SXSWi: Accessible Rich Media

This panel features Sharron Rush, Susan L. Gerhart, Lisa Pappas, and Becky Gibson. Sharron was the moderator.

Accessible Rich Media Accessible Rich Media

Susan Gerhart spoke first. She is a programmer who is slowly losing her eyesight. She talked about text to voice software and screen readers. She described Blog Talk Radio which has podcasts and supposedly has interactive text chat. She found the chat there inaccessible, and pointed out that there are accessible tools for text chat. She went to Blog Talk Radio and showed us how difficult it was to actually listen to a podcast there using text to voice software.

Lisa talked about the industry perspective on standards and accessibility. Some businesses comply with accessibility only because it’s required by law. However, it is also a factor in competitiveness, quality, ease-of-use, and market share. She also talked about the problem with AJAX. Screen readers are often not aware of it when a page updates via AJAX. Yesterday, the W3C released new recommendations called ARIA, which has suggestions for dealing with this issue. Lisa also mentioned the failures of accessibility validation tools. She gave a demo of a Color Contrast Analyzer tool, a Firefox extension.

Becky Gibson, from IBM, is working on web accessibility. She mentioned that there is a lack of semantics in HTML that allows web authors to markup HTML with proper elements to identify some of the new Web 2.0 applications. She suggested that we need full keyboard support, low vision support, assistive technology support with ARIA. She explained new ways to change the way people use Tab to move some navigation to work with arrow keys, or, as she put it, to make Web navigation more like the way you navigate your desktop. She showed Dojo, an open source JavaScript toolkit. She showed how to use the Core Widgets in Dojo. (Becky, are these anything like Adobe Flex?) Many apps using Dojo are not public yet. She showed an email app using Dojo and a screen reader.

[I later learned in a conversation with Dori Smith that Dojo is nothing like Flex. When Becky showed the example app in Dojo, it looked just like something you could build in Flex, but Dori says that Dojo is not visual like Flex.]

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