Life at Yahoo

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5 posts for Accessibility at Yahoo!
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Yahoo! Independence 2011

Posted: 7th of June, 2013
Imagine an event centered around people with disabilities that has absolutely nothing to do with charity! Imagine that same event being completely fun, engaging, enlightening (And did we mention fun?). Such was Independence 2011 (, an event created specifically for the Yahoo community (including family members and friends). Independence 2011 had one primary goal: to open your eyes to the reality of disability...which is likely different from the stereotypes many of us carry around.

For more disability related content: Visit the Yahoo Accessibility Blog: Yahoo Accessibility on Facebook: Yahoo Accessibility on Twitter:

In My Own Words - "Amazingly Ordinary" - What does that mean?

Posted: 24th of October, 2011
What does "amazingly ordinary" mean? Yahoo Alan Brightman explains the idea behind Independence-2011.

In this article, we meet Alan Brightman. As a leader in the Global Accessibility Team, Alan opens our eyes to what a Yahoo user with disabilities may feel, and how we can all learn about the humanity of accessibility during Yahoo!'s Independence-2011.

Be honest. If you were able to picture our hundreds of millions of users, how often do you think that picture would include individuals with disabilities?
Never? Yes, that’s pretty much the average. And understandably so. After all, most of us have almost no direct experience with disabled people so if we ever do think about kids or adults with disabilities, we usually think about them as being somehow “special” - as being very different from who we usually think of as Yahoo users.

Just Plain Ordinary

Many years ago, a friend of mine told me from his wheelchair that the toughest thing about being disabled is, “I’m never perceived as just plain ordinary. I’m either noticed too much or noticed not at all.” That’s a strange place to be, not being able to simply blend in—to be invisible—whenever you want.

And that is how the idea for Yahoo!’s Independence-2011 came about.

The Humanity of Accessibility

More than a thousand Yahoos have toured our Accessibility Labs in Sunnyvale and Bangalore and, as a result, have learned a lot about the technology of accessibility. What we haven’t been able to teach well enough, though, is the humanity of accessibility or what I think of as the ordinariness of disability. So we’re bringing that amazing ordinariness to the Yahoo campus. We’re giving Yahoos the opportunity to better understand the disabled experience in a comfortable, engaging, and non-threatening setting.

Independence-2011 Activities

There will be a lot going on during Independence-2011. A nationally known chef, who happens to be blind, will display his culinary talents in an activity called “Cooking Without Looking.” An organization known as the AbleGamers Foundation will show how kids and adults with profound disabilities use various assistive technologies to play the same video games on the same consoles as everyone else. The National Center for Accessible Media will be on hand demonstrating a variety of technologies, including one that they invented, which enables people who are deaf to watch captioned versions of first-run movies while sitting right next to someone—in a mainstream movie theater—who isn’t seeing any captions at all.

Other activities and demos will be arrayed across the Yahoo campus, including what many Yahoos see as a rare opportunity to show off their basketball prowess. They’ll be playing in wheelchairs on our courts against a professional wheelchair basketball team from Berkeley.

Las Vegas odds have yet to be posted for the wheelchair basketball competitions, but I think it’s safe to say that the guys in the purple shirts will be humbled. And trounced.

Alan Brightman
VP, Global Accessibility Team
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Opening Eyes to Accessibility

Posted: 7th of June, 2013
Victor Tsaran is one of those people who leaves people with a long lasting impression. He grew up in a Ukrainian orphanage and is now a talented computer engineer in the U.S. He’s an accomplished musician and songwriter. And he also happens to be blind.

Victor runs Yahoo!’s accessibility program. He helps make it easy for people with all kinds of disabilities to use our sites. When I first met Victor, I had the same naïve reaction most people have – dumbfounded by how he could crank open his laptop and be fully self-sufficient reading email and surfing the web. That’s because I was clueless about all the remarkable ways that people with disabilities use technology.

Victor’s made it his mission to educate our designers and engineers, helping change their assumptions that accessibility somehow requires sacrifice or compromise. On the contrary, Victor argues that accessible design is better for everyone. Just as curb-cuts were designed for wheelchairs, they’re also a great convenience for strollers, luggage and shopping carts, right?

But driving the point home sometimes means making someone walk a mile in his moccasins. Enter the Yahoo Accessibility Lab, which has been toured by more than 75 product teams to date. It’s filled with a wide array of assistive technologies – screen readers, onscreen keyboards, interactive Braille displays, etc. When Yahoos arrive, they’re told they’ve just had a stroke and can’t type with their fingers. They’re given a rubber ball and asked to type their name. Um… Next, they’re fully paralyzed. “OK, try to send an email.” Uh… After they’re introduced to the technology solutions, they watch videos of disabled people in action.

All this leaves developers making accessibility a goal before they write their first line of code. It’s why anybody can access rich features and tools on products like Yahoo Sports, My Yahoo!, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo News, Yahoo Search, Yahoo Messenger for the iPhone. It’s why third-party websites that are inaccessible in their own right are now entirely accessible via the new “favorites” area on the Yahoo Homepage. Victor has helped Yahoo make enormous strides since joining us four years ago, but there’s still more to come.

We spent some time following Victor with a video camera to not only understand his work, but to appreciate his daily experience. Commuting by train. Playing guitar. Making lunch with his wife Karo Caran, a fellow student from the Overbrook School for the Blind. We watched as sighted people had their first awkward interactions with him. He laughs when he describes how often people raise their hands when he asks questions during his new hire orientation briefings. Well-meaning commuters sometimes escort him to the wheelchair zone on the train platform. It took me a while to realize he’s not offended by questions like “Did you see my email?”

Spend any amount of time with Victor and you realize that his blindness doesn’t really make him all that different from anyone else – except that his computer talks to him. Really, really fast.

Accessibility in India!

Posted: 7th of June, 2013
There are 60 million people with disabilities in the U.S. There are more than 10 times that number around the globe. Yahoo!’s Accessibility team wants to make sure that every one of these individuals is able to use Yahoo as their web site of choice. That will only be possible, of course, if every corner of our network is fully accessible.

While we still have work to do toward that end, we did reach a significant milestone when Yahoo India launched an Accessibility Lab in Bangalore. It is modeled after our Sunnyvale lab, which has demonstrated a variety of assistive technologies to hundreds of Yahoos since it launched in 2008.

Our Accessibility Labs are important tools for engineers who can’t imagine life with a disability. The reality is that not everyone can use a mouse, type on a keyboard, or see the computer screen. We simulate that experience so our developers can learn how to think about users with disabilities during their product development process. We have screen readers to help them understand the experience of a blind user, single switches and onscreen keyboards for physically disabled users, communication devices for kids with speech impairments, etc. More and more Yahoo products are being designed and developed in our Bangalore office, so it became clear that we needed to enhance our ability to train engineers and designers there.

Also, as a global company, we are keenly aware that commercial screen readers are generally out of reach for most blind people living in developing countries. So we’ve sponsored the non-profit NV Access Foundation, which is working on a free, open-source screen reader. Our support will help them improve web features for NVDA for Windows, making it easier for visually-impaired users around the world to browse the Web – especially when they encounter Web 2.0 technologies. And by making NVDA’s screen reader a better product, we’re also helping all the web developers who use it as their testing tool.

Everybody wins.

Victor Tsaran
Sr. Accessibility Program Manager