Text Transcripts

My acceptance speech on behalf of all the awardees of NCPEDP- MpasiS Universal Design Awards 2013

Ladies and gentlemen,

My name is Srinivasu and I lead Accessibility efforts at PayPal and firstly, it’s a great honor and feel privileged to be one of the recipients of NCPEDP MphasiS Universal Design Awards 2013. Thank you Rama Chari for having nominated me and jury for your kind gesture. Appreciate it.

It gives me immense pleasure to be in midst of you all representing my fellow NCPEDP MphasiS Universal Design Awardees for 2013.

I still remember, when Shilpi explained the background of this award in its first award ceremony in 2010 that the objective of instating such an award is to bring more awareness about universal design and to encourage everyone to adopt thinking of building inclusive products. I think, the purpose is being achieved as we see a tremendous progress thus far.

If we notice, most of the doctors know of only medical treatment but very few will have knowledge of alternative rehabilitation solutions, in such a state advocating towards getting directives to make all medical colleges accessible is a commendable effort!

Assistive Technologies are indeed great gift to people with disabilities and enable us to take advantage of several tools and I urge every college, school, library, university, rehabilitation institutes must have an Assistive Technology Centre and employees must have ability to advice students the right AT product. Research in India needs to be carried out with much more passion and we should see our research into products. There are several products under research labs in several institutions and we need to see them all reality. That will make AT more affordable to our users.

To avoid additional costs and effort, it’s important to consider accessibility and usability right at the design stage! After thought is always an expensive and requires a lot of additional effort and time. This is not just restricted to websites, but for everything including apps, physical infrastructure, gadgets and pretty much everything.

Who doesn’t use ATM in this room, all of us. Imagine till recent past, there was no way that person with disability can draw their own money independently using ATM and today as we have the solution, I urge every bank to adopt Accessible ATMs and get them installed. I do understand replacing existing ATMs will take a bit of time, but every bank must ensure wherever they install a new ATM must be an accessible one.

Government of India has developed Web Guidelines for Indian Government websites back in 2008 (thanks to everyone who played a key role) but how many websites of Government are accessible and meet the guidelines? When there are guidelines and documentation is in place, training is available, what’s stopping teams to build portals that are compliant. As we know, today, a lot of citizen centric services can be done by online and systems are in place, they just need to usable to everyone. In fact, I would see an opportunity that every government department should have an accessibility consultant. That will increase career opportunity to people with disabilities and we will have best portals.

Coming to IT world, today the awareness level is growing and let’s keep up the momentum and make sure whatever we develop works for all users. Let’s include accessibility as integral part of product life cycle.

I’m sure, awards such as NCPEDP MphasiS Universal Deisgn Awards are source of encouragement and we are seeing the progress already, but a lot more to be done. We would want to see every product that people use must be designed in such a way that works for all including elderly and people with disabilities.

I’m sure with all the efforts across the country, jury would be having tough time to make a selection of winners but what I would dream is to see a day where just insist open nominations right after the award ceremony and close in one month’s time as they need at least 10 months to review applications. That’s the kind of response I am dreaming! And I am very optimistic that we would see such a day.

Thank you NCPEDP, MphasiS, BarrierBreak and AccessAbility once again

Thank you all once again on behalf of my fellow awardees and myself. We are indeed honored, thanks for recognizing our work. Thanks again !

Accessibility Innovations

Hello Hackers!!

I am super thrilled to see you all come with a lot of innovation, passion and enthusiasm and I firstly, wish you the very best for your hack and thank you for joining us!

Ok, we have 30 minutes and let me take you to the new world called “Accessibility”! Well, Accessibility is nothing but ensuring that your product is usable and information is available to everyone. “Everyone” include people with disabilities. Do you know who are people with disabilities? Oh! Actually all of us. Each one of us have some limitation or the other and not all of us know everything or perform every task. Or sometime, people meet with accident and develop temporary disability or sometimes, disability is created by situation. For instance, roads in our area were super nice a while ago, but there is a lot of work in progress and it’s almost impossible for us to use that road, so that is also a “disability” to use that road and I have to look for alternatives. On the other hand, some people would have functional disabilities such as Vision impairment, mobility, hearing and learning disabilities and some with multiple disabilities. These disabilities could either be from birth and could develop at a later age.

But life never stop for anyone. Thanks to the advancement of Technologies, that people with disabilities can lead an independent life today! Let’s look at some demos and videos. (Videos of Switches, Track ball and Demos of iPhone with VoiceOver).

The problem is with inaccessibility of web and applications. The reason why they are not accessible is just that lack of implementation of standards set by W3C. Also, friends, remember, accessibility is not just about disability. But also, help senior citizens, low band width users, search engines and mobile users.

Let me take you through some resources that you can keep in mind while the accessibility while hacking your product.

Firstly, you need to remember the basics while coding any web page. Very often web is inaccessible since developers forgot basics like use of text alternatives for images, heading structure and associated labels for form fields, keyboard access etc. Keyboard access doesn’t mean you need to provide access keys for every element but you need to ensure every function is usable via keyboard. All you need to remember is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) – http://w3.org/tr/wcag20 and in case you are hacking something that impact Government of India, be sure to check their guidelines at http://web.guidelines.gov.in

Further, Accessibility will not ask you to restrict the use of any particular technology; You can use, Java Script, AJAX, Flash, Flex, HTML, Php or anything you may like. If you opt to use APIs of Yahoo! And YUI, good news for you is that most of the modules have accessibility support. I urge you to make sure to look for plug-ins that has ARIA support. ARIA is a W3C Candid recommendation and is the best solution to make dynamic web accessible. Let me share some examples to show the power of ARIA. Look at Yahoo! Search – Auto suggestions are announced to a screen reader user as they type a keyword; See the previews of products on Yahoo! Home page just via keyboard and another good example is Yahoo! Mail. Also, we at Yahoo! Has a sea of resources that you can find on our code Library on our Accessibility site. Do check out at http://yaccessibilityblog.com/library/.

Do you wonder, if HTML 5 can be made accessible? Yes, you can. In fact, Yahoo! Mail is an example for HTML 5. You can visit http://html5accessibility.com for the news on HTML 5 and accessibility; also that has good stats on accessibility support in browsers for HTML 5.

Lastly, let me conclude this with another resource that gives you articles on Common Mistakes that a web developer makes, Quick accessinbility checklist and many mmore… LearnAccessiobility.org – http://learnaccessibility.org/

Good luck for your hacking and all the very best!

Methodologies for Web Accessibility Eveluation

Recently I was on a panel discussion organized by The Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ICT), World Wide Web Consortium and The Centre for Internet and Society at 20th World Wide Web Conference and during the panel we have discussed the various methodologies for Accessibility Evaluation. It was a pleasure to share the panel with Shadi Abou-Zahra from W3C, Glenda Sims of Deque Systems Inc, Dr. Neeta Varma of National Informatics Centre (NIC) and the panel was moderated by Nirmita Narasimhan of Centre for Internet and Society. Here is the transcript of my thoughts.

Good evening once again, it’s great pleasure to be part of this panel!

I will be sharing the approach I take both at Yahoo! as well for the Government Projects I take up. Ground rule is that it’s always recommended that accessibility must be considered right at the beginning stage. There are two scenarios one is about making existing websites accessible and second is ensuring accessibility for all new websites. So at Yahoo!, what we do is for existing websites, we identify the issues across the site, document them and then schedule them in phase wise (we call it as sprints) to fix them. And for new websites, we partner with the product team right at the initial stage and eveluate them right at the mock stage, then support at the engineering stage, QA stage to ensure complete accessibility. Off late, we have created an accessibility automation tool to make the eveulation process simple.

While I look at the Government websites, what I would prefer to do is first use an automated tool such as WAVE Tool bar and if there are several issues, I would prepare a “Global findings report” that will enable their teams to address all the major issues. Once the major issues are addressed, I will take up detailed eveluation including manual testing. If automated tool shows less errors, I will do a quick manual test and if the page is bad, again I will prefer to submit global findings report and if I find the page better, then do a complete manual review.

Also, what I have observed is that it would be important for Design, SEO, Content and Accessibility teams to partner and work together so as to provide accurate support to the engineering team.

Lastly, I would suggest, do not rely just on automated tools. There can make you fool in scenarios like they can only check if there are text alternatives provided or not, but not if they are accurate.

Role of Engineering Best Practices to Create an Inclusive Web

Presented at CSUN‘s 26th Annual Conference on Technology and Persons with disabilities 2011 at San Diego, CA, USA on 16th March, 2011.

Hello everyone!
It gives me a great pleasure to share my thoughts to all of you in this huge international conference and Thanks to CSUN’s COD Team for organizing this for several years!

Just a brief intro about myself, my name is Srinivasu (known as Vasu and VasuTweets on Twitter) and I am part of Yahoo!’s accessibility team and work from Bangalore, India. Like some of you have visited our Accessibility Lab in Sunnyvale, we have similar lab in India too; feel free to drop by, if you happened to be ever in India. I know, some of you would be there at the W4A right after this CSUN Conferance!

OK, let’s get started; what we would be talking for next 30 minutes is a little bit about Accessibility and it’s importance, then to common problems we see, common misconceptions that most developers in the industry feel; what actually an engineer should think while developing a product and then we shall talk tips and tricks to meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 and later we talk about Accessibility testing as that is an important component and finally, will give you a overview of Yahoo! User Interface (YUI) and Accessibility.
Well, Accessibility is nothing but to provide an equal access to everyone may it be a person with all ability or with any limitation or who develops a temporary disability; that’s something pretty common these days that people develop a situation disability or some may not be very technology independent.

Let’s look at some numbers, as per World Health Organization (WHO), there are about 650 million people with disabilities and in countries like the US and India alone, there are about 60 to 70 million people with disabilities; it would be unfair, if the information is not available this vast section of people. In addition, the accessibility is not just about providing access to people with disabilities; but it also increases the ranking in search engines like Yahoo! Search and Google search. Plus the website that meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines will work mostly well on a mobile device; there is a lot of co relation for WCAG and Mobile Web Guidelines. In addition, any time, may it be an accessible infrastructure or an accessible website, certainly increases the customer base. Like you might have experienced if there are ramps and stairs, most people would prefer ramps than the stairs and same applies to web as well.

Alright, any idea, why do we look at several inaccessible portals on the web? In my opinion, it’s just that not many engineers apply the right techniques and respect the standards; forgot most of the basics. What every engineer needs to think before building a product is that the customers includes people with situation and functional disabilities, they need to write semantic code and apply right techniques no matter what platform they use, may it be HTML, ASP, PHP, Flash, Ajax or Flex.
Some of the very common instances of accessibility issues we see are:
• No text alternative
• No headings
• No form labels
• No keyboard access
• Poor color combination
• No user control for flash content
• No keyboard access to dynamic functions

And most often, we hear from people that, accessibility is an additional effort, an expensive task, just benefits people with vision impairment, need to provide a separate text version or to provide a voice over for the website; all the above are not true!
There is a very simple solution to create accessible internet and that’s just consider accessibility right at the design stage, else, all the above common misconceptions we have discussed will become true! In addition, consider following WCAG, ARIA and ATAG!
Alright, now, let’s discuss some quick tips to meet WCAG 2.0. WCAG 2.0 has four principles, Perceiveble, operable, understandable and robust.

In fact, there is not much of fancy stuff involved in these principles and most of it is to write the valid mark up. Let’s see some of them:
For images, one needs to provide meaningful text alternatives and in case there are any decorative images being used, then one should provide null alt attribute so that the assistive technologies would skip them. Text alternatives do not only helpful to users with assistive technologies, but also for search engines, users who disable the images or situations where images do not get loaded.

Further CAPTCHA is commonly used today and one needs to provide alternatives such as audio or logical question based CAPTCHAs. We at Yahoo! Uses Audio CAPTCHA and you can see examples of using text based CAPTCHA on http://india.gov.in
Then to make audio and videos accessible, one should either provide closed captions and in any case if one cannot provide closed captions, a text transcript of the movie should be provided. Also, it’s recommended to provide audio descriptions and I think, off late there is a video accessibility law passed in the US.

Another very important thing is to provide sufficient color contrast and in fact, this is required to everyone and not just for people with low vision or senior citizens alone.

Now, coming to principle 2, operable, this is one section where engineers often do not much care about. It’s important to provide descriptive screen text for links and avoid something like “Click here”, “Read more” etc that would not give any context to users particularly with assistive technologies. A couple of big mistakes engineers often do is while inserting the headings, do not mark up hx tags, hence the search engines and screen readers do not treat them as headings. Also, can’t view them as headings while browsing on text only browsers or by turning off the style sheets. So, the recommendation is that one should provide appropriate heading tags so that they identified as headings.

Similar big mistake is while writing the forms; very often we see screen readers reading a form as “edit”, “radio button” and so on but with no label, this happens if there is no associate labels with “for” and “id” attributes. Also, if there are dynamic forms, it’s recommended to use ARIA for better accessibility.

While using navigation or any other list, lists should be marked up correctly with “li” attributes. When it comes to tables, they should be used strictly for data tables and not for layout purposes. For all data tables, it’s recommended to provide table headers, summary, caption etc. Then a couple of things to remember is not to use modules that flickers without user interaction and provide enough time to users to perform a task.

Principle 3 is about understandable and this talks about use of natural language unless the content is scientific, user should be able to predict the action upon performing a task and offer sufficient help for filling out the forms.

Principle 4, robust is about ensuring the maximum compatibility with current and future user agents including assistive technologies and provide appropriate name, role and value to the elements.

Now, as we all aware that today all of us like the dynamic web rather than static pages and only way to make dynamic content accessible is to apply ARIA techniques which is candade recommendation of W3C.
Now, let’s talk about Accessibility testing; both manual and automated testing need to be carried out to achieve maximum accessibility.

Need for Web Accessibility in Developing Countries and Yahoo! Initiatives

Presented at: Techshare India 2010 during February, 2010

It’s great pleasure to talk at this prestigious and unique conference! My name is Srinivasu and I’m Accessibility Manager at Yahoo! India R & D. I work across the teams of Yahoo! to make our products accessible!
My objective is to tell you all that Web Accessibility is very important today and particularly for the countries like India where Internet market is growing everyday!

For me, Internet is sea of information; there’s probably nothing that we will not find on the World Wide Web. May it be for education, research, education, travel, shopping, music, entertainment, career, matrimony, leisure or anything and users of internet is almost everyone!! An elementary school kid uses internet to find images for his art work, play games, a high school or college student uses it for their project work, a parent use internet to find a better school for their children, teacher uses to creative innovative ideas to share, reach more students remotely, a professional uses it at work for growing their business, a senior citizen uses to communicate with their children living abroad etc. Among these section of people, there would be huge number of people with disabilities who rely on assistive technologies to access the web.

As per survey by Miniwatts Marketing group, during 2009 Q2 there are about 704 million Internet users in Asia and now let’s talk about some facts about people with disabilities; As per WHO, there are about 700 million people with disabilities and in India alone, there are around 70 million and thanks to the rapid development in the area of assistive technologies, most of them would be able to use computers and Internet.

A disability is something that a person fail to perform a task due to certain physical / situational limitations; can it be temporary or permanent and can happen by birth or due to an accident. I see disabilities into two categories i.e. Situational and functional. Situation disability is something like your mouse may stop working or the text on the book you are reading may be too small to read.

As per functional disability, there are mainly visual impairment, mobility, hearing and learning disabilities. There could also be people with multiple disabilities.

As mentioned earlier, people with disabilities can use computer and internet with the help of assistive technologies like a blind person uses a screen reader, a low vision person sues a screen magnifier, a mobility impaired user uses an alternate input device like trackball, switch or a learning disabled user uses a large image based input devices. A person who is deaf blind can use a refreshable braile display to use the computer. I think, all of you must have browsed the exhibition and saw most of these gadgets and software.
Let me tell you that actually, Internet is more useful to people with disabilities particularly who has problem in travelling; let’s see a couple of users who love Internet.

Deepa, works for EMC Square – a wheel chair user, uses on screen keyboard and track ball and she is a fantastic Graphic and Web designer. She does an amazing job. But she says there is a great need of better voice recognition software.

Meet my colleague Artur Ortega, who is an accessibility evangelist and developer at Yahoo!, he says that Internet creates new opportunities and full new independency for persons with disabilities but he fails to see most of the websites are today are not accessible and only a few companies like Yahoo! are striving to create Web 2.0 applications that are accessible.
Let me brief you about some of the initiatives that Yahoo! takes up to create inclusive world!

Yahoo! cares for accessibility, because, we are a global company, around 600 million users visit Yahoo! every month, world wide, approximately, 200 million users visit our portals related to emerging markets like Locals, Cricket etc, and in India alone, approximately, 76 million users visit portals related to emerging markets, Yahoo! presence includes, news, finance, mail, answers, travel, autos, entertainment, movies, careers, weather, social, education and much more. We believe, there is a huge number our visitors who uses assistive technologies to access our portals.

We think for all and we sensitize and train our teams to ensure we design inclusive products and steps are in progress; Currently, if you look at, our home page, search, mail classic are fairly accessible and portals like cricket, careers are in progress.

We have two accessibility labs located at Sunnyvale and Bangalore; efforts are underway to establish a lab in our London office. Our Accessibility labs are equipped with Here’s our team – Alan and Sandeep is our leaders who support a lot for accessibility and help us when we need and Victor is an amazing colleague who is passionate and who initiated accessibility efforts at Yahoo! – me and my another colleague from London Artur, who we spoke a while ago.

In addition, we have a group of enthusiasts individuals from different departments like Quality Engineering, UED, Front End Engineering and SEO as part of an Accessibility Task Force and a Special Interest group. Thus enable us to create more awareness across the company. Plus our Learning & Development team is a great source of encouragement for us to organize wide range trainings and events related to accessibility. We have included a session disability and accessibility during new hire orientation to sensitize our new colleagues.
Consider to address an issue at the design stage itself is always better than trying to address the issue after the product release. We believe, if we consider accessibility right at the wire frame stage and keep the process through helps us to bring innovative and accessible products. At Yahoo! we the design, content, SEO and Accessibility teams work together since all these four areas are inter linked. For instance, heading tags are useful for a screen reader user to navigate easily as well heading tags are important for search engines too. Like Assistive Technologies rely on the code, search engines rely on code too. We do reviews right at the wire frame stage, at ID, Visual mocks and work very closely with development team.
What else we do at Accessibility team and GATF? We conduct user studies to see what our user needs are and what they would be happy for. We visit different organizations working in the area of disabilities to conduct the studies and we also, involve different people with disabilities during our testing process so as to ensure our product works for all. Our team play an innovative role evangelize accessibility both at Yahoo! and outside. Always, we will make sure that people feel the need for accessibility and also, it’s so simple to integrate.

We endeavor to design and develop our products to meet WCAG requirements; to achieve this, we put lots of efforts like implementation of ARIA for dynamic modules like you could see in Yahoo! Search results page as well as in Yahoo! Mail Classic. We have just started our efforts in the area of closed captioning to make our muoltimedia products like Yahoo! Movies accessible. In addition, there’s lot of accessibility effort has been put in for Yahoo! User Interface (YUI) componants like you could see accessible drop down menus that are ARIA implemented. Also, we have implemented Audio CAPTCHA as an alternative to visual verification for the benefit of vision impaired people and for those who may be deaf blind can reach out to our customer care for assistance.

Let me talk a bit about Accessibility Testing; We do both automated and manual testing. There are plenty of automated testing tools like WAVE and plugins for Firefox. They are pretty simple to use and helps you to identified most of the accessibility errors. Also, there are tools to verify if the colors used are accessible and have enough contrast.

Having said that, it’s equally important to do a manual testing and this can be effectively done by people with disabilities who actually use the assistive technologies.

Before I end, let me tell you a bit about our outreach programs. We conduct Accessibility Workshops both by invite and in partnership with other organizations. Yahoo! organizes hack weeks every year and we always make sure to include an accessibility session for hackers before the actual hack get going!

Thanks again Techshare organizers and Shilpi in particular and congratulations to the entire team for this great event.

Thank you.