University of Michigan

Accessibility Testing Newsletter > 06.28.2013

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The Accessibility Testing Newsletter is a twice-monthly publication (second and fourth Fridays) intended to supplement training provided through the Accessible Apps project. It will contain information of use to both programmers and non-programmers. The Newsletter is sent automatically to AIS staff, to the Web Accessibility Working Group (WAWG), and to other U-M personnel by request. Please send comments or questions to Jane Vincent, Assistive Technology Lead,

Refresher: Magnification Technology

The ability to make text larger is an important accommodation for many people with less than 20/20 vision, as well as for some people with learning and cognitive disabilities. While there are hardware magnifiers that can be placed over a monitor, software modifications provide a far greater range of options (and they don't smudge or distort images).

There are a number of magnification tools available:

Both Windows and Mac have built-in strategies: Magnifier in Windows 7 and Zoom in Mountain Lion.

Most browsers, including Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer, have a built-in zoom feature.

Third-party magnification tools include MAGic (Windows; the program is currently available on Sites PCs, and will soon be provided in a vastly improved version) and ZoomText (Windows and Mac). These programs usually have additional features such as speech output, sophisticated color display options, and different display modes (such as magnifying only the line that currently has focus).

Keep in mind that the use of magnification technology doesn't compensate for using a default text size that's very small. This text may fail to be sufficiently large when blown up to the user's generally preferred size, and if it's enlarged further other text may appear too big.

Problem of the Week: AccessKeys

I always used to hear that providing 'access keys' was a good accessibility practice. Now somebody told me that they can cause more problems than they solve. What gives?

Access keys are a way to let users move focus to a particular area of the page, such as a button or form field. While similar in spirit to the skip-nav function, their implementation strategy is different: instead of simply providing a link, accesskeys are assigned to a single keystroke that, when pressed, moves the focus to a defined element. As the HTML 4.01 specification explains, 'Pressing an access key assigned to an element gives focus to the element. The action that occurs when an element receives focus depends on the element. For example, when a user activates a link defined by the A element, the user agent generally follows the link. When a user activates a radio button, the user agent changes the value of the radio button. When the user activates a text field, it allows input, etc.'

Unfortunately, access keys were sometimes a better idea in theory than practice. It was tricky to educate users about their existence and provide a consistent place for them to look up a list of keys for the page they were on. There was no widespread effort to create consistent definitions for assigning access keys (e.g., always using "G" to move to a Go button), so users couldn't expect to apply their knowledge of one site to another. And access keys often had the same definition as keyboard commands within screen readers or other assistive technologies, causing frustrating conflicts.

Guideline 9.5 in WCAG 1.0 read, 'Provide keyboard shortcuts to important links (including those in client-side image maps), form controls, and groups of form controls.' When WCAG 2.0 was released, the implementation of access keys no longer had its own guideline. Instead, they are mentioned as a possible way to comply with guideline 2.4.1 (Bypass Blocks: A mechanism is available to bypass blocks of content that are repeated on multiple Web pages) but detailed information is not provided.

Technical information about accesskeys is provided on WebAIM's Keyboard Accessibility page, along with a perspective on their use:

'Even if some people do not benefit from accesskey shortcuts--and as long as accessibility is not compromised for these people--perhaps it is best to provide accesskey shortcuts where appropriate, rather than deprive everyone of their potentially useful functionality.'

Answer to 6/14 Quiz Question: Text Transcripts, Part 2: Access to Visual Elements

Background: WCAG Success Criterion 1.2.1 cites a transcript as one way to provide access to information that is only presented in audio or visual form. If significant information is only presented visually, audio description is a way to convey this information to individuals who have visual disabilities.

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) has published an evolving set of guidelines for audio description. The summary for these guidelines includes principles such as the following:

If you wish to add captioning or audio description to the actual video, the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) lists a wide range of useful resources.


1) Media Access Australia provided an audio description transcript of a hunting scene from Hunger Games:

Signs on a tall wire fence read 'District boundary: no access beyond this point' and 'high voltage'. Katnis steps through a gap in the wires and into the woods beyond. She glances around before reaching into the hollow of a fallen tree. She draws out a wooden bow. From another tree she plucks out a sheath of arrows and straps it over her shoulder.

Katnis makes her way through thick, green vegetation. Bow and arrow at the ready, she walks over a fallen tree suspended over the forest floor. She pauses, her gaze locked on a deer in the distance. Leaning against a tree trunk, she aims the bow and arrow. The deer sniffs the air and moves out of sight.

2) The full ACB document includes a sample transcript from a video called 'Storm Reading.' Below is the section of the transcript from the section of video shown at the Audio Description Associates website (scroll to the next to last video)

NOTE: Cues/original script material in BOLD; descriptions preceded by ">>."

>>Watercolor patches on a white screen -- from the left, a deep orange brush
>>stroke, a thin blue stroke, bordering an area of yellow at the right, with
>>white at the bottom.

>>Against this bright background, a hand in silhouette emerges from the
>>bottom. It disappears. Now, the shadow of a man's head in profile.
>>Unfolding his body slowly, Neil Marcus rises. He steadies himself, gaining
>>the control needed to stand upright. His full silhouette rises upward -
>>his legs form an upside-down V shape in black with his right foot pointed in,
>>toward his left.

>>More of the background images come into view -- at left, a dark blue; at the
>>top, on the right, a rich green.

>>Neil's left arm, his hand clenched in a fist, bursts upward -- his right arm is
>>thrust across his body, pointing to his left. They remain posed, still, in
>>silhouette against the bright watercolor images, as titles appear: Access
>>Theater's Storm Reading, a drawing of a dense cloud at top, a thunderbolt
>>striking the "O" in Storm. The audience area lights fade to black.

>>Now, Neil, in a motorized wheelchair, sports a full but neatly trimmed beard,
>>black hair, and wears a blue turtleneck and brown slacks -- in the center of a
>>small stage in front of a light blue backdrop.

NEIL: People are watching me. They're watching me all the time...

>>Stage lights rise to full revealing large blue-lit panels circling the stage area.
>>Katie, a tall brunette in a flowing lavender dress, joins Neil from the right
>>and signs as he speaks.

3) This Youtube link is a video excerpt from Hamlet. Note that the audio description only occurs when there is no dialogue.

Question: How would you caption the visual information in this Youtube video?

Answer: Below is one option. Note that this would need to be pared down if this were synchronized with the video, so as not to interfere with the spoken narration.

(Woman starts bike ride)
(Couple get out of cab and cross street at night)
(Two men begin jogging)
(Group of friends wait in line)
(Man browses shelf in bookstore)
(Three women run towards Pinball Pete's arcade)
(Group of people start canoeing)
(Two young men laugh and walk into Encore Records)
(Waitress serves three friends at a table)
(Two women select tomatoes at the Farmer's Market as man looks on)
(Man looks around bookstore)
(Group of friends runs towards a concert)
(Three young people bicycle down a street)
(Couple walk down a staircase and begin dancing)
(Two men continue to jog, stop to look at map, then one gestures to the other to start running again)
(Two women look around the arcade, then one puts money in a slot. Game balls fall into a chute. A bubble hockey game in action. The two women try to win a prize from a claw machine.)
(Trays on a cafeteria line. Cooks flip hamburgers.)
(Man from bookstore orders and eats a sandwich at Frita Batidos)
(Three friends exchange plates of food. One of the women feeds the man from her fork)
(Young man browses records and listens through headphones while laughing with his friend)
(Woman is helped onto concert stage and jumps around)
(Canoers deliberately splash each other)
(Concert goers boogie across street)
(Woman holds tangle of paper strips)
(Concert goers watch a break dancer in an alley, then pose and howl with werewolf violinist)
(Couple run hand in hand)
(Student sits and reads under tree)
(Joggers run across bridge)
(Concert goers discuss menu)
(Couple buys popcorn and soda, then sits down inside Michigan Theater)
(Women from arcade buy sodas then walk outside)
(Canoers sit on pier)
(Concert goers walk out of Fleetwood Diner)
(Women canoer puts an arm around the friend at each side. Canoers splash their feet in the water, then talk on the grass while the sun sets. )
(Couple stands in front of movie theater)
(Title card: Explore Ann Arbor)
(Woman from the first scene rides bike past campus)
([transcript of credits])
(U-M logo and #exploreA2 hashtag)

6/28 Quiz Question: Readability

Background: Readability is intimately and irrevocably comingled with the eschewance of obfuscation in scrivenation. Its very existence ameliorates the daily undertaking of each and every member of the populace, whether near at hand or flung far o'er the seven seas.

Or, if you prefer, readability is tied to clear writing and benefits everyone.

The Flesch Reading Ease test is a commonly used way to check the readability of a text passage. This test evaluates text based on sentence length and number of words with three or more syllables, and returns a numeric score between 0 and 100. The higher the number, the more readable the passage--utter bureaucratese would be near 0, while first-grade primers would be close to 100. A score of 60 represents a good target for websites that will be used by a varied audience, including people with learning disabilities, those for whom English is a second language, etc.

The Juicy Studio Readability Test can be used to determine the Flesch score and other readability measurements for a page. One caveat is that it checks the entire page, so that menus, legal information, etc. may be averaged into its score. If you only want to check parts of a given page, you can get satisfactory results from Word via the following steps:


The following examples have low (bad) Flesch scores:

Sample Non-Disclosure Agreement (39.43)

The 1996 Winners of the Philosophy and Language Bad Writing Contest (38.45, averaged)

The following examples have high (good) Flesch scores:

Genesis, Chapter 1, King James Version (79.35)

Gettysburg Address (71.47)

The Pond in Winter (excerpt from Walden) (80.37)

IRS: Your Rights as a Taxpayer (90.00) (yes, really)

Question: The following passages have low Flesch scores. If you rewrote them to increase their readability, what would the result look like?

1) Operationally, teaching effectiveness is measured by assessing the levels of agreement between the perceptions of instructors and students on the rated ability of specific instructional behavior attributes which were employed during course instruction. Due to the fact that instructors come from diverse backgrounds and occupy different positions within a given university, both individual and organizational based factors may contribute to the variance in levels of agreement between perceptions. (From Snippets: Some Examples of Bad Writing for Your Amusement and Horror.)

2) Investigators at the contractor will review the facts in your case and decide the most appropriate course of action. The first step taken with most Medicare health care providers is to reeducate them about Medicare regulations and policies. If the practice continues, the contractor may conduct special audits of the providers medical records. Often, the contractor recovers overpayments to health care providers this way. If there is sufficient evidence to show that the provider is consistently violating Medicare policies, the contractor will document the violations and ask the Office of the Inspector General to prosecute the case. This can lead to expulsion from the Medicare program, civil monetary penalties, and imprisonment. (From Spoiler alert: a rewrite is also provided on this page.)

3) Objects from the park's museum collection are loaned only for the purposes of exhibition, research, scientific preparation, analysis, photography, conservation, or other requested services. Loans are made to educational institutions (e.g., NPS park museums, non-NPS museums, historical societies, universities and other organizations); service-providing organizations (e.g., non-NPS and NPS conservation and analytical laboratories or exhibit preparation firms or contractors providing these services); and other National Park Service divisions, offices, or units. Only cataloged objects can be loaned to institutions for exhibit purposes. If objects loaned for research purposes are not cataloged, they must be adequately documented through another means (i.e., field specimen log for archeological collections). Objects loaned for conservation purposes must be cataloged, unless the conservation treatment is necessary to assist with the preparation of the material for identification purposes. (From; link provided to a rewrite.)

Evaluation Tool Tip: Using Amara to Provide Transcripts

Amara is a helpful tool for adding captions or subtitles to videos. It includes four steps: Typing (type out the caption text), Sync (synchronize the captions to the audio), Edit Title and Description (a chance to add or edit the video's title and description), and Check your Work (a final chance to tweak the captions if necessary).

The free version doesn't let you add captions to a video you don't own, such as a YouTube video that you might want to use in class. However, you can still use Amara to facilitate the process of creating a transcript:

1) Paste the URL for the video you want to transcribe into the 'Add a Video' box and activate the 'Subtitle' button.

2) Activate the 'Subtitle Me' button.

3) A language selection dialog box comes up. Choose the original language of the video and the language you want to use for captions, and activate the 'Continue' button.

4) Follow the instructions for the Typing step.

5) Once you've finished typing all information (remember to hit Enter after the last line), copy all the text.

6) Paste the text into Word or whatever format you plan to use to provide the transcript.

If you want to include timing information for the captions, you can go through the next step (Sync) and then copy the text.

You can also go through all the steps, which will return you to the main Amara page with a "View Subtitles" link. Click this link, then on the next page choose the "Download" combo box. Choose TXT (text format), and a transcript will download to a file that does not include timing information.

For the Accessible Apps team:
Pam Fons, Scott Williams, Jane Vincent, John Cady