Coding Accessibility – Girl Code at Incentro
It took a while but here it is. The recap of our ‘Coding Accessibility’-meetup at Incentro a few weeks ago! And lucky me, while I was finding the time to write a proper blogpost about one of the most inspiring Girl Codes ’til now, our speaker and host Elisabeth Boldewijn wrote one that absolutely captures the awesomeness of the whole night, so I won’t try to match it, but just share it here! But before I copy-paste below I would like to thank all of our speakers so much. The night was buzzing with passion, inspiration and last but not least courage of all our speakers to also talk about their own physical challenges in life. It emphasised how these ‘disabilities’ are not always visible and why as Eva Westerhoff eloquently put: “accessibility is for everyone” and if you don’t experience a disability now “at one point in life, all of us will experience ‘disability'”, like Dr. Cara Antoine told us during her talk. During the drinks after it turned out all of the attendees were very much inspired to do better on the accessibility front of coding and a few of them were already activists on the matter. It was so rewarding to organise this meetup and it’s inspiring outcome, partly because it was a topic high on my personal wish list since I’m battling a chronic illness myself which does causes the world to be less accessible to me on a daily basis. We are very proud we could shine a light on this topic from three different sides: Elisabeth about how coding can make a great career accessible while being chronically ill, Eva about why building accessibility or rather usability in your software and products is important to everyone and Dr. Cara Antoine accompanied by Lisanne Brons how software, in this case AI, can make the physical world more accessible to all! And now it’s finally time for Elisabeth’s recap of the night. Below her post you will find the pics and the slides!
GirlCode Accessibility meetup
– by Elisabeth Boldewijn
Wednesday evening I held my first meetup ever and about a quite intimate topic, accessibility. Not only did we learn more about accessibility within the services and products we use, but there were some personal stories shared which explained why some of us are so passionate about this topic and do our best to be heard and include those who are challenged in life.
After my friend & colleague Hajar Mokhtafa gave us a wonderful introduction about our company. It was my turn and I held my talk on how fibromyalgia changed my life and the challenges I faced at finding a job when you’re not only a starting junior developer, but not confident at all in your capabilities with a body you cannot trust.
I embarked on my journey to become a web developer after a heart surgery. As medication didn’t work for me, I opted for the surgery. It was supposed to make my life more manageable, but unfortunately it left me in a much worse state. (it had triggered my current condition, but only after 9 months would I find out what it was and get it confirmed by a doctor.)
As physical work was impossible for me to do even on heavy painkillers, I set my mind to really go for it and find a place to learn web development at a faster pace. I got lucky and got the opportunity to learn at the NYCDA and after finishing the course successfully I finally wound up at incentro (Rotterdam).
This to wasn’t without the help of GirlCode founder Ineke Scheffers. She reached out to one of my colleagues and within a few days I had found a place to work (prior to this it had taken me months). We were classmates at the nycda and after we got a bit personal in our introductions, she had taken me along to the GirlCode meetups. I was amazed at all the women I’d meet and their talks, so I kept going and I really felt and still feel like I am part of a great community. So after I felt I had enough courage to get on that stage I decided to host a GirlCode myself at incentro.
Our second speaker Eva Westerhoff (helps organisations improve their accessibility & is currently working at ING) made it very clear how much we actually fail, when we think something is ‘accessible’ when it’s made for the wrong target group. Everyone BUT the ‘disabled’ people it was meant for.
She also had a very solid point, saying
I don’t feel disabled, it’s the environment that makes it that way.
If you think about it, it makes compleet sense! Don’t we all feel much more at ease at a place where we know our way around, and managing everything ourselves without the help of others?
If we do a better job at making sure our products & services ARE accessible, then more people can feel that way. Don’t wait until it has become a ‘requirement’, try to always include accessibility within your designs. And if you want to do it the right way. Invite people who you think will benefit from this new feature, or design and ask THEM.
- Does this make your life easier?
- Would you use this product/service in it’s current state?
- How can I improve my product to meet your needs?
Aside of the fact that a LOT of people are missing out in using the services offered, you make then feel excluded. Perhaps they even think they’re not important enough, and that would be a shame.
Eva also shared some links with us, so please check them out!
- Tips for developers
- Different disabilities and what to do & not do
- Stories of multiply accessibility needs
Our third and last speakers were Dr. Cara Antoine & Lisanne Brons from Microsoft the Netherlands. They also had a personal story to share and told us how the Microsoft vision plays a role in accessibility.
At one point in life, all of us will experience ‘disability’
I found that such a powerful thing to hear, and fully agree! With that mindset you have a completely different view on the things you use, design, perhaps even on the world.
Cara also gave a very simple example when mentioning that a lot of disabilities are ‘invisible’. If those in the audience wearing glasses would take them off for the rest of the presentation. Those people would not see very well, but how many people are wearing contact lenses? You have no clue, but they also count as ‘disabled’.
So if you develop your products with future you in mind who may the same, or may be disabled in one way or another, you are thinking ahead and including those people.
Empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more
Lisanne told us how machine learning (a way of achieving AI) is not much different from how children learn. They pick up information eventually start speaking and when making mistakes we correct them. We also cheer them on when they get it right.
She also gave a demo of one of their apps SeeingAI. With this app you take a picture and it will verbally explain what is on the picture. It was very cool to see this, but what got me and a colleague even more excited was the app where you can become a buddy for someone who’s visually impaired (I forgot the name). If you cannot see something clearly, you can call someone, who will see what you’re seeing, and tell you what to pick or which way to go. I believe this app wasn’t available yet in The Netherlands, only in USA.
Other amazing app mentioned were:
microsoft translator, this can translate from one language to another. So if you’re speaking in Spanish, but I cannot understand it, it will translate to a language I do understand making it possible to communicate with far more people than before.
Stream, in this video platform it is possible to:
- Search for text or spoken words within videos
- Enhance accessibility for everyone with closed captioning
- See all speakers and jump ahead to where they appear in your video
- Play your video while viewing or searching its transcript
- Discover a variety of content without relying on metadata
As a developer who learn a lot through videos. I find myself often searching for something I’ve seen or heard in a video. If the stream features were used on youtube as well, my life would be so much easier!
Also a shout out to the catering for this evening. The food was deliciousss! Thank you very much!
This summary of the evening turned out to be quite a long post, but I really wanted to share how much I appreciated hosting this event, having such wonderful speakers and truly feeling blessed by those around me!
I hope to continue seeing more powerful women making a change in this world for the better. If ever you see a GirlCode meetup, don’t hesitate! They’re always a lot of fun, and you always leave with a bit more knowledge.
Thank you for reading.
Until next time
Original post by Elisabeth Boldewijn can be found here.
The next meetup is being organised as we speak! Keep an eye on our Meetup page to RSVP once it’s up!
Watson: eindelijk écht naar de bioscoop als blinde of slechtziende
We houden ervan om het internet toegankelijk te maken voor iedereen. Soundfocus houdt ervan om films toegankelijk te maken voor iedereen. Reden genoeg om de handen ineen te slaan, met als resultaat: Watson, een app waarmee blinden en slechtzienden volop kunnen genieten van alle Nederlandse films. Zowel in de bioscoop als op televisie.
Slecht- of helemaal niet zien in de bioscoop
Dat is heel vervelend, want tot nu is de bioscoop weinig toegankelijk voor dit publiek. Probeer de Titanic maar eens te volgen met je ogen dicht. Natuurlijk zeggen de stemmen wel wat, maar die achtergrondgeluiden kunnen net zo goed van een vliegtuig zijn in plaats van een indrukwekkend schip. Dat wil je natuurlijk niet pas doorhebben als dat schip tegen een ijsberg vaart. Dat voelt toch een beetje als te laat. (“Huh? Vliegen ze zo laag dan? Oh, wacht…”)
De gewone voorstellingen zijn moeilijk te volgen voor veel blinden en slechtzienden. Gezellig naar de bioscoop gaan is daarom voor hen allesbehalve gewoon. Dat is niet omdat zij het niet zouden willen, want zij willen niets liever dan gewoon mee kunnen doen in de samenleving.
De oplossing is audiodescriptie
Soundfocus maakt audiodescripties bij allerlei video’s, ook films. Audiowat? Audiodescriptie. Dat is de audio die je hoort om het beeld te beschrijven en dus de manier om de film ook visueel uitgedaagd goed te kunnen volgen. Maar om deze audiodescripties voor nieuwe films mogelijk te maken, zijn samenwerkingen met filmmakers nodig. De situatie tot nu is dat heel af en toe een film van audiodescriptie kan worden voorzien en heel af en toe er dan een bioscoop is die zo’n film ook nog draait. Zo’n bioscoop is echter niet altijd in de buurt. Kortom: niet elke film is te ervaren door dit publiek. Als de film dan gedraaid wordt is de afstand vaak nog een belemmering én het is een speciale voorstelling, dus tegelijk met je scherpziende vrienden gaan, is er vaak ook niet bij.
Wanneer audiodescriptie toegankelijk zou zijn tijdens de reguliere voorstelling in de bioscoop kunnen ook blinden en slechtzienden weer gezellig mee naar de film. In Nederland is het belang hiervan te lang onderschat geweest (in Engeland bijvoorbeeld is audiodescriptie al veel meer mainstream). We hopen daar met Watson verandering in te brengen en dat meer filmmakers (ook internationale) de samenwerking aan zullen gaan.
Onder de motorkap
Watson gebruikt audioherkenning om de audiodescriptie van de film gesynchroniseerd af te spelen. Dat wil zeggen dat de app luistert naar de audio van de reguliere voorstelling en aan de hand van die audio bepaalt waar in de film je bent. Vanaf dat punt speelt de app via je koptelefoon de audiodescriptie bij de betreffende film af. Dit betekent dus dat je gewoon met je goedziende vrienden naar de reguliere voorstelling kunt en met de app de film goed kunt volgen. In welke bioscoop dan ook, ook wanneer de film op televisie speelt, en bovendien zonder dat je haviksoogvrienden daar last van hebben.
We hebben Watson gekoppeld aan een closed source fingerprinting library van pHash. Daardoor herkent de app het ook wanneer je tien minuten te laat de film binnenwandelt en begint die gewoon met de audiodescriptie op het juiste punt in de film. In de eerste versie deden we dat server-side, maar dat performde niet optimaal en in de bioscoop heb je niet altijd internet. Om deze problemen te voorkomen werkt het nu gewoon in de app zelf, dus ook als je offline bent.
We hebben zelf meegetest in de bioscoop en ervoeren dat wanneer je een film met audiodescriptie “kijkt” je zelf vrij bent om het beeld in te vullen. Vonden we stiekem als visueel onuitgedaagden best vet! Dus als jij wel eens een film niet wil zien, omdat je bij het boek je eigen invulling hebt gegeven, ‘bekijk’ dan eens een film met Watson. Lekker met je ogen dicht.
Je kunt de app vanaf nú nú nú downloaden voor iOS en Android.
Empat.io: about people
As you might already know: we love programming. Good programming. And we believe that an important part of really good programming is creating products for the web that are not only useful, but also friendly. To create products in a user friendly way you must consider your users, but getting to know users with certain limitations, such as blindness, can be difficult for programmers and designers. Johan bridges this gap with empat.io, a website about people and the accessibility of the web. And now it’s live!
Accessibility only seems tricky…
Johan has been working on making products accessible for the web for quite a while now, going back to before he started working at Q. Go, Johan! What really grinds his gears *insert Peter Griffin meme here*, is that making the web accessible for people with disabilities is usually approached from a technical point of view. He believes that accessibility should start with understanding what people need before looking at technical solutions. Last year at the Edge Johan discovered that he wasn’t alone. Accessibility was one of the key topics at the conference. Even major developers were struggling with what to do. For Johan it was Christian Heilmann who came up with the answer: “What we need is more empathy”.
So, the magic word…
…is empathy. Empathizing with users is a best practice for creating products for any group, but it is especially important when making products accessible for people with disabilities. The main problem with making products accessible is that accessibility issues end up being solved by programmers after the product has been designed. This means these issues are ignored during the design phase and must be addressed once development begins. It makes it harder to develop solutions that are truly user friendly. Empathy with the user should be part of every step of the production of your product. Don Norman calls this human centered design.
Now Johan has decided to help make it easier for programmers and designers to empathize with users with disabilities by putting their stories online. By listening to their stories, you can end up with a product that is not only useful, but also accessible to all. And that’s what you want. Even when empathy really isn’t your thing. Because, FYI, at least 25 percent of your Dutch audience has some sort of disability. Better is errr.. well, better!
Introducing empat.io. Empat.io brings the stories of people accessing the web to designers and programmers, so they can be aware of how their decisions impact their disabled users. Johan knows that empathy works, because he’s taken developers to user tests with people with disabilities. You may think your product is user friendly and accessible, but letting real people test it is an eye opener.
Even Johan was surprised by the results of these tests. Arend, one of the first to tell his story on empat.io, tested a travel advice table which Johan had developed for a client. This table was designed to be accessible by every technical measure available, but tough luck, because Arend couldn’t use it.
Building accessibility into your product shouldn’t be a problem left to programmers alone, it should be an issue for the whole team from the start. Designing and programming shouldn’t just be done with technical guidelines, but with the help of actual people. That includes people with disabilities.
A glimpse into the future
Awareness makes good solutions possible. For now, empat.io is trying to create awareness by telling the stories of people with disabilities on the web. Johan hopes that these evolving stories will increase your understanding of the obstacles that these people encounter. Some don’t see a lot, some see nothing at all, others have to use a stick to control your website with only a keyboard. And these obstacles are just the tip of the iceberg. Soon Johan plans to provide more stories and articles about people with disabilities accessing the web.
Oh and by the way
Johan wants to expand empat.io with the experiences of a diverse group of people. The blind and visually impaired only take up a small percentage of the group who have difficulty accessing the web. Would you like to help increase understanding of the problems that people have accessing the web? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @huijkman. We want to hear your story! Also, of course, when you want to tell your own story about difficulties you experience while using the internet because of your handicap. Let’s make the web a better place together!
Inspired, hungry for more and by coincidence Dutch? Watch this video of Johan’s presentation “Accessibility in a nutshell”: