Prezi needs to address Disability Access - It's the law

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  • Updated 2 years ago
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I wanted to reply to a post by your rep Angelie regarding accessibility of Prezi for people with disabilities, in particular screen reader users. (I tried to log in via Facebook, but couldn't make that work). Angelie commented that screen reader programs do not work with Prezi and then offered no real solution or plan for addressing the problem.

You should know that, under Section 508 of the Rehab Act, it is illegal for any government (and most state) agency to use software that is not accessible. In theory, any university faculty member or public school teacher could be violating accessibility regulations by using Prezi. Now, obviously, many agencies and offices ignore that. But I would encourage Prezi to actively work on accessibility features rather than just ignore such a large and growing part of the population.

I would love to explore the use of Prezi by the trainers in my office - the trainers would love it and it would make a big splash with our audience. But many members of our audience have disabilities, and we have to set an example on disability access. So I will have to recommend against using Prezi for now.

Dr. Scott Standifer
Disability Policy & Studies
University of Missouri
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Scott Standifer

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Posted 4 years ago

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Drew Banks, Employee

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Dr. Standifer, thank you for your suggestion. Our goal is to make Prezi easily accessible and usable to everyone. This includes people of all abilities. You can imagine that, as a start-up company, we need to be extremely careful in how we prioritize our resources carefully so that our company viable and we can achieve this goal. We will take your suggestion to heart as we develop our upcoming product development roadmap.
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Scott Standifer

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Hi Drew,
I do understand about budgeting and prioritizing. Unfortunately, including accessibility features is pretty easy to do if you have it in mind from the beginning of a project, but increasingly expensive the longer you put it off in development and have to begin retrofitting. I would encourage you to contact the folks at TRACE (http://trace.wisc.edu/) at the University of Wisconsin, and at WebAim (http://webaim.org/) at Utah State University for support on this. They are the international leaders on supporting software developers on accessibility.
Although I admit I don't know a lot about Prezi, my initial suggestion to you is to consider building a way people could insert alt tags on images and content as they embed them. These alt tags could then be offered to disability access software when the Prezi software focuses in on that specific image or content. This would at least offer people like myself, who want to make things accessible, a way to do it in Prezi.
However, the worst thing you can do is, as Angelie did, say essentially, "Sorry, you can't do that in Prezi and we have no plans to fix it."
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Drew Banks, Employee

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Thanks for the specifics. Will reach out to TRACE & WebAim and consider tags suggestion.
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Angelie

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Hi Scott,
I'd like to chime in since you reference my name in this thread. Like Drew, I agree that this is an important issue, which is why I would never say "Sorry you can't do that and we have no plans to fix it". What I mentioned in the previous thread was the solution I offered (adding sound cues for the visually impaired) was all I could offer at that time. We always consider user requests, but I am not the final decision maker as I am not the Head of Product or a developer. I also did not want to be misleading and say "We're working on a solution right now" when we clearly are not.

I appreciate your attention to this and I will work with Drew (who is my manager) to figure out what we can do. And, that is all I can offer at this time. :) I hope you understand my tone and intention.

Warmly,
Angelie
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Scott Standifer

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Hi Angelie,

I apologize for putting words in your mouth. I do appreciate your situation, and that you personally cannot make decisions about such an issue. However, I hope you can understand how your response might be taken as not particularly helpful or informative, especially by someone with a disability who might find themselves shut out from information they wanted because of the inaccessibility of the Prezi. There are many disabilities besides low vision that can impact how a person interacts with computer software – deafness, deaf blindness, and limited muscular control to name just a few. Fortunately, it is not the responsibility of software developers to address all possible disabilities. But there are established standards, often relatively easy to meet, which will then allow third party accommodation software to accomplish that task in suitable ways.

All the disability access regulations are really founded on the concept of good faith effort (on both sides of the issue) and I can tell from your comments that you and Drew are both open to doing what is practical on this issue. That is great to hear.

I look forward to hearing about what you are able to accomplish.

- Scott
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Angelie

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Changing the status of this post to an "idea" so it can be reviewed by the team. We will post updates here.
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Scott Standifer

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Hi Angelie,

It has been about 10 months and your team has not posted any updates here. You made a comment in a press report back in June (http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/...) saying "Unfortunately, the solution requires reprogramming Prezi in a totally different platform" - which to me sounds like a statement that Prezi has no plans to address the issue and is just going to keep quiet about it. But I thought I would post a query in case I am wrong.

- Scott
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jo.naughton

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I am the Research Communications Advisor for an Australian University and we agree with Scott's angle. We love prezi and many of our academics would love to use it as a research tool or presentation tool but we legally cannot use it without providing a full transcipt of a ppt version alongside. Making two presentations instead of one is not viable.
I have used prezi to stage presentations, then recorded them with voiceover on camtasia, then provided a transcript and posted the whole lot on line. The result is very pretty but a lot of work.
Once accesibility concerns have been met I can see the use of prezi in Universities around the world booming. Financially I think it is in the companies best interest to put it in the next iteration of the platform. Then build a marketing strategy around accessible education tools!
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jdaleprince

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I'm promoting Prezi to a group of medical librarians next week. In looking to see if Prezi is 508 compliant, I see that it isn't. Technically, since I am federally funded, and the conference I'm going to is also federally funded, I probably should not be using Prezi to promote Prezi. As it is, they will not be able to link to the presentation, and I have to caution them that they can use Prezi only for work that is not funded by the Feds and, probably, by their state.

Many librarians are using Prezi without giving thought to the fact that their organizations receive federal funds, making their web-based presentations--if they were paid by their organization to create them--illegal.

Please do take steps to remedy this drawback as quickly as possible.
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Jay Wyant

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At the risk of duplication, I'm pasting the bulk of a post I made to a older thread, with additional ideas thrown in:

If a particular product or service cannot itself be accessible, then an alternative resource must be made available. In this case, the ideal would be to have an HTML5 version of Prezi. Is such a product on the horizon?

In the meantime, one approach could be for Prezi to:
a) build a tool that would allow a developer to generate an outline from the Prezi, then that outline could serve as the text alternative to the program. (Otherwise, presenters would have to manually create an outline.)

b) Then, if Prezi could enable XML cue points at each path point, those cue points could be linked to the text alternative, which can be read by a screen reader.

Naturally, text alternatives are not ideal. It's like being handed a paper transcript in lieu of an audio program (I'm deaf, and this has happened to me too many times), but it would be a good first step until an html5 or similar program were built.
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iskye.silverweb

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I am delighted to see Jay describe the example of a deaf person getting mere paper transcripts in lieu of audio. Deaf people's eyes do double duty - they read text and view the video portions of presentations - and this is normal to us. So giving us something to read elsewhere, even on the same page in a transcript format, will reduce our enjoyment and full comprehension of the content being presented. It also feels less 'real-time' to us.
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garymichaelmorin

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While I'm not a lawyer and don't pretend to be one or want to be one, let's clarify that Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, applies to *federally-conducted* programs, not federally-funded programs, as the rest of the Rehab Act applies. Some states have adopted it, of their own accord, not at a Federal demand (hearing chants of States Rights!). Obviously, accessibility and inclusion (built-in from the planning stage, not added-on afterwards, if at all) is the only right approach.

Sadly, the law is so under-implemented within the US Federal government no one in a federally-funded program should really ever have to worry. No one has yet to be held accountable, even in the face of evidence by persons with disabilities. Even vendors who sell non-conformant EIT products to the US Fed. gov hardly need to worry!
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Jean

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What you say is technically true, however, if a presentation is used/required material for a class, then we're bringing in section 504 of the Rehab Act which DOES require federally-funded programs to insure equal access.
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garymichaelmorin

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Absolutely, - maybe the end of my first, long sentence wasn't clear, where I was saying that the rest of the Rehab Act DOES apply to federally funded programs. I work for a federal agency whose budget is largely redistributed via grants for research - explaining 508 and 504 can get murky at times when talking to people whose world isn't accessibility but some totally other field, and theirs is Greek to me.
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Jean

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Agreed, lots of folks talk 508 when they should be talking 504 and the other way around. I work with students with disabilities at a university.
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Jean

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So there have been several comments regarding the realities of the law, efforts by your company to listen - not necessarily to make change.

Has anything been done?
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jo.naughton

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Judging from the lack of response I think we can assume nothing has been done. Interestingly Prezi has launched "PreziU" http://edu.prezi.com/ aimed at getting educators to use the software.

There is no official mention of accesibility compliance in the PreziU site and considering only one forum thread has been generated about accessibility I think there are many educators who are ignorant on their legal responsibilities to their students.

Just for the record, i love prezi, I just can't legally use it or recommend it's use to any of my colleagues in the education sector.
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Stanley Debono

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The Foundation for IT Accessibility (Malta) where I work organises annual awards for students delving in ICT accessibility. We also provide support with ICT accessibility solutions...hint, hint.

More to the point, we received competition entries using Prezi but the accessibility issues are as important as budgetary ones to many of our users and business partners. It is not only Section 508 in the US, but many national laws, including the Equal Opportunities Act in Malta, which stress that ICT solutions must be accessible.

I look forward to evaluate an accessible version of Prezi (maybe using an import/export function, like the outline functionality in MS Powerpoint).
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Scott Standifer

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Stanley,

How great that Malta is being so active on this topic! Thanks for posting in here. Maybe we can get some renewed attention to this topic from the Prezi folks.
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Robert Kitchin Jr

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It seems to me that the day you Prezi announces a truly accessible option they could seemingly be rewarded with numerous site wide educational licenses. Particularly with MOOC's on the rise and online education booming.

I can't imagine the investment dollars aren't out there to outfit a team of propeller heads and innovators to crack this nut. Please? Thumbs up!
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Ron Jailall

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I just did a presentation about an accessible technology with Prezi, but I can't share it with the accessibility community without making a mockery of my own content. I'm eagerly awaiting upgrades to Prezi for this purpose.
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Scott Standifer

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Hi Ron. Thanks for updating us! I'm glad to hear Prezi is getting some more information on accessibility and possibly revisiting the issue. Thanks for working to advance the cause!

And, just so you know, I too feel very insecure about my expertise when I do accessibility presentations. I know exactly how you feel! But I figure, every little bit helps.
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Anita van Boxtel

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Hi, I am Anita van Boxtel of the expertise centre on studying with disabilities in the Netherlands. A few weeks ago I made my first Prezi because I thought a Prezi could improve the accessibility of a presentation for (for instance) students with AD(H)D, dyslexia and autism ( if you don't use the twirling-around-functions to much :-)). I quite liked it.

Until I met a blind disability officer who was using a screenreader. He couldn't even get into the texts of the Prezi, let alone 'see' the images. After making two prezi's I already set the program aside. I don't want to promote inaccessible tools to the teachers we coach and train.

It is a pity that my organisation has to tell teachers who are already using the software that they shouldn't unless they make an extra presentation or an audio description aside of it.

Please make some tool to make a Prezi easily accessible, because the teachers in the Netherlands are to busy to do something extra for students with special needs.
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John McKenzie

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Just finished my presentation for a key note to a 'Specialist colleges Conference' to be told that Prezzi doesn't comply with Accessibility legislation. So back to PowerPoint - really frustrated that there is no export to PowerPoint option, at least that would cover providing the presentation in different formats - wont be using Prezzi again!
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What is the current state of screen reader development that might make it possible someday to read a wider variety of web content, like Prezi?
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Stanley Debono

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I think most screen readers handle HTML 5 quite well. Flash can also be accessible if actual text and descriptions are used instead of unlabeled images or polygons. However, I think that liaising directly with developers like GWMicro (WindowEyes) and Freedom Scientific (JAWS) as well as the developers of NVDA should enable coverage of most of the Screen Readers market. At fitamalta.eu we test ICT for accessibility on a regular basis and can confirm that developers who follow WCAG2 standards and carry out necessary accessibility audits not only cater for a wider spectrum of users but improve the quality of their products in the process.
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Scott Standifer

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Hi Sparkle,
It is not a matter of screen reader software improving, it is a matter of Prezi structuring and marking its content in a way that matches the international standards for accommodation software. The standards have existed for quite a while, and software meeting those standards gives structured content in a way that can be read, understood, and acted upon by any of a host of alternative display software.

- Scott Standifer
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garymichaelmorin

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Good Point, Scott - there are various (but not a huge number) of screen readers, screen magnifiers, and speech recognition applications. Theoretically, if one codes a website or program to standars (Section 508, WCAG, etc.), then it should work with most, established assistive technology products (but that theory really does need to be put to the test).

Prezi should test for AT compatibility, after manual testing and remediation, with programs such as JAWS, Window-Eyes, MAGic, ZoomText, Dragon NaturallySpeaking, etc. Both forms of testing are important - standards testing and AT-compatibility testing - and the latter should be done by persons with disabilities who use those AT products, not able-bodied persons who 'dabble' in AT.
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Bj Kitchin

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Developing to standardized interface code is a current minimum benchmark to approximate (not assure) accessibility to the broadest audience possible. Lets remember, users are a fickle group and there are no "Token users." Chest beating about accessibility may make us feel good but truly designing for all is much more useful.

There is in fact an approach to creating an accessible format of a Prezi, though it takes more work and know how on the part of the designer. But then again, designing for universal accessibility always takes more work on the part of the designer. People matter and that work is worthwhile. Until a designer (You and me) have optimized their workflow, their knowledge of how to use the tools, and their deep understanding of environmental forces affecting the user experience, designing usable experiences for all users, isn't likely to happen no matter the medium.

So, to create something accessible to screen readers from a Prezi, download the slides as PDF, open the pdf in Acrobat and structure it (tags and so forth). This requires knowing how to structure a PDF. All materials designers should know how to structure documents in PDF, but they don't because its more work.

You will notice too that other design problems show up, like voice over narration. In fact, if I am presenting to blind users, doesn't it make more sense for me to record an audio version of my presentation as one of other dissemination options, taking into account that not all listeners will interact with the graphic elements in the same way? This then begets thinking through how to communicate data elements for analysis in non visual formats. A task that takes thinking and skills most presenters don't typically consider or translate well.

Another interesting issue relates to self directed Prezi, like any self directed presentation, it requires different design considerations. Now, before you go all happy dancing about how PowerPoint accomplishes accessibility for the self directed user, you need to realize you can botch the accessibility of a PowerPoint or a Word document as easily as you can a Prezi. Making it inaccessible out of the gate, even though materials designers think that because its a powerpoint etc. it must be accessible. It isn't unless you make it so. How many of you reading this now know what is actually required in the design of a PowerPoint or Word document to assure it is broadly accessible to a screen reader or mobile text to speech software? If you don't know, its pretty much a given that your PP's and .docs are not well designed.

Simply publishing a PowerPoint or a Word document in no way confers accessibility per 508 or anything else. Designing documents to be universally accessible requires the designer to know what they are doing, why its important to every user and how each design venue requires different considerations (eg. live, online, print, audio etc). I suspect the majority of the folks complaining about your use of Prezi, and it's inaccessibility are half enjoying their "one up" on you when they really have little idea what they are talking about. In fact, most of the PowerPoints at said conference where likely no more accessible than this email being read through the back of your computer screen.

I support ongoing advocacy to increase accessible design tools. It makes good sense to keep up the requests that Prezi continually improve software affordances that allow each of us to take the time required to design our presentations for broad audiences, aka accessibly. It should be noted however, that screen reader access is but one of a host of user driven access points that deserve consideration. Also, chest beating about accessibility without constructive dialogue about how to achieve it isn't useful. Its like an annoying picket line where the picketers hardly know what they are talking about.

If you don't know how to make your presentations accessible in any format, don't squawk about the accessibility of Prezi (I direct that comment to a plurality not anyone specifically). Chances are nothing you present is accessible to screen readers, even though you think it is. Besides, if I never planned to publish my presentation online or in a self directed format, why the heck can't I stand up in front of an audience and use Prezi, or a flip chart for that matter? The design concerns of access and usability differ per forces of venue and synchronous vs asynchronous.

So, I suggest its better to advocate to each designer that they learn what they need to do to design accessible materials. Rather than simple go to some column of accessible vs inaccessible tools and choose the one that says accessible. Unless they know how to design for accessibility its a moot point.

Accessible PowerPoint Guide (Notice the effort required)
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/pow...

Accessible Word Documents
http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/wor...
http://webaim.org/techniques/word/ (How many of you consistently use style to structure a document)

Accessible PDF
http://www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adob... (With InDesign)
http://tv.adobe.com/watch/i-didnt-kno...

And finally, accessible documents is important to us all. I explain why in in the next paragraph. Unfortunately I've included the answer using the emperor's font. Good luck accessing it.

:) Hope this helps.

Warm regards,
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Scott Standifer

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HI BJ,

I agree completely. Software accessibility only gives us the tools to make our materials accessible - it is up to us to actually use the tools. And it is usually very easy to mess up the accessibility if you don't learn the tools. Thanks for all the excellent points you raised and the links to good resources.

- Scott Standifer