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Accessibility – who should decide the level of conformance?

February 10, 2015 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I think Jitendra Vyas encourages me to write stuff here! This is again in response to his question on twitter asking:

Who and how decides which WCAG level should follow for a project? A, AA or AAA

In general, I have seen companies are required to meet at least Level AA of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the possible reason for this would be that check points up to Level AA are reasonable to achieve from practical development prospective. Level AAA requires much more efforts to achieve though not impossible.

It’s the product owner who should decide the level of conformance for the project keeping in mind the purpose of their target audience, purpose of the product, regulations of their particular region. Some regulations like the Europe may have much more strong rules than some of the other countries.

If product owners does not have such a knowledge, it’s the job of accessibility experts who should work with product owners and create a road map. However, at the end product owner should have an understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Although if decision to meet Level AA, it’s not a crime to meet Level AAA wherever it’s possible!

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Fixed header on top vs Back to top link

December 7, 2014 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

Recently Jitendra Vyas asked over Twitter that if users prefer fixed header or Back to top link; that prompted me to write this post. By the way, I started writing this when he tweeted but some how missed posting it; sorry about that.

Fixed Headers are very helpful for people who are mouse users, people with low vision, elderly and learning disabilities; reason is that it will be easily accessible even when user is at the bottom of the page and headier is always visible.

At the same time, back to top link is helpful to keyboard and screen reader users so that they can quickly jumb to the top of the page to use other navigational items. Specially this is useful when users are reading or interacting with lengthy pages.

So to conclude, I recommend use of both.

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Button Shape feature on iOS 7 – very cool!

July 10, 2014 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I wish I activated this button shape long back. This is very cool. One of the benefits I see it increases visuals for buttons across the apps and also underline text on buttons.
20140710-092320-33800515.jpg
To activate this option, go to: Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> turn ON button options.

One issue Apple should fix is that contrast for cancel button on compose window of mail app. It appears as blue text on black when button shapes are turned-on. Screenshot below!

20140710-092946-34186073.jpg

Overall this is a cool feature for people with low vision, elderly and cognitive disabilities.

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2014 Year in review!

February 4, 2014 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

January
Our sweet heart Khushi Varshini's first photoMissing my sweetheart Hema and baby darling… Received new year wishes from many. Built website for Access India convention – a meet up of several visually impaired folks. NAB Karnataka has won GudVille campaign! Kameshwari and I wrote a Review on TaxiForSure’s iOS app

From 12th January to 14th January, spent at holy place of Shirdi. This was first visit of our little darling to Shirdi. Priests have kept baby at the Lotus feet of His Holiness Shri. Sadguru Sai baba. We have also witnessed the Godha Kalyanam under the auspicious hands of our Guruji.

Vasu visited Mumbai, met with most affectionate family of Sumit bhai and also held discussions to grow SG Accessibility.

Celebrated Indian Republic Day at Manthri Tranqvil representing NAB Karnataka

Initiated Conversations for a strategic partnership between NAB Karnataka and EnAble India.

Saddened to hear the demise of ever star, Shri. Akkineni Nageshwara Rao garu.

February

Beginning of partnership with Digital Accessibility Centre, UK – hoping this relationship would go a long way.

Glad to know that Satya Nadella is named as new Chief Executive of Microsoft.

In midst of all relatives, we have celebrated naming ceremony of our cute little darling and named her as Khushi Varshini meaning of which is a baby who pour all the happiness.

Vasu went to New Delhi to attend Techshare India and 4th Access India Convention. Events went off well but exhibition and sessions at Techshare India could have been better. PayPal is one of the silver sponsors for Techshare India.

Planning for Global Accessibility Awareness Day has started. This year it is planned for 15th May.

March

March started with exciting time of visiting my grand mother along with Hema darling and our angel Khushi. My grand mother is aged about 96. May god grant her a good health.

We have witnessed the inauguration of renovated Shiva temple at Injaram. Thanks everyone in the village who have put in the efforts.

Indeed excited to join Victor Tsaran’s team officially.

A strategic partnership has been established between EnAble India and The National Association for the Blind, Karnataka Branch. Hoping this would lead to a wonderful outcome and expansion of services at both the organizations.

March 23sup marked Hema’s mom’s birthday.

In April, we have visited Injaram again and then celebrated Shri. Ram Navami at Guruji’s house in Hyderabad then back home with our sweet little darling!

In June, performed Feeding ceremony (Anna Prasana) for our little one. She touched fruits, flowers, termaric and Kumkum. June also witnessed our anniversary and my birthday. Thanks Dhanasri and Vivek for wonderful wishes and celebrations.

In September we have celebrated Hema’s birthday and then moved to Hyderabad as I have changed job to lead accessibility efforts at HCL Technologies.

Also, during 2014, have taken up some freelance work with some major organizations. It was wonderful experience and looking forward to more of such ventures in the future.

India has witnessed a breakthrough by welcoming new government under the leadership of Shri. Narendra Modi. Sure it was a big lesson to congress for the bad decisions they have taken during their stint including bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh state and formed Telangana state. Although it may benefit some section of people or as a state, the way the decision has taken is not in correct manner.

2014 also witnessed lost of some great talent specially in the film industry including Shri. Akkineni, Shri. Bala Chandar etc.,

2014 also saw a great victory of India winning the World Cup for the Blind. This is for the first time where government has recognized the efforts of sports for the blind and encouraged the team with a good support.

Alright there may be quite a lot of things that I have missed but wishing you all a very happy and prosperous new year 2015. Let’s hope this new year brings a lot of good health, prosperity, friendship, peace and success.

Categories: Articles

How the visually impaired can use a computer?

January 9, 2012 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

Thanks to NASSCOM Foundation for publishing my below article.

Most often, people have a question – can a blind person use a computer? If so, do they need a special keyboard or a special computer?

Before answering this question, let me take an example of a typist who never looks at the keyboard but can type with speed and accuracy. How is it possible? Practice! Yes, it’s the same in case of people with vision impairment. They just need to be trained. They do not require a special computer – all that they need is assistive technologies.

Firstly, let us understand that vision impairment is of two categories:
1. Total Blindness
2. Low vision

Definition of blindness: http://www.nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/fr/fr19/fr05si03.htm

A person who is totally blind would be able to use the computer with the help of screen readers or Refreshable Braille Display. A screen reader is a software application that attempts to identify and interpret what is being displayed on the screen (or, more accurately, sent to standard output, whether a video monitor is turned on or not). This interpretation is then presented to the user with text-to-speech, sound icons, or a Braille output device. Screen readers are a form of assistive technology (AT) potentially useful to people who are blind, visually impaired, illiterate or learning disabled.

A Refreshable Braille Display or Braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying Braille characters, usually by means of raising dots through holes in a flat surface. This would be useful to those who are blind or deaf-blind. Because of the complexity of producing a reliable display that will cope with daily wear and tear, these displays are expensive. Usually, only 40 or 80 Braille cells are displayed. Models with 18-40 cells exist in some notetaker devices. A person with low vision would have to opt to use screen magnification software that allows the user to increase / decease the size of elements, change the contrast, use variety of mouse pointers etc.

With the help of these kind of assistive technologies, users with vision impairment can use almost all the applications in any computer such as word processing, spread sheets, presentations, internet, email clients, web designing tools such as Adobe Dreamweaver,programming tools like Visual Basic, .net, database management systems etc.

Although, they rely on audio output, they can work at an amazing speed! All this is possible since assistive technologies provide them the flexibility to read only the information they require. Let’s look at an example of how one can navigate through a web page using a screen reader – Non Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) – a free and open source screen reader.

  1. Press “Windows” logo key to activate the start menu
  2. Activate option “Run” and type the choice of application e.g. Firefox
  3. Once the Firefox application starts, press “Alt + D” to access the address bar
  4. Type choice of URL, e.g. http://www.yahoo.com

Now let’s understand how the screen reader actually reads. There are several ways to navigate the page using screen reader:

  1. By using the down arrow key to read the entire page.
  2. By using the “Tab” key to browse through the elements such as links and hit enter to activate the desired element.
  3. By using quick navigational keys such as H and Shift + H for headings, K and Shift + K for links, F and Shift + F for form fields, G and Shift + G for graphics,etc.

Also, most of the screen readers such as NVDA offer list of elements in a dialog box such as with NVDA, by pressing Insert + F7, user can revoke elements list box that consist of links, headings and ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) landmarks.

As explained above, users will have a lot of flexibility with these assistive technologies and can perform operations at a rapid speed!

Some of the popular screen readers:

Tip: If you are don’t have time to download the screen reader, but need a screen reader to surf the Internet, just visit http://webanywhere.cs.washington.edu and type the web address, and it will read aloud for you!

Now, let’s talk about people with low vision. Around 60% of people with low vision do not possess enough level of vision to see the monitor and for some, this vision may not be stable. Hence they prefer to use screen readers to avoid strain of the eyes. But the other set of low vision users use Screen magnification software to use the computer. Some of the feature that a screen magnifier have are:

Zoom-in and zoom-out the screen
Set the desired contrast for foreground and background
Increase and type of the mouse pointer
Adjust the speed of mouse pointer
Some have screen reading feature as combination

Some of the popular screen magnifiers:
– Dolphin Supernova, Commercial – http://www.yourdolphin.com
– ZoomText Xtra, Commercial – http://www.aisquared.com

To conclude, with the help of assistive technologies, a person with vision impairment can use computer for everything like any other user!

Thousands of Websites; all are citizen centric; but are they accessible to all citizens – a review

October 17, 2011 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

Reproduced from CIS Accessibility Blog Thanks CIS for the opportunity.

Today, there are about 7800 Central and state government websites hosted by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). They are all certainly citizen centric – whether it is the Ministry of Finance, banks, the passport authority, educational board, transport, consumer affairs, or the most important website that generates revenue for the government – the Income Tax Department.

However, the question which we need to ask is whether these websites are up-to-date and accessible to everyone? Internet is often more useful to people who are elderly and for people having disabilities.

What does accessibility really mean? Accessibility is nothing but ensuring that information and functionality is available to all users including people with disabilities. The Accessibility Guidelines identify an accessible website as one which can be perceived, operated, understood and is robust. Today, thanks to the advancement of technology, people with disabilities are able to use computers and perform every task that others do. For example, a visually impaired person uses the screen reader to access the computer; a deaf blind user uses a refreshable Braille display, hearing impaired persons rely on captions to understand the multimedia, learning disabled users rely on image based content and elderly people prefer to see large fonts and so on. In addition, there are lots of features available in the browser itself. For instance, in Firefox, we can increase the font size by using key combination of CTRL and Plus and can also change the contrast of the page.

Having said that, website owners need to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to enable people having disabilities and elderly persons to surf the web more effectively. In India, the Government of India and the state governments need to follow the Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW) formulated by NIC.

A brief survey of some 1500 of these websites revealed that barely one per cent of these meet the requirements of the above guidelines. Many of them are not up-to-date and some don’t even reflect government identity that could actually make users think of authentication.

The websites were checked for their elements and their mark-up; which means, audit was conducted to see text alternatives for non-text elements such as images, videos, buttons, etc. Other criteria were the presence of heading structures, associated labels for form fields, grouping of form elements, keyboard access for navigation, slide shows and other media, links and image maps. The test also checked to see if rich functionality works with keyboard and on text browsers; whether flash content works well with screen readers and documents are verified for accessibility; in addition, websites were checked for the color contrast.

The methodology used to test the websites was a combination of automated and manual testing. The initial testing was done using the automated evaluation tool WAVE, a Firefox add-on which checked for errors and features, structure, outline of the website, simulation of text version and simulation with no styles. This was followed by a manual check for appropriate text alternatives, heading structure, form labels, colour contrast, etc. The test revealed that most of the websites were not accessible, merely due to the lack of semantic mark up and common errors, some of which are described below:

  • No text alternatives for images – Without text alternatives, neither screen reader users nor search engines and those who disable display of the images on the browser can perceive information about the image.
  • No associated labels for form fields – Without associated labels, screen readers will treat the form fields as orphan form fields with no labels and read them as “unlabelled”fields. Hence, it will be impossible for visually impaired users to fill in those forms.
  • No heading structure defined – This would create an issue both for search engines as well as persons with disabilities. Assistive technologies such as screen readers usually have access keys for users to quickly navigate a page, which rely on the mark-up.
  • Deprecated Marquee has been used – This is a deprecated element in HTML and ought not be used anymore.
  • No keyboard functionality for flash content and drop down menus – Without keyboard support, people with mobility limitations and visually impaired or elderly users and those who do not wish to use the mouse cannot perceive the information.
  • Not enough government identity is present – It is GIGW’s requirement that all government websites should display government’s identity through emblems.
  • Several websites have poor color contrast – This will prevent people who are elderly and persons with low vision from easily identifying the content of a web page.
  • Several websites have used table based layouts – This is not the best practice to control the layout; one should use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
  • Information is cluttered in some well known websites such as that of the Income Tax department – It will be difficult to perceive information easily by people who are elderly, who have low vision, have learning disabilities and those who surf the web through mobile devices.
  • Several websites do not have a mechanism to send feedback – It is again a GIGW requirement that every website should have such a mechanism.
  • There is no mechanism to skip the navigational module – This is an extremely useful feature to help screen readers and keyboard users to skip navigational links and directly access the main content.
  • No accessibility options such as large text or color schemes are provided – This would be helpful to less experienced users who are as yet unaware of in-built browser options.
  • Several forms do not have a mechanism for error handling – It is necessary to inform users about errors before submitting the form.
  • Several websites do not have appropriate page titles – Page titles help users to know where they are on their computer.
  • Many websites do not have site map – This is an easy way to have access to all the pages at one place.

Hence, there is a lot to be done to actually enable every citizen to use these citizen centric websites. There are guidelines in place at http://web.guidelines.gov.in and it’s time for every ministry to ensure successful implementation and to make their portals accessible to all.

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Travel Tips for people with vision impairment

September 22, 2011 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I often read in some mailing lists about need of escort for visually impaired travelers. While that’s true that having an escort would be helpful for people with vision impaired, I have also seen several visually impaired traveling alone, busy attending conferences. So wanted to collect trips and tricks for people with vision impaired as to how they could travel independently. Am collecting tips through several mailing lists and social networks, will share the responses that are appropriate here. If you are a person with vision impairment and a frequent traveler, please do add a comment. That will not be published in the comments section but I will incorporate in the article with due credit.

Solutions for people with low vision

September 19, 2011 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

Early 2010, I have contributed to Accessibility Knowledge Series by BarrierBreak Technologies and thought, now I should quote that here and add some more tips.

Much often, we attend meetings and conferences; Today, mostly every speaker uses Power Point Slides to express what they will have to say. Although they speak most of the time, there would be some important content / pictures that convey information more than the talk.

Telescope or hand held magnifiers would be of immense help for people who are partially sighted to get access to these presentations.

Telescopes come in variety of ranges such as 2x, 4x etc. and they can either be hand held or can be mounted into spectacle frame and the distance can be adjusted as needed. These gadgets could also be of help to school going children who have difficulty to see the board.

Secondly, to read business cards and other printed material, portable magnifiers such as Optelec’s Portable Magnifiers could be helpful.

Using this, one can adjust size of the font, adjust the contrast as needed such as black on white, white on black, yellow on blue etc. Even one can take the snap of the material and read at a convenient distance.

Reference:

For a long time, I was looking for a solution that would enable me to read the slides shown by the presenter in any conference or meeting and a very simple technique helped me a lotin the recent past. I took out my hand phone (Nokia E71) and turned ON the camera. Using the zoom option, I was able to read clearly. Another option is to capture the slide and read but for this, in some cases, one need to obtain permission from the presenter.

What makes us to build a successful career?

September 13, 2011 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I often see people talking a lot about how frustrated they are with current job even they have just started with a job. But at the end of the day, they really work to the extent that they need to, then I wonder, why they should stress to themselves for thinking about all discomforts. In fact, that time could be spent with a thought process of how they could professionally grow in their life. I have been in the industry for about 11+ years now and I thought, I could pen some of my personal experiences on how one can build a successful career. I feel, one of the most important factor should that we should love what we do; if we are not satisfied with the job we are into, I think, it’s time to explore other opportunities. Switching jobs is not crime but one should have significant rational to switch to a new job. However, it would be even good for both employer and us, if we make a right decision before starting the job to avoid discomfort to the employer. While accepting an offer or even before going for an interview, one should ask to self, “Is this job meant for me? Will I be happy there?” and probably, one more question could be “Will I do justice to this job?”.

In 11 years, I have switched to about 5 organizations but never got farewell from any organization on a bad note. I have switched either for better opportunities or when I realized completely that if I am not capable of particular job even after tremendous effort. I think, it’s always best to start career with a small or medium size company where we can get an opportunity to explore and work with different functions and gain experience. Then over a period of three years, it would be good to look for opportunities in larger organizations. But again, if you and the existing employer are quite happy for each other, then, it’s better to continue so that you may grow to a leadership role in the same organization.

Another requirement for successful career is to be unique and develop extremely strong knowledge on the domain. Plus strong communication skills are important. Further it would be helpful to have ability to network with others in the industry. Sites like LinkedIn etc. that helps to not just network with people but also get updated on opportunities.

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Thyagaraja Aradhana 24th January

January 24, 2011 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

Today is one of the days one who loves and cares for music should remember. Today the 24th January is Aradhana of Shri. Thyagaraja.

Shri. Thyagaraja

Some lines from Wikipedia about Aradhana:

The Aradhana in its present format is not even a hundred years old. Thyagaraja died in 1847. A few days before his death, he had renounced everything and had become a sanyasi. When he passed on, his mortal remains were buried on the banks of the river Kaveri and a small memorial was built at the spot. His disciples returned to their respective villages and observed his death anniversary at their own homes. The memorial was soon forgotten and it was not until around 1903 that Tyagaraja’s last surviving disciples, Umayalpuram Krishna Bhagavatar and Sundara Bhagavatar returned to Tiruvayyaru, identified the place and had it renovated.

Thyagaraja Keerthana by Maharajapuram Santhanam via YouTube
Maharajapuram Samthanam – Thyagaraja Krithi (Youtube link)

It so happened that today, the famous musician Shri. Bheemsen Joshi passed away at Pune. A couple of lines about Shri. Joshi from Wikipedia:

He was born into a Kannada Brahmin family in the town of Gadag in northern part of Karnataka state.[2][3] His father, Gururaj Joshi, was a school teacher. Bhimsen is the eldest in a family of 16 siblings. Some of the siblings still live in their ancestral home in Gadag.[4] Bhimsen lost his mother when he was young, and his step mother raised him.

Shri. Bheemsen Joshi

A performance by Shri. Joshi saheb – thanks again YouTube.
Jai Durge by Pt. Joshi Saheb

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