Legendary college basketball coaches Roy Williams (North Carolina), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Jay Wright (Villanova), and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse) have all recently retired. It’s a new era.
If these legends of the game can step away, I feel justified in doing the same. Since 2006, I’ve hosted an annual Accessible NCAA Tournament Bracket. I created the site to meet an unmet need. All other online tournament brackets and pools have historically been inaccessible to basketball fans who are blind (using screen reader software); physically unable to use a mouse (using keyboard, speech input, or other assistive technologies); or in need of custom configurations (such as large fonts or high contrast color schemes). My site has steadily grown in popularity, largely by word of mouth, and over the last few years there have been over 200 people participating in the tournament pool. It’s been fun for me, hosting the site and sharing my love for college basketball with other kindred fans. But… it’s time to move on. Here’s why:
I have always felt some deep reluctance to host a “separate but equal” website. Mainstream websites, including those featuring tournament pools and brackets, should be designed for everyone, not solely for mouse users with good eyesight. Accessibility has always been technically possible – the first version of the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines was published in 1999. If one lonely guy can create an accessible tournament site in his spare time, huge corporations like ESPN (Disney), CBS, and FOX should surely be able to do the same.
And in fact, at least one of the mainstream sites, Yahoo!, has expressed a commitment to improving their accessibility. I’ve been communicating with their accessibility team in the days leading up to the tournament. They have made several recent improvements, and enthusiastically welcome my site’s participants to try the Yahoo Fantasy Tourney Pick’em.
So, I’ve created two groups on Yahoo!:
Please give this a try! And let me know how it goes, either publicly in the Comments below, privately via my Contact Form, or by email if you know my address. If you share specific accessibility feedback (including details such as operating system, browser, and assistive technologies), I’ll compile all the feedback I receive and share it with the Yahoo! accessibility team. I don’t know how willing they’ll be to make significant changes this year, after the site has already gone live to millions of users, but if they aren’t willing, I believe our feedback will result in a better, more accessible experience next year.
I completed both the men’s and women’s brackets on Selection Sunday immediately after the pairings were announced. I used JAWS in Chrome for the men’s bracket and keyboard alone for the women’s. It isn’t perfect, but I think it’s doable, and it’s an investment in the future. NOTE: For keyboard users with eyesight, the bracket by default is partially obstructed by an instructional overlay titled “Bracket Basics”. Making this go away seems to require a mouse click. You can click anywhere on the bracket, so it doesn’t require extreme fidelity. If that’s impossible, the bracket can still be completed despite the visual obstruction, but it’s difficult to see. This is a major problem that I’ve informed them about, and hopefully they can fix it quickly.
Reasons this change is a good thing:
- Yahoo! includes brackets for both Men’s and Women’s tournaments. This has been a frequent request of my participants, but as one guy I’ve never had the capacity to host both.
- You could win $25,000! Odds aren’t great, but with my site there was never any hope of winning anything other than bragging rights.
- If Yahoo! can make their tournament pool accessible, that could open the door for access to other sports as well, not to mention all the other content that Yahoo! provides through their main site.
Yahoo Tips for Screen Reader Users
These tips were compiled based on my experience on Sunday, March 12. The details may change, especially if they respond promptly to some of my accessibility feedback. Also, this information is for the desktop version, accessed in a web browser. I know some screen reader users who say they’ve successfully used the iPhone app, but I haven’t tested that.
On Yahoo, the process for creating an account, signing in, and getting started with your bracket (naming your bracket, choosing your privacy settings, agreeing to terms and conditions, etc.) are fairly accessible. I did encounter a Google ReCAPTCHA on the signup form (version 2, the one with the single checkbox by default). Hopefully that won’t cause problems.
Eventually, you’ll end up on the page where you fill out your bracket. On that page, the name of your bracket is a Heading 1. This is important, as you will likely want to return to the top occasionally. There are some important features immediately after this heading. In order of appearance, they are:
- A “Bracket Settings” link – this takes you to a new page, on which you can change the name of your bracket, edit your custom image, or change notification settings. (Note: The image associated with your bracket has alt=””, even if you upload a custom one. So this is purely a decorative feature for the benefit of sighted users).
- An “Instructions” button. Just ignore this. The instructions are not accessible.
- A status message. Until you’re finished it will say “Incomplete! X of 63 picks made”. If you get lost, you can return here to see how near you are to completion. (Try not to get lost though, as there’s no easy way to find your way back). When you think you’re finished, check the status message: It should say “Bracket complete”.
- A “Clear All” button does what it sounds like. If you click it accidentally, you will be prompted to verify.
- A “Save Bracket” button. This is important! Be sure to click this after you’ve made your picks. They will be lost if you don’t save them.
- “Autofill or import bracket” combo box. If you know nothing about basketball and just want to roll the dice, this can be a fun option! If you choose an option from the combo box, you will need to then click the “Fill in bracket” button, which follows the combo box.
The bracket follows all of these items. It’s designed to be navigated with the Tab key. Each game consists of three focusable items: Team 1, Team 2, and a “Matchup Details” button”. If you click the “Matchup Details” button, you’ll get a dialog with details about each of the two teams. Highlights of this dialog include:
- A table of stats for each team (the table has some accessibility problems and is a bit tricky to navigate).
- A Heading 2 for each team, and beneath each heading is an extensive write-up about each team. If you read all this content, you will be making highly informed picks!
- Two buttons, one for each team, so you can make your picks directly in the dialog. Note: If you make a pick using one of these buttons, the dialog will automatically advance to the next matchup.
- Two buttons for navigating between matchups: A “Previous Matchup” and a “Next Matchup” button. Navigating with these buttons allows you to make all your picks directly from the dialog, without having to go back to the bracket. Try to avoid using the “Previous Matchup” button; I found that this had unpredictable results and you don’t want to get lost. It’s best to just keep moving forward.
Good luck! I hope to see you in either or both of my Yahoo groups.