TASSQ June 2018 Meet Up

The Business Value of Accessibility

  • Event: Toronto Association of Systems and Software Quality (TASSQ) meet up. Established in 1993 as an organization for Quality Assurance professionals. Attendees include anyone who has an interest in software quality, or software testing, whether they work for a large corporation, a small software house, or whether independent consultants. Learn more about the TASSQ group
  • Theme: Accessibility? Usability, Inclusion, Design
  • Location: Albany Club, 91 King Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M5C 1G3
  • Date: June 26, 2018
  • Time: 5:30PM to 8:30PM
  • Speaker: David Best, Accessibility Information Technology Specialist, Helping organizations to increase productivity and market growth through innovation and collaboration
  • Description: The accessibility challenge is the deficit gap between the user abilities and the system capabilities. The goal is to bridge the accessibility gap, through inclusive design, that will create the best possible end-user experience. Accessibility is a measurement of productivity, and productivity defines usability. Usability is concerned with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction through multiple means of representation, multiple means of expression, and multiple means of engagement. That is, design is the bridge between information access and knowledgeable understanding, built upon three pillars; Performance, Security, and Accessibility. If you do not understand the information then it is just noise, and if any one of the pillars is weak then people are put at risk. That is, cognitive considerations for visualization and the information interface design, are important for making products and services accessible and usable. The bridge design must consider the physical and cognitive characteristics of people with a holistic user interface that incorporates vision, audio, and touch, so as to close the gap of inclusion. Community and belonging are emergent values, they emerge when we get the other things right.
  • Learning objectives:
    1. A greater level of understanding in the business need for flexibility and community engagement. sustainable growth in revenue, return on investment, and profitability is not just about legal compliance.
    2. A greater appreciation for product and service standards. A competitive advantage is built upon talent and market growth.
    3. Motivate to embrace change, and create a business model that enables people. Innovation and collaboration is at the intersection where humans and machines connect.


What Is Accessibility

The digital economy is driving economic prosperity through increased productivity and market growth, but the ability to use new emerging technologies is currently at the heart of social inclusion, with those excluded being left out of many work, entertainment, communication, healthcare and social benefits. In recent years, there has been an important paradigm shift affecting the development of new legislation and policies concerning persons with disabilities; from segregation to integration, from institutionalization to mainstreaming, and from the medical model of disability being viewed as a condition to be treated, to the social model of disability focusing on the removal of disabling barriers in the environment that hinder full participation in society.

The Accessibility Gap, also known as The Digital Divide, are the design flaws that prevent people from making informed decisions and from actively participating in society. That is, access to and usage of information communication technologies depends on an inclusive design strategy to achieve a good user experience. A wall with no window prevents you from looking outside, and a highway with no on ramp prevents you from getting to your destination. A wall with windows far above your head is not usable, and a highway with an on ramp but full of pot holes is not user friendly. The usage of information is as important to the user, as is access to the information. Understanding those barriers that create a gap in the user experience, and marginalize specific groups of people, is key to a good design strategy. Good design is the first step in bridging the accessibility gap, but an essential partnership with development and testing is required to achieve the desired user experience. We all have accessibility issues to some degree, but is only a major problem when the design fails your need. The Internet offers an opportunity for organizations to close the digital divide. Internet technologies have the potential to give persons with disabilities the means to live on a more equitable basis within the global community in a manner that previously was not possible. The Internet Society Paper released November 2012, offers policymakers guidance on both why and how to increase use of the Internet by persons with disabilities. the scope of the paper outlines issues surrounding accessibility, availability and affordability. The Internet use by persons with disabilities: Moving Forward paper explores both the business case and the human rights perspective for improved accessibility to the Internet for persons with disabilities.

Design Model

  • Universal design
  • Human centred design
  • User experience design
  • Inclusive design

Design Pillars

  • Performance: A stable, consistent, and fast access.
  • Security: A safe, risk free, and high quality delivery access.
  • Accessibility: A fully inclusive, easy to use, and productive access.

Accessibility Barrier Gaps

  • From accessibility to usability: Design standards and user testing.
  • From information to knowledge: Message delivery and bias attitudes.
  • From chaos to stability: Collaborative processes and top down innovation.
  • From passive to active: Inclusive dialogs and active participation.

Project Tools

  • Authoring Tools/processes: Barrier identification, measurable milestones, end-user satisfaction
  • Evaluation Tools/processes: Web audit, meaningful content, and level of independence
  • User Tools/processes: Technologies, risks, and challenges

Accessibility Videos


Why Is Accessibility Important

Company Goals for Greater Prosperity

Studies like the "Releasing Constraints: Projecting the Economic Impacts of Increased Accessibility in Ontario", by the Martin Prosperity Institute, shows that improving inclusivity and accessibility in Ontario provides both economic opportunity and benefits. Projected economic impacts of Increased Accessibility in Ontario, a more accessible Ontario, will accelerate the growth of prosperity in the province, by increased efficiency, productivity, and creation of new intellectual property enhancing the province's global competitiveness. some of the benefits include up to $9.6 billion in retail spending and $1.5 billion in new tourism spending.

Accessibility has become a mainstream requirement that can transform the business. Investing in accessible and usable technology products and services, workplace environments and facilities opens up new markets, increases productivity, liberates talent, and enables innovation. Embedding accessibility throughout the entire enterprise, from processes to product development and to the culture and partner relationships, will better manage compliance, improve the user experience, and create an inclusive workplace. Standardization processes, in an increasing complex world, will allow for more transparency and greater efficiencies, But more importantly work becomes more stable and predictable, which translates into greater satisfaction.

Key Business Goals

    Accessible Information and Communication Technologies: Benefits to Business and Society Report
  1. Reach new markets
  2. Maximise employee engagement and productivity
  3. Provision high quality products and services
  4. Improve supply chain management
  5. Build partner and community relations
  6. Minimise risk of legal action

Strategies for Success or Failure

Ever wonder why smart, well-intended leaders sometimes make poor decisions? We as humans are heavily influenced by our biases. The unconscious mind is a repository of past experiences that includes perceptions, intuition, and subliminal desires. Although these influences rarely reach our conscious minds, they play a significant role in governing our decisions. Almost half of the 25 companies that passed the rigorous tests for inclusion in Tom Peters and Robert Waterman's 1982 book, "In Search of Excellence", today no longer exist, are in bankruptcy or have performed poorly. What happened in the 30 years since the book was published?

The digital revolution has imposed unprecedented pressures upon organizations, and has disrupted the traditional management model. The struggle for competitive advantage has forced organizations to respond to the rapid changes in technology innovation and human rights demands. Organizations that do not understand these global trends will not succeed in the digital age. This paradigm shift is having a profound impact on workplace productivity and organization infrastructure stability. Business leaders that do not understand the digital transformation are at risk of alienating groups of employees and consumers. Typically, business leaders try to understand complex systems indirectly through mental models defined by advisors, and then perform actions based on these models without any appropriate understanding of real life experiences.

This is evident in the failure of large successful companies over the past couple of decade. Business studies show that ineffective management strategies, refered to as "Systems Blindness" and "Culture Of Arrogance" was at the root of these failures. Many organizations unknowingly suffer from a severe form of corporate dyslexia known as Systems Blindness, which has had an impact on productivity. Systems Blindness occurs when leaders implement a strategy to solve a problem, but ignore the pertinent system dynamics, for short-term relief with the problem reappearing worse than before. Executives are human and can make mistakes, but in company failures, these are not simply minor misjudgments. Corporations can be rapidly brought to the brink of failure by executives whose personal qualities create risks rather than mitigate them. Employees make hundreds, possibly thousands of decisions every day, and incrementally small decisions add up and may contribute more to a company failure than the few big decisions made by executives, but cultural arrogance will have an impact on company success.

Often fear of the unknown can develop, affecting how organizations handle key decisions, and no one challenges the status quo and asks the tough questions. decision-makers are faced with the choice to "do it" or "not do it", but the choice to not act, and continue with the status quo, is an important decision. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) reports that the total cost from mental health problems and illnesses to the Canadian economy is significant. Mental health issues account for approximately 30% of short and long term disability claims and are rated one of the top three drivers of such claims by more than 80% of Canadian employers. Overall, large successful companies tend to fail because they do not pay attention to disruptive market forces, leading to a decline in sales. In fact, 86 percent of companies that were on the Fortune 500 in 1955 no longer exist. More importantly, a study conducted by Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis projected that 40 percent of the current Fortune 500 companies will face extinction in 10 years. Governments are not exempt from making bad decisions and impacting employees and citizens, as reported by CBC, Families continue to bear brunt of the federal Phoenix payroll fiasco, February 2018. Values represent guiding principles and motivations, which influence attitudes and behaviours. What values are at the centre of decision-making within your organization, from the top down? Read about the Peoples Agenda of Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Accessibility is about breaking down barriers of Cultural Arrogance and Systemic Blindness. Bridging the digital divide is about closing the gap between leadership understanding of Accessibility, and management implementation of Accessibility. When organizations integrate User Experience Design into their work environments, the need for employees to request individual accommodations through a separate process is reduced, which creates a more similar and equitable experience for everyone. James Collins book "How the Mighty Fall And Why Some Companies Never Give In" describes the five steps followed by some companies on their way to mediocrity.

    Five stpes to failure:
  • Step one consists of companies that attribute their success to their own superior qualities. This is a problem because firms fail to question their relevance when conditions change.
  • Step two happens when firms overreach or move into industries or growing to a scale where the factors behind their original success no longer apply.
  • Step three has to do with denial of risk. Warning signs mount, but the firm's headline performance remains strong enough for bosses to convince themselves that life is still good. Excuses arise, and problems are invariably blamed on external causes.
  • In step four the problems are clear enough that firms start grasping for salvation. Rather than returning to the fundamentals that made them great, they gamble on a new, charismatic savior-boss, dramatically change strategy, make a supposedly transformational acquisition, or fire some other supposedly silver bullet.
  • Step five deals with irrelevance or death of the company.

Legal Compliance and Conformance

It is estimated that more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet Of Things (IOT) by 2020. IOT is changing the whole way we think about the division between the virtual and the physical, and the Programmable World is automating activities we normally do by hand and putting intelligence from the cloud into everything we touch. Currently, over a billion people including children (or about 15% of the world's population) are estimated to be living with disability. The lack of support services can make disabled people overly dependent on their families, which prevents them from being economically active and socially included. The Internet of Things can offer people with disabilities the assistance and support they need to achieve a good quality of life and allows them to participate in the social and economic life. Accessible, usable and inclusive digital communications will link virtual and real life experiences to achieve greater levels of productivity and satisfaction.

Governments around the world are legislating Digital Accessibility Laws, but more importantly consumers are demanding a better user experience. Do not risk your business success by ignoring societal trends. Technology is changing the way we interact, and smarter consumers will favour those organizations that adopt a user centred design strategy. Users desire flexibility that allows a wide diversity of user devices, and a responsive interface that customizes the style and format for their environment. This trend increasingly exposes organizations to the threat and cost of litigation, public relations issues, and loss of government contracts. Several private companies have been sued for not having accessible Web sites and have been forced to pay hefty fines and agree to re-design their sites to make them more accessible. Recognizing the history of discrimination against persons with disabilities, the province of Ontario has taken a global leadership role in setting legislative Accessibility Standards for an inclusive society. The purpose of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) is to benefit all Ontarians by developing, implementing and enforcing accessibility standards in order to achieve accessibility for Ontarians with disabilities with respect to goods, services, facilities, accommodation, employment, buildings, structures and premises on or before January 1, 2025.

    Legal Compliance:
    • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA):
    • Customer service standard to help remove barriers for people with disabilities so they can access goods, services or facilities.
    • Information and communications standard to help organizations make their information accessible to people with disabilities.
    • Transportation standard to make it easier for everyone to travel in the province.
    • Employment standard to help make hiring and employee support practices more accessible.
    • Design of public spaces standard to help organizations make new and redeveloped outdoor public areas accessible.
    • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG):
    • Perceivable, information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.
    • Operable, user interface components and navigation must be operable.
    • Understandable, information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.
    • Robust, content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.


Designing for the Future

Seamless Integration

The digital communications divide, that is marginalizing the blind, low-vision and deaf-blind community from the economic prosperity in Canada, is an inflexible systemic paradigm that needs new ideas with adaptable leadership. In the past, the roots of research and development (the telephone, GPS navigation, optical character recognition, text to speech synthesis) were to resolve a human disability challenge, but eventually became mainstream products for all to enjoy. However, more recently digital technology innovation is designed to persuade and influence human behaviour (social media) to create a new market demand, and is eventually adapted to support disability challenges. This has been driven by the race for corporate market control and profits, and has resulted in marginalizing people living with vision loss. The idea of creating accessible and flexible workplaces is another common theme among digital strategists. Emerging technologies, such as desktop virtualization and cloud software, enable Canadians to work remotely in secure and accessible ways. many Canadians are choosing remote work to avoid traffic, reduce travel expenses, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and to increase productivity; But is this an option for Canadians living with vision loss?

The seamless merging of people and machines is transforming the way we look at innovation and design. The Artificial intelligence (AI) revolution is well underway, and recent significant milestones show that AI can improve the lives of people with disabilities. In early 2016 Facebook released its groundbreaking automatic alternative text feature that describes images to blind and visually impaired people, Apple implemented facial recognition as the new way to unlock the next generation of iPhones, and Google launched its Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) system, which removes the language barriers by automatically translating web content. The human and machine integration is built upon three innovation accessibility design structures.

  1. Transparent Interfaces:
    A blend of voice, body, and object positioning capabilities will make it possible for users to interact with data, software applications, and their surrounding environments. Although such functionality will develop further in the coming years, it can already make interfaces seem much more natural. Interface devices can be made more transparent through software that adapts control systems to user needs. Designers will leverage technology and focus on developing systems that can adapt to user behavior, instead of adapting user behavior to the system.
  2. Ubiquitous Access:
    Much like we enjoy with mobile devices today, in the future Digital Reality will provide an "always on" connection to the Internet or to the enterprise networks, but instead of reaching into our pocket for our phones, we will have wearable digital gear. Advances in digital technology design is giving rise to a new generation of comfortable, self-contained digital devices free of tethering wires and bulky battery packs. Ubiquitous Access represents the ability for a cloud service to be widely accessible and support a range of devices, transport protocols, interfaces, and security technologies. To enable this level of access generally requires that the cloud service architecture be tailored to the particular needs of different cloud service consumers.
  3. Adaptive levels of Engagement:
    In the near future contextual capabilities will engage data feeds to user preferences, location, and activities, for a more intuitive interface. As the ways in which we interact with technology evolve, new adaptive levels of engagement will extend beyond the tapping of icons under glass. Adaptive levels of engagement will include human sensory systems that transfer information to knowledge:
    • Vision: In many ways, vision is the primary human sense, and critical for Facial perception in perceiving the identity of an individual, and facial expressions such as emotional cues.
    • Hearing: Hearing is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations, and involves the complex task of separating out the sources of interest, often estimating their distance and direction as well as identifying them.
    • Tactile: Haptic perception is the process of recognizing objects through touch, and involves a combination of somatosensory perception of patterns on the skin surface (edges, curvature, and texture), and proprioception of hand position and conformation. Note, this may also include taste and smell senses.

Testing and Evaluation

Accessibility solutions benefit people with and without disabilities and are becoming increasingly available in standard computer hardware, mobile devices, operating systems, web browsers, and other tools. For instance, some people do not use a mouse, keyboard, or both, while others use specific configurations for keyboard and mouse, or use alternative hardware or software altogether. Supporting an effective usage web experience for all people, requires more than just accessible Web content. You must understand how people interact with the web, and the accessibility solutions that best accommodates their particular needs. Everyone that is browsing the web has a user agent. When your browser loads a web page, it identifies itself as an agent when it retrieves the content you have requested, and the browser sends a host of information about the device and network that you are on. This is a set of data that allows web developers to customize the web experience. There are many different browsers, each using a specific Application Protocol Interface (API) structure, and thus delivering a different user experience on different devices. A screen reader is a software application user agent tool that attempts to identify and interpret what is being displayed on the screen, whether a video monitor is present or not. This interpretation is then re-presented to the user with text-to-speech. Screen readers are a form of assistive technology (AT) potentially useful to people who are blind, visually impaired, illiterate or learning disabled. Thus, the screen reader must understand the API structure of the browser, so as to present the web page information in a meaningful synthesized speech or braille output format. The benefit in coding for the screen reader user agent API, is that you are at the same time coding for search engine optimization and small screen smart devices.

Step one: Defining An Inclusion Baseline

Evaluating the accessibility of Web content for people with disabilities requires diverse kinds of expertise and perspectives. Comprehensive and effective evaluations require evaluators with an understanding of Web technologies, evaluation tools, barriers that people with disabilities experience, assistive technologies and approaches that people with disabilities use, and accessibility guidelines and techniques.
  1. Define the standards and conformance guidelines: WCAG A, AA, AAA, or some other standard.
  2. Define Accessibility law requirements: Ontario AODA standards, U.S. Section508, or others.
  3. Define evaluation tasks: Functional and/or Usability.
  4. Define a baseline of web technologies: User agents and system platform used.
  5. Define testing methodology: Tools, expertese, and/or user groups.
  6. Define test procedures: Persona scripts, specific web pages, specific functions, or user focused.
  7. Define the report style: Document, videos, and/or training.
  8. Define the delivery process: Executive presentation, management conference, and/or developer workshop.

Step Two: Identify Types of Interoperability Challenges

  1. The developer did not markup/code the web page properly, or
  2. The browser or media player isn't handling the markup properly, or
  3. The user's Assistive Technology (AT) isn't handling the markup properly, or
  4. The user doesn't know how to use the browser, media player, and user agent keyboard access features, or
  5. The page is poorly designed and it is a general usability problem for all users, including those without disabilities.

Step Three: Identify Issue Severity

  1. Critical (1): Must fix to allow even the most basic use of the application. User with a disability cannot complete a task, and no alternate means is provided to complete that task. The issue is a violation of the Web Accessibility Checklist.
  2. High (2): Must fix in order to meet accessibility standards and allow full use of the system. User with a disability will likely not be able to easily complete a task, and no alternate means is provided to complete the task. The issue is a violation of the Web Accessibility Checklist.
  3. Medium (3): Should fix to allow productive, accessible use of the application. User with a disability will likely be able to complete a task, but the issue prevents the user from completing the task efficiently. The issue may or may not be a violation of the Web Accessibility Checklist.
  4. Low (4): User with a disability will be able to complete a task, but the issue may cause confusion to the user, and should be resolved. The issue may not be a violation of the Web Accessibility Checklist. These may be functionality bugs that may effect all users, and should be corrected in any case.

Step Four: Identify User Experience Quality

  1. Effectiveness: Can users complete tasks and achieve their goals on the web application?
  2. Efficiency: How much effort and time do users require to complete the task?
  3. Satisfaction: Do users find the website easy to use and learn?