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Olark's Q1 2024 Accessibility Progress Report

Lee White
March 29, 2024

Howdy! We just got home from an amazing week at the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. Even though the quarter isn’t quite over, we’re feeling so energized from hanging out and learning with the accessibility community that we decided to make the update a little early.

Olark at #CSUNATC

39th annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference. March 18-22, 2024. Anaheim Marriott

The biggest news from the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference was that our very own Barbara Maniar did a talk called Supporting Neurodiverse Users Using Chat Support with Hana Levay! Their talk covered reasons why using phone calls for customer support can be difficult for autistic people. Instead of forcing people to get on the phone, chat is a great alternative because it provides people time to process what the support person said, consider their response, and have a record of what they talked about for future reference. The talk also covered how autistic employees can provide super effective chat support. For those who were unable to attend, we definitely recommend looking over the presentation slides because they have a ton of information!

Improved In-App Notifications

An in-app notification that says “Changes saved!” with a check icon and a dismiss button

Sometimes, it is faster when coding to copy/paste code you used somewhere to implement a similar feature somewhere else. We got trapped in a cycle of copying and pasting the same code to show the people a notification when they saved their settings and it reached a point where we had copied it in so many places that it was really time to improve how we handle in app notifications as a whole.

There were a couple of reasons for this:

  1. There was a bug where the dismiss button on all of the notifications wasn’t working correctly
  2. We received feedback that when the notifications showed up in the bottom left of the screen, it was really easy for people to miss the notification and showing them in the top center would be better.

For both of these issues, we would have to change every single place where in-app notifications are created - which is not very efficient. Instead, we decided to create one singular place where notifications are managed and shown to the user. 

the In-App Notifications section of the User Settings page, which has a toggle to change if the notifications automatically dismiss]‍

So by changing how we implemented the in-app notifications, not only we were able to fix the two issues I mentioned before, but we were also able to make more improvements:

  1. Add a user setting to turn off auto-dismiss for these notifications in case people want to have the time to manually dismiss the notification when they are ready
  2. Longer messages remain on the screen longer so more people have a chance to read the message

Unique Page Titles in the Agent Console

3 tabs in a browser window, they are “My Inbox | Olark”, “Data sources | Olark”, and “User Settings | Olark”

As the new Agent Console has gotten more complex, we have moved from only having one page where agents can chat with their customers to a full application that includes: chatting, team settings, and new Knowledge AI features. With this increased complexity, we realized it was well past the time to add a unique title to each page. Now, it is easier for users to know where they were and what they were doing after they left their tab. 

Web Accessibility Specialist Certification

a badge that says “IAAP certified WAS”

On a slightly personal note, I also got the email that I passed the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) Web Accessibility Specialist certification. I have been studying for the last few months and even had to write flashcards for the first time in years! I am so happy I had the opportunity to dig deeper into accessibility - from AAA WCAG Success Criteria to the Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines, and even the different legal requirements around the world - so that I can apply that to our work at Olark.

What’s on the Horizon

Coming out of CSUN, we have a ton of ideas for new improvements we can make to the new Agent Console. Some things to look out for this quarter are:

  • Improving focus management in two key places:some text
    • When navigating between pages in the new Agent Console
    • When opening a modal dialog
  • Updating how translated messages are rendered to improve how assistive technology announces content in other languages