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  • Our newest forum: Tech Accessibility

    Posted on May 7th, 2018 at 15:09 woody Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    I’ve just opened up a new forum that’s long overdue, quite frankly. Tech Accessibility covers topics and concerns about making computers accessible to everyone, everywhere.

    Thanks to @Lori for suggesting it, and @Elly for fleshing it out.

    Join us.

    If that helped, take a second to support AskWoody on Patreon

    Home Forums Our newest forum: Access Tech

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    This topic contains 28 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by

     OldBiddy 10 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    • #190744 Reply

      woody
      Da Boss

      I’ve just opened up a new forum that’s long overdue, quite frankly. Access Tech covers topics and concerns about making computers accessible to everyo
      [See the full post at: Our newest forum: Access Tech]

      5 users thanked author for this post.
    • #190745 Reply

      EspressoWillie
      AskWoody Plus

      For a second there by the name of the forum, I thought you were opening a forum for MS Access databases as I work with them for my business.

      I personally don’t have anything that would keep me from accessing a computer, but I do deal with anxiety every day. Your comment about not leaving the house is actually somewhat true for me. I don’t leave the house very much, though I try to force myself to go out once in a while these days.

      So there is my two cents to help kick off this forum.

      Cheers!!
      Willie McClure
      www.datarim.com
      Talk's cheap, takes money to buy whiskey.
      3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #190746 Reply

        Kirsty
        Da Boss

        For a second there by the name of the forum, I thought you were opening a forum for MS Access databases as I work with them for my business.

        Yes, I was expecting MS Access too, not abbreviated “Accessibility” 😉

        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #190755 Reply

      Microfix
      AskWoody MVP

      Suggestion: would ‘Tech Ability Forum’ not suit better? Given the purpose and aim of the section..

      Just sayin’..

      Great idea @elly & @lori

      | W10 Pro x64 1803 | W8.1 Pro x64 | Linux x64 Hybrids | W7 Pro x64/ XP Pro O/L
        Can't see the wood for the trees? Look again!
      2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #190808 Reply

        woody
        Da Boss

        Good idea. I stole it, and added an embellishment…

        Tech Accessibility

        2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #190778 Reply

      Elly
      AskWoody MVP

      Didn’t mean to have confusion over the name… see what a non-techy comes up with!

      Wouldn’t be a bad idea to change it, if it causes confusion.

      Win 7 Home, 64 bit, Group B

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      LTL
      • #190863 Reply

        LTL
        AskWoody Plus

        What’s in a word? “making computers accessible to everyone, everywhere” does not imply anything ‘technical’ to me.
        My non-techie and non-native English speaking question is: Is the forum meant to explain to non-techies how they can use certain software so they can make better use of it/of their pc?
        If so, a non-techie would better understand and recognize what it’s about if it is called
        Easy Tech Forum

        Windows is like a woman. You love her, sometimes hate her, but can't live without her.
        • #190967 Reply

          Elly
          AskWoody MVP

          The problem is, finding ways of working with disability isn’t easy. The idea of accessibility is to make things easier, or even possible at all… but there is no one size fits all… and I often have to work harder to get less done.

          Win 7 Home, 64 bit, Group B

          2 users thanked author for this post.
          • #191101 Reply

            anonymous

            So, the new forum is meant to help disabled/less able people?

    • #190789 Reply

      anonymous

      How about *Making Computers Accessible for Everyone* forum

      2 users thanked author for this post.
    • #190801 Reply

      Cascadian
      AskWoody Lounger

      I will be very interested to read more thoughts on the interactive assistants that are so popular. I have found it difficult to frame a comment that would not be better shared in ‘Rants’. I believe it was @elly that made a comment regarding the leveraged cost to enjoy the benefit of virtual assistants unfairly impacts the disabled community. That resonated strongly with me. And I would shout again that it deserves spotlighting.

      The larger portion of free market consumers with disposable income and desire can freely give up privacy as they wish to use these items, more akin to novelty toys. But a valued friend who has unique difficulty and limited funds must choose against their will to surrender privacy for the enhanced features offered. [self deleted more rant]

      Please discuss any alternatives that offer similar benefits while maintaining privacy. Or mention groups that have put advocacy for such solutions in their focus of interest. Thanks to all in creating a space for this, whatever it may be called.

      2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #190856 Reply

        anonymous

        Wikipedia: List of free and open source software packages -Assistive Technology.

        This may be a good starting point for your friend.

        4 users thanked author for this post.
    • #190811 Reply

      OscarCP
      AskWoody Plus

      “Accessibility” usually mostly means things like larger font sizes for people with poor eyesight.

      Does “accesibility” include software that converts written words in documents into spoken ones and provide an audible user/machine interface, for blind people?

      Haptic Braille tablets? (I’ve heard once about this idea, from a then president of the National Federation of the Blind.)

      Sticks held between the teeth instead of mice or track pads, for paraplegics?

      Could someone give more examples? This sounds like an interesting topic, perhaps in need of a  more detailed explanation, with examples.

       

      2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #190901 Reply

        Ascaris
        AskWoody_MVP

        Absolutely– all of this.  It encompasses any hardware or software adaptation that helps people with impairments to use technology.  It could be as simple as a high contrast Windows theme to color shifts to help people with certain kinds of color blindness to something as specialized as a device that tracks where a person’s eyes are pointed on the screen to act as a mouse when that person can’t effectively use a conventional mouse.

        Mozilla calls it “A11y,” since the ccessibilit that was omitted is 11 letters, in the same ellipsis style as e10s for ‘electrolysis’ (and I know there are others, but I can’t think of them at the moment).

        Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.15.3 & Kubuntu 18.04).

        4 users thanked author for this post.
      • #190926 Reply

        lurks about
        AskWoody Lounger

        While some of the problems you mention will require specialized equipment, many of the typical issues relate to not taking into account things like typing speed, color blindness, aging eyes, etc. that are fairly easy to fix on most sites but are often not. Often a little larger font with good contrast without funky color schemes goes far.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #190975 Reply

          Ascaris
          AskWoody_MVP

          I have my own disability issues when it comes to computing, but thus far the various efforts to accommodate have all gone in the opposite direction.  The needs of individuals like myself have proven to be no match for corporate branding efforts.

          In my case, it’s as simple as banishing the retina-searing white backgrounds that seem to be mandatory across the computing landscape these days.  I’ve been setting my backgrounds to #e1e1e1 (225,225,225) since the 9x days, back when I still used a CRT, which was a lot less punishing on the retinas with white backgrounds, and it usually had an easily accessible knob that would turn it down quite nicely… LCDs have a much harsher glare, and turning the brightness down often involves enough drilling down though menus, either in the PC or in the monitor itself, to make it really annoying to keep going back and forth.

          None of that’s necessary if I can set my own colors, which never USED to be a problem until Microsoft decided that only themes that met with their marketing department’s view of how Windows “looks” should be allowed.

          In Win XP and prior, you could set the background color using the normal UI.  As far as I know, XP also didn’t require signatures on its themes… but since I could set the colors, the normal “classic” theme was all I ever used, as it was IMO perfect as it was.

          In Vista, the DWM compositor was introduced, and among other things, it allowed the use of the nifty Aero themes with transparency.  Problem was, though, that the DWM themes had hard-coded white backgrounds, and the color-setting UI that could set the color of any UI element was replaced with one that could set only a subset of the colors in a given theme.  No matter what you did, the background remained welded to retina-searing white.

          Of course, you could select a Basic or the Classic theme in Vista or 7, and when you did, the classic color-setting UI reappeared.  Selecting that, though, ruled out all of the advantages made possible by the DWM, like tearing-free videos, animation, and programs that didn’t turn your whole screen into modern art with the artifacts if you dragged a window from a program that had stopped responding.

          The GDI-drawn non-DWM themes were all that existed in XP, but I never had a problem with pronounced visual tearing in all the years I used it (probably close to a dozen years).  As soon as I upgraded to 7, though, and selected the Classic theme, I noticed severe tearing when scrolling and dragging windows.  It seems that the GDI performance was way, way worse than it had been in XP, so I could either tolerate the tearing (ugh) or tolerate the white backgrounds and use a DWM theme (double ugh).  I’d have to channel Corey Hart from the ’80s and wear my sunglasses at night just to be able to use my computers, or else turn the brightness down so much that anything dark on the screen, like a photo, would just fade into darkness and be a blob of black.  I tried to find a combination of contrast, gamma, and brightness settings that would mute the top end while not crushing the bottom end, but it never worked.

          It got even worse when 8 came along for those who adopted it (which did not include me yet), because the option to use the tearing-prone Classic or Basic themes was gone.  Now all you had was ALL DWM themes, every single one of which had hard-coded white backgrounds of the type I absolutely could not tolerate.  What’s a little eye pain and strain compared to Microsoft’s desire to make sure that everyone’s Windows looks how MS wants it to look, though?  We wouldn’t want people to be able to select themes MS thought were ugly and have people think that’s how Windows looks, right?  THEY COULD LOSE A SALE!

          The thing about requiring DWM themes in 8 and later is not 100% true, actually.  Windows 8 and later do still allow GDI themes in which you can set the colors, but now that requires using a high-contrast theme.  High-contrast is not precisely what I am after here… I kinda want LESS contrast.  They’re incredibly ugly (though that is a small price to pay if you truly need high contrast, of course), and they break a lot of programs that are not designed specifically to work with HC themes (much less HC themes modified to have less contrast than standard themes).

          The ultimate solution for me was to use third-party programs to break the signature requirement for themes, and select a non-MS approved theme.  I tried to find an existing theme that was what I wanted (a Classic theme, but one that used the DWM, aka an “Aero” theme), but the one that came the closest also had the hard-coded white backgrounds in it.

          I was going to have to find a way to edit these themes.

          I ended up having to buy a Windows theme editing program (the only full-featured one I know of in existence) that was (and is) incredibly buggy, but is still the only game in town.  I learned how to edit themes, and I replaced all of the white with my light grey… and while I was at it, I began customizing a lot more things, not to mention fixing a lot of mistakes and hacks I found in the theme I was using as a base.

          When I migrated to 8.1, I used the theme editor to port my theme too.  It took a few tries (did I mention how buggy the editor is?), but it was still a whole lot easier than porting it manually.  It’s actually a heck of a product aside from the bugs… but its original author seems to have lost interest, so I guess we’re lucky to still have it at all.

          The long and short of it (well, I guess the ship sailed on the short part) is that no one should have to use a patcher to modify system files, then buy a theme editor, then go through the laborious process of learning how to use it, then go through the even more laborious process of editing the theme, just to get a Windows that doesn’t try to make you snow blind when you just want to get the email.

          And that’s just Windows.  Web pages themselves are often (usually?) locked to white backgrounds too.  I’ve had to find addons to twist the web back to the way I want to view it too.

          You know, the original idea behind HTML markup was to have the page describe the types of content, and to have the browser render them accordingly in the manner set forth by the user.  It was never meant to deliver the exact page that the “designer” intended on every device… it was supposed to be different on every device, subject to the needs and desires of the various users.  Over time, as web sites evolved from the simple things they were in the 1990s to the massive things they are now, we’ve migrated from that to the idea that HTML and the web is supposed to be a means to deliver interactive magazine pages, where every pixel you see was put there by the designer.  Branding… just like in Windows.  Can’t have a page looking ugly representing you, right?  Even if it looks ugly because the viewer likes it that way.  No way!

          As usual, it boils down to one phrase I use a lot when it comes to commentary on computing… “one size does not fit all.”  Allowing customization of ostensibly aesthetic items isn’t just the equivalent of putting vanity plates on one’s car!  It makes a bigger difference than these “it must have LOTS AND LOTS OF WHITE!!” people will probably ever realize.

          By the way, anyone notice how Windows 10 has more white than any previous version of Windows?

          Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.15.3 & Kubuntu 18.04).

          2 users thanked author for this post.
          • #191030 Reply

            anonymous

            Ascaris said:
            In my case, it’s as simple as banishing the retina-searing white backgrounds that seem to be mandatory across the computing landscape these days.

            Besides glaring white backgrounds, another modern issue afflicting web & software UI design is overly-low contrast.

            The phenomenon has become so pervasive since 2012/13 that I initially thought my eyesight had mysteriously deteriorated, & actually took colour & contrast vision tests. The results indicate that I have NORMAL colour & contrast vision. As such, the problem is not my eyes per se, but extremely low-contrast + white-glare UI design — both of which are often further exacerbated by texture-less “flat” design that seems equally popular with the same low-contrast + white-glare crowd.

            Apparently, the objective of such a design is clutter-free minimalism, & how is this being achieved ? By making sure that the user can see as little as possible !

            The aforementioned issues affect the AskWoody site too, albeit to a lesser extent than many other websites. Since the topic of universal accessible design is being discussed, hopefully the following user-unfriendly design issues at the AskWoody site could be resolved in the near future:-

            1) Right: Pale brown hyperlinks juxtaposed on cherry-wood veneer background

            • Issue:  Insufficient Contrast
            • WebAIM Color Contrast Checker Result:  FAIL on all counts

            2) Left: Very pale grey text on bright white background (egs: “Posted on May 7th, 2018 at 15:09 woody”,  “REPLY #190744”)

            • Issues: Insufficient Contrast + Glare
            • WebAIM Color Contrast Checker Result:  FAIL on all counts

            Further Reading:

            2 users thanked author for this post.
            • #191359 Reply

              Ascaris
              AskWoody_MVP

              Apparently, the objective of such a design is clutter-free minimalism, & how is this being achieved ? By making sure that the user can see as little as possible !

              In some cases, it could be that the person designing the site has a display that renders the parts you find illegible quite differently, so even if you have the same eyesight as the web designer, you’re not seeing what he saw when he coded the site unless you happen to be using the same monitor he used, and with the same settings.

              Every monitor renders colors a little differently– and sometimes a lot differently.  A slight difference in one color’s response curve can make all of the difference, and while getting the display set up with an accurate ICC profile can help, it’s often hard or impossible to find one that’s meant for your monitor, and even then you’re constrained by the LCD’s inherent abilities.

              The story about me trying to conquer the blinding whiteness of Windows by default is at least a stationary target.  While every monitor renders white differently, at least it’s just one place, so once it’s fixed, it’s fixed.

              Well, maybe not if I was using Windows 10.  I ported my custom theme to 10 in 2015, and it was working fairly well.  I couldn’t theme the taskbar, but that was beyond my control.  Then one of the updates came along and completely broke my Windows 10 theme– it no longer worked at all.  I didn’t pursue it– that was one of the events that led to me throwing in the towel on 10.  It’s very similar to what happened with the author of Classic Shell.  Too much change, too much breakage, too fast.  If it happened once, it probably would happen again… but with 8.1, I know what works will keep working, ’cause MS abandoned 8.1 two full years before it went out of mainstream support.  Bad when it comes to things they should have done (like supported Kaby and Ryzen CPUs), but good when it comes to other things.

              When it comes to the web, it’s not one color setup like Windows… it’s as many color combos as there are sites you visit. There’s no “there, it’s all fixed, problem solved” moment possible on the web– even if you only use the same handful of sites each day, they do like to periodically redesign them just for the sake of it.

              For my own web use, I use a handful of Firefox addon.  I use one called Page Shadow that dynamically darkens web pages by a certain amount after they load (which I can set independently for any sites; the default for me is about a 15-20% darkening, color neutral, which is all it takes for most sites).  For those sites that are illegible because of low constrast or an overly busy background competing with the text, I have another addon ready (icon in the status bar, with all of my other important “reactive” addon buttons, like NoScript, uBlock Origin, Cookie AutoDelete, and ViolentMonkey).  That last one (Monochro) instantly toggles between the web page’s specified colors (as darkened by the first one, Page Shadow) and my predefined colors as specified in the Firefox settings.

              One single click, regardless of what site I’m on, and everything is legible (the wood panel effect on this site, for example, disappears and is replaced by my specified background color).  I don’t leave it in “use my colors” mode all the time, though, as it often makes some of the content disappear if the web designer has inappropriately tagged actual content as being a background image, which is very, very common.  Background images are, by definition, disposable decoration, not content.  The modern web design paradigm, however, is “anything goes,” as long as it looks okay during testing (presumably in browsers with box stock settings and no addons).

              Monochro is also good for identifying links that have been hidden by the web designer, as is the trend these days.  Along with my other settings, Monochro forces links to be shown in underlined blue, and recently visited links in underlined purple.  So many sites cancel that very useful feature (highlighting links that have been visited), and Monochro brings it back when I want it.

              Aesthetics is fine, but usability is even better.  It’s why I consider the Win 95/98/2k UI to be the best that Windows has ever looked… not because it’s pretty in the conventional sense, but because it is maximally efficient in highlighting what can be done with a given UI element, which to me is beauty.  Functionality is beautiful, and the “classic” Windows appearance is just right for me… skeuomorphic enough to immediately register interactive UI elements as such in my mind, but not to the ridiculous extent that Apple used to take it (with address book programs having a UI that looks like a leather-bound book and that has dog-eared pages and what not).

              Think I might just need to repost some of this in the aforementioned forum.

              Group "L" (KDE Neon User Edition 5.15.3 & Kubuntu 18.04).

              • This reply was modified 10 months, 2 weeks ago by
                 Ascaris.
              1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #191036 Reply

            Cascadian
            AskWoody Lounger

            Really, and with emphasis, want to thank you for taking the time to lay this out. Personally my vision is still within what is labeled corrected to normal range. But that is separate from what I am excited about in your comment.

            Many years ago, on a lark, I purchased 85% grey paper (artists forgive me if that is not correct) to use as usual worksheet material. And had positive feedback from TA’s and one professor who actually said the would put my papers halfway through the stack on purpose to give their eyes a rest on long evenings. I’m not averse to thinking this alone may have been worth a point or at least a decider in my favor when a point could go either way.

            My young mind took that to heart, and while I am not prone to twiddle much in the graphic arts, I did enjoy tweaking once then leaving in place these very same changes you describe in such great detail. All your conclusions are why I gave up long ago on customizing at the end user’s end of things, from sheer frustration.

            Thanks for putting better words on my experience than I am able.

            2 users thanked author for this post.
      • #191814 Reply

        OldBiddy
        AskWoody Lounger

        @oscarcp the Library of Congress has information on the topic of assistive technology. They provide very useful services for people who are home bound and would like to read books.

        https://www.loc.gov/nls/resources/blindness-and-vision-impairment/devices-aids/assistive-technology-products-information-access/

    • #190955 Reply

      OldBiddy
      AskWoody Lounger

      Thank you for starting this new forum. I am particularly interested as I have poor vision and adaptive technology is very useful for those of us who need it.

      3 users thanked author for this post.
      • #191137 Reply

        walker
        AskWoody Lounger

        @oldbiddy:  I too have vision problems and this sounds like an excellent way to assist those with handicaps.  I am going to subscribe to this topic in hopes that the “subscribe” will be functional and send me e-mail notifications.   Any step which saves time will help those of us who need it.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #191051 Reply

      Lori
      AskWoody Plus

      Thanks for this new forum! Such a quick response after asking @elly how she dealt with sitting long periods at a computer with her health issues. And if she had any computer tips for disabled persons. Though my illness isn’t as severe yet, I have similar issues and much weakness. It’s quite challenging. I live alone, and can’t leave the house much; so my computer is a life-line–whether it’s to pay bills, order needed items, learn, connect with the outside world, or check the Defcon rating! Everyone here, in their kindness and generosity, helps me keep my pc running; and I’m truly grateful.

      I admire Elly’s frankness and honesty, as many people are disabled and deal as best they can; but often silently. Illness and disability is often a “language” unto itself, where those who “speak” it seem to have a mutual understanding that often requires no literal words. Each person’s needs are quite diverse, and often the world doesn’t know what to do or how to act with us. Or ignores us. Not intentionally, more of a “language” barrier! 🙂

      Not knowing this would generate a forum, at that point, I was so weary of sitting up at my computer, but needed to use it longer. My upper body is weak and tires out. Also my laptop screen sits below my eye level (but good height to type); then I lean forward and down to see it, which adds to problems. (Though all my top menu bars force my vision down, so part is on me!)

      After some thought, I guess it’s not only suggestions on ways to make computer usage easier and more pain-free, for the variety of issues disabled persons have. Though, that’s an enormous part! I think it’s also, for non-tech people like me, how to better understand, use, and set up their computer so that the time spent on it is more productive, efficient and enjoyable. I already find so much helpful software, shortcuts, article links… that I can trust. And I originally ended here cause of GWX! 🙂 Thanks!

      1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #191139 Reply

      walker
      AskWoody Lounger

      @oldbiddy:   Well, I just checked and I am shown as already being “subscribed”, however I am not receiving any notifications, as I mentioned in the other message.    I hope this can be corrected, as it takes so much longer trying to find new comments on various topics.   I hope someone who knows what the problem is will help.     🙁

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #191159 Reply

        geekdom
        AskWoody Plus

        Next best thing:
        https://www.askwoody.com/forums/view/topics-freshness/

        Group G{ot backup} Win7 · x64 · SP1 · i3-3220 · TestBeta
        2 users thanked author for this post.
        • #191483 Reply

          walker
          AskWoody Lounger

          @geekdom:  Thank you so much for the link you referenced.   I do see it on the right side of the menu, so that would certainly be a wonderful help to me at this point in time!!  I sincerely appreciate your help, and I’m sure that others who have had this problem appreciate it as well.   Thank you once again for your help!    🙂

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #191817 Reply

            OldBiddy
            AskWoody Lounger

            I’m pretty new to using these forums though I’ve been reading them for some time. I hope to learn more myself.

    • #191357 Reply

      OscarCP
      AskWoody Plus

      I am rather new to this forum and have not yet used some of its features. Does one subscribe to a forum like this one? If so, how?

      Thanks.

       

    Please follow the -Lounge Rules- no personal attacks, no swearing, and politics/religion are relegated to the Rants forum.

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