The DOTS Guild is a place where people come together with a common goal: improving #AccessibilityInTabletop for disabled gamers wishing to play tabletop roleplaying games. There is much work that goes into this project, some of which we follow traditional standards on and others we break tradition and create something new and improved. Join us on this journey as we take a deep dive into the volunteer positions of the DOTS Guild, and learn what makes them so special.
In a world of ever-changing digital content, accessibility considerations can open up an entire world for some or exclude others. With many different degrees of disabilities there may seem like a lot of things to consider when seeking to make your content accessible. Fortunately, there are a few things that can address a wide range of disabilities once implemented properly. A Technomancer helps guide creators on their digital accessibility journey providing feedback, resources, and connections to paid consultants if required.
Technomancers are a wide variety of people with different experience levels; many are disabled themselves and utilize assistive tech daily while others are non-disabled and proficient in platforms, programs, or tools with an accessibility focus. Since everyone’s experience using different types of assistive tech and tools may be different depending on program type, program version, operating system, user settings, and a few other variables, it’s important to have not just one individual testing content on one system with one program. Everything may not be 100% perfect for every user across every system and setting but when key factors are considered there is a large chance the content could be accessible for most.
When testing screen reader functionality on a website or PDF, a Technomancer is checking for three major points - is the reading order correct, are heading levels labeled, and is there alt text on included images. Using the platform and tools they are familiar with, the content is reviewed in a broad and general sense. Since Technomancers will not take the place of paid consultants, they simply access the content as they would if they were a regular user. The platform and tools they work with have the potential to produce different results, which is why we aim to have content tested by multiple Technomancers with multiple variables. Something that may work for one person on their setup may not work for another person for reasons as small as one setting or as large as what device they’re using.
For example, desktop and mobile screen readers don’t behave exactly the same because their input types are different. A desktop screen reader is navigated with a keyboard, often shortcut keys and combinations of keys. On the other hand, the screen reader on a mobile device with a touch screen is navigated with a series of single or multi-finger gestures and swipes. These differences are just the beginning when it comes to how each device can handle the same task differently, such as reading through a website or PDF. While desktop-style keyboard input on screen readers allows the user to navigate quickly between various headings and heading levels, mobile-style touchscreen gestures have a little less control; only allowing quick navigation through headings overall and not individual levels. This difference between devices and screen reader tech is one of the many reasons why all headings should be properly labeled and tagged, because each user can have a different experience depending on their platform of choice.
If there are certain major flaws such as a PDF with heading labels missing, the Technomancer will notify the content creator and point them in the direction of our resource Creating Accessible PDFs: Headings 101. If the Technomancer finds the content does not have any alt text on images, they can share another resource; Creating Accessible PDFs: Alt Text 101 or get them in touch with a Limner for additional information. These options give the content creator a starting point to educate themselves and learn how to improve their website or PDF. From there, they can return to the Technomancer to check updates that were made and see if the changes were implemented correctly. Additionally, if the content creator feels they are unable to make the changes themselves or require more education, they could be connected with someone in our Consultant Directory as that would be a paid service.
Technomancers don’t just work on accessible content for blind and visually impaired needs, they are also available to review content with a focus on accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. This is done mostly in the form of reviewing captions on any type of video content, as they are crucial to ensuring it is accessible. A Technomancer will consider whether the captions added are open or closed captions, if the text is legible, and if they do an accurate job describing differences in speakers or voice tones. For those not familiar with the differences, open captions are a part of the video file itself and will always display. This is something that was completed with video editing software, and is written by the creator. Closed captions are able to be turned on and off by the viewer, often with a button or menu option labeled CC. These captions can be written by the creator and submitted to a platform to be displayed, or they can be auto-generated by the platform using speech recognition technology.
Captions have guidelines to follow for best practices, and it isn’t necessarily as cut and dry as the items required for screen reader compatibility. A creator has the option to stylize their captions however they want, possibly trying to match their content style instead of focusing on legible text. A simple easy to read font with a high contrast color is recommended, the definition of which will change per video. If the main color in a video is white, a white font for the captions would not be the best choice. If there are frequently lots of color changes, a Technomancer might recommend using a color neutral black and white, with a background or border of black behind a white font. Captions should be clearly visible, but not in the way or distracting from the video content.
When it comes to what to include in captions, that depends largely on the content and quality of the video. If there is dialogue between multiple people on or off screen, there should be ways to clearly designate the individual speakers. If tone of voice in the discussion is important such as anger or sadness, those should be noted in the captions. Sounds of things occurring off screen should be included if relevant or the people on screen react to them, but may be skipped if it is background noise. There are many nuances a content creator needs to consider when preparing captions for their videos, and Technomancers are able to help guide them and provide feedback.
As digital media changes over time, our team of Technomancers will grow and develop new ways to help creators improve the accessibility of their content. This may mean learning new programs, platforms, or software as well as researching best practices or guidelines put in place by major organizations. When we work together to ensure content is as accessible as possible, more disabled people can be a part of the conversation and fully enjoy being members of the tabletop community.