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May 2019: Downloading Digital Access

By popular request, this month we follow the many paths of digital access

A photo of a tiny baby fox using its mouth to grab a bigger fox's tail. We can only see the back end of the bigger fox. Let's follow them! I bet they can lead us through the grass to paths of digital access. boredpanda.com 

 [A photo of a tiny baby fox using its mouth to grab a bigger fox's tail as they walk through the grass. We can only see the back end of the bigger fox. Let's follow them! I bet they can lead us to paths of digital access. Boredpanda.com]

Even before the Access Tip was created, the Disability Program received requests for tools, processes, and ways to make digital information accessible to more people. And finally, the time has come to explore this critical topic. 

Why now? Well, digital access has a lot of different parts. And many of those parts have now been featured in past Tips. So while we will soak in new tools and ideas, we can also enjoy the company of familiar Tips gone by.

Not only can we do this, but we have been steadily building the tools to do this for years.

Text reads: Who's awesome? You're awesome! Photo of a puppy winking at us, one paw outstretched towards us. We are awesomely prepared for this tip! From whoseawesome.com

[Text reads: Who's awesome? You're awesome! Photo of a puppy winking at us, one paw outstretched towards us. We are awesomely prepared for this tip! whoseawesome.com]

And as a reward for your continued readership and our collective commitment to building our access skills, this month’s Tip features not one, but TWO checklists.

Don’t go skipping the rest just yet! (I saw that.)  

Let’s get some context first, and then we'll be ready to use the checklists.

Why Digital Access Rocks

Digital access is fundamentally about laying many different well-kept paths to the same information or content. This means that accessible hardware, software, and content is:

Like so many kinds of access, making your digital information accessible in a variety of ways works better for people with and without disabilities. But this is old hat for us. Let’s explore some pathways!

Remember the breadcrumbs, and please avoid any houses made of candy.

Paths of Digital Access

When we can’t get to the information superhighway

First, we need to recognize that many people cannot access digital pathways.

Any conversation on digital access must first acknowledge that many people cannot get to digital information at all. Accessing digital information first requires access to usable equipment, electricity, and the internet, where all the content lives.

People need to be able to afford hardware, software, and internet or access it in a community space or through a service. Community access may require transportation, paperwork, and travel time. Shared resources in community space may result in a limited or restricted time to access digital networks.

Disability and language needs compound with economic ones and traveling these digital pathways becomes even more complicated.

When access to the internet remains difficult or impossible for so many, offering only digital services and internet-based communication will exclude people.

Though the roadblocks to digital access make our journey less straightforward, pathways are emerging. There is so much good work being done right here in Portland to make getting to the paths of digital access easier. Head on over to the: Digital Inclusion Network, the  Digital Inclusion Resource Page at the Multnomah County Library, the City of Portland’s Digital Equity Action Plan, or Community Visions Assistive Technology Lab to find out more about these efforts.

A photo of a baby hippo and its mother. The baby hippo's mouth is wide open and one of its front legs is raised. The ground is covered in green lettuce and carrots. This baby hippo looks upset about a lack of digital access. Boredpanda.com

[A photo of a baby hippo and its mother. The baby hippo's mouth is wide open and one of its front legs is raised. The ground is covered in green lettuce and carrots. This baby hippo looks upset about a lack of digital access. Boredpanda.com]

When Digital Access is the Only Access

Second, we need to recognize that digital access is the only access for many people

There are also all kinds of reasons that digital access must be realized alongside other means of access.

—       Economic access to travel

—       Childcare access

—       Transportation access

—       Mobility access

—       Access for people with chronic illness (like access to march in solidarity.)

—       Access for people whose disabilities are unpredictable.

—       Access for people who experience less safety in public space.

—       Access for people who need supports only available at home.

—       Access for people who can’t spare the travel time.

Digital access options include meetings, conferences, events, talks, and more. Ever wanted better attendance at your meetings or events, to reach a wider geographic area or a more diverse audience, or attend a meeting in your pajamas? Digital access is for you!

Let’s be sure the webinar platform is accessible (including real-time captions, sign language interpreters, a call-in telephone number, and screen reader access) and archive the content so that it can be viewed at any time. We work so hard to host events, let’s make sure people can show up to them!

Digital access needs to be part of the way we do business. And not the only way we do business. 

This is Joanne's cat laying curled on top of an open laptop. The cat is tan, with darker tan stripes and a royal blue collar. I won't say she's the most adorable cat ever, because that wouldn't be objective. This is her idea of Digital Access. We can do better!

[This is Joanne's cat laying curled on top of an open laptop, her head is upside down with her nose in the air, and her eyes are almost closed. The cat is tan, with darker tan stripes and a royal blue collar. I won't say she's the most adorable cat ever, because that wouldn't be objective. This is her idea of Digital Access. We can do better!]

Laying the pathways

Many well-kept paths to the same information

Let continue by considering all the ways we get to digital information.

We start with our computer, tablet or phone and we use

To find and navigate through websites, documents, videos, podcasts, and more.

How can each of these different technologies get us to the same information? Well, if hardware, websites, and content are designed in accessible ways, it will be built right in! There will be many ways to seamlessly do the same thing. Remembering this basic philosophy will help us discern if our own information is accessible.

This four-minute video shows us why these different pathways are so important. And check out all the access features on that video player!

I like the turtle the best. Like this baby green sea turtle crawling on tan sand, so close up we can see the grains of the sand. Animalpicturesociety.com

[I like the turtle the best. Like this baby green sea turtle crawling on tan sand, so close up we can see the grains of the sand. Animalpicturesociety.com]

Moving along the pathways

Let’s make our pathways more concrete (pun absolutely intended). To be accessible to most users, information needs to be conveyed in all of the following ways:

  1. Visual With a customizable display, either accessible by a user's computer or embedded on the site.
  2. Audible Through an audio version or accessible to a screen reader
  3. Tactile  Usually through screen-reader accessible text displayed on a Braille display. Read more about refreshable Braille displays.

Having all of these pathways means that users have one or more options to get the information they need.

What does this mean for our content? Well…

1.  Anything visual is available in audio and text.

 2.  Anything audible is available visually and in text.

  • Dialogue in film and voice recordings (like podcasts) is captioned.
  • On-screen Sign language interpreters interpret audio.
  • Transcripts of the audio are available.­­­

3.  Content is plain language

  •  Content is clear to the intended audience.
  • Images/icons, video, and audio are used to enhance understandability of text.

4. Users control flow and display of information.

By popular demand! Download the Many Pathways Checklist here.

Use it electronically to access all the linked resources or print for quick reference.

This black and brown puppy has their eyes closed and mouth wide open, tongue hanging out. Ah, a checklist! Finally. pixabay.com

[This black and brown puppy has their eyes closed and mouth wide open, tongue hanging out. Ah, a checklist! Finally. Pixabay.com]

 Let’s do this!

AKA: Enough with the path metaphors already.

Guidelines before we enter our Tool Shed.

Grab your hard hat! (Yes, for a shed. It's a big shed. Now we're safe and prepared. Go us!)

1.  Practice makes…it a lot easier.

If it's too hard to make a document or content accessible—do it 10 times and call me in the morning. We get confident (and faster) by DOING it.

 2.  It’s fastest if you create accessible content from the beginning.

Pro-tip:  Make your next piece of content accessible using this Tip as a resource. And then the one after that. And the video after that. And… In no time, you’ll be a whiz at creating digital access.

 3.  It still takes more time!

That’s okay. We want people to access our stuff. That’s why we made it. And we planned in that time in from the beginning, so we’re set.

4. It costs too much!

What do you mean? It’s part of our budget, right?  

5. I’m the only one who can do this, and now I’m fixing everyone’s stuff!

Nope. That is not cool. Share this tip and 15 minutes of your experience with one other person in your bureau or community and tell them to pass it on. Bonus: When we all learn to make our content accessible, we can troubleshoot with our new Communities of Access. #AccessNerdsUnite

Creating content any way but as accessible as possible assumes that people with disabilities don’t exist or don’t matter. And I know we don’t believe that. If you’re short on time, hire someone to ensure your content is accessible.

See, aren’t we glad we have our hard hats? The truth is, we have the technology and tools to make the digital world so much more accessible than it is, and a lot of accessibility is Just Doing It.

And we don't have to do it alone. Like these baby prarie dogs all facing the same direction, we can move towards digital access together. Skydancingblog.com

[And we don't have to do it alone. Like these baby prarie dogs all facing the same direction, we can move towards digital access together. Skydancingblog.com]

The Tool Shed

It’s time to get to the nuts and bolts of creating access in our digital content. A tool box isn’t quite big enough for all the tools that are out there, so we’ve got a whole shed.

We’re about to get super-specific, so for those of us who love tools, demos, and making things happen: Here. We. Go!

Text, Headings, and Reading Order

Any accessible content is navigable by a screen-reader which reads aloud text on a screen. Screen readers rely on associated headings and other formatted elements in the HTML code to know what order to read a document. Don’t be scared! We got this.

How are us non-coders supposed to create access?

Easy! We use the built-in structure whenever possible add text to anything that’s not built in. The built-in structure already has code that screen readers read. Whew! We can do that.

Check out these One Page Cheat Sheets for Word, PowerPoint and PDF to learn how.

And of course, access goes beyond screen readers. We can make our content available to more people by using plain language, trigger warnings, contrast, captions, volume control, large buttons, and...!

Perhaps it’s time for another checklist.

Check yourself!

If we’re missing these pieces, we know we’ve got inaccessible content to fix. 

Just like before, these checks are not everything access, they’re the beginning of it.

Does your website…?

—       Follow Accessibility Principles

—       Have language, font, and colors that can be switched by the user

—       Have high contrast

—       Use plain language

—       Have a direct contact for access questions and issues

—       Have alt-text for all pictures, photos, and charts

...We interrupt Check Yourself for a special bulletin for staff who put content on PortlandOregon.gov...

Show alt-text some love on PortlandOregon.gov

 Alt-Text is out there! Having trouble finding the alt-text box on Portlandoregon.gov? It’s called Accessibility Description or Image Description and it’s right in the window where you upload a picture!

This screenshot shows the insert/edit image dialogue box in PortlandOregon.gov's behind-the-scenes website editor. Now that we know where it is, we can use it forever and always!

 [This screenshot shows the insert/edit image dialogue box in PortlandOregon.gov's behind-the-scenes website editor. It's right below the Image URL box. Now that we know where it is, we can use it forever and always!]

...You may now resume Check Yourself...

Does your Microsoft Word document…?

—       Use Styles

—       Use built-in bullet and number lists (the button, not typing -- or *)

—       Use built-in tables with headers

—       Have alt-text for all pictures, charts, and graphics

 

Is your PDF…?

—       Read as text (not an image). How can I tell?

—       Filled with Alt-text for images and charts

—       Tagged, including fields in fillable forms

—       Read in the correct order

 

Does your PowerPoint Presentation…?

—       Use built-in slide layouts

—       Use layouts with solid backgrounds

—       Have high contrast

—       Have alt-text for images and charts

—       Have an accurate reading order

—       Use charts for headers

—       Include descriptive links

Note: PowerPoint-generated “handouts” are not accessible.

 

Do your Social Media Posts…?

—       Contain Alt-Text or image descriptions

—       Fully describe any fliers or other images that you post or share

—       Offer trigger warnings

—       Use #CamelCase

—       Feature videos with captions

—       Feature videos with Audio Description

—       Share transcripts for videos

Wow--What a Resource!

Designing Accessible Online Content Guide  from Portland Community College

Download the Check Yourself! Checklist here.

Did you notice some duplication in the checklists and links? There are many pathways…wait, haven’t I heard that somewhere?!

This snow white Laplund puppy sitting on a leaf-covered pathway in the middle of tall grass found a pathway, and they want you to find the others!  Pixabay.com

[This snow white Laplund puppy sitting on a leaf-covered pathway in the middle of tall grass found a pathway, and they want you to find the others!  Pixabay.com]

Says who?

Learn how the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines relate to these checks. WebAIM Checklist for Access All-Stars.

And remember, no matter how accessible our content, we still need to be ready to have the accommodation conversation if someone cannot access our information or services.

Testing and Review

Reviewing and testing our content for accessibility is one of the most important steps in creating accessible content.

The accessibility checkers linked above are a great start. They are not perfect. They can miss errors or mistakenly flag accessible content, especially with complex content. This is one of the reasons it is critical to understand what makes content accessible.

Nothing will substitute for our own continued learning and continued partnership with people with disabilities and accessible technology experts. Hopefully, the resources within this Tip will guide us to learning well into the future.

And please, let’s intentionally cultivate our access knowledge and our relationships in the disability and accessible technology communities, and not all rely on a single screen-reader user we know to review our content.  

And as we’ve no doubt gathered by now, digital access takes knowledge and skill, whether learned through experience or explicit training. We will (of course!) pay people if they take their time and use their expertise to make our content more accessible.

Feeling stuck?

First, try Google. Seriously. We live on a planet full of people trying to make our content ever more accessible. There are online forums and troubleshooting guides and about a million YouTube videos guiding people through access.

If you’ve reached the limits of your access knowledge or your time, it can be well worth it to hire people to review and fix your content. (Because of that practice thing, they’re often lightning fast, too!)

Settling in by the campfire

We took quite a stroll (or perhaps a hike) along the many pathways of digital access today. Fondly reminiscing on Tips gone by, we spied:

  • Ways people get to digital content
  • The exclusion of digital-only and no-digital-option paths
  • How to design visual, audible, and tactile (text-based) information
  • How to create clear, understandable content that offers an informed choice about whether to display it. 
  • Tools and checks to assist us in our accessible content quest

 

A cat and a dog snuggle, eyes closed, in front of a campfire at dusk. In the background, we can see the outline of rocks and a body of water.  Pinterest.com.

[A cat and a dog snuggle, eyes closed, in front of a campfire at dusk. In the background, we can see the outline of rocks and a body of water.  Pinterest.com.]

As we settle in for the night with our hard-earned knowledge of digital access, let’s share some stories by the campfire about why the pathways matter so much:

Check out these short-and-sweet videos on how digital access impacts people’s lives [VIDEO]. Then drift off to Not-just-a-dream Land learning how never-before-seen access is becoming reality with the latest technology.

Sweet Dreams!

Links from Today’s Tip (By Topic Area)

The headings are a general description of the topic and are not the same as the sections in this Tip.

Digital access benefits everyone

Local efforts to get more people to the digital world

Examples and tips for creating an online component to your event

The many ways to surf the web

About web accessibility Standards and guidelines

Access Tips we’ve met before and City resources too

What happens when it’s not accessible

Let’s do it! Comprehensive Guides

Let’s do it! Your computer and websites

Let’s do it! Social Media

Let’s do it! Word Documents

Let’s do it! Adobe PDF

Let’s do it! PowerPoint

Let’s fix it! Testing and troubleshooting

It’s happening! Innovations and impacts in digital access