read the following statement,

“George Kerscher has worked tirelessly for decades to promote accessibility and foster collaboration between organizations internationally. Since 1987, when he coined the term “print disabled,” he has been dedicated to developing technologies and standards that make information not only accessible, but also fully functional, to those who are blind or have a print disability, and to help publishers understand that by doing this, they are making their content better for everybody. George is Chief Innovations Officer of the DAISY Consortium; Senior Advisor, Global Literacy, to Benetech; President of the IDPF; Chair of the DAISY/NISO Standards Committee; Chair of the Steering Council of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI); and is on the Advisory Board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a Presidential appointment. He has been an invaluable member of the BISG EPUB 3 Grid Working Group, heading up the Accessibility aspects of the Grid, and the Accessibility Working Group. He has been not only our lodestar on accessibility, he’s the industry’s. He is the very definition of Industry Champion. Plus he’s a heck of a wonderful person, and Michelle Obama loves his dog.”

Please join me in once again congratulating Robin and George on their well-deserved wins!