Exist in Sound EZINE | Vol 2 | Desire 2 Inspire

Exist in Sound MAGAZINE | Vol 2 Desire 2 Inspire 07.03.22 | VOL 1 HERE

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As you’ve read in the first entry, I’ve had to overcome several challenges in my life as somebody who has been totally blind since birth. One is running into accessibility issues when browsing online certain websites or trying different programs I think would be useful for me. This is mainly because there are certain parts of it that are not accessible with existing accessibility software for people with disabilities, like a screen reader which is what I use. It’s a program that takes text and reads it aloud via a speech synthesizer. There’s also magnification software that can adjust the font, great for people with low vision that might have trouble reading text because of fonts not being the right size for them. While 10-15% of people in the visually impaired community are totally blind like I am, 95% of them have some remaining vision where they can still see things like colors, text, and people’s faces. One of the biggest misconceptions is that people who are blind can’t see anything which is why we like to say blindness is a spectrum. There are different levels of it along with different terms people use to identify themselves. Examples are totally blind, visually impaired, or partially sighted. It depends on what term the person feels comfortable using when they’re being asked about their visual impairment.

The moment people find out I’m a totally blind DJ, the first question I get asked is how I know track info like title and artist if I can’t see it. Thanks to my DJ program called Djay Pro being fully accessible with Voiceover, Apple’s native screen reader verbally tells me info about tracks that DJ who are sighted look at on their display. Using muscle memory of my gear, along with the knowledge for the music, is what allows me to transition and mix seamlessly live.

I find the interface of the desktop version of Streamlabs to be mostly accessible when streaming on Twitch but there are two accessability issues that need to be resolved. The first is not being able to easily check what audio and video capture devices are currently set to visible as well as viewing the list of available inputs that I may select from. Even the switching of scenes or themes regularly accessed through the sources section is difficult to identify because I don’t specifically know where it is on the screen. I found it very difficult to try and get to. Though there are times it’s okay for people who are blind or visually impaired to receive sighted assistance, inaccessible features of programs and websites that don’t work with existing accessability software can be very frustrating for the user.

A lack of accessability will hinder users’ ability to use it independently. My second concern is related to the integrations with streaming websites like Twitch. Specifically, we are not able to scroll through chat widgets and read all the comments with ease. They are automatically be read the moment I receive them, but it can be difficult to track and review them, especially if there are lots of people in commenting at once. A related issue is the usage of emoji, instead of wanting to read the next comment that comes in Voiceover tends to get stuck on the emoji that was previously sent. If I disable emoji, it affects some bits configurations. This is frustrating because I want to continue receiving bits from my audience and since I can’t keep up with all the comments of the chat section, this type of user story needs to be reviewed and upgraded to become fully accessible. - DJ HEY

My advice to all web and app developers is to ask people with disabilities what improvements can be made by developing to user stories versus solely features. This level of accessability QA will help make Streamlabs become more accessible and can be crafted from customer service calls related to access issues. At the end of the day, we are all human beings and deserve to be included regardless of who we are.

Added Commentary:

“A few years back I was on a team tasked with creating an accessible version of the Bank of America website. The section of the US site we were responsible for was the branch locator. This from a development perspective was less of a challenge then testing and proving our workflows as working easily and effectively. We used audio cues by screen readers like JAWS for iOS to help direct us around the site features such as the search box, and the results list. We stripped the pages of CSS and had just H1 and related headers as endpoints. This ended up being used for a greater product design in advanced screen readers, actual standalone devices that follow “paths” to navigate an accessible version of media.

I can appreciate Streamlabs website redesign. There is an entire section dedicated to explaining how the website is easier to read with less flash and animation, mono color scheme for page tracking, and upgraded screen reader access. There are increased usage Alt text tags added to objects making web browsing usage easier. There is a section dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. What I see less of with Streamlabs actual software however is product side accessibility features akin to DJay Pro, who in 2016 received an innovation award from Apple for getting the jump on music tech and access. The way to develop is to make sure an experience is well done. If DJ find a workflow bottleneck that is the opportunity for redesign. There has been an effort for 3rd party applications and a few blogs from non-sighted streamers to provide workarounds but is not reflective of Streamlabs out of the box and go approach to connecting with people.” – Reza / EIS


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