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.
9 replies on “My retirement from college basketball”
Way to go, Terrill, I also wanted to thank you for the link to the folks in Washington with their live tracking of sporting events. I spoke with them and I see many advantages for people with visual disabilities as well as a door opener for other disabilities. Thanks again, Terrill. Great job and wonderful work done by your dedication.
Your work on topics such as this one is just outstanding!! I also am a person who believes the standard of “seperate but equal” is not a rule America should live by. As a person with a disability who has been arrested 7 times over the past 35 yearsfor acts of civil disobedience for the right of persons with disabilities to freely live, work, be educated and live in the community of their choice is a civil right. As the great Fredrick Douglass wrote and I paraphrase, freedom shall not be freely given by the free, it must be taken by the oppressed.
Thanks to you and the intentions of Yahoo, the standard of accessible websites and its content will be enjoyed by persons with disabilities in a free and equal manner.
Thank you for the outstanding work you have done with this and so much more. You have made an amazing positive difference and helped demonsttrate inclusion for years with the big players did not. I am hopeful your retirement and communication with industry players will continue to lead to a change here and that is a credit to your efforts.
[…] After a 17-year run of providing the industry leading and in many cases only example of an accessible NCAA tourney bracket, Terrill Thompson announced his retirement from the bracket business in a thoughtful blog post yesterday. […]
Terrill, I’m sure I speak for many when I say a big thank you for all you have done to help make March Madness even more fun and interesting. I hope that the move to Yahoo will also help support the good work they have been doing and bolster the accessibility team’s internal cred to get more done. Although I always agree with full accessibility, I also want to acknowledge that this bracket work you have created for these many years has fostered a fun and lively community, and community matters. Thanks.
As one who has enjoyed participating in an accessible NCAA bracket for several years, I’d like to thank Terrill for all of his efforts that made it possible. I encourage everyone who participates in the Yahoo bracket to give them feedback so we can make it even more accessible.
Hi, Terrill! Though I agree with you about universal access and the need to nudge these guys, Hoops Girl (me) had so much fun with your brackets! Thanks so much for all you have done over lo, these many years to advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, and for all you continue to do. See you on Yahoo!–Susan AKA Hoops Girl; and what fun to be able to do the women’s brackets!
Thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do!
I was able to easily complete a bracket on Yahoo. Who knew?
Now, how long will it take till the wheels come off?
Terrill, thank you for all the effort, energy and time you contributed to maintaining and managing the accessible bracket site. I’m a member, of and completed brackets for both the men’s and women’s on Yahoo!. Now, enjoying some good games and looking forward to reviewing my brackets (and probably being let down by the Big Ten), but having fun! I’m encouraged Yahoo’s open to accessibility feedback (that’s always a win-win for everyone).