A world without color

rainbow glassesEveryone knows there are people who are color blind, and others who carry the genetic defect. But nobody talks about that.  It’s a secret.  In all my working years, I’ve no recollection of someone sharing with me they have the disorder. (Color blindness affects millions of people worldwide. It affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women.)

I’ve read about a set of glasses that correct red/green color blindness.  Seems someone with genius found a way to make glasses that offset the color of a lens to correct one type of color blindness.  Color blind see color for the first time video – this is awesome BTW! [hint: correction glasses cost about $350]

I’ve given talks about designing web pages with color blindness in mind. It’s a strange concept for many people.

But most people with colorblindness find it only slightly problematic. It’s the type of disability people easily overcome – leave a comment if you disagree.

To help those who are straining their minds with understanding colorblindness, a tool has been developed which allows you to experience images as someone with color blindness.*

When looking at your design work, try looking at the color choices you’ve made through a new lens.

More importantly, when choosing to use color as a primary information choice, think if you are leaving those hiding in the color-blind shadow.

Color mapping for statistical analysis is one of the problem areas I’ve witnessed in my career. When the data is represented only by color, they may see the following graphic and not understand it’s meaning.

Here is a graphic I designed to give you an idea of how to represent color and then provide a secondary method for adding meaning.

other ways for color blind

*The Color Blind Simulation function is copyright (c) 2000-2001 by Matthew Wickline and the Human-Computer Interaction Resource Network ( http://hcirn.com/ ). It is used with the permission of Matthew Wickline and HCIRN, +and is freely available for non-commercial use. For commercial use, please contact the Human-Computer Interaction Resource Network ( http://hcirn.com/ ).


Related articles:

How to Design for Color Blindness

Colorblind test

Why all designers need to understand color blindness

Several views of the same picture


normal color map













Anomalous Trichromacy




























What the 508 Refresh means to Public Higher Education Institutions

What does non-public facing means in the refresh?  Here is the language that the federal government has included about that in the 508 refresh:

E205.3 Agency Official Communication. Electronic content that is not public facing shall conform to the accessibility requirements specified in E205.4 when such content constitutes official business and is communicated by an agency through one or more of the following:


A. An emergency notification;


B. An initial or final decision adjudicating an administrative claim or proceeding;


C. An internal or external program or policy announcement;


D. A notice of benefits, program eligibility, employment opportunity, or personnel action;


E. A formal acknowledgement of receipt;

F. A survey questionnaire;


G. A template or form;


H. Educational or training materials; or


I. Intranet content designed as a Web page.

How do we interpret that in higher education where we are trying to make education materials accessible. The fact is that the murky waters of whether or not to caption video content held within a learning management system seem to not be pronounced even with the refresh.

A Universities content is not public communication.  It is a product that people have to pay for.  Higher Education usually doesn’t place place course content in the public setting.  The lawsuit against Harvard and MIT regards the placing of courses for public consumption.  The well endowed educational institutions have a philanthropic idealism in doing this.  Give the world free course!  Empower humanity.  The deaf did not want to be excommunicated in this idea world.

But for public schools with limited or diminishing funding, the concept of captioning every video they have on their servers is preposterous.  Schools using lecture capture software can generate up to 100,000 hours of video content.  At a cost of $1 to $3.25 an minute, captioning one year’s content can cost between $6,000,000 and $19.5 million.

For now a more sane approach of captioning only video content for those who have received an accommodation, verified through the disability office, makes for a practical and lucid resolution.  Only the content that is publicly displayed should require to be accessible to all.

H. Educational or training materials

This section refers to internal training and educational materials that the federal government creates for federal staff.  Creating content that is designed to improve or inform the workforce also needs captioning.  The same is true for state government employees.  That content should also have captioning.  One should caption that upon request, but should have the content created with all employees in mind.

Related previous article


Free Text-to-Speech with OneNote enhancement download

As expected many of the ordinary computer technologies we use for everyday tasks are encountering a crossover from the accessibility world. This transformative direction of AT (assistive technology)  is normalizing accessibility features.  Such is the case with Microsoft  OneNote.  You just have to download the learning tools.

If you don’t know what OneNote is.

Microsoft’s OneNote has emerged as one of the most powerful note-taking apps available for any platform. OneNote is great for typing and handwriting notes, clipping web pages, and generally organizing your various content in one location that can be accessed from anywhere.

But by adding Learning Tools to One Note, you all of a sudden have a means to listen to text you have store within OneNote. This text to speech feature is also significant in that is helps individuals with print disabilities to comprehend text better.  Much like ReadNWrite, Wynn, and Kurzweil Reader, assistive technologies which are used frequently in educational institutions like universities, community colleges  and high schools.

Learning Tools Features:

Immersive reader feature in OneNote adds text to speech and additional functionality for those who need assistance in their reading. Especially good for ESL students and those with learning disabilities

Insert Graphic

I have marked up this image to show you where these features are.

Immersive reader snapshoot featuring the clickable areas.

Adds the following:

The red circle on the above image represents the tools for adjusting (1) text size, (2) text spacing and (3) the reading background and foreground.




















The green circle is for adjusting the way the reader appears to read text, adding coloration for nouns, verbs and adjectives, or a break of the words into syllables, all to improve student’s reading comprehension will the immersive read reads content.

















The blue circle is for adjustments to the reading voice.


Video for those of you who are visual learners.

About the Voices

Beginning with Windows Vista and Windows 7, Microsoft Anna is the default and only English voice. It is a SAPI (Speech Application Programming Interface) 5-only voice. However TTS (Text to Speech) engines compatible with SAPI 5 version voices are available from third parties. You can use your favorite search engine to browse for one such.

Here is a thread you might be interested in.

Add TTS Voice To Windows 7 and Set AS Default


Or you read the Microsoft file for “How to Download Text-to-Speech languages for Windows.”  The file covers Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and mentions Windows system 7.

No Guarantees for Third Party Downloads

Note: We cannot guarantee that any problems resulting from the use of Third Party Software can be solved. Using Third Party Software is at your own risk.  Microsoft Anna should be on your Windows machine already.

Additional Languages offered by Microsoft include the Following:

Language (Region) Windows 10 and Windows 8.1 Windows 8 Name Gender
Chinese (Hong Kong) Y N Tracy Female
Chinese (Taiwan) Y Y Hanhan Female
Chinese (People’s Republic of China) Y Y Huihui Female
English (United States) Y Y Zira Female
English (United States) Y Y David Male
English (Great Britain) Y Y Hazel Female
English (India) Y N Heera Female
French (France) Y Y Hortense Female
German (Germany) Y Y Hedda Female
Italian (Italy) Y N Elsa Female
Japanese (Japan) Y Y Haruka Female
Korean (Korea) Y Y Heami Female
Polish (Poland) Y N Paulina Female
Portuguese (Brazil) Y N Maria Female
Russian (Russia) Y N Irina Female
Spanish (Mexico) Y N Sabina Female
Spanish (Spain) Y Y Helena Female




Video Demonstration

If you want to learn more watch this video by Fred Lee, as it does an excellent job of demonstrating OneNote Learning Tools on YouTube.



* This tool is designed as a text to speech improvement for those with sight. Those using screen reading software can use their assistive technology to read within OneNote.


Someone who does not use a mouse

Everything Keyboard

Some disabilities are beyond the scope of most folk’s imaginations.  Frequently people who have severe disabilities can splint sticksdo amazing things: like go to college, graduate and work a job.  These individuals are rare, but they are out there defying expectations at every turn.  When limitations are extreme most non-disabled people just haven’t had  any personal experience or association with that type of disability.  The general population often discuss disability in terms of blind and deaf individuals, while  ignoring the million other types of disabilities, including medical conditions.  Several medical conditions which preclude users from interacting with the computer with anything but the keyboard.  This small group of individuals uses only the keyboard to do everything that everyone else does using their hands.  They for some reason can’t operate a mouse at all.  Individuals using only the keyboard are often restricted from using the mouse because they can’t control it, grip it, click the buttons, or simple don’t have enough range of motion to move it properly.

Some individuals drive the computer using only a stick attached to their head, or two sticks strapped to their non-functioning hands (as in quadriplegia).  What ever the reason, the control aspect is very difficult to accommodate.  However, different assistive technologies have been designed fro these most severely disable individuals.

Key guards are the most simple solution. That would be a good reason to see one of these type of keyboard guards:

keyguard for computer



This type (above)  of key guard is not often seen any longer as most people using keyboard only access solutions are using iPads or communication devices.  That means they can’t speak as well or at all; otherwise they might be recommended to use a voice input solution like Dragon.   They will also have very limited motor skills, which make using a mouse impossible, or at least improbable.

The key guard for iPAd and and iPad mini look like this:

Plexiglass keyguard

I’ve been to many conferences where folks who have the most severe disabilities are in attendance.  Technology is a life line for them.  You might think that they barely function, but you’d be surprised.  Many of them eventually possess PhD’s and other advanced degrees.  I’ve meet some who have written books, worked on federal commissions, been scientists. The barriers they overcome are many, to try not to provide extra obstacles on your website.  Test it to see if you can navigate through the pages and controls using only a keyboard.

Here is a picture of someone who might like to have keyboard only access:

Someone who does not use a mouse


AVA Accessibility Tool for Hard of Hearing

AVA Accessibility app

Product: AVA -24/7 Accessibility

The phone app helps solve more or less the most essential problem today for some deaf and hard-of-hearing people: understanding and participating to group conversations.  Group conversation is one of the most problematic issues for hard of hearing users is the ability to distinguish the conversation in a group meeting.  AVA translates group and one-on-one conversations into something that can be read on a cell phone screen, like text messages.

It was just released within the last year on the Appstore and Playstore, and the company would love to hear from their users community. Email them at hello@ava.me With professional interpreter/captioner costs at approximately  $100/hour. Conversation over coffee can be an expensive enterprise.

The Reviews

So far this product looks like it is headed in the right direction. People who have left comments on the Google Play site mention that calibrating the microphone makes the app work better, and that a good internet connection is essential.

Learn more about the product! If you know a deaf/hard-of-hearing person, pass it around please: this little app might actually change the life of someone!

AVA review ratings

See AVA here

Product video advertisement

Finally the 508 Refresh is Complete

No more Waiting

Yes, its final over, the waiting is done. After almost two decades Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act has a rule change which goes into effect as of January 18, 2017.  Though the rule, created by the Access Board.  As written, 508 does not automatically apply to institutions of higher education, even if they receive federal funding. However, States that receive funds through the Assistive Technology Act are required to comply with 508, and all states in the United States receive Tech Act funds.  The refresh updates the current ICT Standards and Guidelines.


The final rule updates the existing Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines using the most recent version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)[3] and other consensus standards for specific applications, content, and equipment to define the core set of accessibility requirements not only for Federal agency Web sites, but also for non-Web software applications and authoring tools, data processing and communications hardware, telecommunications equipment, and electronic content procured, developed, maintained, or used by the Federal Government. The final rule specifically requires ICT and specified forms of electronic content produced using these programs and systems to meet the Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements specified for Web pages in WCAG 2.0.

Making the changes due to changes in technology, the US government recognizes that accessibility is not an add-on, bolt-on addition to government services and information, but rather it is a right of Americans to have built-in accessibility. Many people still have the mindset of ad hoc repairs to electronic information, websites and applications; but these federal guidelines enforce access out of the box.

The difference between accommodating individuals with disabilities and making everything accessible is a powerful change. Holding to new standards is a significant step in ensuring your institution information and computer technologies are accessible to all users.  The ruling does provide a safe harbor provision which basically allows elements that are not compliant with the new standard, but were created after the rule goes into effect; however, any aspect created before the new ruling has to be 508 compliant, under the old standard.

As expected the Access Board revised the Section 508 Standards  to make them harmonize with WCAG 2.0.  Under the proposal, these web standards will also apply to software applications, data processing and communication hardware and telecommunications equipment.  The main reason for the need was due to the fact that the old 508 standards were neither testable or measureable.  The WCAG 2.0 standard gives much needed definition.  Many universities and state governmental agencies have been working toward this level of access for years.  Only institutions that have resisted taking the time and spending the money to make their websites and information accessible will really feel the pinch.

Where the changes will hit hardest especially will be video content. Captioning will be mandatory.  Deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans will be able to understand content generate by the government agencies, the Whitehouse, and the congress.  They will no longer be left out.  Applications and websites will also require accessibility to be built in.  Blind and visually impaired computer users will need seamless accessibility for finding records, completing forms, receiving announcements and events, correspondence, legal work and other important communications.

The deadline for the federal government and those working in federal grant programs is Jan. 18, 2018.

What is Section 508?

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by Congress in 1998, required that federal employees with disabilities have access to and use of information and data. Comparable to that for Federal employees without disabilities, unless it is an undue burden to do so. It also requires that disabled members of the public who are seeking information and services from a Federal agency, to have access to and use of information and data comparable to that for members of the public with disabilities.  The law applies to Federal agencies and contractors providing products or services.  30 US state have adopted the 508 ICT standards. (See checklist)

In short electronic information and data must be equally accessible to individuals with and without disabilities.  The idea that classroom materials don’t have to be made accessible if no one with a disability is taking the class may soon be eliminated.  From next year on, schools and universities will have not excuse for not making the information and computer technologies including digital classroom content accessible.

Girl invents her own improved walker

Girl iinvents walkerSometimes it make sense to write a blog piece, and other times it makes sense to send one directly to the source of a story. We recently read in the Boston Globe’s website about this amazing 9- year-old  girl, named Sadie,  who had invented a better walker.  Just to stay on our point that disability isn’t always a bad thing.

You see problems that arise in life can sometimes create wonderful solutions. Not that Disability is a welcome friend, but rather the challenges of disability make many people turn their attention to solutions.

So we suggest you learn more about the young girl from New Hampshire who helped create the “Amazing Curb Climber when she found her mobility was impeded by curbs. The 9-year-old’s contraption won first place for” best use of a wheel” at her elementary school’s Invention Convention.

Video Corner:

The Amazing Curb Climber Video Clip

Build it right now

Often when we discuss accessibility at a university, we are soon overwhelmed with the idea of retrofitting or changing all the content we have previously created.  For some institutions hundreds of thousands of files, including, web pages, pdf files, and course content can be a chore beyond imagining.

First of All: Tomorrow begins here today.  We can’t face the past and eliminate those zillion errors in web design, replace all the inaccessible pdf files, and correct the untagged Word documents.  We have to face the future.  That way, you begin by equipping the staff, faculty and students with skills designed to eliminate all those errors.

You might as well start where you can make the most difference.  That is now.

Microsoft has updated Office 365

As recently as December 2016, Microsoft updated Office 365,  with the company adding to the accessibility of their cloud product.

One of the biggest changes is moving the foremost is the placing of the Accessibility Checker to make it more prominent across all the main Office apps (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. This should help students, staff, and faculty at East Carolina to be able to find this feature and put it to good use.

The checker was designed to review content (documents, presentations, spreadsheets and email) to determine exactly how accessible it is to those who might have visual, hearing or mobility impairments, making suggestions on how to improve any problems – like adding alternate text description for images (so these will be read out aloud by a screen reader). The accessibility checker can easily be found on the review tab, and this is also true for some of the Office for Mac and Office Online apps.

Example of Microsoft accessibility checkerFor additional information regarding Microsoft’s plan of building accessibility into Office 365 read “Plans for 2016” or watch the following video series.

Creating Accessible Announcements and Campus-Related Email

Email and Event Announcements


In this training we focus on the basic principles of accessible email for the East Carolina University Community. Staff, students and faculty who receive announcements and campus-related email may have disabilities and so the content you send needs to be either fully accessible, or available in multiple formats so that everyone can enjoy receiving announcements about events and campus information.

In this article, our focus is on best practices for designing accessible email for the vision-impaired and those relying on screen reading devices, including synthesized speech and keyboard-only access. Providing information in different formats is the best plan.

Intercampus Email Protocols

When you create an email message for campus distribution, make sure you provide it in multiple formats using the principles of Universal Design for Learning. When including artwork, place all the text within that graphic within the email body, so that everyone will be able to read it. It is best to use standard san serifs fonts like Arial and Veranda with black text on a white background. As long as you keep a text version of the event notice in the email, you can then attach alternative formats as attachments to your email message. Word, PDF, and JPG or other graphic versions of the event flier can help you reach the widest audience, and keep your email in compliance with state and federal laws.

Guide to building accessible html email

First of all, what constitutes an accessible email? To meet basic accessibility requirements, an email message must:

  • Maintain a logical reading order
  • Use heading elements
  • Include sufficient contrast between text and background colors
  • Provide text alternatives for images
  • Feature meaningful link text
  • Use a descriptive subject line

Maintain a logical reading order

Unlike web pages, HTML email messages and templates commonly include tables, as these are the most reliable way to create layouts that work across desktop, webmail and mobile email clients. If not planned and built thoughtfully, people who rely on keyboard-only access might not receive the content in the order intended. Screen readers, for example, read aloud tabular content from left-to-right and from top-to-bottom.

The image below shows the order in which each text paragraph would be read aloud if assembled in a table of two columns and two rows:

To preserve logical reading order, a better layout would be a table of two columns and one row, as shown in the image below:

This requirement is particularly important to keep in mind when creating responsive email layouts, especially where images and content are repositioned to allow for a comfortable reading experience on mobile devices.

Maintaining a single-column layout on all screens – regardless of size – reduces the likelihood of content being read by screen readers in either an incorrect order, or in a way in which the context of the content is unclear.

Adding headings

HTML heading elements – like <h1>, <table> etc. – are critical to ensuring hierarchy is conveyed to screenreader users, who may not be able to see them. Keep in mind that simply styling text to stand out, or look more important is not sufficient when creating a content hierarchy for assistive devices.

Include sufficient contrast between text and background colors

People with moderately low-vision or color deficiencies can be less sensitive to luminosity or color contrasts when viewing text and images in an email message. Therefore, it’s important to incorporate sufficient contrast between text and the background of an email message.

Apps like Color Oracle for OSX can be used to simulate a variety of color deficiencies and ensure you are providing enough contrast – not to mention, non-color based cues – for all email recipients to understand your email messages. Another tool called the Color Contrast Analyzer can also help check for this issue, and comes in both a Windows and OS X version

Provide text alternatives for images

All informative images must have an appropriate text alternative that conveys the meaning, or purpose of the image. Purely decorative images – such as ‘spacer’ images for preserving layouts – should carry an empty or null alt attribute (alt=””) to inform screen readers that the image is decorative and should be ignored.

For example, a company logo is an informative image and should feature a text alternative. In HTML email code, this can be done using the alt HTML attribute, to convey its meaning to screen reader users:

<img src=”https://www. monitorme.com/assets/uploads/logo.png” alt=”Monitor Me Services” />


Feature meaningful link text

It’s also important to convey the purpose of links using link text. This text informs the reader as to what will display when the link is followed and are often used for document navigation purposes by screen reading devices.

As a result, it’s recommended that generic text such as “click here” or “read more” be avoided, as these will offer little meaning, especially when read out of context by a screen reader. Instead, we recommend links in code like:

<a href=”http://…/link-recommendations.html”>read our recommendations for better links<a>.

Use a descriptive subject line

The subject line is the first text people will read, or have read to them by a screen reader. It should be meaningful, descriptive, concise and shouldn’t repeat the sender name. People with vision impairments rely on subject lines to determine whether an email message is relevant to their needs.

Checklist: Is your email accessible?

Use the following checklist based on W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to make sure your email is accessible prior to sending to campus.

Tables are optimized to preserve logical reading order Circle Yes or No
Heading Elements Used Y   N
Text Color contrast is sufficient Y   N
Images have captions or alt attributes Y   N
Headings are used Y   N
Link text describes adequately where link leads to Y   N
For any graphics fliers or events posters the email text contains all vital information. Y   N
Email content can be zoomed using Keyboard Shortcut (Alt +/- for pc & Command +/- for Mac) Y   N
Reading Order is logical Y   N
Subject line is concise and descriptive Y   N

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