This time of year we like to look back and reflect on all the things that we are grateful for here at DIAGRAM and one of the biggest things is the tremendous community we have. We are in awe of each and every one of you and the work that you do. That’s why the community spotlight is one of our favorite sections and we are looking forward to highlighting everyone over the course of our award. If you or someone you know has something special coming up, let us know so we can include it in upcoming issues. Similarly, if you would rather not be featured, just let me know. You can email me at amayaw[at]benetech[dot]org.
Spotlight on Kimi Sugeno
Kimi comes to DIAGRAM with a background in publishing, specifically digital content management and workflow creation for digital book production. Kimi is the newest member of the DIAGRAM content working group and is already instrumental in furthering the group’s work through her continued help with the HTML migration of the Accessible Image Sample Book. While anyone who knows Kimi is aware that she is an expert when it comes to content management, project management, and workflow, few are privileged to the fact that she enjoys scuba diving, especially off Hawaii’s Big Island. Welcome, Kimi! We are very excited to have you as part of our community.
Benetech CEO and Founder Jim Fruchterman was awarded an honorary doctorate from Northern Illinois University. Laurie Elish-Piper, the dean of the NIU College of Education, said of Jim, “Mr. Fruchterman is truly a model of innovation, social justice, and interdisciplinary problem solving.” NIU President Doug Baker talked about the privilege of recognizing Jim, saying, “…He applies his skills in engineering and physics to discover, develop and deliver technology that helps people around the world to lead better and more productive lives, and he has accomplished this in a selfless way.” Jim was nominated by Gaylen Kapperman, a professor emeritus in the Department of Special and Early Education. Jim received his honorary doctorate on December 12, 2016, at the graduate school commencement ceremony. Congratulations to Jim!
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.
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.
Charles 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, Google.org, recently gave Benetech a grant to expand its Bookshare accessibility work globally. 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 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 is 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- “Robots4Autism Teaching Children with Autism Good Social and Emotional Behaviors” is an article written by Candice Lee about ways technology is being used to help children with autism.
- “Implementing Wearable Technology at Schools Boosts Engagement, Motivation” is a short article from Ed Tech Magazine on different ways wearable technology can help students with disabilities.
- “These 6 Women Undergrads At MIT Invented A Game Changer For The Blind” is an article featured in Forbes about six women who have invented a text-to-braille scanner that may be a game changer.
- “So Much Progress in Print Disabilities but Still So Far to Go” is an article in the Huffington Post that talks about the idea of “Buy Accessible” and prominently features Benetech.