Sponsor interview – AccessibilityOz

We’re delighted to have AccessibilityOz involved with Webstock as a sponsor this year. Accessibility has been at the heart of Webstock’s interests since our first conference, way back in 2006. We talked with Gian Wild, founder of AccessibilityOz.

1) Tell us about AccessibilityOZ, how you came about and the work you do.

I’ve been working in the accessibility industry since 1998. I had run my own company before – but it was ten years too early to run an accessibility consultancy! I was working at Monash University as head of their Usability and Accessibility Services division when the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) released their National Transition Strategy in 2010. Basically it required all Government sites and applications to be Level A accessible by December 2012 and Level AA accessible by 2014. After that was released I was constantly fielding requests from clients, and of course there was only so much I could do while holding down a full-time job! Monash was great, and they were happy with me doing outside work, but by March 2011 I had to choose between the two!

2) What are the major accessibility issues on the web right now? And have things improved over the past 5 years?

In Australia, accessibility compliance has improved exponentially. In the 2010 baseline report AGIMO said only 5% of Government web sites were accessible. When the report was repeated two years later, accessibility compliance had jumped 500%! Certainly accessibility is on everybody’s radar now. There are actual roles in Government for accessibility specialists (that was another reason I ran my own business – there just weren’t jobs for an accessibility specialists!)

One of the biggest accessibility issues in the web right now is video. We continually see accessibility problems with video players – in fact in all our research we never found an accessible video player! So we decided to build one! To see what I mean, try using your current video player with the keyboard only (by tabbing from link to link). You’ll find that the video player traps the keyboard (so that the user cannot go anywhere with the tab key and has to close the browser and start again), or really important functions, like turning on captions or audio descriptions, can’t be accessed by the keyboard. If you’d like to know more about inaccessible video players, have a look at our video. Captions and audio descriptions are also an issue, as both are required if you want to meet Level AA of WCAG2.

Another big accessibility issue is mobile. It’s a complex accessibility issue as following WCAG2 in your site won’t necessarily create a mobile-friendly site, and there are other accessibility requirements (such as the ability for everything to be touch-accessible) that just aren’t covered in the W3C Guidelines. We have to use a combination of the W3C Mobile Web Best Practice Guidelines and the Draft BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines to test mobile sites.

3) If you could give web designers one piece of accessibility advice, what would it be?

Test colour contrast! We’re continually going back and forth with designers about the colours they use. It’s not particularly onerous to meet colour contrast requirements; it still allows for some impressive use of colour (have a look at Victoria’s Volunteering Portal if you don’t believe me!). There are two great tools to test colour contrast and they’re completely free. The first one is Juicy Studio’s Luminosity Colour Contrast Analyser, which allows users to enter hexidecimal colour values for testing. The second one is The Paciello Group’s Colour Contrast Analyser which has a colour picker so you can select colours and determine their contrast.

4) If you could give web developers one piece of accessibility advice, what would it be?

Use our Accessibility Factsheets on OzWiki. We have some great accessibility factsheets that are free to access under Creative Commons. There are twelve accessibility factsheets in OzWiki:

  • Images factsheet
  • Content factsheet
  • Keyboard factsheet
  • PDF factsheet
  • HTML5 factsheet
  • Source order factsheet
  • Video factsheet
  • JavaScript factsheet
  • Tables factsheet
  • Interactive Maps factsheet
  • Coding factsheet
  • Forms factsheet (not yet online)

Each factsheet contains the following:

5) You’ve developed OzPlayer, the world’s first fully-accessible video player. Can you tell us a little about what it does and how it works?

It’s an HTML5 video player with a Flash fallback for older browsers (or videos hosted on YouTube). Most Flash video players contain a keyboard trap in FireFox, so we worked really hard so that wouldn’t happen. It has synchronised audio descriptions (extended audio descriptions will be added later this year), captions and a moving transcript that follows the video content. It also has skip links, allowing the user to safely skip the video or go directly to the transcript. We also added native keyboard shortcuts which screen reader users love! It’s really easy to move the video back and forth and change the volume (as well as standard video requirements such as play and pause, mute, turn captions and audio descriptions on and off) using only the keyboard. We also have looked at fallbacks for when JavaScript is disabled and it works on a wide variety of operating systems and browsers (including mobiles and tablets). And you can skin it in seven different colours!

For more information, have a look at our video.

6) What are you most looking forward to at Webstock this year?

It’s my first time at Webstock. I have been meaning to attend for years, and I’m just glad I finally made it happen!

I’m really interested in the opening keynote: Scott Berkun and The Year without Pants. Our offices are distributed around Australia and a number of us work from home. It’s heartening to see a big company doing the same; I really think that is where work is headed. I’m also looking forward to Stick Around and Fix It, because we are definitely not a startup anymore (we’ve been around three years in April), and there are different challenges to running a business once it has been established. And, personally, I’m very interested in Sometimes You Need to Draw Animals, because running a small business always seems to lead to burnout! The New Literacies looks great – as I’ve constantly wondered how the medium makes the message. And, of course, I can’t wait for the closing keynote: The Meaning of Life! One of the world’s great questions, and it’ll be answered by the end of next week!

Thanks Gian! We look forward to seeing you at Webstock next week.