Notes from the 2015 ANZTB Conference in Auckland

I was lucky enough to make my first trans-Tasman journey to Auckland last week to attend the 2015 ANZTB Conference. The conference was enjoyable and there were some memorable talks I really enjoyed (I personally like single-stream events). Here’s some favorites:

Secure by Design – Laura Bell – slides

I loved the essence of this talk which was basically (in my own words) ‘take security testing off the pedestal’. Laura shared five simple tools and techniques to make security more accessible for developers and testers alike. One key takeaway for me was to focus on getting the language right: ‘security vulnerabilities hide behind acronyms, jargon and assumptions‘. For example, most people understand the different between authentication (providing identity) and authorization (access rights), but both these terms are commonly shortened to ‘auth’ which most people use interchangeably (and confusingly). A great talk.

Innovation through Collaboration – Wil McLellan

This was probably my favorite talk of the day, as it was a well told story about building a collaborative co-working space called ‘EPIC’ for IT start-ups in Christchurch following the 2011 earth quake. The theme was how collaboration encourages innovation, and even companies in competition benefit through collaboration. My key takeaway was how designing a space you can encourage collaboration, for example, in EPIC there’s only a single kitchen for the whole building, and each tenancy doesn’t has it’s own water. So, if someone wants a drink or something to eat they need to visit a communal area. Doing this enough times means you start interacting with others in the building you wouldn’t normally do so in your day to day work.

Through a different lens – Sarah Pulis – slides

Sarah is the Head of Accessibility Services at PwC in Sydney and she shared some good background information about why accessibility is important and some of the key resources to analyse/evaluate and improve accessibility of systems. Whilst I knew most of the resources she mentioned, I thought here talk was very well put together.

Well done to the team that organized the conference.

Auckland was a beautiful city BTW, here’s a couple of pics I took:

Tips for testing iOS app accessibility using VoiceOver

I really enjoy testing iOS app accessibility using VoiceOver but for newbies it can be a little tricky to get started. Here’s some testing tips:

Use VoiceOver on a real iOS device to test accessibility

You can’t use VoiceOver on the iOS simulator, which is a good thing because it relies so much upon input gestures which can be mastered using a physical device, so you’ll need to test your app on a real iOS device. If you are creating an iPhone application and don’t have access to an iPhone, you can use a cheaper iPod touch for VoiceOver accessibility testing.

Use triple click home button to enable/disable VoiceOver

The first time you use VoiceOver is quite confusing as it basically entirely changes the way the operating system behaves. You can set an Accessibility Shortcut in the Accessibility menu of iOS so that triple click home toggles VoiceOver on/off. This is good for when you get stuck and you don’t need to navigate the menus with VoiceOver on to turn it off.

Triple Click Home VoiceOver iOS7

Master the gestures

VoiceOver has completely different gestures than standard gestures so you’ll want to practice them. The most common gesture is swipe/left right to select different elements which then require a double tap to activate (a standard tap). Two finger swipe up reads all elements from top of the screen and two finger swipe down reads from the bottom of the screen. There’s a useful guide to VoiceOver gestures available on the iOS developer site.

Use Screen Curtain

If you want to test your app is truly accessible then you can close your eyes, but if you are like me and might peek, use Screen Curtain (three finger triple tap) which blanks the screen entirely but leaves VoiceOver running so you using your app without a visual display. Neat.

Summary

The best way to do iOS accessibility is to dive in and get started. If you’re like me you’ll pick it up quickly and find it fun to do.

Tips for making your iOS app accessible

I’ve been doing some work recently on native iOS app accessibility and have started to see common issues appearing related to accessibility that can be resolved by using a common approach.

It’s important to note that accessibility is enabled by default on all iOS app development and if you don’t do anything crazy then your app should be mostly accessible, but it is still worth checking and keeping an eye out for common mistakes.

I do all my testing on a device using VoiceOver but I won’t detail that here, instead, I will write a separate blog post with some tips on VoiceOver testing.

Here’s some tips on making your iOS app accessible:

Enable form field tabbing

A VoiceOver user moves between elements using gestures, so on a form you should make it easy for a VoiceOver user to move between the fields by making a ‘return’ action on each field that moves to the next field, or submits the form on the last field. Apple goes above and beyond this functionality in its own native apps by putting accessible “Previous”, “Next”, and “Done” elements above the keyboard on forms which are recognized by VoiceOver and make it super easy to navigate and submit a form.

Apple Form Accessibility Example

Make embedded UIWebViews accessible

If you embed any HTML content in your native app then you should mark the UIWebView as an accessible element, but very importantly, don’t mark its parent as accessible, otherwise the UIWebView won’t be accessible via VoiceOver. Once you’ve done this, VoiceOver reads the content in the same way it does a web page in Safari.

Make UIPageControl page indicators accessible

When you have multiple horizontal pages in a UIPageControl, the page indicators are the dots that appear at the bottom of the control that indicate which page you are on as you swipe left/right through the pages. VoiceOver uses the swipe left/right gestures for navigation so a VoiceOver user won’t be able to switch between your pages unless they use the page indicators.

page indicators ios

Page indicators aren’t automatically accessible, you must do two things. First set the accessibility trait to UIAccessibilityTraitAdjustable and then implement a accessibilityIncrement and accessibilityDecrement which changes the pages. This means a VoiceOver user can focus on the element and use slider up/down from the top of the screen to navigate pages.

Ensure appropriate color contrast

This isn’t specific to VoiceOver testing but ensuring your application is accessible to visually impaired or color blind users. An example I have seen recently is a black ‘copy/paste’ popup on a black form.

black on black

Summary

Making accessible iOS isn’t difficult because Apple has done a lot of work to ensure accessibility is built into the development platform. The key is to build these features in as you go and continually test on a device using VoiceOver enabled.

More Information

There’s some great information here and here about iOS accessibility from Apple.