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Jessica Bertling loses her ball playing Wizard of Oz pinball machine in Iowa City, IA.

User experience/User Interface Design talk with Jessica Bertling: Fun w/ Web Dev & Pinball

Jessica Bertling, is a front end web developer in eastern Iowa. She and I became friends over Twitter revolving around several of the same interests. We are both heavily into website UI (User Interface Design) to give our users a better UX (User eXperience) and it turns out she also enjoys playing pinball as well!

So we decided to spend a Sunday morning talking shop and playing the silver ball. The great thing about people in the tech industry is that we are open about our experiences and lessons learned. She told me about the work she did for J&P Cycles (originally designed using C# / MVC, now using WebBaker CMS) and why she spent so much time making sure that the user interface worked on every browser that was on the market even the bane of every website designer’s existence. . . Internet Explorer (none of us were sad to see Microsoft kill that browser: let’s hope Microsoft Edge is better). I give you a hint, it was all about the money. Granted the highest percentage of users on J&P’s site were young bikers, but like she said, why would you give up a large chunk of money because of either an outdated browser or because Javascript was turned off?

Jessica now works at in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, as the lead UX/UI designer of multiple projects, including one for testing students. I’m expecting to see great things coming from that brand new company soon.

Group at A11y UX event in Cedar Rapids

Web Development Skills Help Disabled Children: Iowa Web Accessibility, UX & Inclusive Design

Iowa Web Accessibility UX and Inclusive Design LOGO (#A11y)This month’s A11y UX Inclusive Design meeting was held at the Geonetric building in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Our guest presenter was a graduate student from The University of Iowa, Rochelle Honey-Arcement. She ended up creating her own major Health and Disability Advocate to truly suit her needs. She presented tonight for our Web Dev Group (see the video below). Her thesis is about immigrant parents with children who have disabilities and the perception of the quality of service that their children are receiving. She has found that support systems are much needed for this demographic. She would like to see greater online support along with real world support systems as well.

Second Half of tonight’s presentation by Andrea Skeries:

Andrea Skeries's 2016 CSUN Conference exhibit hall experience

Andrea Skeries’s 2016 CSUN Conference exhibit hall experience

Our fearless UX leader Andrea Skeries talks about her experience at this year’s CSUN Conference. Lots of hot new toys and gadgets for both visually and hearing impaired. My favorite was the smart watch for the blind with an active Braille readout known as DOT. It pairs with a smartphone and gives you information at your fingertips, literally. I can see this to be quite a viable product for anyone who is blind! Next month’s meeting we will be delving into how to make our websites friendly for all of this new tech gadgetry hitting the stores.

JavaScript Meetup crew at MetaCommunications in Iowa City, IA

JavaScript Meetup at MetaCommunications on Saint Patrick’s Day in Iowa City

I had a great evening hanging out with a group of diehard JavaScript fans at MetaCommunications on Saint Patrick’s Day! To celebrate, they named this JavaScript meetup “Java O’ Script”! Yes, while others were out drinking just around the corner from us in downtown Iowa City, we were cuddled up talking nerdy! MetaComm supplied the venue for this meetup plus pizza and beer – way to give back to the tech community in Iowa City!

Tonight Mostafa Abdelraouf­ presented his JavaScript project. We also talked about the Slack app and how it handles updates. There was a slight lull in the discussion and we got to know each other and what we do. Learned more about Katelyn Lensch (Iowa Tech Chicks) and her work in REST api and AngularJS 2.0. Then the discussion caught fire and went on until the wee hours of the night! But when you start at 8pm and talk for hours it’s to be expected. I had a fantastic time and am already looking forward to the next event.

Assistive Technology Helping Web Accessibility and User experience

Assistive Technology Helping Web Accessibility & User Experience

Iowa Web Accessibility UX and Inclusive Design LOGO (#A11y)
We went to the Iowa Web Accessibility, UX & Inclusive Design meetup. This time it was held at the Iowa Center for Assistive Technology Education and Research. The evening started off with Amanda Lewis (Graduate Assistant) & Patricia (Patti) Bahr (MSE, ATP, RET) Director, stepping us though what it may feel like to be learning disabled, blind or hard of hearing. For me (being dyslexic) this was an interesting experience in realizing all of the obstacles I’ve had to deal with in my life. Once the group had a chance to experience empathy toward disabled members in our society, we proceeded to learn about some of the tools that modern technology gives people in need: From standalone apps like BeeLine Reader, Snap&Read Universal to Nuance’s Dragon®.‎ We also went over an extensive library of Google Chrome™ plugins like Voice Note II and Read&Write (my two favorites). To keep them all organized I recommend using Extensity!

So why learn about all of the tools available to people who are blind, hearing impaired, learning disabled, etc? Because programming a website that is user friendly across the board is just that important. We had lots of fun at this event at the University of Iowa.

Learning disability simulation of drawing within the lines:

This little mirror trick isn’t as easy as it looks. Cover your drawing hand and use a mirror at the top of the paper to draw within the lines while the “teacher” goes around praising some for doing such a wonderful job (yet no one really was) and says perceived negative things to others that are quickly internalized by the students who are having a hard time just following this simple star. It makes me truly sympathetic to people with disabilities who know what to do… but their bodies simply won’t let them do it.

Amanda Lewis, U of I Graduate Assistant talks about dyslexia and how teachers teach

Amanda Lewis, U of I Graduate Assistant talks about dyslexia and how teachers teach

Mirror Activity simulates having dyslexia or learning disability

Mirror Activity simulates having dyslexia or learning disability

Reading simulation: What it may feel like to be Dyslexic or Learning Disabled:

In the beginning you are given several words that were translated for you into this made up “dyslexic” language. As soon as you turn the page, it becomes more complex. Learning new “words” and remembering old fictional letter combinations turns out to not be as easy as the reader thinks. Before you know it the story is over and the “teacher” begins to ask you questions. The realization is that you struggled so much to read the text you didn’t have time to comprehend what you just read.

Reading a story as a Dyslexic student may read it

Reading a story as a dyslexic student may see or read it. Not so easy after all.

Learning to use modern tools that should be accessible to the websites we produce:

VoiceNote II was a little funky, but for the free price tag you can’t go wrong. It was able to read just about anything that was viewable on the computer, from websites to .PDFs and more.

Comparing Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking to VoiceNote II and other apps

Comparing Nuance’s Dragon NaturallySpeaking to VoiceNote II and other apps