Category: January 2011

A Note from the Guest Editor

Wouldn’t it be nice if there weren’t any barriers? If anyone, at any time, in any circumstance, could get the information they need when they need it, in the form or format they need it in? That’s what accessibility is about. According to the latest statistics, one in five people has a disability of some sort, whether it’s permanent or temporary, acute or chronic, acquired or congenital. The problem, of course, is that many items, both physical and virtual, are created for the 80% without disabilities. This is changing as countries enact new laws and as people realize that barriers… Read the rest

Don't Turn a (Color) Blind Eye

By Linda Roberts | Senior Member This column shares information about accessibility requirements and techniques, and introduces standards and policies that might affect your products. If you have feedback, contact Linda Roberts at As I was catching up on the tweets from the STC AccessAbility SIG (@staccess), I came across a retweet that said, “Spread the awareness for colour blindness. Numbers don't lie.” This tweet had a link to the following pie chart. The chart made me smile. With simplicity, it brought the message home that when you are building a website or graphic, you should not forget about… Read the rest

Developing the Required Talent, Part 1: Personal Training

By Geoff Hart | Fellow This column focuses on the principles of information design, the art and science of understanding how humans process and comprehend information, and using that knowledge to develop more effective ways to communicate. Please send comments and suggestions to Over the past five years, I've somehow managed to neglect two important topics in my information design columns: how to develop the talent required to apply the theoretical information I've provided in your daily work, and how a similar approach can help your audience acquire expertise in areas that they consider important. In the workshops I… Read the rest

Member Spotlights Need Volunteers

We're looking for volunteers to write or be interviewed for the three columns about STC members. “My Job” highlights members with a unique or interesting job in the field of technical communication; “Off Hours” celebrates a hobby or side gig—your passion away from work; and “Looking Back” presents lessons learned from long-time technical communicators. See previous issues of Intercom for examples. To volunteer, please email Kevin Cuddihy at… Read the rest

Accessibility 101 for Technical Writers

By Cliff Tyllick The project you're bidding on calls for all documents to be accessible. Your first questions are: Can you do it? How much more work will it take? How much more should you charge? And how can you know you have done it right? Believe it or not, as a competent technical writer, you probably are producing accessible documents already. And if you aren't, there should be very little you have to do to make the documents you produce accessible. In this article, I will cover the high points of accessibility. I hope to show you a new… Read the rest

President's Midterm Report

STC President Michael Hughes It’s a new calendar year and just about the halfway point of my term as president. It’s a good time to reflect on where we are and where we still need to go. Project Phoenix has received a lot of visibility. It is an intense project to redefine our Society and maintain our professional relevance for the future. Two critical activities have dominated the project so far. The first has been a series of surveys aimed at learning what members want and need from STC, what programs they value, and where they want to see more… Read the rest

Introducing the “Path to Fellow”

One of the society for Technical Communication's highest honors is to be named a Fellow. Fellows “have attained such eminence in the field of technical communication that the Board [of Directors] … deems them worthy of being singled out as one of the select few who have distinguished the Society and the profession.” The lengthy journey to Fellow status includes being recognized as an Associate Fellow previously. Members must be nominated as an Associate Fellow, and after two years Associate Fellows are eligible to be considered for Fellow. (See the Honorary Ranks page at for full information on the… Read the rest

STC 2011 Slate of Candidates

The Nominating Committee is pleased to announce the 2011 slate of candidates for Society office. Please note that the election slate presented below is based on the changes to the composition of the Society Board of Directors made in August 2009 as reflected in the Society's Bylaws. These are available for review at Congratulations to all of the candidates, and thanks to everyone who expressed interest in running for office. NOTE: All STC members must have paid their dues by 28 February 2011 to vote in the election. For President: Hillary Hart will automatically succeed from Vice President. Candidates… Read the rest

Captioning Videos on YouTube

By Karen Mardahl | Senior Member With video growing in popularity as a form of documentation and training, technical communicators must include captions or transcripts on their video checklist. Why? Ask people who are hard-of-hearing or Deaf, who work in noisy environments, or who cannot use the sound on their computer for various reasons. Captions make the video perceivable and understandable to those people. Captions make your video inclusive. This article explains how to caption videos using YouTube's auto-caption feature. (Note: You need a free YouTube account to use this feature.) Uploading Your Video Figure 1. Uploading a video to… Read the rest

Stop, Breathe, Think

By Jack Molisani | Fellow This column addresses job hunting and career advancement, focusing on various aspects of career growth. It's written from the perspective of someone who has been a technical writer, technical communication manager, and recruiter, and who worked as a captive (full-time) employee and an independent contractor before finally starting his own company. If you have questions or suggestions for a future column, email them to with ”Career Question” in the Subject line. In Florida a few years ago, I decided to learn how to scuba dive. My instructor led me through the required pool drills… Read the rest