Web accessibility is just good usability – Notes from the 18th June lunchtime seminar

This is a public service announcement to all librarians, information managers, web developers, designers and anyone who is responsible for a web page or intranet:

Accessibility is just good usability!

Thanks to the fantastic lunchtime seminar delivered by Darren Fittler of Gilbert + Tobin and Amajjika Kumara from AccessIQ on the 18th of June, members from ALLA NSW learnt both the importance of accessibility and the effect of poor website development and design on disabled individuals.

The expansion into the online environment as a communication/information medium and its rapid popularity presents a fantastic opportunity for the disabled to easily access information and communicate independently. Employing tools such as JAWS (job access with speech) screen readers with vision impairments are able to read and navigate the web without the need to seek the assistance of a sighted person.

This access and independence is dependent upon individuals, organisations, associations, governments developing website that are usable and adhere to the WC3 guidelines. With 20% of the population disabled (either vision, mobility, hearing or cognitively impaired) the development of a website or information product that is not accessible can either render the information product inaccessible or make it incredibly difficult and time consuming for the content to be navigated, understood and used. As a blind person, Darren brought home the impact of inaccessible websites to attendees. Inaccessible websites make it difficult for him to meet the requisite chargeable hours that lawyers must meet. Every hour taken struggling to navigate a website which is created entirely of tables, does not employ or adhere to a style sheet or is dominated by images with no alt text coded is another hour at work and another hour away from his young family.

It is for these reasons it is important for librarians, web administrators, designers and anyone responsible for a website or intranet to consider the accessibility of their online domains. To add further incentive to this social and corporate responsibility the federal government has passed laws to require that websites must receive a level AA+ accessibility rating. This legislation is expected to commence late this this year.

There are a number of free and paid resources available on the AccessIQ website to assist in ensuring that your website meets these standards. 

The AccessIQ website is http://www.accessiq.org/

This post was also published on the blog of the NSW division of the Australian Law Librarian Association http://allansw.wordpress.com/

Facebook and Twitter – Intelligen​t Informatio​n Symposium 2013

Two weeks ago (6 June) I went to the Intelligent Information Symposium 2013 half day workshops. After a bit of workshop hopping I settled in to an afternoon of Facebook and Twitter presented by Laurel Papworth.

Laurel’s been through the dark ages of social media and come out the otherside. Starting in social media in the dial up days of chat rooms in 1989, she has become an international presenter on social media strategy and currently also lectures at the University of Sydney. Her website is herehttp://laurelpapworth.com/

I was worried that this was going to be a Facebook and Twitter for dummies course and I wasn’t going to get anything out of it however Laurel (thankfully) put a lot of those fears aside. Whilst there was a lot of explaining the basics of Facebook and Twitter answering such questions as ‘what is a like?’ and ‘what is a hashtag?’ She took all interactions and considerations of the online environment from an anthropological viewpoint which I found very interesting and challenged my current perceptions and social media strategy.

Social media tribes

Laurel highlighted that social media is now over run with tribes and whilst it’s important to be active and present upon the established and ever developing social mediums, successful interaction and engagement with your target audience and users can only be facilitated through contacting and interacting with the tribe to which the user belongs. What does she mean by tribe? Well family ñ your traditional family, your work family, your family of hobby lovers, your family on the web that all love Dr Who, your family on the web that all are fanatical about eating 5 servings of vegetables those groups and all those connections that you develop on the internet and interact with. Every single one of those is a tribe and that tribe possesses influence over your choices. See my “graph” from the presentation on this at :http://t.co/YR6nmSdiod

You are more likely to purchase the same brands as your mum, you a more likely to take film advice from your friend who you know has similar movie tastes to you and your likely to steer away from the goodreads recommendations of that weird friend you have who only reads paranormal romance. So what does all of this have to do with social media? Well the long and the short of it is as a consequence of these established perceptions you’re more likely to take notice of and read content shared by a trusted source in a relevant community.

If you want to spread your information, message or content you need to plant it in the right tribes and if it’s good then the tribe will do the rest. And the tribe isn’t limited to one medium it will share content across everything! See the below link to see how the ripple effect works.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/silkcharm/3527089737/

I found this ‘seeding’ strategy particularly interesting because I have recently established twitter and Flickr profiles for ALLA NSW (@ALLA_NSW) and am wondering how to create some noise around the profiles and encourage people to interact and engage with the profiles.

In the workshop Laurel also provided guidance on the categories of communication which will best encourage interaction. There are four overarching types of social media interactions:

§ Testimonials – the I’m talking at you not so effective communication On occasion testimonials have their place however I’m highly skeptical of any organisation that only issues testimonials – this was a sentiment which was consolidated by Laurel. This seems to be old news but it seems that it’s difficult for organisations to put into practice, so I will repeat it: Online communication should not be a one way conversation!!!!! If you talk at your audience with a spiel they may be informed (provided they take notice) however they won’t be engaged.

§ Q&A – the I want to ask you a question will you take the time to give me an answer. This can be an easy and effective way to communicate with your user group. With simple options like – share if you agree or like if you think this. However you do need to be careful. If you put a question out there you may receive answers that you don’t want. I think the risk of ‘not so helpful’ comments should not be a deterrent.
How you manage negative engagement can often draw more interest and interaction from the online community. A fantastic example of this was back around 2007/08 when a batch of batteries a Dell computer exploded due to a mechanical error. Despite the batteries being manufactured by Sony, Dell got the brunt of the online ridicule. So what did Dell do? They posted a video of a faulty laptop igniting on their blog. Below the blog was an outline of what happened, how it happened and why it won’t happen again. They didn’t pretend that the problem didn’t exist, they acknowledged it and even assisted in the distribution of a trending video but also distributed their own message with it. Not everyone on the internet is going to be happy with the message you spread no matter how harmless that message is but it’s better to be there than to not participate.

§ Distribution – the I’m distributing my and others content Requests to please retweet or share my message. This shouldn’t be used too often. People will start ignoring you.

§ Interactions Interacting directly with your user group can be challenging. But a strategic thinking cap can make it a lot easier. Identifying key influencers within a user group and interacting with them can be a great way of spreading your message and creating buzz around your product (be it an organisation, a message, information or even your own personal brand).

The Twitter stream for the Symposium is #iiau There’s some interesting stuff going on so give it a look!