Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Web Accessibility

Tonight, I went to the lecture regarding Web Accessibility for blind persons presented by Anne Taylor, director of access technology, Wesley Majerus, access tech specialist, and another gentleman whose name I didn't catch. These individuals were representatives from the National Federation of the Blind.

It was an interesting talk, and here are a few key points in no particular order:
  • To make an accessible web site, you need to understand how screen readers works (which I don't, and still don't quite get after this talk), and you need to do user ability testing with blind persons.
  • Blind persons have to invest a lot of money (a minimum of $2,500) in screen readers (even more money if they're deaf and blind), so they expect web sites to function accordingly to meet their needs (quite understandable.)
  • They don't believe in text-only pages on the basis that separate is not equal. Reasons against separate text-only sites: they're not maintained as well, they tend to be boring and plain, and it's not a cost effective solution for a company to run two sites.
  • Apparently, Flash sites and PDFs can be made accessible if they're labeled appropriately. (Unfortunately, she didn't get into how to do that--maybe it's a given?)
  • In the next 20 years, the market demand for accessible websites is going to increase rapidly--all those baby boomers who know how to use computers will want to continue to use them in their declining eyesight, old age.
  • Other reasons why you should go out of your way to improve accessibility: by improving accessibility you will automatically improve usability, it differentiates your company as one with particular values, and to avoid legal litigation (the NFB just settled with for $4 million, an amount she said could have been avoided with about $50k worth of accessibility redevelopment to the site!)
I wish she had gone into more detail as to what needs to be precisely done in the coding and what not. Rather than being a tech informational lecture, it was more of an tech advocacy lecture, which is fine, just not what I was expecting. Although, she said much information could be found at their website: The National Federation of the Blind. They also do website certification that is somewhere above federal 508 compliance, which is the sort of thing I'd want to see as a norm.

Choosing to attend this lecture, I missed out on the Bringhurst/language talk at UMBC. If anyone went to that, please post about it or let me know how it went. Thanks.

Call to Action Posters

I feel like these campaigns, sort of put us all to shame... ahh, back to the drawing board. Check it out: Design as a Force of Good from

Monday, November 17, 2008

Week 9 Reading: READING ICONS

I'm going to do this week's recap of the reading a little differently. I was surprised (and yet, not surprised) that the icons the chapter chose to use and questions it asked, were icons I had seen in the past week and questions that had been asked in other design forums. I found this very coincidental, and expected, they are icons after all and chances are their "easily determinable meaning" is often parodied and reconstructed for that very reason.

So, to go along with the bathroom icons on pages 499-505:
I like this design very much, particularly for the angles of their heads. However, if could easily be misinterpreted as one bathroom being for well, number one, and the other bathroom for number two. Nevertheless a good try. And much better than the image of the dog's face on p. 504 from Hong Kong, which I don't understand at all... anyone?

Then to go along with p. 508, Grant Wood's "American Gothic." Which I've seen parodied a hundred times, but really knew nothing about, and was very glad to read Guy Davenport's "The Geography of the Imagination" for insight, I present:

This chapter's Profile is of Tibor Kalman, who altered the racial identities of high profile people, pages 546-556. In true Kalman style, someone/some people altered the racial identities of Barack Obama and John McCain--who to give credit to, I'm not exactly sure:

To sum up, I'd like to look at the Mercedes ad on p. 520-21. It says "Glimpse at them for a split second, and you know exactly what they mean." I feel like the reason we redesign and parody iconic images, is because as message makers we understand that NOTHING has a definitive meaning, icons change according to audience, culture, time, place etc. I'll admit I might be putting words into people's mouths, but this is the way I'd like to see the world: We, as image and message makers, toy with these icons because as much as we create design and images to market, persuade and sell ideas, we'd much prefer to market and sell to an astute and interested audience who would rather read messages and interact with images, rather than "glimpse at them for a split second."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Show & Tell: Favorite Words

Here are some of my favorite words:

RE words: revelation, reactionary, revolution
*These words sound strong and round.

Words whose synonyms I detest: flatulent, skivvies
*I loathe the word fart. And dislike the word underwear. I'm also not crazy about diaphragm, like... and others I will add when I think of them.

Words with a story: wonderful, via
*The first time I saw the movie from the Lemony Snicket (sp?) books, I remember being so content when I left. I loved how it was so imaginative and there was so much child like wonder. And then I realized it was full of wonder aka wonderful. The meaning of the word really hit home in that very moment, and I realized it wasn't just a synonym for good or hapy or pleasant. A character from Jitterbug Perfume (by Tom Robbins) argues, "There are no such things as synonyms!"
*The story for via (pronounced the British Vie-a, not V-a) is that I heard someone talking on NPR and they say vie-a and it took a moment to register what they were saying and it was probably the first time I was aware of the differences of English and the significance of the pronunciation. Bold

Words I mispronounce: mountain (moun'in) or any word with a strong 't' in the ending syllable, it tends to get skipped or rounded out to a 'd', when (win), pillow (pellow). I find it funny that I mispronounce them, so I don't mind at all, unless I'm talking to someone academic/scholarly and then I feel a bit like a joke.