How assistive technology can increase interaction at events

By Marta Valle, Accessibility and Usability Consultant at AbilityNet

In part one of a two part blog, Marta introduces her experience of working with Q&A platform Slido to develop an accessible version for Techshare Pro...

A photo of Slido being used on screen at TechShare Pro conference Last summer, just after the Tech4Good Awards, I went to an event with our CEO Gary Moore and we saw a Question & Answer (Q&A) platform in action. It was an app the audience were using to ask questions during the event, making it easier for everyone to participate. We really liked the idea and thought it would be great to have something like this for TechShare Pro, our flagship accessibility conference in November. Everyone liked the idea, but we had to make sure we could find an accessible solution.

Adi Latif and I found three different Q&A software companies and contacted them all. We tested their platforms and found accessibility issues in all of them. However, one of the companies had quite a lot of accessibility code in place and also showed a genuine interest to work with us to make their app accessible and to have it ready for TechShare Pro. That was Slido.

Working with Slido on accessibility

Slido is really easy to use. The audience needs to go to on their phone browser and enter an event code to join the platform. Then they can ask questions during the event, vote for other people’s questions and participate in audience polls.

In October we had our first conference call with Klara Sarkanyova, Interaction Expert of Slido. She gave us access to Slido and Adi tested the platform with VoiceOver (the inbuilt screen reader for Apple products) in front of the camera for her. 

Watching Adi Latif test anything with VoiceOver is really fascinating, you always learn something new and he celebrates everything that is correctly announced (‘Wow, this is really well done!’). Both Klara and I enjoyed the test and we all came to a conclusion: Slido could be accessible for TechShare Pro by applying some tweaks…and if not 100% perfect, at least as accessible enough to meet the needs of those at the event.

In our second videocall, we had the chance to meet two other key people in Slido, David Domonkos (coder) and Juraj Jonek (product manager). David told us that he always has had an interest in accessibility which is why their code was better than others. We showed them that some parts of the platform could be improved, for example making sure the number of votes for each question gets announced on VoiceOver. 

Improving accessibility in record time

Improving the accessibility or websites and apps can take time, but in this case, we needed the platform to be as accessible as possible in just 20 days. The clock was ticking!
Slido’s team were quick to implement some crucial changes; and we were able to run a more in-depth accessibility test. The main accessibility issues that Adi and I found the second time were with labels, headings and focus. Other areas that can be tricky in apps and websites like the radio buttons passed the test.

At this stage, some improvements were made like announcing the number of votes, making ‘ask the speaker’ a heading level 1 or improving the focus for modals. It was 10 days before TechShare Pro.

Just days before the event we found out that Slido was going to have to work in two different rooms at the same time. Slido has an inbuilt room selector dropdown option to cover different rooms, but it was not accessible. VoiceOver was not announcing that it was a room selector, announcing only the name of the room (for example, ‘Room 1’). 

Two days before the conference Slido had managed to release new accessibility improvements we required! They improved the dropdown menu to sort the questions published by popularity, recent, trending…they also improved labels, headings and buttons. And they even fixed the room selector. Adi and I tested it one more time. When we got to the room selector, VoiceOver announced ‘Room selector, room 1, button’. We broke the usual peace of our office with a big ‘yay!’ Slido was ready for TechShare Pro.

We sent Slido back a list of pending improvements that they could implement in the future, but most importantly we had prepared the platform for Techshare Pro and Klara offered to come and help at the event. In my next blog, I’ll share how Slido performed on the day of the event…

To be continued…