As an accessibility expert and advocate, I have often wondered,

How hard is it for a person to get access to the latest version of JAWs?

The answer to this question is important, especially when I’m testing the accessibility of UT web offerings. If I happen to have JAWS 10 beta installed, but my student population doesn’t have access to that version yet, I could end up reporting that content is accessible, when in reality, my students might be unable to get to the information.

Recently, I was asked to test and report on the accessibility of iTunes, especially the iTunes U area. In my previous post, I was delighted to report that the iTunes 8 application is delightfully accessible to screenreaders. But, if you look closely, you will notice that I was using JAWS 10 beta. Which brings me back to the question, “How hard is it for my students, who need it, to get access to the latest version of JAWS when they need it?”

My first call was to the UT Services for Students with Disabilities, where I discovered that our assistive technology labs currently have JAWS 9 installed. After talking to the lab manager, I learned that he would easily be able to upgrade to whatever version of JAWS was required. Excellent! Another piece of the puzzle falls into place.

But, let’s be honest, while assistive technology labs are nice, they are not open 24/7. So, a bigger question was, “How hard would it be for my students to get an upgrade to their own version of JAWS?” This question led me to the Texas Department of Rehabilitative Services (DARS) which provides transition services for people with disabilities, including adaptive tools like JAWS. I was relieved to learn that students who had already received a full copy of JAWS from DARS would easily be able to get the upgraded version if it was clear that it was needed for them to be successful at UT.

Woot! I can now say, without reservation, the iTunes 8 application including iTunes U, is accessible!

Upon hearing this statement, my accessibility buddies would likely pepper me with the following questions:

  • What about the content of iTunes? Is the content fully accessible? – Notice that I was not testing the content, I was testing the application. Each piece of content (like audio, video) would need to have an appropriate transcript and/or captioining.
  • What about people who use a screenreader other than JAWS, is iTunes accessible to them too? – The answer to that question is up to each screenreader manufacturer. I have confirmed that iTunes 8 is accessible to both JAWS and Window Eyes. In fact, any screenreader based on MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility) is capable of working with iTunes 8. Do note, that the screenreader manufacturer may need to update their application.
  • What about other disabilities? Is the iTunes 8 application accessible for people who are deaf, mobility impaired or have cognitive disabilities? – When testing for accessibility, I follow the US Federal 508 Standard, with an eye for WCAG 2.0’s principles of Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR). And indeed, the iTunes 8 application meets these requirements. Remember, I’m talking about the application, not the content. For the content to be accessible, each entity that contributes content will have to ensure that they have included the necessary captions and transcripts.

My hat is off to Apple. They have done an outstanding job of proactively working with assistive technology vendors and building an application that is accessible to everyone. Thank you Apple.

Firefox Download Day 2008

I love the smell of a new version of a standards compliant browser freshly installed on my laptop. (inhale, sigh). Care to join me? Head on over to Spread Firefox.

And I’m curious, what is your browser of choice these days? For me, I spend a good amount of time in Opera, IE, Safari and JAWS, but if you check my history, you’ll see that I live in Firefox. I’m addicted to my Web Developer Toolbar, the WAVE Toolbar and the ever so delicious Colour Contrast Analyzer.

heart shaped peace sign

With all my heart, I wish everyone in the world, could hear this song, in their native language, close their eyes and hope for such a world and believe that it is possible.

Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

This moment brought to you in the spirit of Stop Cyberbullying Day March 30. Want to help? If you have a blog, post your support for this movement. Want to learn more? Check out Ning Stop Cyberbullying.

Peace Out.

Update: Workshop in Austin is sold out.

I wanted to let y’all know about a wonderful 3 day Digital Storytelling Workshop that is being hosted at UT, March 19-21st. This is the first ever Center for Digital Storytelling open workshop in Texas! Joe Lambert will lead this experience. Joe is the founder of the Digital Storytelling movement and author of Digital Storytelling-Capturing Lives, Creating Community. I had the good fortune to attend Joe’s sessions within the last year with some folks from the Blanton Museum. Joe’s workshop inspired us to create the Geometry of Hope Interactive Exhibit using the techniques we learned in this workshop + Pachyderm (the open source multimedia authoring tool).

If you have a story to tell…what are you waiting for?

Digital Storytelling Workshop – March 19-21, 2007

In 1993, Joe Lambert and his collaborators developed a unique workshop environment that assists people in creating video stories from their family photos and home video. It is based on a philosophy of emphasizing fundamental elements of good storymaking combined with a demystification of multimedia technology and tools.

We have helped over 10,000 people to mine powerful and effective tales from the pictures of their lives, or the lives of their loved ones. The stories have covered every conceivable topic: tales of survival and achievement; corporate brand stories, travel adventures; love stories, health and healing; oral histories about cultures, historic periods, and work experiences; and memorials to loved ones.

The class is a great introduction for the multimedia novice or the professional to working with digital imaging and digital video softwares.
The workshops include hands-on instruction to Adobe Photoshop and Final Cut Express and script/storyboard development. The CDS teaching staff will give each student specific assistance on their projects, including design, scripting, and other issues regarding the specific use of their digital story.

Students will complete a 3 minute piece which will be output to disk and mailed following the workshop.

Course Objectives

  1. To provide students with an introduction to the tools of desktop video in a production context.
  2. To introduce storytelling methodology (point of view, emotional content, dramatic action) into a dialogue about new media content
  3. Assist students in completing a project.
  4. Provide a Digital Storytelling Cookbook.

Monday-Wednesday, March 19-21, 2007
North Office Building A (NOA)
University of Texas
Austin, TX

Price: $ 495 USD Individual project

To register email or for more information visit StoryCenter Workshops.

The world needs to hear your story.

I get impatient when the wheels of change move too slowly. That is why I maintain a URL outside my work space. Ahhhh…the relief of being able to go to my own URL and just do it. What is “It”? “It” might be:

  • making my site xhtml 1.0 strict
  • upgrading to the latest version of PHP in less than 30 minutes when I want to
  • installing an open source application and using it immediately
  • saying exactly what I think

And rather than these actions just being personally satisfying…I’ve found over and over again, that a “just do it” successfully implemented in my own space spurs change within my workspace. Not always…but often.

At this very moment, I’m reading a fascinating article by Andrew McAfee entitled “Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration“. Highlighter in hand…I’m marking my favorite passages. And I can’t resist sharing this one about the value of informal rollout of new technology.

You see, I ‘ve been begging for blogs for all students, faculty and staff at UT since 2005. And while some progress has been made…we still don’t have it. One of the many hurdles is the perceived need to write a policy to handle inappropriate content that could be created on blogs. (deep sigh) Why? Why do we think we have to write a damn policy just for blogs? Blogs aren’t any different than free speech on the west mall. Blogs aren’t any different than the free webspace we have for all students, faculty and staff.

So, I really resonated with this line in the article about wikis and blogs in organizations:

“…explicit policies about hate speech and harassment were unnecessary. Any (one) familiar with the organization’s culture and norms would already know that such content was forbidden, regardless of medium.”

I’ll keep begging for blogs and wikis for all at UT until they become a reality…because I believe they are a critical piece of the knowledge puzzle. Blogs and wikis bring out the storyteller in all of us, making it easier to discover what others are thinking. Everyone (yes, everyone) has something to contribute whether it is a comment, a fact, an insight, an edit, a link, a tag or knowledge.

Last year, a brilliant blogger pointed out that my blogrole was 100% male. And while talented as those boys may be…where indeed were the women on my wizard list? Being a brand new blogger myself at that time, I realized that the people that originally inspired me to blog happened to be male. After much thought, I expanded my wizard list to include my accessibility heroes as well. In addition to reviewing my blogrole, I joined forces with some bloggers to explore the question so well asked by Molly at SXSW 2005, “Where are the Women of Web Design“?

At NetSquared 2006, I had the opportunity to hear Elisa Camahort, co-founder, BlogHer. She showed me exactly where the women bloggers are! And I encourage you to head to BlogHer to register yourself, if you are a female blogger, or register a female blogger that inspires you!

So what is the portrait of the new internet storyteller? According to recent Pew/Internet research on bloggers:

The blogging population is young, evenly split between women and men, and racially diverse.

  • The most distinguishing characteristic of bloggers is their youth. More than half (54%) of bloggers are under the age of 30. Like the internet population in general, however bloggers are evenly divided between men and women.
  • Another distinguishing characteristic is that bloggers are less likely to be white than the general internet population. Sixty percent of bloggers are white, 11% are African American, 19% English-speaking Hispanic and 10% identify as some other race. By contrast, 74% of internet users are white, 9% are African American, 11% are English-speaking Hispanic and 6% identify as some other race.

Which brings me to my newest goal to help achieve internationalization where the motto is: “Making the World Wide Web truly world wide!” Onward!

I’m very inspired by my work. Most every day I have the opportunity to make the web a more universally accessible place and I revel in the deep meaning I find in creating a museum without walls. But today I was really struck by Sarah McLachlan’s World on Fire video that took the $148,270 it would have taken to make a fancy music video and spent every dime of it on helping people who are starving, sick, homeless and alone. (thanks to Andy Greer for sharing this with me)

And a few weeks back at Net2 I met a roomful of people who dedicate their lives to making the world a better place. I had the great fortune of sitting down next to Ivan Boothe who is the Director of Communications for the Genocide Intervention Network. Sad to say, in my protected world, I had no real concept of what was happening to people in Dafur. Ivan asks the questions “Can blogging stop genocide?

It is humbling for me to see people like Sarah and Ivan using their energy to help others in such great need. And it reminds me how important it is to ask myself…”what was I built for? how can I make a difference?”

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, commited people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

My friend Meesh tagged me on this…

I AM high on life.

I WANT my iPod to wake up from it’s coma.

I WISH that we knew how to cure cancer.

I MISS lazy weekend mornings with my lover/husband pre-kids.

I HEAR Diana Krall singing S’Wonderful.

I WONDER what excitement awaits me behind door number 3.

I REGRET almost nothing (as a philosophy).

I AM NOT frilly.

I DANCE alone.

I AM NOT ALWAYS optimistic (but I try).

I MAKE WITH MY HANDS a sunflower fort.

I WRITE straight from my heart.

I CONFUSE reality with dreams (in the most delightful way).

I SHOULD learn to say “No” more often.

I START lots of conversations!

I FINISH my goals only to discover new ones.

And at the moment…I’m not gonna tag anyone…but I’m so glad Meesh tagged me!

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