Archive for the ‘events’ Category

Inaccessibility by fiat

Sunday, May 22nd, 2005

A friend’s mother has passed away, and I attended the funeral. The deceased mother was to be buried in the new Netanya cemetery. When I entered the parking lot and parked my car, I noticed a sign saying that it is forbidden to drive cars into the cemetery, except for people with motor disabilities. And even their cars are allowed only until 12:00 noon. All this was in the name of “respecting the location and the feelings of other people”.

I wondered to myself what will do a wheelchair bound person, who needs to attend a funeral held at 13:30 (like the funeral which I attended).

Later I noticed that there is an old man, who has great difficulty walking, and who needed to use a walker.
During the funeral procession itself, I noticed that a car followed us. When we were near the burial place, the same old man went out of the car and walked slowly toward the burial place.

Turned out that he was the father of the deceased woman (my friend’s grandfather). He was allowed to enter the cemetery by car even though it was after 12:00.

Apparently, this time the Israeli custom of bending regulations saved accessibility.

SIUA 05 Exhibition - accessibility of seminars

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

In the past, when an event was held, such that parts of it were about deaf people, only those parts were made accessible to deaf people. For example, when there was a deaf-related item in a news programs in TV, only that part was subtitled. Other parts, not directly related to deaf people, remained inaccessible.

This week, the SIUA 05 Exhibition is being held. This exhibition exhibits assistive equipment for people having all kinds of disabilities. One day (today) was designated as the Hearing Day.

During the SIUA 05 Exhibition, there are also some conferences and workshops.

Originally, only the conference scheduled for today was planned to be accessible to deaf people.

However, I was interested in another conference (held yesterday) - “Healthy Mind in Active Body”, because of a panel about “Accessible Community”.

A week ago, I inquired at the organizers of the exhibition whether this conference will be accessible to deaf people. The answer was - No. Only the conference to be held on Hearing Day will be accessible to people with hearing impairment. I CC’ed Bekol about this.

I do not know if and how much cord pulling and arguments were held behind my back, but few days later I was informed that a Sign Language interpreter will be available for the conference, which I wanted to attend. I wrote back, informing when I plan to come there (I did not plan to be there all day).

I arrived at the designated hour, and was delighted to find that they booked Sign Language interpreter for the entire day, in case other deaf people would be interested as well. The interpreter told me that he was informed ahead of time that someone is due to come at the hour which I said, but he enjoyed listening to the conference starting from the morning.

I came. I sat through the relevant part. I had an opportunity to speak as well (the interpreter translated my “deaf accent” into standard Hebrew). When it finished, I went away with the relaxed and content feeling that a person with disability has when he has been in a place, whose accessibility is adequate for him.

Hopefully, next year they’ll announce ahead of time that all conferences, workshops and seminars will be accessible on demand. I hope that in the standard brochure about the exhibition, they’ll also give instructions how to ask for accessibility.

Memorial event for IDF and terror casualties in Tel Aviv

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

On Tuesday evening, I attended the memorial event for IDF and terror casualties, which was held in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv.
The event consisted of introductory words, appearances by singers, some music, speeches (by the mayor of Tel Aviv and the top man of IDF) and some video clips consisting of interviews with bereaved family members.

This was the first time such an event was fully accessible to me as a deaf. There was a Sign Language interpreter. We had two rows of chairs reserved for the deaf near the position of the interpreter. The video clips were fully subtitled (!).

Kudos to the organizers, who made the event accessible to the Israeli deaf and allowed them to share the grief with the other Israelis.

The lecture in Telux is now behind me, at last!

Monday, February 7th, 2005

With the exceptions of my car and Eddie’s absence, everything worked by the book.
My car misbehaved previously, so I didn’t use it to arrive at TAU.
Eddie notified us ahead of time that he’ll be unable to come and nominated Shlomif to act as his deputy.
The Sign Language interpreter arrived exactly on time for pre-lecture rehearsal with me, as my laptop was booting in preparation for rehearsal with her.

I started the lecture with few words about my “job” as Accessibility Coordinator.
Then I plunged into the general subject of accessibility and its division into six relevant categories.
Rafi Cohen, a blind software developer, told us how he works with a PC (by combination of Braille display and screen reader which voices the screen’s contents). He is about as oldtimer with computers as I am, give or take very few years. When I worked with IBM punched cards, he worked with terminals connected to mainframes.
The second blind lecturer, Gidi Aharonovitz, told us about the need for accessibility in Web sites and told us the scandalous story of the Web site of the Library for Blind in Israel. This Web site is not accessible to the blind, and the library’s manager advises the aggravated blind patrons to enlist their family members to help them surf the Web site.

After those lectures, I declared a break of 5 minutes. Shlomif declared a break of 10 minutes. He declined my offer to settle the difference by arm strength comparison, so I settled for 7.5 minutes. The actual break was closer to 12.5 minutes.

I breezed through my second lecture, which was about the accessibility provisions available from Gnome desktop. When I mentioned that Gnome has no easy way to set the minimum font size, someone from the audience told me the command to use (gnome-fonts-properties). I then pulled the trump card - I explained that I searched for the appropriate dialogs the way a naive user would search for. If I didn’t find the dialogs, this means that there is an usability problem, which needs to be fixed.

We finished the lectures a bit before 20:30, about 15 minutes after the ending time which I planned when budgeting the lecture times. Since we were allowed to be in the room until 21:00, this was not that bad timing.

Accessibility Coordinator in Hamakor

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

After complaining that I did not have real time access to the information about the winning number in the lottery which was conducted in August Penguin 2004, some people (notably ladypine) agreed that some attention should be paid to accessibility in future events organized by Hamakor (http://www.hamakor.org.il/).

So I volunteered to be the Accessibility Coordinator. My “job” has two parts:

  1. Provision of information to event organizers about the accessibility needs of people with disabilities.
  2. Education of the general population of Free Software users about computer usage by people with disabilities and their accessibility needs.

What I did so far was to give a lecture about accessibility in Linux, together with Ori Idan. The lecture was given in a meeting of Haifux (http://www.haifux.org/lectures/112/). Today in the evening, it will be given again in Telux meeting (http://www.cs.tau.ac.il/telux/ and press the “Advanced lectures” link).

The organizers of August Penguin 2005 are now looking for a place for the event, after having issued the CFP and making some silly arguments about dates. I provided them with information about the accessibility needs of wheelchaired people (hint: push your sensitive nose into the restrooms). Let’s hope they’ll be able to find a place with which everyone will be happy.

Flu

Sunday, January 9th, 2005

After few flu-free years, I got flu.
The damage so far is three postponed meetings.
My dreams have the kind of obsessive-compulsive quality which does not promote really relaxing sleep.
On the other hand, thanks to loss of appetite, my weight has been reduced a bit.

Who is feeding my car's tires with screws?

Saturday, December 25th, 2004

Today I had to cancel a trip to outside of my city, because one of the tires in my car lost air after having been pumped full of air only two days ago.
I replaced it with the spare tire, even though my next planned car drive is only tomorrow, to the local tire repair shop. This was because at this rate of air loss, the radial tire would probably be damaged by tomorrow in the morning.

Upon examination, I found that a screw got stuck in the tire. It makes a hole and blocks it, so there is no immediate air loss.

Few days ago I had another tire damaged by screw, and it was repaired. But I didn’t ask the tire repair shop to inspect all four tires for more screw poisoning.

Both tires were on left side of my car. I wonder in which parking location, during the last several days, did the tires get poisoned by screw diet.

The upside of the episode is that I got to practice tire replacement under relatively benign conditions - car parked near my home, nothing urgent to do (besides the canceled trip), it did not rain at the moment, it happened during daytime (one of my lesser nightmares is having to replace a tire at night, during heavy rain and on way to a party).

A Big Dilemma and its Resolution

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2004

I am satisfied with the decision, which I made.

Exactly a week ago I saw, in http://www.whatsup.co.il/, an announcement about a “Business models of Linux and Open Code” track to be held as part of the Go-Linux Q4-2004 conference to be held on Wednesday Dec. 22, 2004.

At this time, this subject is very dear(sic) to me. So I decided I want to participate in the aforementioned track. I registered for the free conference.

I needed to book a Sign Language interpreter or a notetaker to make the conference accessible to me. The service, which provides them to deaf persons, needs at least one week advance notification to be able to find a free interpreter or notetaker. I needed to know the exact hours of the track to be able to book someone for those hours. So I made inquiries. The administrative organizers (People&Computers) were not so cooperative. The technical organizer, whom I contacted (Eli Marmor from netmask.it), was very cooperative.

After troubles, tribulations, cancellations, and cancellation of cancellations, I sent an E-mail message to the organizers announcing that I am canceling my registration. Immediately I got the conference schedule and could at last book someone exactly for the hours which I needed. However, this happened two days before the conference itself.

The service was not successful in finding me a free interpreter or notetaker by the conference time.

Now I had a dilemma: to go there anyway, enjoy only partial accessibility, and at least get some useful information; or to boycott it altogether and forfeit the chances.

After long thought, I decided to give it a chance and to go there anyway.
I also notified the service my plans and that if someone else cancels his Sign Language interpreting assignment, they may send the interpreter to me even at the last minute. I brought a laptop with me just in case a notetaker shows up due to cancellation elsewhere.

No such miracle happened.

I arrived today at 14:00, as planned, because I was interested only in the afternoon lectures. Eli Marmor’s lecture was worth the time, thanks to its having been partially accessible (he lectured with a fairly detailed presentation). It was worthwhile for me to go there for the lecture. I stayed on for the next two lectures, which were accompanied by presentations as well.

Only when the final speaker, Dr. Yossi Vardi, who is a popular speaker in the Israeli Hi-Tech scene, started to speak, did I stand up and leave the conference. He gives lectures without presentations.

Accessibility

The lectures were fully accessible to hard-of-hearing people: the lecturers carried on their person a microphone connected to a small transmitter, which transmits the speech to receivers possessed by hard-of-hearing people in the hall. This was thanks to an hard-of-hearing participant (whom I know) in the conference. He arranged for the lectures to be accessible according to his needs. His job was simpler because all he needed was to bring equipment and get cooperation from the organizers and lecturers. I had to locate a warm body with functioning hands (for either signing or typing).

The accessibility needs of deaf people are different from those needed by hard-of-hearing people.

In an utopia, conference organizers would ask the participants if they need any special accommodations. If yes, the organizers also organize the needed accommodations. According to my experience with Israeli conferences, the formula which works is that the participant with special needs arranges his own accommodations, and the conference organizers do not stand in the way and fulfill small&simple requests.

My problem with the Go-Linux conference accessibility was that I was not given the maximum possible time (a bit less than a week, under the circumstances) for arranging my own accessibility accommodations.

Maybe, if I yelled that this is an emergency for me, I’d get someone. But it would not have been fair for those deaf persons, who have a real emergency (medical or legal).

KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)

Monday, November 29th, 2004

When I was adolescent in USA (not the usual cliche from 2nd rate TV series, only because we spoke Hebrew at home, and I had the unpopular - for the era - hobby of computer programming), one of my favorites was Kentucky Fried Chicken, which advertised its presence with the rotating container showing the Colonel’s head in full glory.

The franchise entered Israel several years ago, but was not as successful as McDonald’s and did not suffer as much disgraceful failure as Wendy’s or Starbucks (or Planet Hollywood). When the geography was right (i.e. they were on my way between home and where I worked at the time), I ate there once in a while.

As my commuting patterns shifted, I did not eat their fried chicken for long time.

Today in the evening I decided to look for a good sushi bar in Ibn Gvirol Ave., but did not find one (the one which I did not look for disappointed me some time ago). Because a container with picture of none other than The Colonel’s head revealed itself to me.

Turns out that they opened a restaurant in London Ministore.
So I ate there.
The service was courteous, and the man in charge (?) asked me later, waitress-style, if all is OK.
With the menu I was less impressed. I was used to the standard menu of six wings with French Fries and diet Coke.

But the exact menu was not available. I took the closest choice (”teruf No. 7″), which consisted of all the above, plus salad (the alternatives were beans and puree). I did not care in particular for the salad.

It looks like the franchise was allowed to try to do things a little differently and look for the formula of success in Israel, which eluded them so far.

The chicken had the usual KFC-Israel taste.

Today in Tel Aviv University

Saturday, October 16th, 2004

Each year, on a Friday before the beginning of the academic year, the Hearing Impaired Student Day is held in Tel Aviv University. This year it was held today. The organizers invite current students, and also future and former students are welcome. As they mix together, the experience of the oldtimers rubs on the newcomers. The tips get passed from generation to generation and the age-old wisdom gets spread (even though most of it is only few years old).

After the Day, I went to the Dyonon bookshop. The gate next to the bookshop was already open only in the outgoing direction, so I knew that I’ll have to walk around the campus to get back to a parking lot on its east, where I parked my car. Oh well.

In the shop, I surveyed the computer science books. There was a section for dummies’ level books (in Hebrew). Several of the more professional ones had the Java, C# (but also Linux) keywords on their covers. Also PHP and MySQL were represented, but less strongly. My current favorite, Python, was represented by only a single copy of “Learning Python” - at least as far as I saw.

Oh, the joys of academic world being disconnected from life’s practicalities.
If only they were academic enough to mention LISP or Scheme a lot…

Being a rabid bookholic, I somehow managed to leave the shop with only two books stuck to me. Both of them were from the economics&management section, where I did not look in my previous visits to Dyonon.

One book is “Focused Management - to do more with available resources”. It seems to give a lot of treatment to Eliahu Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints.
The other book is “Systematic Inventive Thinking and Technological Problem Solving” by Dr. Alexander Chernobelsky. The bibliography mentions few publications by Genrich Altshuller, and the book seems to contain a lot of TRIZ related stuff, but I did not see this keyword mentioned in it in my brief glance.
Both books are in Hebrew.