Every Feedback is important - an Interview with Ulrike from the Accessibility monitoring center for the state of Bremen

I'm talking to Ulrike Peter, head of the Central Office for Accessible Information Technology. Domingos: Welcome to a new podcast on digital accessibility. Today I have another interview guest with me, namely Ulrike Peter from the Central Office for Accessible Information Technology of the State of Bremen. First of all, thank you Ulrike for taking the time for this podcast today. Ulrike: With pleasure, I was very pleased about the request and am looking forward to the conversation. Domingos: Let's start by introducing yourself to the audience in general.

Article Content

Ulrike's path to digital accessibility

Ulrike: Well, my name is Ulrike Peter. I live here in Bremen and head the central office for accessible information technology for the state of Bremen and have been working in this area for a long time. We both met, I think, through the Bee, the Bee Award, which was carried out from 2003 to 2010 by Aktion Mensch and Digital Opportunities Foundation. At that time, I was responsible for and coordinated the testing process. Domingos: How did you actually get involved in the topic of digital accessibility? Ulrike: During my studies I worked as an assistant for two people, both of whom communicated with support and the other worked quite a lot on the computer and thus simply opened up new worlds and it was a completely different form of both communication and communication Making contact for these disabled people who were otherwise more dependent on postal mail and the like and also having the newspaper read to them and the Internet has simply opened up extreme worlds and that motivated me to go into this area. And then, after graduating, I started working in applied computer science and helped develop this idea for the Bee Award and other projects on accessible communication. Domingos: If you briefly explain the BIENE competitions, you are one of those who have been there for a relatively long time. This was a competition for accessible websites, which unfortunately saw its last round in 2010. And that's why you've been there for a long time, were you there from the beginning? Ulrike: I was really involved from the beginning. So I had developed the idea, I started at the university in 2002 as a research assistant in this area and the new legislation on accessible information technology had just been incorporated into the Disability Equality Act for the first time and we thought about how we could do it because now the municipalities or public bodies in general are motivating to implement this law and the Bee Award was an idea to give the best the opportunity to shine and show that accessibility can look beautiful. and I think that really advanced the topic for these early days.

Tasks of monitoring and enforcement

Domingos: Absolutely. Maybe we can talk about your position as head of the Central Office for Accessible Information Technology in the state of Bremen, what exactly does this position do? Ulrike: The central office is located at the State Commissioner for the Disabled and is the monitoring and enforcement body for Bremen according to the EU Directive 2016 2102. So all federal states have these two functions and had to legally set up monitoring and enforcement bodies. Monitoring means that a certain number of websites, apps and intranet applications are tested per year. There will be advice after the tests. And the test results are sent to the EU in consolidated form via the federal government so that the EU has an overview of how digital accessibility is developing in the member states. And the enforcement is, so to speak, the promotion of the right of disabled people to accessible information technology or digital accessibility and in the meantime all websites that fall under the law must have a so-called accessibility declaration, which also states where they can turn, if you find barriers on the sides. And if that fails, i.e. if contact doesn't come about or the person who complained doesn't feel cared for or finds that the concern wasn't handled properly or was unsuccessful, then you can just contact the enforcement agency. This exists in every federal state and is sometimes called an arbitration board or complaints board. And then you can complain and my role is, so to speak, to mediate between the positions and find a good solution so that the barriers are broken down.

Common problems on authority sites

Domingos: What are the most common problems you encounter during the exam? Ulrike: I would differentiate between the levels, so we always differentiate between design, development and editing and give different feedback accordingly. We comment on our test results as follows. And when it comes to design, the contrasts are often still difficult in the basic setting. Of course, they can be adjusted via browser or assistive tools, but of course you first want to know where on the page I am, what is happening there and This is why it is important to pay attention to the contrast values. That's what the main amount is in design. In terms of development, navigation is a difficulty and especially navigation on mobile devices, both with native apps but also with websites that then jump to the mobile version, that development often no longer took into account Navigation must also be operable via keyboard. Mobile, because people always think that, well, mobile is operated with touch, so a mouse operation and appropriate control are enough, but if you access the mobile version via a screen reader or voice input, then you just go through the classic keyboard navigation . At the editorial level, the well-known topic of alternative texts is of course important. However, something like contrasts in images is always a difficulty, especially in social media - when there is text on images, and we notice this more often, that no attention is paid to the contrasts. And also in general the area of comprehensibility, i.e. we mainly test administrative pages, something like a citizen-oriented administrative language is also available as a technical term, so there is still room for improvement.

Complaints and feedback from those affected

Domingos: You are also the complaints office for the state of Bremen, which exists in every federal state and also for the Federal Republic. I would be interested to know what are the problems that disabled people often bring to your attention. Ulrike: One big problem, you really have to say, are the PDFs, i.e. both documents and forms that are not accessible and where there are difficulties in requesting them and that a lot of content is no longer posted on websites themselves, but only are offered as PDFs. Then something like a quick orientation or a good structuring of the page, i.e. finding the central information on the page, we always notice that this is something, which leads to a lot of frustration because the information is there, but not where they are expected and actually, actually in quotation marks, it is only due to the page structure and not so much to the accessibility, but rather it is so deeply nested or in the place where you would not expect it. Many usability criteria are also included, in addition to the actual accessibility criteria. Domingos: Since the EU directive, authorities have been obliged to provide such feedback mechanisms for affected people or on the subject of accessibility, and what I always hear is that it is used relatively little. And I would be interested in your perspective, why is it important that affected people either contact you or perhaps first contact the authorities via these feedback options. Ulrike: Feedback can go in both directions, it can be both criticism and praise. And we can see that there are individual places that put a lot of effort into it and feedback like that would simply be helpful in the form of praise, so that they know, okay, it's worth it. Or even those who have perhaps already done a little something, because you just have to see that there are people behind them who have been trained accordingly and, because we are not yet an inclusive society, perhaps have no points of contact with disabled people. And to say hey: “Man, I noticed that this works, it’s wonderful” is just something that would be nice and at the same time it’s also incredibly important from a practical perspective to find out what the difficulties are. This, so to speak, brings the test steps of the underlying EU standard 301549 and the WCAG guidelines to life. The test steps are concrete, but do not directly reflect what is meant by them. And then getting feedback from those affected and being able to convey that and say that adhering to these criteria makes sense because otherwise it would lead to this and that difficulty, is simply much more clear than just constantly waving the law club. Domingos: When I worked a bit for various organizations, I often received feedback from affected people. But that was often relatively brief, something like “it doesn’t work, I uninstalled it again” or “I didn’t fill out the form because it didn’t work.” What should good constructive feedback look like so that you can continue to work with it? Ulrike: I know what you're getting at, but I would first say that any feedback is welcome and I can totally understand if they say it doesn't work, so I think it's worth giving feedback at all, so I've just learned from that Exchange with those affected who simply say that there is a right that things have to be accessible, so why do I have to complain. So why do I basically have to advise people to do the things they have to do anyway. And that's why I think sometimes no feedback is given, because your own resources are limited and you have to think carefully about where you want to get involved. In this respect, any feedback is helpful and targeted. When we get complaints, I sometimes just ask and it helps to be open to being asked questions again and if I could still create a scenario like that: Perfect would of course be a description with screenshots or a film while you're at it to operate the application or to have an audio recording running at the same time or something like that. So having as much information as possible one-to-one is of course the most ideal, because then it is easiest to understand where the difficulty arose. Domingos: Ulrike, thank you very much for taking the time for the interview.

Learn more

More Talks with Accessibility Specialists