AXSchat with Daniel O’Mahony Coder, designer, developer, accessibility and interaction design.

AXSchat with Daniel O’Mahony Coder, designer, developer, accessibility and interaction design.



Daniel (Dan) O’Mahony. 36 from Dublin Ireland. Self-taught coder, designer, developer, accessibility and interaction design enthusiast. Deaf in one ear a result of a road accident at age 8. (“Me vs a car – the car won”).

Work as a Digital Media Specialist in the Reading Services Department, ChildVision, Ireland ( Transcribe educational text books into accessible formats (text-only, braille, large print, daisy, epub) for all children registered with a visual impairment in the Republic of Ireland. Provide phone, technical & face-to-face support to teachers, parents and students in the whole area of assistive technology, computer operations etc.

hello everyone and welcome to access chat today we have Dan Mahoney who is an active member of our community our access chat community joining us and antonio's joining us again of course we have in lane that always make sure from my clear text that we are fully accessible since you know that's what we're talking about and neil decided he would you know fly home on an airplane during this time so we don't have Neil joining us this week but he'll be there on access chat on Tuesday so Dan welcome to the program we're really honored to have you and somebody that is that your work is so powerful so do you mind telling anyone that doesn't know more about who you are and where you're joining us from and where you work and what you're interested in with this topic sure hi everybody oh yeah my name is Donna Mahoney or Daniel o Mahoney my friends call me dad and I work in child vision in Ireland child vision is the National Education Centre for blind children I'm a live in Dublin 36 two kids and what I love to do is I love designing accessible user experiences and accessible interfaces and pretty much everything to do with accessibility and I think I've been part of the access chat community there for a while on and off for a few years so yeah I'm enjoying the space and I'd love the conversations we have and hopefully it'll continue on for many years ago I agree I remember when Antonio and Neil talked to me about doing this we were we were wondering what would access chat you know find a path for a little while and then fizzle out but if anything has just grown and grown because the reality user design UX accessibility there's always going to be a need to make sure that everybody can use technology so if anything it feels that our conversations are getting richer especially when people like you join a stand with all the experience that you have so we we've had these conversations before but we continue to need to have these conversations because technology continues to change so much and it's it's fascinating to watch you know everything that's happening with you know the sustainable development goals but also with AI and the IOT and the wearables and all of those things that really impact what we are talking about when we're talking about inclusive design so it's exciting so tell us about your work yeah tell us more about what you're doing okay so and in child vision I work in the reading services department there's a number different departments there as I said it's a National Education Center so we provide a number of different services there ophthalmology we have a lifelong learning program there is there there's the reading services department I mentioned there's a lot of activities to go on there's primary school the secondary school and lots of stuff that goes on there but what I do in particular in the reading services department is we are a national service that provide textbook transcriptions for all the published and educational books do any student individual any student in the public of Arden with a visual impairment and so that totals I think is about 950 at the moment that's every school book and whatever format they need that makes that's accessible to them so that could be a text only for file which is maybe just a word file that they can use with a screen reader the jaws NVDA and zoom and then also these with zoomtext what we found over the last few years is a lot of students narrow using those text only files with Braille note-takers and like Braille sense Braille note off what else we do we do large print books so and we Arial Arial font pretty four-point size is the minimum and then we also do what I kind of spent a lot of time doing because I'm the digital media specialist there so I do the digital book so Daisy and and we're moving into epub now as well and what I'm finding with all of these digital technologies is that they kind of transcend across a number of different types of assistive technology and be it zoom display or Braille displays and a number of different iPads Android devices all of these different things and so one of the things we did was when we noticed that there was that need there and we built what's called a we started building an assistive technology hope and so students could come and maybe take a loan of a piece of equipment or pry it out or just to get familiar with it and we actually we had we we had some key funding there from a solicitor a law business firm in Ireland we found that a lot of the bigger companies now are coming part of our movements as well and they're called Mason Hays and Corinth and they're helping us and they helped us as one of the key funders to develop that that space and that's kind of proved very successful and but what we're finding is children are just so adept at using technology regardless of any ability or disability it's just amazing to watch and and to be part of it as well and so what that leads on for me for the kids of design is if children are using this technology now we'll have to develop our interfaces and keep developing them in the way they're so used to using this type of interface but as they get older and disabilities may increase or more people will find they have some smaller disabilities as well they're gonna have to know how to use this too so developing inclusively and bringing an occlusive user experience with accessibility as the kind of bedrock in that is just makes perfect sense it does Antonio so the kids that you are working that you are working with are they using their own devices because today devices that became much cheaper and and more more sophisticated or are they using devices that are supplying by the by the education system in Ireland so yes a number of yes to both questions answer both questions really some of them they may have an iPad in their in their house and they'll okay and they will use that and put their books on that but they are also funded some of the stuff is funded from the Department of Education as well and a lot of the Braille note-takers can be more expensive I think they range in price from around 3,000 euros don't know what that is in dollars maybe three and a half thousand dollars give or take and so that is they pick three is funding there for them but as I said a number of households are most households they may have some sort of the device and they will use their their iPad they can use their own iPads or their own Android devices so one of the things was that happen was with Daisy and for example when it first started in 2007 it took a long time to get people interested in and to realize the potential benefits of it the benefits of the software and which really started on a desktop environment um but as they grew on they would say to us they would ring us and say I have an iPad can I put my Daisy book in the iPad and we would say we think so let's go work out how to do it though we would work that out and we developed some sort of instruction manual for that so the student can use the books that we provide on their on their devices and then along came the androids which were adopting the same type of interaction model for for vision for VI kids with VI or kids who are blind and then we would create another instructional document so we kind of became like a support system as well and for that point about some enjoyable parts of my job is get the phone calls and to work through the issues and the problems that that people are finding that the teachers as well the parents do I get this book onto this device and make it work and I think that's one of the most enjoyable parts as I said is when I hear them at the other income go hey it works and it really fit really it really makes you feel good and it's part of why I enjoy what I did yeah so when you have to let's say work on updates for the system upgrade or OTO sometimes time to find new ways to improve the software and the apps are you doing any work what type of work are you conducting to get feedback from users you go back to the to the list of queries and question and use them what is the process to to improve I would always take I would try gonna take a I would work through it how they are navigating through the system how they how they find what this button is here I can't see it how is there another way I can navigate through my book and what we and what we did was we included a number of heading structures and that's how we use they're not based a navigation model on and sometimes what happens is from a software point of view a lot of the companies they bring out updates and they don't tell us so a month or two down the line I will get another phone call and say this doesn't work anymore I'm like oh I didn't know that let me check it out and we'll work out another way around it and I find that some of the software is that we work with our varying stages of left less broken but there's always a new way of doing something and and I do a lot of we do as I said we we are always looking one step ahead Daisy has been around for a long time and so over the last few years we've been looking at ePub as a format and as an accessible format that we can put these large text books on it create a create that format and then they can use those and and epub has kind of been adopted as this non proprietary format for quite a huge amount of companies so that are providing different types of software and our doors well Amazon took it and with the Amazon the Amazon is actually the mobi format but they take everything as epub and then they they flip it around to their own proprietary model but he Pope can go on Apple devices Android devices pretty much every device and if you set up the book right it could actually be the text behind the epub can be displayed in Braille and no takers as well we're doing a lot of collaboration with a lot of bigger companies I found that a lot of companies are interested in what child vision to do and because well just just because of what we do and I spent a lot of time collaborating with youth mifflin harcourt who are a scale publishing company in the US but they have an office in Ireland as well I spent some time with their accessibility team as well and we were working on some issues and working on collaborating on them and they'll come to us and do some work with learning about VI and visual impairment and things like that well then yeah there's always there's always something to be done there's always some issue to find or work out but the thing that's exciting for me to hear is that it seems like it's very seamless it seems like what you're doing now is just it's just part of assuring that all children get access to education which is good and I think about now my babies are in the 30s now so I definitely am telling my age but I am curious if one thing that we found in the United States when my children were younger and my daughter having Down syndrome and needing support with assistive technology was the teachers really just had not been educated I mean this think about it it's funny when you think about the length of time this is 15 years ago let's say and so many things have changed technology has changed it's just the world and my lifetime has changed I mean when I was born they a few years later they got television black-and-white television i it's just so much has changed in our lifetimes no matter what age you are so I'm curious one thing that we found were some of the biggest problems when my children were in school or that the teachers they just did not they did not know how to accommodate these students they didn't understand the assistive technology they there was just so much they didn't know and I'm not sure how much that is improved in the United States I know the teachers are underpaid and overwhelmed and you know there's a lot of the issues going on about education but I'm just curious because there's so many interesting things that happen in Ireland I'm always fascinated with the innovation I see coming from Ireland and it might be partially some of that innovation the reason why I know about is because Antonio was just so involved in so many of these issues and so I track what he's doing but there does seem to be a lot of innovation happening in Ireland so I would be curious if you found that the teachers are understanding these issues a little better and why it's so important and I would also be curious fan because as you said Daisy's been a law around a long time and they're done powerful things and we had the ePub and there's a lot of efforts being made all over the world are you finding people are continuing to talk together share notes understand from each other and learn from each other what are we doing to build the awareness so that and I'll tell you another problem that I saw when I was dealing with this myself was that the the assistive technology did not stay with the child so they might get their assistive technology needs solved in elementary but then when they went to middle school that was a different school and then when they went to high school so then we were like well you know that's probably really bad because then they would get nothing on summer breaks or vacations I'm just curious if some of these issues have started being solved yeah I mean I mean as I don't I don't work teaching the kids necessarily but we do talk a lot with the teachers and you know Ireland is as you said it's it's a very creative country and a very innovation is huge their education wise I sometimes I feel that possibly the kids are they're not accommodated as well as they could be and yes as you say the technology is becomes part of the school or unless the student can afford to buy it themselves or get funny that's just for them for that school and yes as they move between you know primary or elementary and middle school high school that there's a commitment but it's all about the support structures that they have in place within the school I mean the reading service Department of college and we provide up from age 4 up to age 18 and that's what we do but then when they move to college or I'm sure that's that's becomes part of the the university itself has their own and disability one of the better word resource areas services yeah to help that's help that student or to provide for a student provide as much as they can for the student and in terms of your alluded to the speed about things are changing it's just it's mind-blowing and I think my daughter is one of her first one of my daughter's first she's seven now it was her first word was YouTube or YouTube I think she called it and even my my niece is – now she's she's already learning the interaction behind behind the mobile technology which is just amazing so it's amazing to observe and so to watch that that this is it's just part of the life now and and which is great North in one good way and a little bit scary in another way and I think in terms of the awareness of children who have disabilities or in whatever like visual impairment hearing impairment is what we do any access chat is talking about it all the time and I'd love to see more teachers being involved and and asking more questions I mean I sometimes if I don't know the answer I'll say I don't know the answer right now but let's work it out we'll see what we can do and I found that a number of bigger companies now are beginning to kind of adopt that more inclusive mindset and in terms of how did it how do we create things that makes this accessible although sometimes I'll find a companies don't you know and sometimes I'll go through a forum or something online and I'll say I'm just gonna check this with voiceover on my smartphone and just or with talkback on my smartphone just to see and yeah it's terrible and it's such a simple thing to do I mean I remember last week Niels and was mentioning how he sees it area businesses or hopes for a day that especially accessibility becomes infused as part of and I'm I saw this other great article recently about and how if you think of it's a series of layers and designing anything typically in the digital realm like designing anything is a series of layers and I think a very lowest layer the very foundational layer is accessibility and then when you move out from that then you've got inclusive design then you've got your usability and that's surrounded by your UX or your user experience and but by addressing the accessibility first you're just creating a better product for everybody right and that you adopt or you bring it into your your your just your psyche and it's just I'm always going to make this book in 48 pixels by 48 pixels because that's the size of an adult human fingertip and most humans have fingers and something even if somebody who has some mobility issues you make the button big you put the departing around if they can still focus they can still tap it or even if they're using a med stick or if they're using their eye blink or something like that you know there's just using switch access it's it's a it's just you know I could talk about this over ages that I normally do but you can just go on and on and on and it just makes sense to and I don't know why sometimes I don't see why sometimes I think the accessibility part is take the box sticker we conform to what Craig you know right compliance compliance we do that's it's all about compliance in the US but I you know speaking of the digital natives and I bet you Antonia is gonna want to come in on this too I am curious I don't know this answer but with these digital natives how do you really if they're going to demand that they're included and that we're thinking about this with inclusive design and I have friends of mine that have little babies and a friend of mine had a baby and she was like six months old and she was grabbing for his phone and she was pinching it and pulling that making the picture bigger and he was like how does she know how to do this it's like it's so interesting our brains and how they're evolving and the digital natives and then you know – I know you're gonna want this Antonio so I'm gonna stop because you see where I'm going with this but how exciting is this so you've got a needle and then we'll throw it to Dan I have think because I've been working with and looking at our kids technology and I have to say this to me is more about the mindset of the individual than it is with age okay however what I feel is by observation and questioning there's a sometimes when we ask kids you know about technology they say yes but then in fact they don't know they are just in they are just in fear of missing out or in fear or sometime oh the other kid knows I need to say that I know about it so and this happens a lot kids sometimes when we tell them about oh can use an iPad can use that they have an affirmative answer just because they sometimes is what expected from them when sometimes they are still they didn't have the opportunity of learning or their learning path is still at the level that they still need to ask a lot of questions to be so I think it's more a question of mindset and openness and sometimes is the question of what you call social inclusion is everything the opportunity of F of having access to a device because not not all kids have access to them for many different reasons but why we mention at the beginning of the show that some kids in Ireland get are funded to be able to use these devices and get them while the others have ever them at home so I think it's it's a very complex issue that we we all need to keep a mind very open in order to be able to help everyone yeah yeah I like the mindset comment it's something I hadn't thought of that it is it is you know that if you're afforded the opportunity to to try out or to experiment or to spend time using something that's you know it's a scale in and of itself isn't it really I mean I had we were taught to touch type and you know you're taught to do something and any remembered forever and it's not that same type of interaction and the pinch-to-zoom the other stuff there's some fantastic innovative products I'm coming on the market that I just want to change everything all over again but at the beginning when the iPad was released there's a good number of an elderly person who started to read again know use the app pack in the way and no eating proved the way out they were using it and they also adopted that technology when they were able to see how useful it could be and we're talking about people never used a computer before yeah I spoke to a good colleague a friend of mine he's blind and he he loves the the the iOS or the system but he obviously he doesn't need to see it but he loves your system he loves the mobility though he uses an iPad Mini fits in his pocket he can walk around with it take it ed do you use this to swipe interactions and whenever he wants and which funnily goes back tit and it's it's again it's just something I was I was thinking about you know when people speak about designing accessible web sites web apps and phrases keyboard accessibility and I was thinking about this last night I'm saying but 90% of you any visitor uses them your website uses a mobile so really what you're thinking is you're saying keyboard accessibility that goes hand in hand with swipe accessibility if you build something inclusively on its keyboard accessible it's also swipe accessible for people use again the people that would use switch access the people who would use a keyboard or voiceover talkback in the mobile context and yeah and the desktop became or laptop is more than a device that you use at work to do that every task but you know on the weekends at the end of the day you end up using your phone when you are at home in bed over Wi-Fi or when you are in a coffee shop is actually the time of the day that were actually paying more attention to something is actually when you have the small device in your hand and it's interesting all of the all of these things and once again I totally agree with what Antonio's saying but as six month old that doesn't even speak yet understanding that to make the picture bigger she can pinch it miteta is this inclusive design that's a logical thing that a human being would try to do if they had not already been conditioned like someone like me to do things another way I remember when I first got an iPad the very end this was years ago but I was so confused and I would take it to my daughter Sarah that has Down syndrome and she would be like what's wrong with mom and she would be like boom she and I thought okay try to forget how you've learned it and think of the easiest way to do something if I wanted to do something could I just touch the screen and then it would say what are you trying to do here and it was remember it really confused my brain and you were talking about Antonia was talking about older people starting to use devices and stuff and realizing they can read well I can see but my eyesight has declined and I've in it and my eyes hurt a lot I have dry eyes syndrome and so it hurts me to read a lot and I read all day long on the computer cuz that's my job but at night is Antonio's saying that's when I'm getting my device out and I'm using the audible you know I'm I have way too many books on my audible account they must so appreciate me but but I love to read but it's harder for me physically to read now just because my body and but I still want to read I still want to read and consume and I I actually find also that the way I could my brain works I I digest the book better when somebody's reading it to me it's the way my brain works you know audiobooks is something that I use a lot when I when I'm traveling when I'm walking no they can be you know useful for in many different situations I know I spend a lot of time here in Portugal and then I go to Ireland he's not be handy to bring books in your bag tonight you want to have access to taking different places so is one of those cases where technology that can be used but bye-bye oh no it's when you design things on accessibility they end up being able to use by almost everyone in a natural way yeah and for so many different reasons – go ahead Dan yeah know what I was thinking there was as we talked about we're always listening to audio books and stuff like that in the in the text book arena it's it's it's a kind of a whole different kettle of fish because you've got so many different types of assets within the book so you would have mathematical constructs you may have images you may have and then you have your normal text as well and this woman to just listen to that it just doesn't you don't process things in the same way I think that audio is a transitive signal you hear it and it's gone and one child said to me one time and this was long before the Braille note-takers kind of took off that he said for me to learn something I have to feel it under my fingertips cuz that's how he processes information that the sense of touch that he had developed and that's how he learned he was able to track back track forward and things and so it's that that tactile medium of learning is it still so so so important I mean we still do that we still do the Braille books the actual print Braille book or the embossed rare book but more and more over the last few years children have started ordering text only files that they can then translate into Braille on a single line Braille display and just feel and learn that way as well again you design your design for a keyboard you design first like you're designing inclusively which are heading structures and all your semantic elements you're there for designing for Braille as well it's a such an interesting thing and the tractor at the whole tactile of the whole tactile model and I thought it's something really interesting there as we're talking we were talking about them having consuming information and one of the things that as I said about Braille is for children to learn a lot of chosen for them to learn something if they can't see the theater on their fingertips for a long time we were developing as part of our books that we transcribe it's one of the things is I'm transcribing diagrams oh it could be a 2d diagram a number line or something but what other things we described more 3d models so 3d transcriptions so it's a think of a cube the 3d cube oh so we draw a 3d crew cube on a plate on a page it was visually it looked like 3d cube but to someone who's just feeling it it's just totally lines going all over the place so one of my colleagues what she develop was with the 3d printing was started developing actual cubes and circles and spheres and with Braille on them which became a yeah it's become we developed it was part of the maths kit and which were given to students now as well so that they it also came was there was a primary school book and at the study were telling the time and there was about 200 instances of clocks with different times on it so instead of having to describe transcribe that same clock with different half hands in different places during the times we actually my colleague developed a actual 3d printed pluck with Braille that she can move the hands on and which I thought was really cool and and then there's there's tons of other different things Braille cells at different sizes so students who are young and they can learn both Braille feels like and move it down and down and smaller and smaller was what was happening was a lot of children but they were learning Braille for example they would start off the first way they would learn the whole concept of a Braille square it's the six dots in a rectangular formation they were using a egg box of the six eggs in an egg box and how they all relate and then they were going from that straight down to the Braille cell which you can fit under your fingertip so what we started developing was different sized Braille cells that were interchangeable the dots are interchangeable 3d printed of course and then as we moved down and down and down got smaller and smaller so you begin to build up your your your touch skills and yeah so as you say it's a innovation in Ireland is fantastic so exciting no I think imagine the possibilities now at the moment for us what I assume you received you are receiving the box when they already written completed and then you do your work now imagine that you could be involved in the process of now when they are working on the program's when they are now putting together know what is going to be on chapter six seven and then you could okay oh you could plan inclusion in terms of what you do even including the the models and the 3d printing from early stages everything could be part of the whole program not just okay now I need to move this piece of the phrase that uses text remediation but you re mediating something that was already designed because you just mediate in the middle or as part of the process right yeah so I mean with the 3d printing it's great and there's other you know there's some fantastic stuff going on there so yeah it's so so exciting well I think that we could talk about this all day long because this is so interesting in and Dan we are just so grateful to have you on the program and have you really a big part of the excess chat community because you're the reason why we created this community so it's very exciting to have these really rich conversations and I want to make sure that we do a shout out to Berkeley for supporting access chat for a long time we love them and we love how accessible they are and also another shout-out to my clear text for making sure we are walking the walk talking the talk and we're accessible I see often with videos and different tweet chats that have videos and people are forgetting to make them accessible even when they're talking about accessibility and disability inclusion so we are very proud to always be accessible and to make sure that everybody is included so Dan thank you for being on the program Antonio la miel we appreciate everybody yeah look forward to taking this to Tuesday and for any Americans watching this remember excess chat is at four o'clock next Tuesday because we're moving our knocks ahead early again so there's we're gonna be at 4 o'clock for excess chat next Tuesday and we'll make sure we say that on Twitter too so thank you Dan thanks Antonio hi everyone thank you thank you bye-bye thanks Lane

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