Reading radio scripts out loud with a screen reader

In my work with the CMTO I’ve been developing techniques to best assist learners in community radio who are using screen readers – ie.  people who are blind or have a vision impairment. Screen readers convert written text into voice, so that a user who is blind can ‘read’ the text, from top to bottom (as long as that text is formatted to be accessible, more about that here). Using a screen reader to read back a pre-written script in real time can be a challenge for some screen reader users, but worth the effort to become confident on-air.

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Teaching yourself accessibility

If you want to create accessible documents, websites or digital newsletters for your community radio station, you might benefit from checking out these online courses.  Accessibility means making sure your content is available to as many people as possible, increasing audience, participation and social justice. Become an #A11y today!

Some free online courses:

Udacity have a 2 week free course:

Web Accessibility with Google: Developing with Empathy “In this course you’ll get hands-on experience making web applications accessible. You’ll understand when and why users need accessibility. Then you’ll dive into the “how”: making a page work properly with screen readers, and managing input focus (e.g. the highlight you see when tabbing through a form.) You’ll understand what “semantics” and “semantic markup” mean for web pages and add ARIA markup to enable navigating the interface with a range of assistive devices. Finally, you’ll learn styling techniques that help users with partial vision navigate your pages easily and reliably.” Free, 2 weeks.

Future learn 5 week free course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society “With a better understanding of users’ needs, technologies can be developed to be accessible & provide a more inclusive environment”

Some paid and subscription options:

Lynda.com (subscription only) has a number of accessibility courses :

  • Chad Chelius’ Creating Accessible PDFs shows you how to take an existing PDF and make it accessible: “When you make your PDFs accessible, it means adding tags, bookmarks, alt text, and other information that makes the files readable to users who are visually or mobility impaired. Using Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign, it’s now much easier to create valid, accessible PDF files. In this course, Chad Chelius explains why accessibility is important and what features an accessible PDF should include, before showing you two workflows for creating accessible PDFs: one in Word and one in InDesign. He also covers making an existing PDF file accessible using tools in Adobe Acrobat.”
  • Joe Dolsons WordPress Accessibility: “If you build a website with WordPress, build it with accessibility in mind. Making your content, themes, navigation, and other site features accessible helps everyone including visitors who want to find your site through search engine results. This course, merging WordPress coding with accessible web design techniques, helps you make sure your website meets modern accessibility standards. You’ll learn how to use the power of WordPress to quickly build a beautiful and accessible website that can be used by people with different types of abilities. Author Joe Dolson provides a broad introduction to accessibility and then focuses on practical steps to make sure your WordPress themes, plugins, and content are accessible and usable to all.”

Australian Professional certificate in web accessibility, 6 weeks starting in Jan 2019:

For those seeking a professional certificate to add to your CV, this fee-help course is for you. By Distance Ed at the University of Adelaide in collaboration with the Centre for Inclusive Design.

“Now you can gain an internationally-recognised professional qualification in web accessibility. The Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility (PCWA). What sets it apart? The PCWA:

  • Is for everyone who wants to upskill, no matter where you are – students take the course from North America, the UK, Europe, South East Asia, Australia, and more.
  • Teaches the essential principles and techniques for achieving accessibility compliance.
  • Helps organisations meet obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act in Australia, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and more, to not only reach more people more effectively, but to lessen the litigation risk resulting from inaccessibility.
  • Assists Government departments (and agencies or contractors doing Government work) to meet mandated accessibility requirements as outlined by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA).
  • Guides management on international best practice in accessibility, including adherence to the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and Section 508, etc.
  • Provides students with the opportunity to discuss, share, connect and interact with other professionals facing similar challenges.
  • Enhances your skills through learning from specialist lecturers and completing graded, practical assessments and validates your new-found expertise.
  • Gives you hands-on experience of how people with various disabilities access the web.
  • Enables teams to develop websites, apps and digital communications that work for more people, including the ageing population.

GitHub list of accessibility courses:

Free, paid, university, private colleges, webinars, certificates, and meetups of A11ys.

Lots of useful accessibility training links at GitHub

Need accessible documents? Check out MSWord templates

In recent weeks I’ve been exploring the wonderful (and hitherto mostly unknown to me) world of accessible word documents. In MS Word, using document styles, headings and alternative descriptions (alt-tags) on images makes your document more readable for those using screenreaders, as well as more consistently formatted for everyone else. In addition, formatting for accessibility in word before creating text in websites makes the job of accessible website design simpler.  Accessibility checkers added to Word help you double-check it’s all ok.

I’ve written my entire doctoral thesis using the Vision Australia accessibility add-on for Word you can find at this link: https://www.visionaustralia.org/services/digital-access/document-accessibility-toolbar

But did you know there is an even EASIER way?   MS Word templates!  The templates demonstrate how you can have a design that is accessible and useful, as well as visually attractive.

Picture of Sampler cover:  Man with guide dog crossing roadThe Word “Accessible Template Sampler” includes:

  • Flyers
  • Agendas
  • Birthday invitations, cards and posters
  • Labels and business cards (if you want to go that extra mile with your business cards, you can get Braille ones from any of the business listed on the Braille Guide website here: http://brailleaustralia.org/finding-braille/directory/#books )

You can find a whole range of fully accessible Word templates trialed by people with a disability for use-ability here:  https://templates.office.com/en-US/Accessible-Template-Sampler-TM16402471

Word is also full of helpful advice on achieving accessible docs here: Link to accessibility advice on MSOffice site where they also have a Microsoft Disability Answer Desk if you have problems.

If you still have trouble, you might like to consider hiring Media Access Australia’s accessible document service here: https://www.mediaaccess.org.au/digitalaccessibilityservices/accessible-digital-communications/accessible-word-templates/

MSOffice also make accessible templates for Powerpoint! Find them at this link: https://templates.office.com/EN-US/accessible-template-sampler-TM16401472