Making Technology accessible for the Disabled

12 May

Today (after something awful like a Compilers exam… but we won’t go into that) I was off to a Software Engineering group meeting, where they invite speakers on topics of interest and cutting-edge (or firing-line, whichever way you see it 😉 ) SE issues. We had a lovely man from Dundee telling us about his research. ‘Twas interesting…

1. Apparently far too much of SE nowadays is: Too much time coding and not enough time getting requirements. Coding nowadays is trivial, as evidenced by the miriad of stuff we get that we neither need nor want, but is all coded up very prettily, and usually works. It’s finding out about the ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ thats the actual problem.

2. Usability vs accessibility: There is a vast difference. Something can be completely accessible (passing all the w3c standards, etc) and yet be completely unusable. And yeah, that’s tremendously helpful to an older person (or any person for that matter). There is not any legislation that demands something be ‘usable’! (Long may that continue, in my opinion! ‘To be usable’ is far too vague a requirement to be fairly legislated for. However, I do see what he is getting at: the functionality is pointless if we cannot use it.)

3. ‘Theatre’s’ are good: role-playing through example scenario’s can be extremely helpful in getting older people to engage and tell us what we need to know in order to make their lives easier in a way they are happy with. If you just ask them straight out, everything is “very good” and they “like” it. It’s getting the engagement, and getting them to realise what information we need them to give us that is crucial.

4. Outlook allows you to do about 280 things from the front page alone.

For someone not technologically literate, they “start reading from the top left”. To be truthful, this was how I started out myself. It takes forever to actually figure out how to do what you wanted to do, and proly by that time you’re so confused by everything you’re ready to give up in despair. So, even though I’m not old – yet – I must say I was very tempted by their little email client, that um… allowed you to send emails. There was only around 8 different things you could do.

I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the whole bells-and-whistles functionality myself. I *just hate* having 20 functions visible when I only want 1. I would rather the extra free screen space (especially on my pda) rather than having so much room taken up, just for the odd 1 in 1,000,000 time that I actually do want to change the language to Mongolian. Ok, by all means have the functionality around, so that if I really want it, I can invest 3 minutes googling to find out how to get it, rather than planting it under my nose every single time I *don’t* want to use it. It’s my screen-space; why can’t I choose how I use it?

Anyways, *really* back to studying now… Security and Cryptography exam on Monday.

Ps: On the way up to the meeting I ran into Muffy. She stopped me to ask how the exams were going. Dunno why, but I never feel entirely comfortable talking to Muffy. She’s really friendly and all, and she really makes an effort to show she’s interested, but I don’t have the foggiest clue why she (or anyone) should be interested in some measley wee student.

I always get the impression that she has rather high expectations. When I showed her the exam I’d just sat, she read each question going “Oh, that’s easy” and “You’ll have done fine”. I’m like, “Um, yeah, that’s why I’m shaking in my boots about having failed it right now”. And I remembered just a split second too late about the stupid reminder-comment I’d written next to one of the questions. I could have sunk through the floor when she started laughing at my “do not do the loop as much as possible”. As Julie would describe it, it was a very ‘Scottish’ exam: I did a lot of havering in it 😉

I also told her about the Agilent job. She seemed favourable to the idea, though expressing great surprise that GT had not bothered to offer me a job. Was nice to chat though.

1 Comment

Posted by on Friday, May 12, 2006 in selfish



One response to “Making Technology accessible for the Disabled

  1. Grant

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    We had a lovely man from Dundee telling us about his research.

    Surely you didn’t need to include the word “lovely” since that can be surmised from the “Dundee” part?


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