Inclusive Tech Links, 5 April 2017

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5 ways to make your tech neurodiversity-inclusive

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I recently wrote ‘5 Ways to Make Your Tech Neurodiversity-Inclusive‘ for NOS Magazine! You’ll recognise some of the advice from this blog here, along with a few new tips about colour contrast, readable typography, autoplaying videos and more.

Category: Accessibility

Be mindful of regional date and time formatting

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This entry is related to ‘Use flexible date and time formats‘. Every region and language has its own standard for formatting dates and times. If you get it wrong, or assume that only one format exists within a language, then you may end up annoying – or worse, confusing – your users.

What not to do:

Behance, an online portfolio site run by Adobe, seems to have its date format hard-coded to the US ‘Month Day Year’ format regardless of what your language is set to. As you can see here, my user interface is temporarily set to French. The date says ‘Membre depuis le mai 11, 2013′ (member since 11 May 2013). This is wrong for French; it should be ’11 mai 2013’. If you’re going to have non-English text on your site, do not hard-code the month/day/year format. In most languages, the month does not precede the day; they use a logical format from smallest to largest (day/month/year) or largest to smallest (year/month/day). This is from Adobe, not a tiny company run by two people with a lot of work and very little time. We’re talking about a multi-million-dollar company with enough time and resources to get this right.

 

A screenshot from the online portfolio site Behance. The site is set to French. The bottom text says 'Membre depuis Mai 11, 2013'. This is incorrect for French.

Actually, even if your site is only in English, you should still be careful about date formatting, since the English-speaking world doesn’t use one date format. Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and most other English-speaking countries use the day-month-year format; the US, some of English-speaking Canada, the Philippines and Belize use month-day-year.

Even if your site is going to be used only in the US, there may be the likelihood that your site will be written in Spanish, or in some regions, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Brazilian Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic or another language spoken by a large immigrant population. The same rules still apply: make sure your date-formatting system can accommodate these languages.

Just don’t hard-code month/day/year. It’s culturally insensitive. If you’re going to hard-code any date format, hard-code year/month/day.

Brief updates – the good, the bad and the fascinating

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Dropbox has been called out here before for date format foolishness, but they seem to be improving their internationalisation ever so slowly. If you look at the language drop-down, there are two English options now – hopefully that means English date formats will no longer default to Month/Day/Year. (They’ve also done it right by retroactively labelling English US for what it is, instead of having ‘English’ and ‘English UK’.) I want to say Latin American Spanish was added recently too, but I could be wrong.

iOS 9 has added some new language features, including a new Chinese system font, dictation support for more languages, Finnish and Korean spellcheckers, French/English and German/English bilingual dictionaries, improved Japanese autocorrect, predictive text for a variety of languages including Korean, Russian and Turkish, Canadian English and Canadian French user interfaces, and the option to switch between Arabic and Hindi number systems (h/t Multilingual Mac).

OS X El Capitan (10.11) has just added some new Eastern language support features as well, including the same Chinese system font that is now in iOS 9. There’s also new dictation for Arabic and Hebrew. No news of any new French, English or Hindi localisations – it’s Apple’s inconsistent internationalisation, yet again (and out of step with their other products and other operating systems).

Windows 10 had some localisation-related fail during the upgrading process, that required people to set their OS to English (US) in order to upgrade it properly. You shouldn’t have to change your system language in order to upgrade your computer, especially if you don’t speak English as a primary language. Good job, Microsoft. (That was sarcasm.)

Proloquo2Go is now available in Spanish! More info. There are bilingual English/Spanish children’s voices included with the new Spanish localisations, which are probably targeted towards the large bilingual Latino/Hispanic community in the US. (Interestingly, the boy’s voice has a recognisable Spanish-speaking accent when speaking English, whereas the girl’s voice has a recognisable American accent when speaking Spanish.) Adult voices come in Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish versions.

People on any region format other than US will not be able to see Apple’s News app on iOS 9 until iOS 9.1 – and I think that’s just for the UK and Australian region formats. (I know people are saying ‘people in other countries can’t see it’, but it’s tied to region format, not geographical location; anybody can set their region format to any country or language they want on an iOS device, and it doesn’t even have to match the UI language. You can set your region format to one language and have your phone set to a different language and your keyboard on another. Remember that when you set up an iOS device for the first time, it asks your language and region separately. I’ve seen screenshots of phones set to English but the region format set to Turkish.)

Skype In Your Language is a community-supported project for Windows and Linux that provides Skype localisations for languages and dialects that aren’t officially part of Skype releases. Not for the Mac, unfortunately – there’s no easy way to do unsupported localisations on OS X.

TalkTablet is an AAC (Assistive and Augmentative Communication) app that comes in iOS, Android and Kindle editions. It’s also available in multiple languages, unlike Proloquo2Go which is only available in English and Spanish.

Proloquo2Go and language – where assistive tech and language meet

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It’s always good to talk about the ways developers have improved their offerings – it’s a nice breath of fresh air after finding so many issues.

AssistiveWare’s Proloquo2Go is an iOS app for assistive and augmentative communication – it’s a text-to-speech app that allows people who need help with speech, or who can’t speak, to communicate with other people. One of the major advantages of using Proloquo2Go with an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch is that it’s a lot cheaper than using a dedicated text-to-speech device like a Dynavox (which is a Windows PC with specialised text-to-speech software installed, and costs about three times as much as a basic iPad if not more).

Proloquo2Go has recently added vocabulary sets for British and Australian English. In the past they had voices for multiple English dialects, but all the vocabulary and spellings for the selected items was American, which led to people having the right accent, but having the wrong words to talk about things without somebody going in and editing the default vocabulary sets. People can now talk about their school holidays instead of vacations, eat crisps instead of potato chips and have cars represented with the steering wheel on the right instead of the left for people who live in left-hand drive countries. It took them a few years to do this, but I’m glad it’s been done. Any move away from a development mindset that assumes the USA is the sum total of the English-speaking world is a positive move that deserves praise here. (Now, if only you had an option to change the voices installed at default, so you don’t have default American voices even if you’re set to English Australia, and have to re-install your preferred accented voices every time you update the application.)

They’re also starting to expand beyond English, adding a Spanish option. Like the English option, there will be different vocabulary settings for different Spanish dialects, so both Spanish and Latin American speakers can use the words that make the most sense for them. The Spanish translation isn’t out yet, but they’re starting work on it. Proloquo2Text, their text-to-speech product for people who don’t need to use symbolic communication, has Spanish voices available, but that’s different from creating a symbolic text-to-speech system that anticipates grammatical usage, contains pre-loaded vocabulary and recognises the cultural nuances that may come up in Spanish-speaking countries.

I’ve got one tiny qualm however – I was playing around with the new English settings to see the difference between the UK and US vocabulary options. Choosing UK English doesn’t change the spellings in the settings (just for the pre-set vocabulary options), so you still see a lot of American spellings in the UI – a lot of missing Us in words like ‘colour’. Let’s be fair though – this may not be AssistiveWare’s fault but Apple’s, however; until iOS 8 it wasn’t possible to distinguish between regional variants of a single language in the UI if you used native iOS tools, unless the application was made by Apple themselves. Maybe this will be changed in a later release, since it’s an easy localisation to make.

Offline translation fail

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A sign announcing the closure of a Boston-area MBTA station on 22 March 2014. The Spanish translation says 'Marzo 22 de 2014' which is incorrect for Spanish.

¿Marzo 22? The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority needs to brush up on their Spanish. The month never goes in front in Spanish; it should be ’22 de marzo de 2014′, not ‘marzo 22’. The US date format is rarely applicable to other languages. Oddly, the date is translated correctly in the body text. Even if it it was a matter of room, one extra ‘de’ would have still worked with the layout they used.

Category: Uncategorised

Subtitling/captioning resources in English, French, Spanish and German

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Here is a roundup of some resources for people who create subtitles or captions for online video (or in some cases, links to subtitled and captioned media). A full article about subtitling and captioning is coming soon, but in the meantime, have a list of resources in English, French and Spanish, along with a link for German-language users of subtitled media. I’m personally limited to the languages I can read, but if readers have other suggestions I’d be glad to add them.

Avoid ‘real names’ policies

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Some website owners, in an effort to control abusive behaviour, require their users to use their ‘real names’ (by which I mean names listed on government identification). This is most notable as a feature of Facebook’s terms and conditions, where people have found their accounts suspended or disabled because they were believed to be using pseudonyms. These policies have been a contentious issue online over the past few years, catalysed by the ‘nymwars’ that happened after the opening of the Google+ social networking service.

Real-names policies come from a valid place of concern – the desire to reduce the amount of trolling and harassment on social-networking sites, forums and comment sections in blogs – but the solution to the problem doesn’t actually come from imposing such a policy. It makes more sense to try to control the behaviour that’s actually problematic, rather than trying to force everybody to use names that match government-issued identification.

Some people have been victims of online harassment and stalking. Forcing victims of domestic abuse and violence to use their legal identities opens them up to identification and harassment from abusers.  Transgender, gender-variant and genderqueer people may not have had their names legally changed via court order or deed poll and may not want to sign up using their birth name. Some people prefer to use the internet to reflect a different aspect of themselves from the persona they present at work. And some people have been banned from ‘real names’ sites simply because they have unfamiliar non-Western names or unusual given or chosen legal names. All these reasons are perfectly valid ones, and are a good reason to reconsider strict ‘real’-name policies.

There’s also a difference between being pseudonymous and anonymous. You can ask your users to use a persistent pseudonym on the site and ban anonymous comments.

Geek Feminism has a comprehensive list of who is harmed by a real-name policy, and My Name is Me has a collection of personal narratives from people who are affected by these policies.

Link roundup: 12 April 2015

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Most of these links are OS X-related for now – I think the next roundup will have a Windows or Linux focus to make up for it.

Be gender-inclusive

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Avoid sexism when marketing your tech product or writing documentation. Despite stereotypes, men are not the only people who use computers.

You can avoid the ‘all competent computer users are male’ assumption by:

  • Using gender-neutral language in your documentation. Don’t use ‘he’ as a generic pronoun to refer to your users – instead of saying something like ‘a user should go to the Preferences menu to choose his settings’, rewrite the sentence to be gender-neutral. In some languages, using ‘he’ as a generic pronoun is typical, but in English, many people consider this offensive or sexist. A good way of doing this is making the subject of the sentence plural, so it reads ‘users should go to the Preferences menu to choose their settings’. You can also use the second person: ‘you should go to the Preferences menu to choose your settings’, or use the singular ‘they’ as a gender-neutral pronoun: ‘a user should go to the Preferences menu to change their settings’. NB: some traditionalists object to the singular-they construction, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
  • Showing different kinds of people using your product if you use images to advertise your application or game. Show people of all genders, not just men. Try to make sure there’s a mixed group of people, so it doesn’t look like tokenisation where you’ve got a single woman in a sea of men.
  • Don’t use women as your image of a novice or non-technical computer user, like guides that write about ‘Linux that your mother can use’. The Geek Feminism wiki has a good article about avoiding making women the stereotype of novice or non-technical computer users, which is worth a read if you’re trying to make your website, game, operating system or application more inclusive. There are men who don’t have a clue what FTP, PHP and Angular are, and there are women who are experts at all those things. Don’t be sexist and pander to tired, hurtful assumptions about the gender of your users.
Category: Gender