Monday, October 31, 2016

Accessibility Camp Bay Area 2016

Organizer, Jennison Ascuncion from LinkedIn
On October 29th, in the LinkedIn building in San Francisco, about 200 people volunteered their Saturday to collaborate on accessibility at the third annual Accessibility Camp Bay Area. Representatives from LinkedIn, Yahoo, Google, Ebay, Facebook, Etsy, Stanford, SBBart and more were on hand to have open discussions about many facets of accessibility on three different session tracks during the day.

A conference room with a view.
It was my responsibility to hold a session on Inclusive Design. In a beautiful conference room on the 17th floor with two entire walls of glass overlooking the city, about 70 of us had a great discussion about design and other topics that spun off from there. I used various slides from a collection of presentations to start the conversations and interesting discussion ensued.

It was great to see so many people interested in accessibility giving up a large portion of their weekend to collaborate on creating more usable products. When Jennison Asuncion, the founder and organizer, asked the audience at the kickoff how many people had come because their company asked them to nobody raised a hand. Everyone was there by choice. My first reaction was, “how cool!” but the more I think about it, maybe the companies should be sending representatives to these gatherings. Hopefully, that’s the next step.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Designing Healthcare for People with Disabilities

USC Institute of Creative Technology digital
imaging globe.
On Thursday, October 20, 2016, the Special Hope Foundation met with members of the USC Center for Body Computing to discuss possible projects that would influence the health care industry to create accessible, digital products. Two other software, subject matter experts were invited to add useful information: Jenison Asuncion, the accessibility engineering manager at LinkedIn; Joe Perez, Bay Area entrepreneur and co-founder of Tastemade. 

Lynne O’Hara, executive director of The Special Hope Foundation, brought with her Matthew Holder, MD, MBA, an international leader in Developmental Medicine from Kentucky and philanthropist and grant maker, Ryan Easterly. Doctor Holder explained in-depth the problems with cognitive and developmental care in Kentucky. Children with intellectual disabilities and other rare problems are regularly mistreated by the health industry due to lack of information. Information is typically corralled into social circles and specialists and does not reach the general population of doctors that are often not able to diagnose issues of people with intellectual disabilities properly. For example, “a patient who comes into an emergency room and is banging his head against the wall may simply be constipated."

USC Institute of Creative Technologies avatar creator.
The Center for Body Computing at USC has a rich history of creating technology that helps people with disabilities. Albert Rizzo, PhD, the director of Medical Virtual Reality at the USC Institute of Creative Technologies presented ways that virtual reality has many uses from games that motivate rehabilitation to digitalized, virtual psychologists that soldiers can talk to about depression and P.T.S.D. symptoms. One of their goals is to use affordable technology so that it is accessible to the general health industry. Their setups typically involved an Oculus Rift, an Xbox Kinect, Raspberry Pi’s, and similar technology available to the general public at reasonable prices. We were also treated to a tour of their digital imaging lab where many Hollywood stars have visited to have themselves digitalized for motion picture CGI purposes. I stood on the same spots as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise. Hey, it’s something.

A major topic of the meeting was how to create empathy for people with disabilities in the medical, digital product industry. Glenn Fox, PhD, of the USC Peak Performance Institute talked about emotions and emphasized that gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions. He explained that gratitude is a stronger emotion than empathy and can be elicited through acts of altruism. The group discussed projects to create empathy in the industry and bring members of the healthcare industry together with people with disabilities in various formats. Another recurring topic was research and data collection for people with disabilities in order to attach various interfaces to the data. For example, sensors in the home and on an individual could recognize needs when they arise.

Lack of data, the broad spectrum of disabilities and the many interconnecting symptoms within them form a high hurdle for digital solutions at this time. However, cognitive systems such as IBM's Watson could leverage broad information on the needs of people with disabilities to bring the medical industry help where and when it is needed. Sensoring systems such as those being developed for the homes of the aging population could also include data for people with disabilities and notify others of problems in their homes.

There are many possibilities and solutions that are undiscovered at this time but efforts such as this collaboration at USC will help to uncover ways to include people with disabilities in mainstream healthcare technology. As we charge forward with exciting technology for untapped markets of billions of dollars, let’s remember that it takes very little effort to include people with disabilities in our solutions and it has the power to aid an entire world population, helping people care for themselves and be productive members of society.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Installing Jaws on Windows 7 in Virtualbox on OSx

After trying to get a VMWare Fusion license inside IBM without much luck, I took the advice of Scott Strubberg from IBM Design and installed, quite painlessly, Oracle's Virtualbox product. I didn't have any trouble with the product and after requesting an existing Windows 7 Professional license I was able to get on the internet on Windows inside OSx Mavericks and install JAWS.

Here are the steps:

  1. Request a Windows 7 License. Do this first since it will take a couple of days to get approved. Link to SWG software license management. You may need to purchase a license if not available but I've heard that there are quite a few in that pool. My request was approved in about 24 hours.
  2. Download Virtualbox from Oracle's website.
  3. Download the Windows 7 Professional ISO 
  4. Install Virtualbox and follow the next few steps:
    1. Open Virtual Box.
    2. Click 'New'.
    3. Put 'Windows 7' or your own name in the name field and change the Operation System Version to 'Windows 7 64-bit" or the appropriate version if you're using 32-bit for some reason.
    4. Set the RAM to anywhere between 1024MB and 4096MB, up to about 1/2 of the available max. If you're not sure, 1.5 GB may be a good choice. Click Continue
    5. Select 'Create a virtual hard drive now'. Click Continue
    6. Select VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image). Click Continue
    7. Select 'Dynamically Allocated'. Click Continue
    8. The name can be left the same. 15 GB may be enough for use of one program and some files, but this choice is up to you.
    9. Click 'Create'
    10. Click on 'Settings' and select the 'Storage' tab.
    11. Under 'IDE Controller', click on Empty. Then on the right-side column, click on the CD icon to the right of 'CD/DVD Drive' and select 'Choose a Virtual CD/DVD File'.
    12. In the Popup WIndow, find the Windows 7 .iso file you saved earlier and double-click it.
    13. Click OK to close the Settings Window.
  5. Click 'Start' and a black box will pop up. Follow its instructions to install Windows 7. You'll need your valid serial number for this step.
  6. At this point you will need to change your network settings on this virtual machine.
    1. Go to Settings for the Windows 7 virtual machine.
    2. Click on network.
    3. For Adapter 1:
      1. Check yes for Enable Network Adapter.
      2. Select NAT in the Attached to: select box. [screenshot]
    4. For Adapter 2:
      1. Check yes for Enable Network Adapter.
      2. Select Bridged Adapter in the Attached to: select box.
  7. If you are still not able to pass the internet into your virtual machine, you'll need to seek additional help (and please report it back here). This step worked for me on Maverick's.
  8. Download new browsers from their respective sites as needed.
  9. Download and install Jaws from the license server.

I had to do some hunting to find this information so hopefully this post will bring it to one spot. If you find any steps that do not work or have any shortcuts to this, please let me know.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Accessibility of Disabled and Read-only Form Fields

This information is intended to create accessibility constraints and does not attempt to suggest additional user experiences.

Seen by screen reader

Receives focus

Browser defaults to grayed-out color

Requires accessible color contrast

Use disabled when:
  • The information in the field is not meaningful to the users but must be shown anyway, mainly for structure
  • Fields are hidden visibly and will be exposed through a user action or by "progressive disclosure"
  • Read-only will not work on the element

Use read-only when:
  • The information in the field is meaningful to the user but it must not be changed

Q: Won’t my design suffer from having to comply with contrast requirements if I use read-only fields?
A: Not necessarily:

In the example below, the read-only input box is styled to have a border and font color of #5D5D5D which complies with AA color contrast requirements (4.5:1) and is similar to the standard, default disabled field. 

Q: Read-only is not working on my form element. Is this a bug?
A: No, unfortunately there is a limit to the read-only attribute:
  • Read-only WILL work for
    • Type: text, search, url, tel, email, number, password, date/time input types, and <textarea>
  • Read-only WILL NOT work for
    • Type: hidden, range, color, checkbox, radio, file, button, submit and image

W3C Recommendation 17.12.2 Read-only Controls.

Q: Does a disabled label have to meet color contrast levels?
A: No, there is no accessibility requirement for disabled labels to meet color contrast requirements allowing for the lightening of the label to signify the disabled state. However, both read-only labels and fields must meet color contrast requirements

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Parenting with Design Thinking

Urkel dancing nerdily.
This morning I wrote up a retrospective based on our latest iteration of the "Boys Overnight Stay at Grandma's and Grandpa's House for Mom's Birthday Verson 1.0". I talked to everyone involved and considered their perspective on the general failure, itemized the realizations and emailed my findings to all the users and stakeholders which included: mom, dad, both sons, and both grandparents.

What I realized is that design thinking could have really been instrumental in creating a great experience for everyone. The process would have looked something like this:

Stakeholder Mapping
Establish the list of stakeholders and understand their feelings. Knowing how Grandma and Grandpa feel about the kids staying overnight would help to create the best experience for them possible. For instance, if they had known that Youngest (7) acted like a teenager in the morning - basically unresponsive for 30 minutes - then they could have planned accordingly and not have been so shocked by the behavior. Instead, they called Boys' Parents at 7am, exasperated and hopeless, setting in motion a major crisis.

Journey Maps
Prior to the overnight stay, if we had considered the pain points in the experience in the past and how we can mitigate them, we would have realized that bedtime has always been the hardest part. Instead, Jurassic Park went on right before bed and after lights-out, Oldest (12) clicked his retainer endlessly which kept Youngest awake. Youngest frustratedly screamed at Oldest and the real Oldest (Grandpa) had to step in.

Empathy Maps
Last week would have been a great time to map empathy for each person involved in the release of the Overnight Stay. None of us knew that Youngest had bouts of homesickness. We also could have seen that Grandpa felt like he wanted to make their evening special by telling a very, very (very) long story after lights-out time. Knowing beforehand that Mom wanted to sleep in and chill out on her birthday would have helped everyone handle the situation differently.

Imagine if we had all talked about the coolest experience everyone could have had during the overnight stay and then scaled back to a realistic model. We just set out by the seat of our pants and developed this thing in an agile manner without any design at all. Ice cream is great, but right before bed during a scary movie that created nightmares? Grandma would have had more to work on than just pure desire to please the Boys. The mornings are hard, but what rewards could we have put in place to make that smoother and more fun?

"Okay, let's go over how the overnight stay should look." Yeah, why weren't those words spoken? Because we just winged it. Was it worth it? Not in the least. In fact, the release of the Overnight Stay was more negative than positive. We almost lost our stakeholders completely and, trust me, we need them. With a simple prototype, even on paper, of the way the entire stay should have gone, we would have been guaranteed a much better outcome. Perhaps if Oldest had seen a prototype of himself as a camp counselor the next day he would not have accidentally worn Youngest's shorts and ended up looking like Urkel (Mom took a look at him and forced him to change).

The retrospective was appreciated by the whole team and there was little disagreement. Hopefully, we can make sure we plan to have a design sprint before we begin execution next time and we learn from our mistakes this time around. But first I need to pick them up from camp. Be right back.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Diversity, Market Driving Accessible, Inclusive Design

Apple hugging an orange
In September, Scientific American cited some convincing studies showing that diversity in the workplace makes us more diligent, creative and hard working. Although the studies were based mostly on sex, race and culture, we know at IBM that this clearly extends to people with disabilities. Likewise, tech companies around the globe are adding more disabled workers and accessibility experts into their workforce. Designers are reaching out, looking for people with disabilities to help them create inclusive designs.

There is a powerful current in technology today toward inclusive design. AT&T, Yahoo, Microsoft and more are creating accessibility departments loaded with experts to design their products so that everyone can use them. This isn’t simply an altruistic change in their business model, but also an attempt to tap into a multi-billion dollar market for accessible software. In turn, we see organizations such as the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) working to connect accessibility professionals with companies in need. It’s the right thing to do, sure, but isn’t it nice that there is a bottom-line dollar impact statement to rest on?

David Fazio, who battled through a brain aneurism when he was 14, has been speaking around the world on the astounding size of the market for accessible products. He recently released his book, Harmony at Work, that addresses the need for product experiences that work for everyone. He drives in his point of inclusiveness with the enormous market behind it.

However, we don’t just gain from selling accessible products and watching our stocks rise. In fact, money may just be the fringe benefit. When we give people with disabilities tools that allow them to work alongside the rest of us, we can finally harvest the rich knowledge of our entire community. Additionally, we give people with disabilities an opportunity to do something that we all intrinsically want, to be productive in our workforce and be self-sufficient in society.

Today, we see components such as user-centered "design thinking" frameworks, the growing number of the elderly worldwide, and a heightened awareness of the benefits of a diverse workforce coming together to form a perfect storm in the tech industry. By partnering with accessibility experts, designers and developers are getting both gratification from and recognition for building their skills and influence in inclusive design. If you’re a designer who isn’t involved in inclusive design, yet, this isn’t just inevitable, it’s imminent. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bo on a Stick

Image 1 - Bo on a Stick
That's me on a stick (image 1). For the last two months I've been testing this virtual mode of communication with my team. I'm basically an iPad on an IV stand with a shirt to make me a bit more human. It's a great look, right? I'm in California and the team is in the Design Studio in Austin, TX.

The project I chose to contribute to as a stick involved a collaboration with three teams, including a Winter Designcamp team of three newbs, my own digital properties team, and the IBM Design studio team. The project: To redesign The IBM Design external website. Here are my takeaways from the experience:

I really felt immersed

There was more than one time that I mentally joined the Austin time zone. The open channel with the design studio is a strong connection and I think the brain has a pretty easy time jumping across the interweb to be on the other side in good cyborg fashion. I'm quite introverted and feel much more productive in my office alone without distractions, but it was pleasant to join the studio environment, feel the energy, and tap into the stream of information that only happens person-to-person. A+ on the immersion quality. Caveat: iPads are really amazing pieces of hardware and I think this experience relies on a great connection, video, and sound.

It takes a community

As a senior member of the community, it is hard for me to ask anything from my team that will change their rhythm or impose on their normal routines. It's really impossible to simply walk up and sit down at the table when you're an iPad. So, the effectiveness of the medium relies on both the assertiveness of the remote collaborator and the compassion of the team. This is one of the more major hurdles because it exposes a departure from the metaphor of actually being in the room. In one circumstance, I was left staring at an empty table and had to text a peer to bring me to a meeting. #awkward! The dependence can be a bit daunting. A remote "on" switch would be a wonderful enhancement... and then a neck, and legs... and a chocolate-covered unicorn.

It can be really fun

The best part of being on a stick is when the team wheels you around the studio and you see people working and smiling. Friends come up to wave and say hi and it feels a bit like a hovercraft ride through the space. It's easy to share jokes at the table and listen to friendly conversations that happen organically. It's really nice to people-watch as if you were inside the studio and the culture, though a little muted, really does flow through the wires.

Image of Home Office
Image 2 - Home office with iPad on a stand.
Ultimately, the success of this remote collaboration technique depends on a really good team understanding of roles and expectations. While I had a great time being immersed with the team, there were still pretty major challenges trying to design with them during physical activities such as sticky note exercises and whiteboard sketching. The stick fills a gap in communication but still needs a bit more evolution to become a bigger bridge. I would definitely recommend using this medium of communication if you have the option.