PEAT Talks Transcript: Easy Chirp

Welcome and Logistics

>> Hello and welcome to PEAT Talks, the virtual series on employment and accessible technology. Each month we will be showcasing various organizations and individuals was working to advance accessible technology in the workplace. My name is Christa and I will be hosting this afternoon's talk. Before we get started I would like to review some logistics. We will have time at the end for Q&A so please enter questions in the chat window or by emailing info@PEATworks.org.  You can also email us if you are having technical difficulties or go our recording will be posted online after two days of that in all registrants will be notified by email when it is available. We will also be tweeting today's event.

Today we are pleased to welcome Dennis Lembree, founder of Easy Chirp. He currently works on the accessibility team at eBay and has past experience at PayPal and as a contractor for Google, and his personal projects include Easy Chirp.  Today Dennis will be speaking about the inclusive Twitter application Easy Chirp. It is easy to use and optimized for people with  disabilities. He has won awards for the advancement and accessibility. One of the reasons we asked him to speak is because the connection between social media and employment is important as employers regularly use social media to attract talent. Without further ado I will turn things over to Dennis.

Presentation

>> Thank you and welcome everybody. As she mentioned, my name is Dennis Lembree. That was a great introduction. I will be talking about Easy Chirp, a web accessible  Twitter application which I created.I'd like to start with a story. Here is a fun photo that is on the web. It is a photo of two women writing a tandem bike. You can't really see the bike. There wearing helmets, it is sunny, they are on a walk. Unfortunately there are many photos posted on Twitter and Facebook and social media that are not accessible. If you have visual impairment, especially if you are blind, you don't know what this picture is. The challenges is making pictures accessible and providing alternative text. This photo was actually posted a few moments ago, so let's talk about how that happened.

Let's go back to the origins of Twitter just for a second. As you can see they started nine or ten years ago now. Here's the slide of three of the logos. The first is 2006. It was their first logo which is not quite the same as it is now. It was green with strange tubelike organic letters. I began using Twitter in 2008 and in 2009 this is what the logo looks like. And now their trademark logo is just the Twitter bird. As we all know Twitter has become a very popular social media and it is not just used for social purposes. I get a lot of my news for Twitter as well as emergency service notification -- and of course tweets about employment and posting in finding job positions.

In January 2009 this blog article came out. Is called Twitter Focus. It discusses some problems with Twitter. Back then it was mostly known for the web-based application and some of the key features like replying was not keyboard accessible. That was important and raised a really big issue that he and myself and a few other folks started talking about on Twitter. There were other issues, but that was the first that really arose. Here is a little guessing game. We have Twitter in early 2009, we have myself -- someone who has been doing web development and accessibility for a number of years, and we have accessibility and the issue of making Twitter accessible. If you had Twitter and myself and accessibility together, what could you come up with? What can I do to help make Twitter accessible. Someone wrote a script where you can plug 11 to one particular browser and it would fix the first issues. It didn't fix it in other browsers, and would not keep up to date all the time. To fix all the issues, I created Easy Chirp. I started working on it the same month. It was first called Accessible Twitter. I did a soft launch in February 2009 and it blew up, in a good way. It got some good recognition and a few folks started using it. A couple years later I decided to change the name to Easy Chirp. On the screen here there's the logo. In 2011 I named it Easy Chirp. A few years later we developed the whole thing and now it's Easy Chirp to. Here is a screenshot with the landing page and the main timeline page on Twitter, in Easy Chirp.

By the design you can see that it is a somewhat simple design. But there is a lot behind it. It has a very, somewhat simple but consistent layout which is important. It has large default text and of course it is screen reader accessible. It was written from the ground up with web standards and progressive enhancement to make it a robust application which we will talk a little bit more about. And it just can be used on such a wide variety of technologies and by a wide variety of people. That's what makes it so robust and inclusive and accessible, is that you are not required to have a certain Internet connection speed or certain browser. It works with lowband, it works on Internet Explorer 8, it works even without JavaScript, it works in a text-only browser even.I've also added language support so the interface is even available in five different languages and it offers two different color themes. The default theme is the light beam and there's also an inverse dark theme for people who might have vision problems or maybe just like it.

This screen here just gives an example of the visual focus indicators so you always just want to make sure on a website that the user knows where the keyboard focus is and make that obvious. And also for people with low vision, increasing the text size and zooming in is extremely important. This slide shows Easy Chirp zoomed in at 200% and does not break the layout or anything. It works really well. Try it after this session is over. Open up and Easy Chirp on a browser and just zoom in super high to see how far you can go and I think you'll be impressed by the support there. Let's see. And because it is so robust and everything, here is the next slide. This is the inverse dark theme I was talking about. And this is in Spanish and this on an iPad. I really like that on the tablet Easy Chirp works really well, the form factor is excellent on tablets. Here's a nice example of combining different preferences and showing the the flexibility of the application.

Okay, so we know Easy Chirp is accessible. I think it is pretty easy to use. And twitter keeps adding features and one of the features they added was being able to attach an image to a tweet. Now the problem with that as you may guess is if you attach an image you need alternative text to make that accessible. This screen here is a screenshot of my blog, a post from my blog WebAxe which Christa mentioned at the begining. Is from May of 2014 a little over a year ago where I announced not only support and Easy Chirp to include an image on Twitter but to also add alt text. You could add a short title alternative text and also a long text version. This screen shows the portion of the Easy Chirp screen interface where you can actually do that. If you go to write a tweet you can open this section up, this add image section, and select the image from your device you enter a short description and then optionally preferably you enter a long description with more of the details of that image. There is also some help provided if needed and just click the button to upload image and a link to the accessible image will be automatically inserted into the draft of your tweet.

So going back to our story of this photo the two women on the tandem bike. This is Marcy Sutton in the foreground. She is a pretty well-known web developer now especially in the last year or two. She's really gotten into accessibility and I just think this picture is awesome. Here's the photo we saw at the beginning and this is the tweet shown on the Easy Chirp interface. And here is her tweet #CSUN15 The tandem biking was the coolest. Saturday next year? And the image. If you click the link that's on the tweet you'll open a webpage hosted by Easy Chirp that anybody can view, you don't have to be logged in to Easy Chirp to view this page. It has the title with a short description at the top and then the image and then the long description is also there on the page, simple as that.

Now I talked about Easy Chirp and just making the interface accessible to any kind of user or technology, assistive technology, and I think it does a really great job of that. Here is a good example. This slide shows the exact same tweet as the last slide. The big difference is as you can see that this slide shows the tweet in a text-only browser. You cannot see the image you don't have JavaScript, you don't have the CSS but it still works. In a way it kind of not only shows you how a text-only browser would render this tweet but also similar to screen readers would read the tandem biking at CSUN, that's actually the heading, and then the same text again as the alt text for the image and then there is the long description for the image as well.

So that's great features for Easy Chirp. I do wish it was used a little bit more so feel free to try it out. I am always adding enhancements; well not always but as much as I can get to it. Doing tweaks and once in a while adding a feature and enhancing the application with continued maintenance. One example is the tweet shown on this slide here is the new quote tweet feature by Twitter so they kind of change the way you do a quote tweet. You can refer to somebody else's tweet and write a comment about it so that was recently changed and so even more recently I added that and made that adjustment and change in the Easy Chirp interface. Like accessibility there's always something to improve and to learn and to work on.

So takeaways here: that Twitter is a very powerful medium. Easy Chirp as I think I successfully showed is a very robust and successful application that can be used in all kinds of technologies. New technologies, old technologies, assistive technologies, slow technologies. And, you can use Easy Chirp to easily tweet an accessible image. So you know, if you are tweeting an image, images do help enhance your tweets. Some people don't like it or not but that is the fact of the matter. Now you are able to add your alternative text to an image that is shown on that webpage. I suggest you give it a go after this session. So on Twitter, @easychirp is the handle. www.easychirp.com is the website. @webaxe is my handle for my blog on accessibility, and my username for my personal handle is @dennisL. Okay, that is the end, so I guess I am ready for questions.

Questions

>>  Thank you Dennis for sharing a little bit about Easy Chirp. Everybody just a reminder that you can enter any questions you have in the chat pod or email us. Just to start us off I will ask a question that I have: We work a lot with developers and in talking about accessibility, I just want to know how did you personally become involved with accessibility as your career path and what advice do you have for others who might be interested in the field?

>> Personally I got started in 2001. I was working as a developer for web-based training and developing sites for a company in Orlando, Florida and they did a lot of government contracts. That was right around the time that Section 508 became enacted. So that was my job to learn what that was all about and I became very interested in it. It was challenging and very valuable to learn and to know. I really got interested to know how much crossover there is between accessibility, web standards, and usability. The more you learn about it the more you learn how much crossover there is and I found that very interesting. Just some suggestions as far as...on the web-based side it is important to learn the basics. Really know HTML well, and that will help you learn ARIA which is more markup that helps assistive technologies. And progressive enhancement is kind of a coding technique that is really really important. So to start with the basic content and code that way and then, later add on CSS and JavaScript for the design and interaction and just build upon the basics.

>> We have a great question from one of our participants: "If we were going to use Easy Chirp as a company do we have to set up a separate account? And how would do that, and how would we tweet jobs using Easy Chirp."

>> Well. it works like any other third-party Twitter client. No matter what you have to create an account on Twitter.com, that's a must, but once you have a Twitter account you can log into the Easy Chirp just like any other third-party site. There's a button on the homepage that just says sign in. It will take you to Twitter.com to authorize so you can authenticate and okay the application. You just hit okay and it will return you back to Easy Chirp and you will land in the timeline page on the main interface.

>> All right, great, so you just use your existing Twitter account and log in with that and it will just take you back to the Easy Chirp interface. Okay, and what would be a good way to use Easy Chirp to tweet job opportunities?

>> Well, the recommended, most pages have the tweet button right at the top. You open it up and start drafting your tweet, writing your tweet. It is a good idea to write just a brief title and description of the job and a URL of course to the job posting and then hashtags. Don't overdo hashtags. #Jobs is a good one. If it is accessibility related, #A11Y is a very well-known #in the accessibility community. And then of course if you want to add an image, Easy Chirp will give you the option to enter a description of that image and make sure that the tweet is accessible. Some of the guidelines are not to use too much jargon in your tweet in case, for people with English as a second language or cognitive disabilities or if it needs to be translated.

>> Great, and another question about how it works. "Is a possible to schedule tweets in advance to go out on specific dates and times using Easy Chirp?"
 
>> Sorry. No. That is a great question. I wish it had that ability but it does not. It is on the list for long-term, another thing on the list for long-term is using multiple accounts. Once you log in you are logged in with that account and if you want to use multiple accounts you have to login in different browsers at the same time, that's usually what I do. Those are two big features I plan to do in the future but they are not available right now, sorry.

>> We will look for in 3.0 or 4.0 or beyond. Just another question: "Do you have an Easy Chirp success story that you can share with us?"

>> Success story...Something that pops into mind, I was at a conference and the Wi-Fi was not working and somebody had tethered his computer to his mobile phone but that connection was not very good either. But the person was able, because Easy Chirp is really light code it works on low band really well, and the person was able to use Easy Chirp on their laptop even with the low band connection at a conference. That was pretty interesting. There are blind users and screen reader users that use Easy Chirp. A lot of them prefer desktop clients, the desktop clients such as ChickenNugget and the Cube, those work a little bit faster with screen readers, but in case there is a problem with those desktop applications, you know once in a while the apps might not be working for some reason and they could always use Easy Chirp. If you want to see more of what users say about Easy Chirp you can go to the favorite tweets. If you go to Easy Chirp account on Twitter and you look at the favorites, you can read more about what folks are saying about Easy Chirp.

>> We have time for one more question. "Can you use voice recognition software to tweets?"

>> Yes. Like Dragon naturally speaking or something, yes it works well with that. It is coded with Web standards and is accessible, things are labeled appropriately and elements are what they should be, like buttons are conveyed as buttons, and links are conveyed as links through the browser and through assistive technology. So, yes it does not work well with that.

>> All right, great, well I think that is all the time we have today. Thank you so much Dennis for joining us and for taking time out of your workday to talk to us about the project. I'm actually going to toss in one more question as I think it will be fairly easy to answer. "Will there be a mobile app down the road?"

>> I have been asked that as well before. No, I have plans to do a Firefox OS app that, because Firefox is all for the open web and free and all that. So there are long-term plans to do that but other than that, no.

Conclusion

>> Great. Now I am going to wrap things up as we're hitting 2:30. Thank you again everyone for joining us. Please be sure to join us next month for PEAT talks on August 18. Note that we had to make a change from Thursday to Tuesday for next month's event. The August talk will feature Adam Streets, who will be speaking about Getting Hired, an accessible platform for jobseekers with disabilities to search for jobs and also the surveys the company has conducted with jobseekers about online job applications. You can find that registration link on Twitter today @peatworks or look for an email from PEAT in the coming weeks with registration information. Once again, special thanks to Dennis Lembree for joining us today and enjoy your afternoon.

>> Thanks Christa and everybody, thanks for for dialing in.