Do you ever think about the accessibility of your website? For example, for visitors who cannot see or hear very well? In the Netherlands we have the Web Guidelines 2.0, which are often applied by (semi-)governmental organizations to their sites. But it is also important for non-governmental institutions to take into account visitors who could use some extra support. In that context, I went to the Global Accessibility Day Meetup last Thursday.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day Meetup

Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) is an annual day (third Thursday in May) to draw extra attention to accessibility. The emphasis is often on accessibility of the web. The goal is to make everyone, even just a little bit, aware of digital accessibility by talking, thinking and learning about it. When we think of web accessibility (or a11y as it is called in the scene) we often think of blind people, but there are so many more types of functional limitations when using the web. In a blog post from Frozen Rockets they even turned it into a whole ABC's.

Back to the Global Accessibility Awareness Day: in the Netherlands the Meetup group 'Inclusive Design & Accessibility' organized a special meeting. Andre Louis and Ruben van der Leun were invited to give a presentation at Royal Schiphol Group in the Schiphol building.

Andre Louis – That Sounds Good

Andre talked about what music and sound can mean in a website or application. It is good to become aware of the fact that unlimited people are often not so concerned with this (exceptions of course), but limited people are even more so.

“When using default sounds in your application, make sure you allow your users to change them to their liking or needs.” — Andre Louis (musician, tech-lover, self-proclaimed geek)

If you choose to use standard sounds/tones in your application, for accessibility reasons, make sure that the user can adjust these. The user must be able to choose to make one notification sound more important than the other. It is also more pleasant to have sounds with a higher frequency (such as notifications from WhatsApp, Facebook or Twitter) shorter than those of push notifications that occur much less often.

Ruben van der Leun – Virtua11y

Ruben gave an enthusiastic update on the current status and possibilities of Virtual Reality (VR). He also showed what hardware is already available for VR in relation to accessibility.

“For the name alone… The cane roller!” — Ruben van der Leun (freelance software developer, self-proclaimed VR Evangelist)

An example: the cane roller. This looks like a walking stick but provides haptic feedback depending on the virtual surface. The headset produces the corresponding sound, so that you know if you are about to bump into a trash can. There is a nice video on YouTube about this cane roller that clearly shows what it can and does:

Ruben also gave an insight into his favorite project: Aframe-A11y. In doing so, he provoked a good discussion among those present about what is actually desirable for VR in terms of accessibility (Accessibility/A11y). This includes haptics, magnification, sounds, but also virtual controllers and an assisted controller.

In short, a fascinating evening with things to think about and look forward to, awareness and lots of cute guide dogs.
Thanks to the organization, speakers and Royal Schiphol Group.
Until the next Meetup!