Australian Accessibility Conference (OZeWAI) Highlights - February 2020

This month, I attended the Australian Accessibility Conference in Perth which combined both the Perth Web Accessibility Camp and OZeWAI into one big event. It was a wholesome three-day event where people in the Australian accessibility community got together to share their accessibility knowledge, expertise, experiences and findings since the last OZeWAI in late 2018.

This OZeWAI was experimental by combining the two events, having OZeWAI in Perth for the first time, and also having a "fish bowl" (A nicer version of a shark tank) where anyone could submit questions to everyone at the conference to answer.

The questions and answers are being posted to an OZeWAI forum page.

All of the presentations were excellent, here's a recap of just a few:

Perceptions and reality Survey

Amanda Mace from WebKeyIT shared results of a global survey targeted at both organisations and people with disabilities which gathered quite a bit of shocking data. She shared that 47% of organisations are not testing for mobile accessibility. This is alarming due to the ever-increasing usage of mobile by people with disabilities, with almost half of people with disabilities using mobile as much as desktop.

Organisations also perceive their website to be more accessible than it really is, with a huge 57% of organisations having perceived WCAG conformance, but only 9.5% having a WCAG certification. For users, they stated that 66% of people with disabilities will leave a website when they run into accessibility issues.

A white paper will be released by WebKeyIT with all the results of the survey in the coming months.

Complaining about accessibility complaints

My presentation was all was about the accessibility complaints process for people with disabilities in Australia, how organisations handle complaints incorrectly, and how they could improve their process.

Complaining isn't something that people with disabilities enjoy, but it's even harder when that complaint is ignored or goes nowhere. Often the contact at an organisation doesn't know where to send an "accessibility" complaint, and sometimes the complainant's become trapped in a loop of providing detail about the accessibility issue, but ultimately nothing happens.

Along with my OZeWAI presentation, I made an article complete with the flowcharts I used.

How to get Accessibility done with no budget

Adem Cifcioglu from Intopia shared some very practical advice on how to get buy-in for accessibility when you have no budget. This information was useful if you are an accessibility champion in an organisation that doesn't understand or care for accessibility.

Adem's advice focused on starting small and being friendly, rather than judging people for their lack of accessibility experience. He stated that most of his accessibility successes started from simply inviting someone to coffee, or even "forgetting" his headphones so that people walking past ask why his computer is speaking to him, which starts the conversation.

Immersive Reader

Microsoft was a silver sponsor for this conference and once again made an appearance talking about their product advancement in Accessibility. Troy Waller, a registered teacher, shared the "Immersive Reader" functionality available in multiple Office 365 products and even Microsoft Teams. This Reader assists greatly in classroom environments, where children with Dyslexia have the potential to be able to read text, even learning where nouns and verbs are using the tool. This helps children by not feeling awkward to have a teacher or support worker with them at all times, which can often be embarrassing.

More information about the Immersive Reader.

Live audio description

The ABC and SBS have received funding from the government to include Audio Description, starting July 2020, which is something that advocates and the blind community have been campaigning for many years. Audio Description means a narrator describes the visual elements of a show, to allow people with blindness and low vision to not miss out on visual cues.

The Conference ended with the audience having their own try at live audio description! Arranged by Screenwest, they showed the short film "Tango Underpants", and it was up to volunteers in the audience to step up to the microphone and describe the visual elements of the film. It revealed how much skill is required to effectively audio describe well; despite this, the volunteers did surprisingly well!

Conclusion

There were many more excellent presentations at the Australian Accessibility Conference and a summary of these can be found on the OZeWAI schedule page. I've also been informed that all presentations (including the Great Debate) will be available on the OZeWAI YouTube page in the coming days once the captioning has been completed.

The next OZeWAI will take place during November/December 2020 in Canberra, I hope to see you there!

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