University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Information Technology
Illinois Accessible Web Publishing Wizard for Microsoft Office http://cita.disability.uiuc.edu/software/office/index.php
Amy Fruchtman: Welcome, I‟m Amy Fruchtman, the Project Manager for MIDWEST Alliance in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), a grant, funded by the National Science Foundation, and we‟re here at the University of WisconsinMadison. We have partners at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Jon Gunderson comes from, and the University of Northern Iowa. We are a consortium of scientists, educators, and student services providers at those three institutions, partnering and collaborating with, partnering with high schools, colleges, businesses and with national, regional, and local partners to increase the number and quality of students with disabilities who complete high school, college, graduate school work in science, technology, engineering, and math, which is referred to as STEM. So our goal is to increase the participation of students in STEM. We‟re doing that with a variety of programs and offering opportunities, grant money for students, professional development for teachers, mentorship program where graduate students will mentor high school students who have an interest and talent in STEM fields. We have a lot of exciting opportunities. This is our website. It‟s: <http://www.stemmidwest.org>. We hope you‟ll visit it, and give us a call, and let us know what your interests are, how we can partner with you. We‟re very pleased to have Jon Gunderson with us today, and I will turn the floor over to Jon. JON: Well, I just want to thank Alice and Amy for inviting me to come speak today and also to all of our people in Internet land who are joining us via the Internet. Today, we‟re going to have two sessions related to Web accessibility, talking about some of the tools and technologies that we‟ve been working on at the U of I to improve Web accessibility on campus. So the first tool I‟m going to talk about is something called the Illinois Accessible Web Publishing Tool Wizard for Microsoft Office. I always like to start off with a question when I do a presentation, and what I‟d like to know, does anybody know why the Web was invented, originally, why this thing called the World Wide Web was invented? UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: the military; protection against nuclear war; the internet
JON: Well, okay, the Internet was part of the web, but the Internet is used for a lot of things. The Web is just one of them, you know, FTP, e-mail file sharing, sharing information. Well, what was the problem with sharing information? UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: clumsy; no centralized node, best viewed with; developed at CERN; JON: The original Web wasn‟t graphical. Right, it was at CERN, The European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland. Basically, Tim Bernes-Lee was working there, and while there he wrote for his own private use his first program for storing information. The director of the lab came to Tim and said, hey, we have a real problem here. Somebody is, you know, people are writing up results of research. They‟re writing research proposals. They‟re sending it to a colleague. That colleague tries to open up the file. They can‟t read it. They can‟t add or contribute to it. He wanted Tim to come up with a system where you write something once, and a large number of people can access it. The original intent of the Web was not just to render technology to people, but it was also an editing system. If you ever read anything about Tim Bernes-Lee, you know he still talks about the Web. We think of the Web as kind of a one-way medium. We write it, and people see it, but the original intent of the Web was a more interactive environment, probably more of what we would consider a blog or a WIKI now. Those things evolved. So it‟s was supposed to be this environment. The original intent was to share information to people using a wide range of technologies, not just using graphical user interfaces, and the original Web technologies didn‟t use graphics. They had text interfaces. If you had a graphic associated with your HTML, you had to have a helper application to view it. And, you know, configuring helper applications and all the configuration files was difficult, so not a lot of people used the Internet until it did become graphical. We‟ll talk about that in a minute. But the heart of the Web was this concept of interoperability. That‟s really what we want to talk about in terms of accessibility because accessibility is also about interoperability. If we‟re really going to achieve accessibility for people with disabilities, we need to go back to the roots of the origins of the Web and look at accessibility not just for people with disabilities, but accessibility for everybody. And there‟s also public standards. One of the things that popularized the Web though, back in the mid-„90s, at the University of Illinois, some students were working a project called Mosaic. Do we have any Mosaic users here? Yeah? A few people use Mosaic. Well, they just had their tenth anniversary a few years ago to celebrate Mosaic, and the Web had been around for four or five years before. What did Mosaic do that really changed it, in terms of becoming this thing everybody knows about now? What did Mosaic do that other Web browsers didn‟t do before it, or other competing technologies for that matter? There were like bulletin boards, there were gopher . . . yeah, what did it do?
JON: Right. It allowed people to integrate text and graphics into the same view. Right. You didn‟t have to configure helper applications. You could download this one program in, install it , and have graphics available. The text and the graphics could be, you know, integrated in with each other. So then that fueled this competition between Netscape and Microsoft, and probably some of you remember, what was a common icon in the late „90s that you‟d see on websites? JON: Do we have any Web developers from the „90s here? UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: . . “best viewed with” JON: That‟s right, best viewed with Internet Explorer , with Netscape Navigator. Did these guys care about interoperability? No. When you went to the bookstore, it wasn‟t Designing for Web Standards. It was Designing for Internet Explorer, Designing for Netscape Navigator 4. The companies were actually competing to add new features and then trying to get Web developers to use it, but they knew it didn‟t work on the other browser. Then the other browser guys would try to emulate it, and so it really got away from the original concept of the Web of interoperability. Well, we don‟t use those icons anymore, do we? Nobody cares about them. I don‟t know. Maybe some people still do. But now, you know, people are going back to the roots of the Web, this interoperability. People are using a wider range of technologies. Even the desktop environment is changing, right? You know, Web developers now are kind of, for a long time, 800 by 600 pixels was kind of the design, and now more people have 1024 by 768, so I should make my designs a little bit bigger. What about those 800-by-600 people? Then, you know, somebody had to come out with these darn PDAs, and now those are the really small screens. Now, my boss, you know, somebody who uses my stuff, has now got the big 2,000 by 2,000 pixel display, and now my Web page looks like a tiny, little corner of it. So, you know, this kind of graphical view of the Web, even the graphical view of the Web has a lot of different dimensions to it. And the same techniques that we want to use to make Web resources adapt to this wide range of technologies are the same techniques that we want to adapt technology for people with disabilities. So if I have low vision, and I want to make text a little bit bigger or change the foreground and background color, it‟s the same techniques so that my Web pages will easily be rendered on a PDA device, or a 1024, or the maximum, you know, 4,000 by 4,000 pixel monitor that eventually we‟ll have. We want to go back to the Web standards, and a lot of accessibility is really related to, I think a lot of the needs of people with disabilities lead to all of our needs are. So people with visual impairments have always needed to have text get bigger and reformat to the screen. But now that there‟s a wide variety of pixel densities out there, or resolutions, more people want to do that.
So by looking at the needs of people with disabilities, we‟re actually going to make our Web resources last longer, be compatible with future technologies, and still be compatible with yesterday‟s technologies. So again, back to interoperability. So let‟s get back to the Wizard though. That‟s kind of a general philosophy that we have at the U of I. We want to improve accessibility to everybody, including people with disabilities, and we feel only by addressing accessibility in this broader context, better accessibility for everybody, will we really achieve what we want, which is functional accessibility for people with disabilities. So one of the tools…so why the Wizard? About 1999 or so, I was getting very involved with Web accessibility and learning all about all of the technical, alt text for images, and headers, and lists, and all these features for accessibility, and I was talking to Lenny Arvin(?), head of our instructional technology, and he still is, about all of these things that instructors needed to do. Lenny listened to me for a little while, and then he stopped me, and he said, Jon, do you know what the number one authoring tool on this campus is that‟s used by instructors? This was in 1999 or so, and Dreamweaver, I think, was a fairly new program. It was very popular. Everybody was talking about it. I said, well, Dreamweaver, you know, everybody is talking about that. Surely they were using Dreamweaver. He said no. I said, duh, well, every copy of Netscape comes with Composer. Obviously, they‟re using Composer. He said, no, Jon, they‟re not using Composer. They‟re using Microsoft PowerPoint, and all of those things that you just talked to me about, you can‟t do with PowerPoint. So that was a real revelation to me, in terms of the accessibility problem. At that time, I thought about accessibility as being a knowledge problem. People just didn‟t know. If they just knew, they would do the right thing. After that point, I knew it wasn‟t just a knowledge problem. It was an authoring tool problem. We don‟t have authoring tools that support creating accessible content. And until we do have authoring tools that support accessible content, we‟re probably not going to be very accessible. Even today, in the Dreamweaver environment, what do we require people to know if they want to make accessible content? Number one, first, they have to know something about HTML or the details of coding. Second, they have to know something about accessibility, so that‟s another step they have to go up. Then, third, they have to know something about how to make their tool do the accessibility stuff. Those are three pretty big steps, and if we‟re going to rely on those steps to get to accessibility, I mean, the people here have taken some time, and maybe you‟ve taken other time to learn about accessibility, but how many developers on this campus haven‟t taken the time to learn about those accessibility features or how to do it in their authoring tools? Now we‟ve got these people called instructors who don‟t even know anything about HTML or don‟t even want to know anything about it. Some of them don‟t even want to be teaching on the Web, but they‟re being forced to. I‟ve done presentations to community colleges down in Illinois, and a lot of faculty members there, you know, one semester, they were teaching in front of their students. The next semester, their president told them, your course is online because that‟s how we‟re going to show the state we‟re reaching out to people in our state to
deliver educational content. These people hardly ever used a computer before. The only thing on their computer that they know about is Microsoft Office. So this is a real problem. I knew that we needed to do something with Microsoft Office. We realized, one, that instructors aren‟t Web developers. They have a lot of knowledge about their particular area of expertise, but they‟re never going to learn about accessibility techniques. Certainly, instructors don‟t know very much about accessibility. More and more instructional materials are on the Web. Students are demanding it more and more. You know, some of them don‟t even want to come to class. They just want to sit at home and have the lecture delivered to them, I guess, while they‟re sleeping, or download it to their iPod, and then they can listen to it while they‟re exercising at the local gym or something, which is a big thing, I guess. A lot of podcasting on our campus. Students take pod…the thing to the gym, and then they can exercise. These students today are a lot different than students when I was in school. The other thing is there are a lot of instructors. That‟s one thing about universities. They like to teach people. Some of the other approaches up until that point to look at accessible PowerPoint. I was at a conference last August, and somebody else who was looking at accessibility, they were talking about, well, how do you make…they had some resources about how to make accessible PowerPoint. So their solution for making accessible PowerPoint, and this is on their website still, so you can go there. I won‟t mention names, but if you really want to know, I can point you to them. This is on their website. You go to each slide, you know, you have your PowerPoint open, and you go to each slide. You save each slide as an image file. You go, and do that, and then you find your favorite HTML authoring tool. If you don‟t have one, Notepad will do. Then they show you how to wrap, you know, type in the HTML code, and then to make a slide, and they‟ll link the different files you‟re going to create together, and put the alt text in for the description of the image of the slide. Then you do all this stuff, and for a 20- to 30-slide presentation, on the Web page, it says that should only take you 2 to 3 hours. How many people here would ever do that? I was sitting at a table with other Web accessibility experts, and I said, would you guys ever do this? They said no. So I was brave. I raised my hand, and I said, has anybody at this institution ever done this? To their credit, they said somebody had. I can‟t imagine too many, I would never do it, and I think I care a lot about accessibility. To me, that was kind of, I mean, that perspective, it was kind of funny to me, initially. I guess it then became something very sad for me because if this is how we‟re presenting how you make things accessible to the rest of the world, what are people going to think about accessibility? They‟re going to think it‟s hard, and it‟s a problem. These people are, you know, what benefit is this to anybody else? If that‟s kind of the overall attitude people have towards accessibility, that it‟s a burden, that it‟s a problem, and I don‟t see any benefit to me, we‟re not going to get very far. What we‟re trying to do on our campus is make accessibility look like an opportunity. It‟s an opportunity to make your Web resources more flexible and usable by everybody, and make it easier to support by piggybacking accessibility on the Web standards movement.
I think we‟ve convinced a lot of Web developers, and they‟re now advocating for that on our campus. They‟re seeing that this really does make it easier to create, maintain, and modify their websites. I think it‟s only through that process that we‟ll actually achieve what we want for this functional accessibility. Another way would be to fix up the HTML. All our Office products have Save to the Web, which, depending on what options are set, the default options are usually only saved to Internet Explorer. It‟s an XML thing. There‟s tools that are out there to clean up that stuff, or to convert it. But, you know, that‟s a time-consuming process. Part of when we were developing the grant to get the development here, I was just curious, well, how big of a problem is Office on the Web? So this particular slide here shows a little bar graph, and we basically allowed people to categorize as instructors, Web developers, disability support, and others, and we found that instructors were dealing with PowerPoint as a part of their instructional materials. Like 70% of instructors, I think we had about 400 people respond, and most of them were instructors, 70% said they had to deal with PowerPoint. Almost 90% said Word. Word was even a bigger issue, in terms of a format, than PowerPoint. Even half were using something with Excel. This was the tool of choice for creating instructional content, and it still is for many faculty members. Then we looked at another question related, well, how good are your skills at making that accessible? Do you know how to make that accessible? A lot of people said they had no idea. Some people had some ideas, but really weren‟t sure. As we got to very good or excellent, most people kind of teetered off. The disability support people said they had a good idea. Maybe they read that on the Web page. I‟m not sure, but most people had no idea how to make it more accessible. So some of the features of PowerPoint, current PowerPoint, is a limited ability to create text equivalents. If I insert a chart into a PowerPoint presentation, the text equivalent for that should be a table of the data used to create that chart. For people who know about accessibility know there‟s a lot of details to make an accessible chart. Even if you know what you‟re doing, it‟s very easy, if you‟re hand coding, to make a mistake. You couldn‟t really do it within PowerPoint itself. You‟d have to wait until it‟s published, and then go to that slide, and edit it in the HTML. It would be, again, a time-consuming process. The default format is something called VML, Vector Markup Language. It‟s a proprietary format for Microsoft. It wasn‟t very interoperable. Other browsers like Netscape, or Opera, or Safari don‟t really support VML or support it very well, so you‟re basically publishing Internet Explorer. Instructors really didn‟t understand that. It just said Save to Web. It didn‟t, they thought it meant for interoperability. It doesn‟t meet the W3C requirements for Web content accessibility. From the accessible design standpoint, we want, kind of the goal of this is that you get accessibility just by using the tool. You don‟t have to know anything about HTML. You don‟t have to know anything about accessibility, so accessible design. And this is the kinds of tools we need a lot more of. Hopefully, this tool is also an example for what other tools could be and the things you could start asking for in other tools that people use. We get accessibility by default. So the goals of the project here are accessible HTML by default. People don‟t have to know anything about accessibility or HTML. Users are prompted for
accessibility information when needed, so if they inserted an image, it would prompt them and then guide them into creating the proper text equivalent for that image. Even better, if you used Office to create the chart, you‟ve already entered all the information that we needed to create the table version, we‟ll just extract that automatically for you, and, therefore, the user doesn‟t even have to know. It makes it simpler and more efficient for people to create accessible versions of the content. So this is a screen shot, since we‟re Webcasting this, I would do a live demo at this point, and we can do that maybe at lunchtime here for people, as part of the lunchtime activities, but this is basically to show you kind of the process people go through to create accessible content. So here we have, the Wizard adds an option to the file menu, called Save as Accessible Web Page. It‟s just an option from the File menu so that it‟s easy for people to find. They don‟t have to go run some separate program. The first screen people bring up is the Splash page. It just talks about what the Wizard is and some of the people who sponsored the development of it. Then it has a little screen here for people to enter a title and author for the document. For people who are familiar with Office, is there anybody that‟s ever used the Properties aspect of Office , so this stuff comes right out of the properties, so you can edit that, or if it‟s already there, it will come up in the default settings. So then, if it finds an image that it doesn‟t have a text description for, it allows you to choose between four different options here. Is this a decorative image that needs some type of short description? Is it a decorative image that you don‟t want to have any description for, so, basically, Alt is set to nul. Is it an informative image, so it needs both a short description and a long description? Or is it a chart that needs some tabular information associated with it? So this is just a decorative image. We have a short description here, a line drawing of a star. I‟m not sure why somebody would include that, but, you know, people sometimes just put in decorative images to have some visual information. Here‟s an example of maybe an image that has more information to it. It‟s a temperature chart for some Thursday morning, several years ago. The short description here would be temperature lows for Thursday morning, to orient people to what this image is about, and then you could put in a long description that describes more of the information the instructor wanted people to get out of looking at that particular chart. Here‟s an example of one of the charts that I showed earlier. It‟s just an image that I pasted in from another application. In this particular case, I can type in a title for the chart and a summary information, so what an instructor or person want the people to get out of looking at the chart. Then I can put in the number of data rows and data columns that were used to generate the chart. It generates the same wizard I would have used if I would have used Office in the first place to create the chart. I can put in, label, this is the column information here, so none, poor, good, very good, etc. When you first get to this, this would just be stuff you have to fill in. We don‟t automatically extract that from the image, but we show the image there so people can see which image it is. Then the row information, so instructors, Web developers,
disability services, I could type that in. And then I get the same little spreadsheet I would get in PowerPoint to create the chart in PowerPoint. So that kind of guides people into creating the correct text equivalent. If we just had short description, long description, how many people would be able to type in HTML code to create an accessible chart? This kind of wizardizes that process. The other chart, I created it in Microsoft Office, so there, all I have to do is type in this title and a summary of what I wanted people to get out of it. I don‟t have to worry about all that other data table entry. If you use Microsoft Office the way Microsoft wants you to use it too, you get this stuff for free. Okay. This last screen here shows output options. What it actually generates, it generates HTML 1.1-compliant Web versions of Office documents. In the case of PowerPoint, it actually generates several versions of the same presentation. Here is a place where you can choose those different versions. Currently, it generates a text-only and a text-mostly view. Probably in the next release, we‟ll be going to do the textmostly because I don‟t think we need both of them. It also generates graphic view. So we‟re looking at a graphics view right now. It also generates an outline and a handout view. Again, going back and talking to our education technology people, they said that one of the big problems students have is that even if they have original PowerPoint, they have a hard time figuring out how to print three slides on a page so that they can take it to take notes in class. We just make a little link on the Web page, and they can use the Web browser print feature to print it out. Or the outline version allows them to read it into a Word Processor and take notes, like for an exam or for studying purposes. Then it allows people to basically pick how they want to save the document. Where do you want to save it? You can save it locally or to some map drive on your computer. You can have all the files zipped together and then upload it to like Blackboard, or WebCT, or here at Wisconsin you use Desire 2 Learn. I‟m sure they have a zip-on feature for uploading content. And we also support a WebDav interface, so if you have some type of WebDav interface, you can log into your WebDav and have the files transferred that way. And this is the resulting output of the files. We‟re actually looking at the output here, so we could go here to the text-mostly version, and this is an image, but if we go back to the index slide, (Kristi, is that changing for the people online? Okay) So for the text version of this slide, I get text here instead of the image. If I was visually impaired, I could make the text bigger or smaller, using the browser controls. Does anybody here use the Opera browser? Some people? Okay. So you know, in Opera, there‟s a high contrast style sheet, so if I need different colors, these file are optimized so that you can get the high contrast style sheet. In Opera, and in Mozilla, there‟s a zoom feature so you can scale a text, make it bigger or smaller, to fit the size of your screen. You can also use it, if you have a visual impairment, to make things bigger or smaller. This version works for that. If we go to the slide with the image, we see that we have the text table version there for people to use. This also helps, you know, from a pedagogical standpoint, if this is part of every instructor‟s presentation, the data that was used to generate the table is now available to the student. Instructors can actually ask students now to take some data maybe from
two different charts and create new information, as part of an active-learning process in the class, to get students engaged in the data, not just passively seeing these charts go by. Since there‟s static URLs here, if a student e-mails the instructor with a question, the instructor basically can send back URLs directly to a particular slide and say, you need to look at these slides or the issues you were talking about. So there‟s a lot of flexibility here for instructors. Also, with the text-only version, a lot of people who live in rural areas, who are part of distance education, they might not have broadband access. If somebody is just posting, you know, a two or three megabyte PowerPoint file, expecting students to download it, well, with a 56K modem, that‟s usually not very practical. But here, since it‟s a text-only version, this file is only a couple kilobytes. They, again, have the option to use the text-only version, and if they need a graphic version of the slide, they can always wait a little bit to download that graphics slide, since they‟re all cross-listed with each other. UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: . . . when talking about the outline view…with these output optins, this gives the user choices?
JON: Right. There you go. Users have choices. How many people like to give users choices? So this gives users choices. Not everybody does. I think, you know, back in the late „90s, there was a battle, I think, between, well, I think it wasn‟t much of a battle, but between users and authors. Authors clearly won. We have some Mosaic users here, right? In early Mosaic, you could go in and edit the default style sheet. I don‟t know if anybody ever did that. In early versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer, they allowed you to do that too, but with each version, they took more and more user control away. Now authors have more and more control, and I think that‟s also kind of a dominant feeling today still, that most authors want you to see their web resources the way they designed them. They use techniques that make it difficult for people to restyle content. Those same techniques make it difficult for content to be restyled to a PDA device or a cell phone technology. That‟s where people get into complicated technologies of, you know, doing browser sniffing, figuring out what you have, and delivering different content. If you‟re a big corporation, you can probably do that, but if you‟re a Web developer in a department, you probably don‟t have the resources to do all the complicated things for browser sniffing. But if you support Web standards, then your tools and technologies can be accessed on a wide variety of systems. I was at, I mean, for example, I was at Northern Illinois University last year, doing a workshop, and they talked about that they‟d just created a Web-based system for students to choose their roommates. So I guess when I envisioned that, I said, well, as soon as that‟s launched, what are students going to do? The first thing they‟re going to do is take out their cell phone Web browser and try to sign up for their groupings. I don‟t know if they designed it to be
used with a cell phone or that type of technology, but that‟s the way students think these days. They‟re not thinking, I‟ve got this graphical browser, but I‟m sure the developers, when they developed it, you know, this graphical browser with a lot of screen real estate there, they figured that‟s the way people would use it. But, you know, students will be using all different types of technologies, and we can‟t predict what they‟re going to be using. By using accessible-design techniques in Web standards, you know, you can make sure your resources adapt to a wide range of technologies, including the technologies used by people with disabilities.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: . . .I really like the strategy about piggybacking to get accessibility out there . . .are people at Illinois using this tool, and is it successful? JON: We‟re working with faculty on campus to try to get it integrated in. It‟s a tough thing to get. Do we have any faculty here? Okay. It‟s tough to get faculty to change. We have a few faculty who are using it, and they seem to like it. One of the things we‟ve found when we started using it with faculty, that we thought, wow, they don‟t have to know anything about HTML. They don‟t have to know anything about accessibility, so this should be easy. Well, unfortunately, the authoring tool is still using Microsoft Office to create content. That‟s still a problem because how many people here have ever taken a training course in Microsoft Office? How many people use Microsoft Office? Okay. So about maybe 5% or 10% of you have ever taken any training. Well, how do most people learn Office? Well, they have an idea of what they want to see on the screen, and they start clicking and pointing until they get there, right? It doesn‟t matter what combination of functions they use to get there, just so it gets close to what they want, or they run out of time, and they have to stop trying to figure out how to do it. That creates very unstructured documents. There was one instructor we were working with, and he basically took the standard template, deleted it, and then just started pasting in text boxes where he wanted to create stuff. That‟s really a problem for us because we‟re looking, the more you use these style sheets, the standard templates, the more we can derive structure. If you use the list option to create a list, we know it‟s a list. If you use text boxes, and you paste in bullets that you liked from some other place, it‟s hard for us to figure out, well, that‟s supposed to be a list of stuff just because there‟s these text boxes that are half lined up with each other. This one instructor would spend a lot of time trying to line these things up so they would look like a list. And we showed him, in about a minute, well, you can do what you want to do with standard Microsoft tools. He said, well, I don‟t know how to do that. I never know how to do it. So we have what we call our Best Practices. And Cristy Blew here, I didn‟t introduce her, but she‟s a support person for the Office Wizard and would be happy to talk with people after this session today more about the Wizard and some of the issues. We actually offer online training on Best Practices, which are basically, again, how Microsoft intended people to use Office originally. So, for example, and Microsoft is helping us, like Office XP, things like using styles to create headers. Well, Microsoft
Office now will automatically convert things to headers if things should be headers because they want people to do that to create tables of contents and other things. UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: . . .seems like when the wizard starts asking about images, you would need to have some knowledge about html. What is wizard created in? JON: Right. And it‟s written in C Sharp, so it‟s using the dotNet technology. We had some dotNet technology issues too when they went from 1.1 to 2.0. So a lot of what the work in the last year on the Wizard has been is trying to figure out, another thing with Microsoft Office is people, it looks like they visually delete stuff on a page. It‟s still there. Our tool sees it, so we have to figure out, well, what is this? It doesn‟t seem to have any content, but certain text boxes appear to us as images. So you have these images that nobody can see, so there‟s a lot of filtering out of information. There is still training involved, and also from the accessibility standpoint. But, at least, if people are putting in a short description, students will know that there‟s an image there and what it‟s about, and they can ask more information about it. Part of it too is that if they‟re providing longer descriptions, search engines and other technologies can access, more easily index those particular slides, whereas, if you just put the raw PowerPoint up there, search engines may find content in it, but you‟d have to search through the slides from it. I know Google is pretty, can probably, you know, parse PowerPoint files, can find information, but it just links you to the whole PowerPoint file. It can‟t point you to an individual slide. So some of the features we have, text-in-graphical versions, text tables for charts. We have accessible navigation controls and orientation information so people can know where they are. It validates so, again, if I‟m using a PDA device, I could use the text-only version of the slides to get some information. It provides a lot more flexibility for everybody. Some of the next steps with the tool are to improve support for Word, and Excel, and also PowerPoint. We don‟t support some of the audio and video features of PowerPoint. We want to do that in the future. We want to support other object types. In PowerPoint now, the newer versions, there‟s an object type for like organizational charts and things, so we want to see if we can automate creating accessible alternatives to that, and provide an interface for that. One of the other things that we want to do is improve styling options so that people can use the tool to brand their particular department, or course, or program that they‟re trying to promote. We think there‟s an opportunity there, again, to make the tool useful to everybody, not just have features for if I have a student with a disability in my class, maybe I‟ll use this tool, or for the text conversion people to use. I think it also shows an example, if you have other tools on campus to point to, on features you‟d like to see in other tools. I think the critical thing you can do is when tool developers come here to talk about tools, ask them, well, how do you support accessibility? What do authors need to know? I mean, these are critical questions, and if you don‟t ask them, companies won‟t address them. As advocates, when people, you know, it‟s critically important to raise the awareness of the issue because companies don‟t hear about this issue.
Apple came to our campus about a year ago, to the education department, to try to get faculty to use iLife in creating course content stuff. The Mac, at that time, had a lot of new accessibility features, so they wanted to come over to the Disability Resource Center, where I work, and talk to us about all the new Mac accessibility features. Well, what I wanted to talk to them about is how does iLife create accessible content so that people can use those features to access content? Well, they didn‟t want to hear about that because they didn‟t know anything about that. They didn‟t think about that. They‟re only going to, you know, since it was disability service people asking, they could probably, well, you know, they‟re the only ones asking for it. But if you guys ask for it, that will make a difference. They‟ll respond to people who buy their product or, potentially, what they consider their main market to provide features that you want. So here‟s some acknowledgements about who has helped support it. Trace Research & Development Center provided some initial funding for the development of early versions of the Wizard. They‟re here on your campus. This tool actually costs money. The grant support has ended, so if we‟re going to continue development and support of the tool, we have to charge for it, so we have two licensing options. One is called standard licensing or individual copies, and it‟s $40 for one license, so it‟s not an expensive too, per se. If you buy multiple copies, there‟s further discounts. There‟s also site license options. That gets down to $2.25 per copy, but that‟s a yearly subscription model. The Social Security Administration has a site license for working with the Census Bureau. We‟re getting a lot more interest from federal agencies and educational institutions about using the tool. We actually have a site licensing discount option right now until August 31 for 25% discount on site license options. By having support for it, we can put more features in it. All of the money goes back in the development of the Wizard. So here‟s our website related to the Wizard. There‟s information about purchasing it. There‟s a demo version, so you can convert five slides or a certain number of characters in Office. You can try it out on some of your slides. There‟s examples of different presentations that have been converted, pricing information. We have our manual of Best Practices - how to maximize your use of the tool. We also have Webcasts. We‟ll be starting them up again in the fall here, free Webcasts on Best Practices. Even if you don‟t care about the Wizard, you might want to learn a little bit about Office and maybe use that more effectively. Other questions about the Wizard?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: . . .If your grant is done, are you depending on the license to do work on it? How long are you planning on working on it? JON: Well, hopefully for as long as people use Microsoft Office. It‟s probably going to be awhile. We have other plans for it. Right now, one of the limitations of the tool is it only works in Windows. We have a lot of Mac users on our campus. We do have plans, and we are looking for funding to webify the interface so that you could basically go to a website, upload your Office files, go through the Wizard, and get output.
That would also allow us to support some newer file formats, like the open document format that‟s being supported by Corel and Lotus, the Lotus people. Anybody here heard about ODF, open document format? Some people. Some states are requiring that any technology that they purchase for Office supports ODF because one of the issues with using Microsoft products is that you‟re kind of locked into their file format, so you have to purchase Office if you want to deal with Office documents. Or if you have an open standard, like ODF, people can use a wide variety of tools to edit those documents, so there‟s more competition for tool development and innovation or specialized tools for specific requirements. I know the State of Massachusetts and about 20 other states are thinking about adopting that, and companies like IBM and . . . and Corel are working on that standard to help not only make it useful to people, it‟s a modern standard, it‟s in XML format, but also to add accessibility features for it. We could support that format, and for files that are accessible, you know, add accessibility information to them.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: . . . for next version, you mentioned better styling option…can you give examples? Are you looking to support other Microsoft products? JON: Office seems to be the main, given our small resources, we really only have one developer who works on it right now. Hopefully, if we can get more support for it, we can add more developers, but we really only have one developer, and Kristi is our main support person. It‟s a two-person operation, so it‟s very small. We‟re hoping to sell enough to help support more development. There‟s a lot of things we have to do with Office yet, and also, supporting Macintosh is also a current criteria. In terms of styling options, one of the things we think would be a useful feature, maybe if people have comments afterwards, we could talk about that, is allowing people to have like HTML templates that they could edit so that you could have your own background images, things that you could do in HTML that, really, you can‟t do in Office. If somebody was publishing a PowerPoint presentation, it would have your background, links to your resources, more customization from what HTML allows us to do, as opposed to what Office allows us to do. The Office object model for getting certain information or creating styling things is really designed for Office, not for the Web. We want to add some features that I think will be fairly easy to add because doing anything with Office formatting stuff is hard. There‟s not a lot of very good standards. I mean, the Office table model isn‟t even a complete table model. You could have what looks like two separate tables in the Office model, but it shows up as one table in Office. I mean, it‟s really horrendous. If anybody ever has to delve into the Office internals, it‟s a real mess. Some of the code is from 1984. These new Office formats, like ODF, is in new XML format, so it will just provide a lot more capabilities for people to deal with ODF documents. People can‟t do much with Office documents because of the complexity of them. Other questions? I haven‟t been watching the text chat too much. All is well. See, I explained everything so well, or I put everybody to sleep so well. Well, we feel this is a
tool, and, again, what I really want to emphasize is that authoring tools is really the place that accessibility has to happen. What we really need is accessibility by default. Even with this particular tool, we don‟t really get accessibility by default because the input to it is unstructured information. Kind of another long-term plan that we have is to develop a Web-based tool, like a Web application, that will allow people to create, would provide a structured authoring interface to create accessible HTML presentations so that instructors can use the capabilities of the Web to create new types of interactive content. We‟re going to get some money to start looking at how you build this type of tool, what it would look like. That‟s really where we want to be. There‟s a company in Springfield, Illinois, that‟s been working on a content-management system, called OneNet(?) to show you the power of authoring tools in this whole area of accessibility. They‟ve been working with the state Department of Health and Human Services for the past, I think, eight or nine years on Web accessibility because the Office of Rehab Services wanted to make sure their website was accessible. Initially, they said, okay, the way to do this is to train. Train everybody. We‟re going to train all the staff in Web accessibility. How many people think they got a more accessible website? No. They got a little bit better, the parts that were done by the professional Web developers, but people who were uploading reports and had their own few Web pages, they only did it every once in a while. They either forgot the techniques, they probably didn‟t have very good HTML techniques in the first place, or they misunderstood them, but they didn‟t get very far in accessibility. They took a step back, and they really realized that the problem here was the authoring tool, so they developed a content-management system, called OneNet, that creates the authoring interface for people to enter content. It provides an interface that supports creating structured content so that it‟s easier to create structured content than unstructured content. So you‟re probably familiar with those little HTML editors. Well, the easiest thing if you want to make something look like a heading is to select it, and then pick bold, and then pick bigger font. Well, that‟s unstructured content. In their interface, it‟s easier to select the heading style. Then it styles it. Another benefit they found from that is more consistent styling of their Web pages. They have more control over how Web pages look because people are using the default style sheets and not just picking and choosing whatever fonts and whatever colors they want. They did a little study to see, well, does this interface actually help people, even expert accessibility people, some of my staff participated in their study, found that even for experts, the use of headers, text equivalents went way up than when they were using other authoring tools. UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: . . . can you explain the design of the tool JON: Well, what we basically do, in terms of the steps, as the tool goes through a document, it gathers up information related to the information. We actually create an XML document that tries to accurately represent the semantics, at least as much as we can derive, from what the person has put in. And then we use XSLT style sheets to
actually translate it to these different versions, so we are actually translating it to an XML document, our own syntax, of course. And we use a wide variety of techniques because the Office model for accessing information is eclectic and incomplete, so we often have to get . . . versions of the different paragraphs and things and . . . to get a more consistent representation of the information, so it is pretty complicated. And we try to use as much smart. If we see something that‟s an image, but it‟s blank or empty, we kind of just discard it and not prompt the person for it. I think we‟re at the end of our time too here for part one, right? Okay. Do you want to take a short break before we start part two, like a five-minute break? We‟re just going to take a five-minute break here, so if people there in Internet land want to take a little, five-minute break, please come back in about five minutes or so, and we‟ll start part two, talking about functional accessibility evaluation techniques.