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STC Accessibility Webinar event summary (Nov. 13, 2021)

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Ten dedicated technical writers learned the importance and tools to ensure digital accessibility over Zoom on Saturday, Nov. 13th.  After a greeting from our President, Joel Basart, host Heather Summerville introduced guest presenter Helen Glavina—Senior Content Specialist at Sage Software. 

Glavina began by defining digital accessibility, with an emphasis on websites, as: people with disability can equally perceive, understand, navigate, and interact with websites and tools, and to contribute equally without barriers.  She then introduced the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), the internationally accepted standard for web accessibility that was initially developed in 1999 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).  The current edition is WCAG 2.2, published in 2021.

This set of guidelines are for technical writers to produce accessible contents for users of all types of barriers: physical (visual, hearing, speech), mental, cognitive, and neurological (ADHD, dyslexia, etc.).  Forms of accessible content may include having subtitles or audio description, tagged contents and images with alternate texts that can be read with screen readers, and distinguished text for users with colour blindness, so the users can navigate the web and other applications alone.  

Glavina addressed the common accessibility barriers that people with disabilities face: text with low low color contract, images that missing alternative text, empty links, lack of Input labels, and contents that screen readers cannot read.  She recommended technical and content writers to follow local or global content accessibility guidelines such as the latest version of WCAG, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (for the province of Ontario), EU Web and Mobile Accessibility Directive (est. 2016), and the UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (est. 2007) to increase content accessibility for people with disabilities. 

Glavina then listed tools and ways to analyze accessibility contents, including MadCap Flare for web contents and PDF to include captions and summaries in tables, and alternative texts for links and images.  She then demonstrated how to use the accessibility checker function on MS Word, PowerPoint, Teams, Adobe Acrobat, Camtasia (speech to text), Siteimprove (website content analysis).  She also introduced plug-ins such as WebAim’s WAVE, Axe-Care, and WCAG Accessibility.

Glavina advised technical writers on tips to success in writing accessible contents: take advantage of built-in accessibility features, use multiple tools, including screen reader and keyboard, to check for accessibility; and continue to learn and improve on accessibility, including taking the Information Accessibility on the Web course at online academy edX.  She then encouraged participants to explore the W3C website and other websites and other resources she mentioned to learn more about accessibility contents.

Finally, she introduced the Tech4Good Awards for companies that do the right thing, and she praised the Barclays Bank, which offers in-person and web services for people with visual or hearing impairment.  She held a questions and answers session for about ten minutes after her presentation. 

Both Summerville and Basart thanked Glavina for her time and presentation, and the participants for their patience and involvement.

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