Giant Thought Motherload Comin’ In

I’ve had a few things I’ve wanted to write down, but I’ve been kinda busy and when I’ve had a second, I didn’t have the focus I wanted. Now I think I have what I need to write.

Speaking of being busy, I’m still pretty busy right now, so the new template will have to wait a bit longer. Damn life getting in the way of geekery. But one way or another, it will be done. We didn’t do all that labeling for nothing.

Last week was the big week when I needed to carpool to Kitchener, and man that made the days so much less exhausting. I was still tired at the end of the day, but it was normal tired, not jesus I need to hit the bed as soon as I get home because I have to get up with the roosters tired. And I was only tired at the end of the day. All day, I felt like I had heaps of energy, and could do a lot better than I did last time. Last time, every little thing felt like a giant effort, and I was constantly angry at myself that I needed to be poked and prodded along because I was so tired that I was running in survival mode. This time, I actually had a functioning brain, which makes testing a website way easier. I also had motivation to do what I could when I got home at night, which helped us get things done just a wee bit faster.

I looked through the archive to see if I’d mentioned anything about what it felt like working for Desire2Learn and I hadn’t, and that’s a shame! It was amazing both times. The people working at this company are nothing short of awesome. It’s an amazing feeling to provide input to such a receptive group of people who get what I’m talking about. Not only that, but they actually put JAWS on one of their laptops so I could read my own notes at the meeting. That is just cream of awesome. They never made me feel like I was a burden if I needed a bit of help finding something. I truly felt like I was one of their equals and nobody was all nervous because of the blind guy factor.

Not only did I have a great experience personally, but they really care about making sure their site works for all. So, if you find yourself going to school and taking a course that has an online learning component and it’s powered by Desire2Learn, chances are you’ll have no trouble with the interface.

You know, before doing this, I never really thought about how I surfed the web. I just did it. But explaining to someone else what makes things easier really made me break it down, and I realized it’s all about patterns. Then it doesn’t seem so mystifying anymore. But it was an interesting process coming to the place where I would consciously think about what I already knew deep down.

Not only did I have a good week there, I think Trixie did too. You should have seen her when we got out of the car the first day and she recognized her surroundings. There was a hop, a skip, and then she knew. She even basically remembered where my desk was. I took her harness off so folks could say hello to her, and she spotted…the man with the homemade treats! Oh my my my, how a tail can wag wag wag. I think he enjoyed coming over and giving her some love every day. I know she enjoyed her time with him.

It’s amazing how much things have changed for us since the last time I took her there. That time, I kept her in harness most of the time because we were in a giant mass of cubicles and I was afraid she’d go pester some random person she decided she liked. But this time, I trustedher enough that I felt comfortable taking her leash and harness off so she could chill. I think the hardest thing she had to deal with was watching out for people coming over to watch me test stuff and wheeling in chairs to sit down. Ah but she seemed to enjoy that too.

I was surprised at how tired she was when we’d get home each night. I thought when I got home, she would go nuts and want to run and play and do all kinds of stuff. But she spent most of the evenings sleeping. It’s not like she never got any sleep at work. I can think of at least two instances where she slept so deeply, she dream barked. Why did one of them have to be during my presentation? Trixie, am I really that boring?

Here’s aquestion for everybody with woofs. One day when she was giving her favourite man at the office some love, he noticed there was something on one of her paws. He said “I think it’s gum!” I couldn’t even find it, I guess it was between her pads. He got a kleenex and got it off after some effort, starting to wonder if it wasn’t gum after all. But it was. So…anybody got any tips on how to extricate gum from a dog’s paw? And hey gum-spitter-outer, I’ve got a great idea. Put your gum in the garbage can, ya litterbug.

Something happened to me the other day that was another one of those things that makes me raise my eyebrows. Trixie and I were chuckin’ along like we do, and a woman said “What’s your puppy’s name?” I said it was Trixie. then she said “Will she pull you if I call her?”


Let’s try and address that sentence in the most logical way you can. If she wants to call her, as in “hi Trixie, c’mere, kissy kissy kis kiss”, what does she want the dog to do? She wants the dog to come to her! Is it a good idea to beckon a guide dog? No, no, no no no no no! Unless you’re working with the handler to test the dog’s ability to resist destraction, never call a service dog to you! It’s working! If it does respond to your calls, it will likely get corrected faster than you could say “Here puppy!”

On the other side of the coin, if you don’t think the dog will be phased by your beckoning noises, why bother? You just look like a dork calling a working dog. It’s not going to accomplish anything.

I had to take a couple of seconds to come up with a response that didn’t involve calling her a moron or something equally bad. I managed to say “It’s never a good idea to call a working dog.” as we continued to walk by. Some people are odd ducks.

For the last couple of weeks, our apartment building has done something weird. A few months ago, they had speakers put in the lobby and they’d pipe one of the local radio stations through them. I’m not a big fan of the music, but oh well. It’s the kind of stuff you hear at dentist offices and places where you have to picka middle ground in the music department. but it was cool to have on because sometimes you’d catch a weather forecast or a bit of news or something as you were zipping through the lobby.

Now, they’ve decided that a radio station is not good. Oh no, not at all. What have they replaced the radio station with? Of all the things to choose, they’ve settled on a loop of those horrible instrumental replications of the kinds of songs that used to play on the radio station that used to come through those same speakers. So, instead of hearing the real song, we get to hear that song as synthesized by a bunch of pianos and guitars if you’re lucky, midi synthesizers if you’re not. Steve has talked about this, and did a better job than I’m doing. I think I have to say the songs I hate the most that play on this thing are “The Glory of Love”, “It must Have Been Love”, “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?” and Take My Breath Away.” Oh, I also can’t stand “Stand By Me.”

This shouldn’t bug me. You probably think I’m insane for even caring. After all, it’s a lobby. Nobody spends more than a few seconds in there. they’re always on their way somewhere. but you see, I’m going through that lobby at least 4 times a day to take Trixie to go pee, so I get more of a dose of that crap than your average joe does. Plus, I tend to notice more stuff.

what bugs me even more than when I recognize a song and then notice all the places where they did it wrong is when I can’t for the life of me figure out what song they’re trying to butcher. As I go about what I’m there to do, it’s like a big game, and I’m losing. My brain can almost figure out what song it is, but not quite. The elevator arrives or I go out the dor, and I still haven’t figured out what that damn song is.

As I was doing all that labeling, I realized something while looking at the advocacy label. There are few things that I actually followed up on. I have to change that. I do have to say I did follow up on one thing. I asked where my follow-up call went concerning my troubles with the Do Not Call List site.

first, I checked to see if they had implemented an audio solution for their captcha. they hadn’t. I checked to see if there was a “hey blind people, call this number or email us or something” link. There wasn’t. so I phoned the number that I’d first called. They told me to email their support address, so I did. I asked them what blind folks are supposed to do about the captcha. I got an email back that said they could call the number I just called and they would register my number.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any more numbers that are mine that need to be registered. Does anyone want to see how good their word is and see if they’ll register a number via the Centre for Excelence as they call it? If you do, call 1-866-791-6601 and say that you can’t do it through the website. It would be preferrable if it was a cell phone number or a fax number that you cant’ get the automated system to recognize, so then that would leave the website as your only option. Ask them if they’d register the number. See what happens. Let me know how it goes. I’m dying to know. Like I said, I’d do this myself, but I dont’ have any numbers left to register.

Let’s keep the advocacy hat on for one more second. I’ve mentioned before that I organize a group that gets together to speak French. This has been a pretty easy task, all thanks to the awesomeness that is the service. for a fee, they will manage all the people’s email addresses, place them on a listserve so we can all talk to each other without knowing each other’s personal details, put up our next times to meet on a website with a little calendar thingy, allow people to RSVP and keep track of it all, and keep a list of the places we’ve been before, along with lots and lots of other cool features. It’s pretty darn cool.

Or I should say it *was* pretty darn cool until they went and deployed a new interface. With the old interface, I could use it with no problem. It was easy as pie. Then, in a flash, it all changed. they went heavy on the java script, light on the ability for anyone to use anything but the mouse.

For people who don’t know, JAWS and its brothers don’t do the mouse. It’s all keyboard, all the time. You can simulate a mouse click, but it’s far harder to do that and it doesn’t always work.

Suddenly I couldn’t pick a meetup place or set any of the settings. Everything acted as if you couldn’t click it. Thanks to some fancy footwork and astute observations by technically-minded folk, I managed to schedule my next Meetup. But that’s no guarantee of success the next time I want to schedule one.

so, being the pesky person that I am, I emailed them. this is what I said.

Hello. I am an organizer of a Meetup group. Ever since you changed your interface, I cannot easily select a location or expand settings areas. I use the keyboard, cannot use the mouse, and use a screen-reader to read the contents of the screen. I have a meetup I’d like to schedule in draft form because I cannot select a location and will need to solicit sighted help to do it. Is there a way I can switch back to your old interface? Would you like help in testing your interface for accessibility, or perhaps a demonstration on how someone navigates the web using a screen-reader? I would be more than happy to assist if I could.

thanks in advance for any help.


Several hours later, I got this simultaneously helpful and not helpful response.

Hi Carin,

I’m really sorry this is happening…! Screen readers don’t always work as well with JavaScript. There’s really no way to go back to the old interface, as we’re constantly updating the site with new features. But I did change a setting on your account which might help. I permanently expanded the tabs for when you’re on the “Schedule a Meetup” page, so that might help.

I also suggest that you contact the folks who developed your screenreader. Perhaps they can suggest a way to optimize it.

I found this really detailed article which might help:

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Ok, first, I’m thankful that the person went in and changed my settings. At least, for now, I should be able to continue using the site. I am also thankful that the person didn’t tell me to get an assistant organizer to click my mouse for me. Lots of people like to suggest stuff like that. It’s an easy out, and it’s not good enough. so I’m very thankful that the person didn’t choose that avenue.

But here’s where I get a little mad. If they knew that java+screen-reader may equal bad, why not have their new java tested by someone to make sure it would work for all? Why roll out something that they knew would screw users, paying users I might add, over? Nice forward thinking there guys.

Second, I have no problem contacting the makers of JAWS with my problem, but I’m not a super code monkey. I can tell them the site doesn’t work, but I can’t tell them why. These people know why. Why can’t *they* fix it?

I still have to read the article that they linked me to. Maybe it would shed some light.

Edit: It was an article for developers! What am I supposed to do with that? It is teaching me a bit about what java scripts are cool and which ones are not, but it’s written for the ones who *write* the code, not little old me, the end user. Way to go, Idaho!

But I just couldn’t believe they already knew their interface was inaccessible for some and rolled it out anyway. I guess not everybody is half as cool as Desire2Learn.

I wrote an email back. We’ll see if I get a response. It said:

Thanks. I’ll give all of this a try.

I appreciate you finding this stuff, but I would truly appreciate it more if
you had any new changes to the interface checked for accessibility *before*
they are deployed. I’m not the only user of a screen-reader who uses your
site, and not the only one paying you money. What if next time you deployed
a new change, you decided to go withall flash and didn’t label it? That
wouldn’t go over so well, and I would be sad to have to bid you farewell
because you do offer a really great service.

Thanks for your help. I’ll give all of this a try. I am using the latest
version of the screen-reader. I’ll submit a suggestion to JAWS and see if
they will do anything, but since I’m not a developer, I don’t know exactly
what to tell them except “I can’t use it!” That doesn’t exactly go miles and
miles to finding a solution.

Thanks again.


so let’s see if I can follow this to its end. Failing that, does anyone know of a comparable service to Meetup? I would hate to have to do this, but I may have to port the group over to a service that I can use successfully. I mean, what good is Meetup to me if I can’t, uh, schedule a meetup?

I think that’s everything. Gees, that took me forever to write. A big heap of congrats go to everyone who stuck with this to the end. You’re awesome.

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