Accessibility is a right. Here's how I helped eight organizations jumpstart their accessibility initiatives:
- Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
- Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
- Government of Canada
- Government of Ontario
- Ministry of the Attorney General
- Office of the Worker Adviser
- Public Service Commission of Canada
Accessibility Directorate of Ontario
The Ontarians with Disability Act (2001) mandated hundreds of organizations to set up Accessibility Advisory Committees and prepare annual accessibility plans. The Act applied to every hospital, school board, university, college, and public transportation organization in the province. It also affected 46 municipalities, all government Ministries, and the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. No tools or guidelines existed to help these organizations meet their legal requirements.
What I did
- Researched accessibility reporting policies and procedures used in England, Australia and New Zealand.
- Developed comprehensive accessibility planning guidelines.
- Created report templates.
- Led workshops on accessibility planning for every Ontario Ministry.
Hundreds of organizations prepared accessibility plans based on the guidelines and report templates that I developed.
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC)
CIBC wanted to improve representation of people with disabilities in its workforce. My challenge was to determine the extent to which the software that bank employees relied upon was accessible.
What I did
- Conducted accessibility assessments of eight software programs.
- Reported on the viability and cost of JAWS scripting for these programs.
- Described how to improve the accessibility of a web application with simple HTML and CSS fixes.
CIBC moved to integrate accessibility into its policies and procedures. It is now easier for the bank to remediate existing applications and develop new ones with accessibility in mind.
Government of Canada
Employees with disabilities reported difficulties accessing a federal building. I was contracted to investigate barriers and propose solutions.
What I did
- Interviewed employees and visitors with mobility, sensory, and learning disabilities about barriers they encountered in and around the building.
- Conducted a detailed site audit of the building and its surroundings.
- Photographed barriers.
- Prepared a report illustrating physical, architectural, and informational barriers, and recommending ways to remove or minimize them.
- Recommended strategies for improving wayfinding in and around the building.
- Estimated costs for removing barriers and improving wayfinding.
Many of my recommendations were implemented. In addition, I flagged a severe safety risk for people who are blind and suggested a fix that allowed the Government to rectify the problem the same day.
Government of Ontario (e-Government Branch)
Under Section 6 of the ODA, hundreds of thousands of Ministry web pages had to be accessible to people with disabilities. The deadline for compliance was only three months away.
What I did
- Provided accessibility guidance to government web developers.
- Surveyed web developers about gaps in their knowledge and skills.
- Wrote nine web accessibility guidelines.
- Organized workshops on assistive technologies, data tables, forms, PDFs, and testing methodologies.
- Developed a framework for future web accessibility remediation and repair.
I met the deadline, and laid the groundwork for the future. Government websites now meet WCAG requirements. Equally important, strategies for maintaining accessible sites are now firmly in place.
Hewlett-Packard is committed to making its products, services, and information accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities. But the company needed help to meet its committment. Dena Shumila Wainwright and I worked closely with HP for four years as it made accessibility a corporate priority.
What we did
- Conducted accessibility studies of printers, all-in-one machines, scanners, desktop PCs, and documentation.
- Reported on hardware and software barriers to people with a wide range of disabilities.
- Provided feedback to the technical writers who prepared the "Hewlett-Packard Accessibility Guidelines."
- Delivered hands-on accessibility training to hundreds of HP engineers, industrial designers, and software developers in the USA, Europe, and Asia.
Accessibility is now integrated into HP product development worldwide. Most if not all HP products meet or exceed Section 508 requirements on accessible hardware and software.
“Early in our efforts, a consulting firm specializing in accessibility [Cantor Access] helped us evaluate products for accessibility and train our engineers. The training was very effective, particularly because the training team included an expert on accessibility who was blind and could demonstrate the use of our software with her system using JAWS and a refreshable Braille display. It was extremely effective for the engineers to see her try to use the products they had developed. After viewing any problems, the engineers were ready to run back to their desks and start modifying designs... ”
- Jacki Downing, Ph.D, Senior Human Factors Engineer, quoted in Technology Accessibility at Hewlett Packard.
Ministry of the Attorney General
A blind trial lawyer wanted faster, easier and more reliable ways to use Microsoft Word. For example, every time he wanted to change the search direction, he had to press eight or more keys.
What I did
- Developed screen reader friendly "Find" commands.
- Reassigned keys to make it easier to activate commands.
- Created a custom menu to speed up file management.
The client reported that the custom commands...
“...let me zero in on information in half the time using a quarter of the keystrokes.”
Office of the Worker Adviser
17 employees of the Office of the Worker Adviser used Dragon NaturallySpeaking, but found that operating their case management system (CMS) by voice was not practical.
How I helped
- Developed, tested, debugged, and documented over 300 voice commands for the CMS.
- Advised the CMS programmers on including accessibility "hooks" in subsequent releases of the CMS.
- Trained staff to operate the CMS by voice.
Voice control of the CMS became so efficient that other employees opted to try Dragon.
“Thank you Alan for your continued good work on the voice commands. Our Case Management System is one of the few such systems in the OPS where voice activated software actually works.”
- Jorma Halonen, Director (retired), Office of the Worker Adviser.
Public Service Commission of Canada
An employee who operated a computer with one hand required 60 to 70 minutes to complete a complex, multi-step process.
What I did
I developed several macros tailored for her needs and taught her alternative computer access techniques.
The employee can now complete the same process in 16 minutes — a 75% time saving that also reduces the risk of overuse injury.