Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hiring students for making web page updates

It is very common for departments to hire students to make web page updates for their areas – and we support that! We recommend that if you are hiring a student worker/technician/intern for this purpose that you consult Web Services before making the hire.
  • We can help you determine how much workforce you need to work on your website(s) – do you need one or two students, or do we have office resources we can provide to you as well?
  • We can offer advice on what qualities to look for in a student for this type of position. They should be technologically proficient and have good grammar skills, among other things.
  • We will be required to train the student to use Cascade Server (our content management system) for updating your pages before they receive access to the system, and your student may need ongoing training as well.

If you can involve us at the beginning of the process, we will do what we can to advise you along the way. Thanks so much!


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sharing Your Story

I had the privilege of sitting in on the taping of our most recent Faculty Unscripted video with Dr. Joanna Shaw.  While I found the technical nature of videography to be interesting, Dr. Shaw's stories of family ties to Tarleton, her passion for students, and classroom interactions, really captured my attention.  Maybe it was the dark room or her kind voice, either way I was taken.  I found her stories to be authentic and full of detail.

"Share Your Story" graphic with Dr. Joanna Shaw during filming

Dr. Shaw has a real passion for her students and it shows.  Students are her favorite part of the job "because I meet students I would have never ran across at any other path in my life". She strives to make a connection with students by asking questions like, "What is best thing that's happened to you since we last met", prompting students to share their own stories.

As I reflect on Dr. Shaw's video, I am reminded of an article I read in Entrepreneur Magazine called "Why Leaders Are Great Storytellers".  This article, while lengthy, talks about the fact that stories do not need to be complex to be effective, nor do you have to have some great power to tell a story.  It is all about helping others connect.  If someone can see the impact and the emotion in your story, they are more likely to connect.  As Dr. Shaw says, "these are the things that make us as humans unique".  So I would encourage you all to share your stories, and share what makes you unique.  Better yet, share your story and connection to our University because you are what makes Tarleton unique!

Are you willing to make a connection?
Do you have a story to tell?

We are always looking for story tellers and would love to hear yours!


Friday, May 16, 2014

50 Shades of Universal Design

One of the things I love about going to Knowbility's annual John Slatin AccessU conference is that I always learn something new that I never expected. I'll never forget my first conference when my instructor asked the class the rhetorical question, "So none of you use tables for your layouts anymore, right?"

In reality, I wasn't the only one who wasn't doing it right. And while not knowing was a little embarrassing, I realized that we are all having to learn and adapt to changes in technology that we don't realize exist.

Technology changes constantly. There was a time when wheelchairs, screen readers, and eyeball tracking cameras didn't exist. As each technological device comes into the world, we must learn not only how to use it but how to use it correctly.

The AccessU workshop that stood out for me this year was the first one that ever had us walk outside our classrooms (in the rain) and actually ponder universal design from a physical point of view: Adopting a Universal Design Approach for Accessible User Experience, presented by David Sloan.

After all, our website is our digital, or virtual, "storefront." When our students come onto campus, they are on our physical "storefront," and both "storefronts" are required by law to be accessible. (See Section II: Overview of Requirements on the ADA Title III Highlights page of the Americans with Disabilities Act website)

Let's go back to one of our favorite inventions that we often relate to accessibility: the ramp. We all know that people in wheelchairs use ramps to enter buildings or access parts of a campus that may be on multiple levels of terrain. The ramp is an accommodation for a disability that would otherwise become a barrier for wheelchair users as they would have no way to access the buildings. Based on ADA, barriers to access for disabled people are now known as discrimination. They are an infringement on the civil rights of disabled people.

St. Edwards University is aware of this potential barrier, and throughout their campus, they have provided the accommodation of a ramp. Solves all the problems, right?

Well, not so much:
  1. Where is the ramp located in relation to the building? Where is it located in relation to the normal means of entering the building? Is there an undue burden made for wheelchair users? 
  2. Is the ramp easily accessible on its own? Does it allow a wheelchair to safely turn on the landing platforms getting on or off the ramp? Is it too steep? Are there barriers to prevent a wheelchair from falling off the ramp?
(For the technical standards architects must review, see 405 Ramps in Chapter 4: Accessible Routes of the ADA standards website.)

A universal design should give all users an equitable experience. This equitable experience includes treating able and disabled people equally, without segregating or stigmatizing any group. It also includes protecting them, ensuring their safety, security, and privacy in equal ways.

These are examples of how wheelchair users can become segregated or stigmatized or have their safety compromised:
  • The door with the staircase is on the nicely decorated front of the building while the ramp is on the opposite side of the building where all the trash bins are located.
  • The ramp is only accessible to a wheelchair after you traverse a complicated sidewalk path going around the building.
  • A sign next to the ramp says, "Wheelchair Users Must Use this Ramp."
Would you feel you were being treated equally if you had to go around the back in order to access the building? Or how about having to wheel your chair an extremely long distance to get to the building? Would you feel comfortable about going behind the building, especially where all the smelly trash bins are located? What about signs that tell you who can use various products? Remind you of any civil rights moments in history? These experiences are obviously not equal.

What does this all mean from a digital standpoint? Our websites? Our emails? Our social media? Our telephones and other information technology and communications devices?

As we continue to traverse both physical and virtual design, we find that the same standards apply. I'm not actually referring to the requirement to follow ramp standards on social media, since there are no ramps there. I'm referring to providing accessibility from a universal design approach as David Sloan presented.

Instead of wheelchairs, paralyzed people use various assistive technology (AT) including that eyeball tracking camera I mentioned earlier that helps them move their mouse cursor around on the screen. Others have control over at least one hand that can push buttons on a keyboard but not a mouse because their muscles are not so coordinated.

Instead of walking sticks, blind people use various AT including screen readers to tell them what is on their screen. Others (maybe the same people depending on the loud activity around them or the need for silence) use refreshable Braille displays.

Put yourself in their shoes. You might be providing an accommodation, but are you doing it appropriately, in a way that provides an equitable experience? Here are some examples of what NOT to do:
  • DO NOT use YouTube's automated captioning services.
    DO provide your own specific transcript.

    You have provided the accommodation of closed captions for the deaf, however, most of the time YouTube's automated captions are nowhere near accurate for what the people in the videos are saying, especially if the people talking have strong dialects.
  • DO NOT declare an image as decorative when it actually provides important information.
    DO provide alternative text for your images.

    It's very easy to become overwhelmed by the idea that we need to describe an image when we can see it ourselves, but close your eyes and think about the information you want everyone to get out of your webpage. If it is an event, do the blind users know when the event starts if the only time information available is located directly on the image? Go step by step through your information that is provided for visual users, and determine what, if anything, is missing for your blind users.
  • DO NOT provide alternative text above or below an image.
    DO embed alternative text directly on an image.

    "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect," said Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web.
    When Tim Berners-Lee (not Al Gore) designed the World Wide Web, he created semantic code that was meant to provide all users with equitable access to content. One of the most abused pieces of code is the alt attribute on an image tag which is where you describe the alternative text of an image. Whether you are composing an email or posting a blog, there is always an option to view an image's properties, and find a menu item somewhere that allows you to describe the alternative text for that image.

    What does putting the text above or below the image do? It calls out, or segregates, the blind users. It is annoying for visual users because it is redundant information. It also continues to make the image inaccessible. After all, what is the point of the image now that the text is available outside of it? Was the image important for the tone of the message? If the tone was important for the message, the visual user has an unfair advantage over the blind user in receiving this message. The blind user cannot enjoy an equitable experience from the image because no information was made available to them that described it.
As always, I hope to share more of my experiences from these conferences as we continue to learn about new technologies and new techniques for working with them. Very soon, we will be providing some Lessons @ Lunch in the Library to provide techniques for making emails and social media more accessible. I learned a lot from the disabled users of these products, so I hope to see you soon and share the info!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

We're making new web page designs!

Web Services is currently working on developing new template designs for all of Tarleton's subpages, including departments, organizations, and faculty pages.

The responsive re-design project (a.k.a. Project Squishy) is well underway, and as you probably know we have implemented a responsive design on Tarleton's homepage. Responsive means that the elements of a webpage shift and reorganize depending on the size of your screen, making an optimal viewing experience for all devices, including desktop, tablet, and mobile.

We are currently testing some web page template designs to get user feedback. If you want to help us test them, just visit our survey and answer the questions. It will only take 4-5 minutes to complete at the most, and you will be providing valuable feedback about the project. We will close the survey at 5pm on May 23rd.

We thank you so much for your help! 


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Tarleton's Online Calendar

FACT: Tarleton's students frequently visit the university's online calendar, however, what they are looking for is typically not there. (Web Services focus group studies, August 2013)

We know that students are looking for event information on our online calendar, however the calendar is not being populated as much as it could be. It's easy to do and you don't even need to login. If you aren't familiar with the current system, check out the following:

Web Services recently implemented a new online calendar system at calendar.tarleton.edu. The new system has lots of beneficial features:
  • A wide range of event categories
  • More social media sharing, category subscribe feature, and a "save to personal calendar" option
  • Featured event slideshow at the top of the main calendar page
  • Easy way to add photos to your events
  • Can add to "feature on Tarleton homepage" category (pending Web Services approval)
  • Easily auto-feed calendar categories to your department/organization webpage
  • "Submit Events" button that does not require a login for easy adding! 

To get to the "Submit Events" link, just visit calendar.tarleton.edu and find the link on the right-side under the slideshow. It will take you to an easy online form that just takes a minute to fill out. Once your event is submitted a Web Services employee will review and post your event within one business day (typically within an hour or two of you submitting on a workday.)

Screenshot of calendar system showing the Submit Events link
Above: "Submit Events" link on the calendar page

We highly recommend that you utilize the online calendar as an additional way to publicize your events. With the calendar being visible on Tarleton's homepage as well as on prominent subpages, you can't go wrong! Let us know if you have any questions!


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Celebrating our students, and an announcement!

Today we had our end-of-semester party and the awarding of the "Student Employee of the Semester." We celebrated by having a fajita party and just hanging out together. I think we all had a nice, relaxing lunch before the #tsufinalsfrenzy begins this evening!

The winner of the award for the spring semester is Jennifer Kiggins. Jennifer has been an excellent intern for us in so many ways. She is professional, considerate, and creative, always tackling her work with dedication and a smile.  Jennifer is a natural leader and is an encouragement to her co-workers through her example. Jennifer will be continuing her internship with us this fall and we look forward to seeing much more of her work within the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.

Morgan, Jennifer, and Daphne

We have so many valuable student interns/technicians and I honestly don't know how this office would function without them. We appreciate each and every one of them.
Top: Karole, Mariah, Dylon, Josh, Ernie.
Bottom: Mariah, Jennifer, Tori, Daphne, Morgan
We are looking forward to spending the summer working on the new responsive website roll-out and focusing on the college/department websites. We are finishing up the subpage template designs this month and they should be ready for use in June.

Lastly, I would like to announce that we are creating campus community courses for web accessibility, creating accessible emails, how to market your department, and advanced Cascade Server. We should be able to begin offering some of these courses during the next couple of months!

-Daphne and Morgan

TBT: Web Services back in time...

Five years ago and until recently Web Services had a fairly small team: myself, Karole, Ernie, and last but not least, our two student technicians at the time Morgan (Hicks) Hammond and Hannah (Harris) McDonald. We are happy to have Morgan back with us this year as our Web Content Specialist, along with six student interns and one student technician. We have come a long way since 2009!

-Daphne Hunt