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Aug 30 2012

Making Atheism+ Accessible

“But what will/does Atheism+ do?”

It’s a fair question. Luckily, it’s starting to have answers. Greta is working on a reading list for people who really do want to know more about social justice issues. The 101-level educational forum is up and running. I’m working on resources for event planners.

The project that excites me right now, though, is A+ Scribe. From its mission statement:

The mission of A+Scribe is to help improve the accessibility of resources in the A+ sphere (and eventually beyond) to Deaf and Hard of Hearing readers. We will strive to honestly, accurately, and completely transcribe as many inaccessible resources as we can.

This? This is practical service that will make organized atheism more accessible to more people. Contribute if you can.

This is what Atheism+ is supposed to do. Now it does.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    Jennifer

    FYI, when I click on your “Contribute” link my work computer is telling me there is a problem with this website’s security certificate.

  2. 2
    Stephanie Zvan

    Thanks, Jennifer. I know they’ve been trying to straighten out the certificate issue. Good to get documentation that it’s still happening.

  3. 3
    trinioler

    Thanks Stephanie! We’ve got our hosting staff taking a look at the certificate issue, and hopefully this can be resolved soon.

    It is safe to continue if you get this error!

    Its been a lot of work, and still a lot of work ahead of us!

  4. 4
    Pteryxx

    Jennifer and everyone, you should be seeing a webfaction.com certificate for the A+Scribe site. Browsers often alert because the names don’t match.

    From trinioler, who’s heading the A+Scribe site creation:

    The A+Scribe site is hosted on webfaction.com’s servers. They have a default certificate we used initially, which appears to be *sometimes* served to people. Unfortunately, this certificate is for webfaction.com domains, not the a-plus-scribe.com domain which causes modern browsers to throw an error. I currently have the webfaction staff looking into the issue.

    SSL certificates are used to verify and encrypt your communications with a specific site. We chose to do this to help protect privacy and prevent impostors.

  5. 5
    Pteryxx

    More on accessibility: while A+Scribe is focusing on transcripts, bloggers and site designers can use a few best practices too. There’s a good discussion on Ophelia’s about using alt image text when posting images, which enables blind readers to participate. From Stella:

    You can use the Image tag to provide a description of the image. Sometimes the name of the image can be enough: obamawavingtocrowd.jpg The tags show up in mouse-overs. Screen readers see Image tags, too.

    I have a little vision, so minimal description helps me figure out what I’m supposed to be seeing. Ophelia’s mention of the mountain and a postcard from Mars were enough to help me put together what was in that picture. Greta often does a good job of describing pictures in the blog post. The rest of FtB sucks, but I really haven’t asked them to do better.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/police-the-borders/#comment-267070

    Bernard Hurley came up with the W3C standards:

    I would recommend following the W3C Web Content Accessibility Standards: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/ together with any enhancements disabled people you know can suggest. Until a couple of years ago I used to freelance doing web design. I would always insist that the site comply with these and various other standards before working on it. I ended up turning away a lot of work but I’m a stubborn old git when I want to be.

    Really, everyone, I think something like adding alt text to images should be a baseline courtesy, right alongside ask-before-touching and not using ignorantly gendered language.

    To check whether the sites you read do this, set your browser options to disable images. Most of the time you’ll see only placeholder text.

  6. 6
    Pteryxx

    oops: Link to Bernard’s comment quoted above:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/police-the-borders/#comment-267190

  7. 7
    trinioler

    The certificate issue *should* be fixed Jennifer. I was just contacted by the webfaction.com support staff that they had resolved an issue.

  8. 8
    Stephanie Zvan

    *sigh* Here I’ve been including descriptions of my images, using WordPress’s Description function, without ever thinking to confirm that WordPress uses that information in its html. It doesn’t. How useless is that?

  9. 9
    trinioler

    Quite useless Stephanie :(. I know it did at one time, and you could also edit the alt-text manually before. Not sure now, as I haven’t touched wordpress in awhile.

  10. 10
    Pteryxx

    Wow. That’s serious enough that *WordPress* should really know better.

  11. 11
    Stella

    If Word Press won’t use the alt text tag, describe the picture in the blog post or in a caption for now.

    I cannot describe how thrilling it feels to suddenly be included. I got so used to coping on my own that I rarely think about what others might do to help.

    I thought Atheism+ might include me. Damn, I was right.

    Stella

  12. 12
    Stephanie Zvan

    Stella, the alt text appears to work. I was just given outdated information about which field to use. I apologize. I thought I was including you all along.

  13. 13
    Stella

    Thank you, Stephanie. I look forward to ”seeing” more images.

    Thank you to Pteryxx for propagating the alt text and W3C guidelines across several blogs. If it next trends all across FtB, it will make a big difference.

    Atheism+ – it’s working!

    Stella

  14. 14
    One Thousand Needles, lumper-splitter

    Hey now. Atheism doesn’t address W3C standards!

    When you conflate atheism and accessibility, you do harm to both.


    * snrk *
    * stiffles a giggle *

  15. 15
    fwtbc

    Thanks from another vision impaired reader!

    Stephanie, could you please pass on the information about correctly filling in fields for images so that alt tags are correctly propgated to the back-channel? This is information that everyone on FTB could benefit from knowing if they don’t already.

    And thanks again to you, Pteryxx, you’re being such a wonderful advocate. It’s ridiculously appreciated.

  16. 16
    fwtbc

    A couple more accessibility tips:

    On your webpage, select all, copy and then paste it into something like notepad. This will give you a rough idea of the order a screen reader will go through the pages content and how images will be represented textually. If you’ve got to page down 8 times to get past all the left-side menu links before you get to the stuff you actually care about, then you should look into either inserting a “Skip to content” link at the top, or putting that menu content in its own div, and putting it after the main content, but still positioning it in the same spot using CSS.

    Don’t go overboard with graphical links. I frequently read a blog and think “good blog, I’ll subscribe” and then hit ctrl-f to search and type in “rss”, then when that doesn’t find anything, try “subscribe”, and then I swear a lot and search the page source instead. If something can be found in your page source easier than it can be on the actual page, then…

    No autostarting videos/audio. This pisses off almost everyone, but especially people who can’t see to find the pause/stop button and make it STFU. If I ever encounter that, I make it shut up by closing that tab and never going back.

    If it’s not meant to be printed, it’s not meant to be a pdf. PDFs have a history of being horrendously awful when it comes to accessibility. They may be better (I suspect they’re probably worse) these days, but I’ve given them and the available readers too many chances and now I’m done with them. If it’s not essential and I see something linked to is a pdf, I just go without.

    Avoid nested comments. This is hated by no shortage of sighted people too, and for exactly the same reasons as the vision impaired, except if you’re using a screen reader, the processes of following a nested comment thread are much slower.

    Avoid absolute values in your style sheets. There’s a huge problem of things being considered “accessible” because they play nicely with screen readers. Please try and remember the middle ground. Someone like Stella above may not actually use a screen reader. Screen readers are slow and cumbersome, and users spend a lot of time telling them to shut up because they tell you everything when you only care about 10% of it. Some people want to just be able to bump up the font size and then they’re good to go, but if you’ve used absolute values in your style sheet, depending on your browser, this can result in overlapping and unreadable text, or requires you to scroll left and right constantly because each line of text is too long because it’s spanning 1200 pixels on a screen that’s only 1024 pixels wide, instead of 95% of a screen that’s any width.

    Consider alternate colour schemes. Some people find white backgrounds like staring into a lightbulb, so they’ll define their own colour scheme and tell their browser to always use that. If you’ve got lots of graphical links that are say, black text on a transparent background, people who force a black background won’t be able to see them, so consider either outlining the text in the image with a well contrasting colour, or avoiding transparent backgrounds.

    I may rant, uh, provide some more helpful tips later.

  17. 17
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    Cert is now for same domain name as the originating domain. Nice work.

    fwtbc

    On your webpage, select all, copy and then paste it into something like notepad.

    Oh shineonsweetjesus yes. This eliminates all sorts of crap, especially for items composed in weird office suite document editors, and more particularly the non-standards-compliant ones. This includes stuff that might not even display in many cases.

  18. 18
    Stella

    fwtbc

    Those are all very useful guidelines. I admire the patience of anyone who copes with screen readers. I’ve tried, but it’s still less frustrating to use what vision I have rather than deal with the mountains of chaff by listening.

    I second the request that accessibility be brought to the attention of all on the back channel.

    Stella

  19. 19
    Stephanie Zvan

    This has been done, including a caution about the WordPress silliness over the Description field. Not everyone who blogs here participates in the backchannel regularly or at all, however, so someone who doesn’t change isn’t necessarily ignoring the information. They may not have gotten it.

  20. 20
    Pteryxx

    Thanks Stephanie!

    For bloggers that need reminding of this, not just on FTB but anywhere, this discussion will be a good resource – and it’d be useful to add to the A+ Resource page links and advice on troubleshooting various blog platforms for accessibility. I get the feeling many problems are going to be platform-specific and inadequately addressed.

  21. 21
    Stella

    Thanks Stephanie!

    I will make a point of speaking up on individual blogs when images are used without description.

    Thanks again, Pteryxx, for collecting propagating the information and the need.

    Stella

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