"Well-meaning non-disabled people will often say, “oh, but of course I’ll move a chair out of the way if you just ask.” And from their viewpoint, that’s a one-to-one personal issue. But from perspective of us wheelchair users, it’s a one-to-many problem, since we must ask for seating rearrangement every where we go."

Guest Post From Jesse the K: Making Space for Wheelchairs and Scooters

A great post on 1) making space accessible, 2) why accessibility doesn’t just mean being willing to make things accessible when asked. It may be a one-time thing for you, but for the people who are asking, it’s not.

If you’re reading through accessibility stuff, you sometimes run across the tag “a11y.” Looks rather like “ally,” but I soon learned it stood for accessibility….I just didn’t ask myself why. Since I looked it up and found out, I’m sharing it here.

"Accessibility" has 13 letters. Takes up a lot of space as a Twitter hashtag. OTOH, "a11y’ has 4. The "11" in the middle, represents the eleven subtracted letters. Rather clever, very helpful for anything with a character limit.

You have a pair of shoes. They are the first shoes you have ever found that fit like they were made just for your feet and are really nice-looking shoes. In these shoes, you can go about your whole day and your feet and back and legs feel great and never get tired. In these shoes, you can conquer the whole damn world. There’s just one problem with the shoes. They attract attention. The first couple of times people smiled at you and said “Nice shoes” it was pretty flattering, but then things started getting a little out of hand. People would stare at your shoes, wherever you went, in a way that made you feel like you were nothing but a way of displaying your wonderful shoes.

Definitely read the rest of this article for a perspective on approaching service dogs from the owner/handler’s POV.

If your site checks out on all these things, you’re off to a good start.

avfaccessibility:

I do not refer to myself as wheelchair bound as many people will find this term insulting. I am quite capable of getting out of my wheelchair to transfer to chairs, beds, taxis etc. I need to use my wheelchair all day as I have a nasty habit of falling over when I stand up because I have an…

Takeaway 1) “Wheelchair bound” is a loaded word for many people who use wheelchairs. Try to avoid. “wheelchair user” is a fine phrase, which conveys the same point. This person uses a wheelchair and may need to be accommodated.

Takeaway 2) Don’t get judgmental when a person in a wheelchair stands up. Some people are in it for heart or lung conditions, but can briefly stand or walk. Some have degenerative disorders. Some are fully paralyzed. There are tons of reasons someone may be in a wheelchair. Those reasons are not your business to ask. If they stand up to get a book or move to a chair or talk at the reference desk, that doesn’t mean they don’t need the wheelchair at other times.

avfaccessibility:

How many of your staff would know how to guide a blind person? For example would they realise the need to introduce themselves first as a blind person may not see them. Then where should they place the blind person’s arm, would they give suitable guidance instructions, how would they go…

Question for hotels, but it really applies to libraries too…

There are a lot of awesome ways librarians can communicate with patrons with hearing loss. Email and chat reference remove a lot of barriers. There’s always the pencil & paper fallback in person. But what about on the phone?

When I was working as a circulation clerk at a public library, I sometimes had to answer the phone for the entire library and transfer calls as appropriate. One day, a TTY relay call came in for circulation—a patron who wanted to renew their books. I was much more thrown by this than I should have been, simply because it was unexpected and I’d never been prepared/prepared myself for it. The relay operator was helpful, but the minute or two it took me to square the process away in my head was very frustrating to the patron.

After the call, I used the internet to familiarize myself more with the system and came away with a really really basic realization: A relay conversation is exactly the same as any other conversation, except you say “Go ahead.”

That’s it. The relay operator is not a party. They may explain to you how it works before the call (or may not, the person placing the call may choose). You simply have a conversation and, when you’ve finished speaking your sentence or two, you say “Go ahead.”

"Go ahead" is the signal that the other party may speak. Then you wait to hear “Go ahead” again before you speak.

If you do those two things and let the person know when you’re finished and about to hang up, you will successfully navigate the call. It’s not some big, dramatic thing. It’s a conversation with another person, who happens to be typing and having their end read aloud. But you’re talking to them, not the operator. And it should really be no different than any other patron conversation you might have.

Tips from @kwandrews

  1. Top tip. DO NOT hang up on the person. Makes me furious. Wait to hear who it is and what they are calling for.
  2. "go ahead" = your turn to talk. SK or stop keying = ready to hang up. Address person directly, not in 3rd person.
  3. There will be time lag while relay operator is conveying info. Try to be patient.
  4. Keep your message systems simple. Takes forever to navigate menus via relay (operator may have to redial if timed out)

Further reading that may be interesting:

A brief history of the development of TTY

Relay call etiquette tips from the National Business and Disability Council.

Wikipedia entry for TTY, which includes some abbreviations (although unless you’re also typing, these are less important than “Go Ahead.”)

Besides breaking up sections & making your content look pretty, header tags (h1, h2, etc.) serve a navigational purpose for people accessing your site with a screen reader. Screen reader users can do a quick tab through all your headings if they’re hunting for particular content.

The screen reader will read the header’s content and tell the user what level of heading it is (ChromeVox can handle this a bit differently, but that’s another post). Depending on what the user is after, good header tags may make it easy for them to find it very fast.

One problem with “elegant” and “minimalist” layouts is that they often rely on visual cues. This CSS guide may prove helpful for personal websites as well as library websites. For example, label a search box but have that label only display to screen readers.