Monday, June 04, 2012

#wmdevdays - #accessibility

At the Berlin #hackathon 2012 many people were hacking on many subjects. Kai Nissen worked on the accessibility of MediaWiki by people with a visual impairment. At the end of the hackathon several bugs were squashed and ready for review in Gerrit.

It is wonderful when reports on defects are actionable and when something gets done.

How was the Berlin Hackathon 2012 for you
I participated in the Hackathon for the very first time and was quite amazed about so many people coming together and actually work productively on feature enhancements or bug fixes. I had a lot of talks with people who gave really helpful feedback about the project I'm currently working on.

You have been working on accessibility for the blind ... how did you get into this subject
I was pointed to an analysis report concerning accessibility in Wikipedia that was carried out by the Swiss initiative "Access for all". While reading this I realized that a lot of the mentioned issues were
quite easy to solve. A lot of the content available on the web seems to be designed without considering accessibility aspects, although a little tweak can always have a high impact.

How do you know what to focus on
The analysis report was quite thorough and included recommendations, so it ended up to be something like a task list.

You identified a number of issues to work on this weekend .. how did it go
The issues I was working on were quite easy to fix, whenever I had problems with something there was always somebody around to help out.

Did having all these other hackers make a difference ?
The gathering of all those experienced MediaWiki developers is a really helpful thing. That applies to having certain questions answered rightaway as well as just sharing experience in whatever topic might
come up.

Brion Vibber helped you with the parser tests ...
Brion figured out what the problems was in no time. There has been a language version related bug in another patch which he simply reverted.

Are there many more accessibility issues in MediaWiki people can help with
The accessibility analysis report mentions more issues that need to be fixed to make Wikipedia and all other projects based on MediaWiki more accessible. It is clearly written and points out lacks of accessibility very

How do you continually test for good accessibility of our software
Most of the time one seldomly notices lacks of accessibility when not being affected by disabilities. Whatever issue I fixed for improving accessibility I have to keep in mind to apply that again in a similar case.

Are there best practices for coding for accessibility
There are guidelines defined by the WAI, which should be considered when coding for accessibility.

Do you have thoughts on what the Visual Editor will do for accessibility ?
Since screen readers will read what is written on the screen it also reads the wikitext as is. That might be hard to understand, especially for newcomers. Reading out a headline as a headline instead of
"equals-equals-headline-equals-equals" can be very helpful to focus on the subject itself.
 --- Kai
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