HOW TO GET THE BEST ROBOT ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST

It was grey-blue, a bit shiny and about the size of a small doll. Robbie the Robot was my brother’s Christmas present. I loved it at first sight. It made noises and when you wound it up, it would ‘walk’ – more like a ‘jerky slide’, really.

 

Since that day, half a century ago, I’ve loved robots and have dreamed of having at least one in my life. So this year, I’ve backed a Kickstarter project and bought two robots for Christmas. I’ve (ostensibly) bought one for my husband and the other for myself. He might get to use one :).

Asimo the humanoid robot created by Honda who has been my desk buddy for years, watch the small wind up version walk in slo mo.

 

They don’t clean house

When I tell friends about my robots, they all immediately ask: “What can they do, can they clean the house?”

Well, no – they don’t clean house. But you can buy a Dyson robotic vacuum cleaner, which does a pretty good job vacuuming the floors. If that’s what you care about and are prepared to spend an anticipated $3,000 when they are on sale in Australia and New Zealand, the Dyson gets floors clean.

What my robots can do is recognise faces, understand natural speech, they can record and play back sound, they can avoid obstacles, they can learn a floor plan, and they can develop a path of travel.

How big

The second thing my friends ask is: “How big are they?”

They are small – about the size of a basketball or a small dog. No, they don’t look human. They don’t have a ‘head’ as such but a flat surface. I can say to it (supposedly, we’ll find out for sure in May 2017 if this is the case): “Take this to Graeme in the study”.

What do you call them?

My robots (no we haven’t named them yet) will then locomote to the study and – recognising Graeme’s face – ‘stand’ in front of him while he takes the beer I’ve sent him. If Graeme sends back a message, my robot will record it and play it back to me when it returns.

How much?

The fourth question my friends ask (as above, the third being: “Do they have names?”), is “what did they cost”. They cost me $450 for the two – delivered to Sydney. That’s converted from US$ and is an ‘early backer’ price. They will retail around $500 each – if they ever get that far and the project goes well.

The fifth question I get asked is: “Can they pick things up?” No, they can’t but they can carry to and from a path of travel. “Take this to Mum”, is something they can achieve (they have to learn that ‘Mum’ is sometimes called ‘Maureen’ and they can learn what ‘Mum’ and ‘Maureen’ look like and that they are the same person).

Fetch and carry

“Get me a glass of water” – involving getting a glass out of the cupboard, turning on a tap, filling the glass with water and taking it to a person – is not something they can do. For that level of robotic sophistication, you have to have a robot from Boston Dynamics – the maker of my very favourite robot of all Big Dog (and Small Dog or as they call it Spot Mini).

Reasonable adjustments

And just like for people with disabilities, we are having to make reasonable adjustments for our robots. We will be installing at least one ramp at our apartment so it can go in and out of the door to the balcony (I’m sure Graeme will want a beer on the balcony over Christmas).

We will also have to ensure that the path of travel is clear – no present wrapping or ribbons lying around. We will also have to speak clearly and distinctly, so the robots can understand us (think Siri on steroids).

I’m dreaming of a Christmas with robots. What would you like on your robot Christmas list?

My top 10 robots

ROBOT PURPOSE PRICE TAG
1 Big Dog All terrain robot, heavy haulage $10 million
2 SpotMini Washes dishes Not known but has cost at least $3 million so far
3 Dyson robotic vacuum cleaner Vacuums floors Likely to be around $2000-$3000 in Australia
4 iRobot Looj Gutter cleaner $209 online
5 Polaris Pool cleaner About $800
6 Litter-Robot Self-cleaning cat litter box $895 in Australia
7 e-Vigilante Replaces internal security guards Around $8 an hour (lease), so I’m guessing ‘super expensive’
8 Hobot 188 Window cleaner $350
9 Tech Line L60 B Robotic lawn mower $1800
10 Braava Jet Floor washer $350

 

How to create awesome accessible Word documents

It should be no surprise that Microsoft Word remains the most widely used document creation platform.

The good news is since 2010 the accessibility features of Word have become more extensive and easier to use. So there’s really no reason why all documents can’t meet the accessibility standards.

The Copy Collective is a big fan of accessibility. We believe simple changes to copy can make a big difference for everyone to access.

Four must-haves for accessible Word documents

So here goes…

  1. Use plain language

This is pretty straight forward, but always use plain language and lead with your key message. If you need help crafting clever copy — get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.

  1. Structure gives meaning

Use short heading titles and ensure your heading styles are in the correct order. They make it easier for all readers of your document to follow.

In longer documents, these elements can add structure for users who are using a screen reader, or who rely on the visual cue of section headings to navigate as they read.

  1. Always use Alternative text for images, charts and other objects

It’s very important that text descriptions of pictures, charts and maps convey as much information as possible.

Pictures like this one sometimes get described as “Woman in dress” or “Woman with bottle”. That’s inappropriate.

Untitled

 

People using assistive technologies need to know what the author intends the reader to get from this image at this place in this document.

To add an Alt Text, Right-click on the image and in the menu click Format Picture. In the dialogue box, click Layout and Properties and then click Alt Text. Fill in the Description. Do the same for charts or maps. This improves SEO by adding meta data that Google and other search engines index.

  1. Make tables and lists as simple as you can

Tables can get complicated. Resist the temptation! Tables within tables within tables are a disaster for assistive technologies and for readers generally.

Tables need to be well structured and lists must be well formatted.

If you have complex data or charts, separate them into understandable bits and provide explanatory text to link them.

Table tips:

  • Place a header for every column
  • Alt Text describing the table as a whole
  • No split or merged cells, no nested tables
  • No reliance on colour to convey essential meaning

Check out our video and this one too 

Loved the tips but need more help? Or you’re a visual person and like examples?

We’ve made it easy by creating a short presentation that includes basic tips and where to find more help.

Watch it here

There are also many sources of online help about accessibility. A lot of information is now available on websites such support.office.com

You can easily find YouTube videos that show step-by-step how to achieve accessibility in Word and PDF documents. So go to it, and let’s keep creating accessible content for everyone to understand.

Writing for the Web? Read our Web accessibility Blog.

If you go to the Australian government’s website for the National Transition Strategy you will be greeted with pages of boring government-speak about:

“improved web services”
“the provision of information and services online”
“an important milestone for government”
and “whole-of-government”.

Continue reading

Federal Government departments are required to make their websites comply with standards that make them accessible to people with disabilities. Here we introduce our new e-Accessibility training videos Part 1 and Part 2… and it’s on us.

“At The Copy Collective, we’ve noticed that many government websites don’t comply, as yet, with the guidelines in regards to copy,” CEO Dominique Antarakis said.

“We thought we’d help out by making free training available to everyone, so that the government didn’t have any excuses not to comply with its own policy. We also think that accessible websites are great for all businesses, not just government.”

The Copy Collective is a 5-person business based in Sydney. As part of the company’s Disability Discrimination Act Action Plan, they wanted a practical way to show that small changes could help everyone. The team thought they would start by helping the Federal Government comply with its own Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy.

Today, The Copy Collective announced the release of two training videos designed to assist copywriters and government departments to comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). Federal government agencies are encouraged to meet the guidelines for their website content by December 2014.

“We’re not doing this because we want jobs rewriting Federal Government websites; although that would be nice,” Ms Antarakis said. “We’re doing it because we want to show that simple changes to copy can make a big difference to access.”

“The training we offer is in-depth and detailed. The presenter, Monica Seeber, is one of our freelancers from Perth. She is our resident accessibility expert. Having experience with disability in her own family, Monica is very committed to access and so are we.

“We’ve provided 2-hours of training, free of charge. We’d like the Government to make the videos compulsory viewing for all their comms and web teams.

“Making website copy accessible for all just makes good business sense,” Ms Antarakis said.
In two hours, the online e-accessibility training takes users through the principles of WCAG 2.0, how these principles will affect websites, and how to create content that meets WCAG 2.0 standards. The YouTube videos are fully captioned and there are downloadable PowerPoint and Text versions of the presentation slides available on Scribd.

Comply by December 2014
The Copy Collective supports governments, NFPs and businesses to comply with the WCAG 2.0. While the compliance imperative is important and it is great to ensure content is available and accessible for all, the steps to make sites accessible have the side benefit of also helping organisations with their search engine optimisation (SEO).
Providing this complimentary training is part of The Copy Collective’s commitment to an inclusive society under its Disability Discrimination Act Action Plan.
The Copy Collective encourages people to set aside the time to watch the training videos and understand how the WCAG 2.0 applies to organisations. Trainees will also get the resources and tools they need to make changes to their web copy .
The Copy Collective can be contacted for further support to make website copy accessible. Please note: you don’t need to book any work with The Copy Collective to enjoy the complimentary training!

About the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)
The WCAG 2.0 guidelines were released in 2008 to implement user-friendly web content for people of all abilities.
The guidelines cover the full range of Web content that a user is likely to access — from images and graphs, to videos and podcasts, to the structure and design of each page. Each guideline has three levels of accessibility: A, AA and AAA. Level AAA is the highest level of accessibility.
Compliance with WCAG 2.0 is part of the digital inclusion framework referenced in the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy.

eAccessibility webinar part1
eAccessibility webinar part2
eAccessibility slides part1
eAccessibility slides part2

Here at The Copy Collective, we’re big fans of accessibility – in the ‘real’ world and the virtual. In this three-part series, Perth-based contributor Monica (@thebigmeeow) will introduce you to the basics of e-accessibility and how you can make your content user-friendly for all abilities. Here we introduce our new e-Accessibility training videos Part 1 and Part 2… and it’s on us.

First there was the word.

Then there was the Internet.

And when the word and the Internet got together, they made the World Wide Web.

The Internet is the physical network made up of computers and routers and phone lines and server farms and deep-sea cables. The World Wide Web is all the information that we access using the Internet. And the “word”? Well, that’s “01110111 01101111 01110010 01100100”.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is responsible for developing Web standards. Their mission “is to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure the long-term growth of the Web” (W3C Mission).

If the Web is an “information super-highway” then W3C is like the Department for Infrastructure: they write the guidelines and technical specifications for designing and building new roads and regional developments.

The Web standards cover all aspects of the Web:

  • Web design and applications
  • Web architecture
  • Semantic Web
  • XML technology
  • Web of services
  • Web of devices
  • Browsers and authoring tools.

For most of us, we don’t know what any of that means – and we don’t really need to (if you would like to know more, the W3C Standards page covers each topic in greater detail). Web developers and graphic designers mediate most of our interaction with the Web; and all we have to worry about is the speed of our Internet connection.

The power of the Web is in its universality.
Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect”.
Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

Unfortunately, not all Web content is created equal – and not all content is available to everybody. For some people (especially people with a disability) they’re not just worrying about the speed of their Internet connection, they’re also thinking:

“Will this webpage trigger a seizure?”
“Can my screen-reader make sense of the text?”
“Does this video have captions or a transcript?”
“Is this information written in a language I can read?”

Within the Standards for Web design and applications, the W3C created the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG10) were released in 1999, and were then revised and succeeded by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) in 2008.

There’s a lot of information in those guidelines. If you print them out, there’s about 34 pages of information. You can access the full WCAG 2.0 for free on the W3C webpage.

WCAG 2.0 covers the full range of Web content that a user is likely to access on Web pages, from images and graphs, to videos and podcasts, to the structure and design of the pages themselves.

WCAG 2.0 structure

WCAG 2.0 is structured around four broad principles (also known as pillars):

  • Perceivable: Web pages and content must be presented to users in ways they can perceive.
  • Operable: Web pages and navigation must be operable.
  • Understandable: Web content and the operation of Web pages much be understandable.
  • Robust: Web content and pages much be interpreted reliably by a range of users, hardware, and software – including assistive technologies.

These four principles are then broken down into 12 guidelines:

  • Perceivable
  1. Provide text alternatives for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, braille, speech, symbols or simpler language.
  2. Provide alternatives for time-based media.
  3. Create content that can be presented in different ways (for example simpler layout) without losing information or structure.
  4. Make it easier for users to see and hear content including separating foreground from background.
  • Operable
  1. Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
  2. Provide users enough time to read and use content.
  3. Do not design content in a way that is known to cause seizures.
  4. Provide ways to help users navigate, find content, and determine where they are.
  • Understandable
  1. Make text content readable and understandable.
  2. Make Web pages appear and operate in predictable ways.
  3. Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  • Robust
  1. Maximise compatibility with current and future user agents, including assistive technologies.

Those 12 guidelines are broken down further into 61 “success criteria”. That’s a lot of criteria!

Now before you all panic…

Luckily for you, we’ve already done the hard work of figuring out which guidelines are relevant to copywriters. We’ve even put together a couple of videos — so we can talk you though them when you’re ready:
eAccessibility webinar Part1
eAccessibility webinar Part2

You can even download the Powerpoint presentation from the videos.

Join me for my next Blog – Part 2 of Accessibility is Everywhere – where I introduce the Web Accessibility National Transition Strategy and share useful things for making your web content accessible.

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