Accessibility in the News: April 2006Wednesday, May 03, 2006
The clamour around electronic voting is still growing. New York will not meet target dates laid out in HAVA legislation. Opinion pieces indicated that the results are flawed, with the electronic voting machines overcounting.
KOffice steps up with a series of accessibility problems - tackling head-on the objections Microsoft raised to the Massachussets ODF decision about the accessibility of open-source office applications. These improvements have also made their way into KDE.
Nomensa report 75% of FTSE 100 companies fail basic accessibility tests. At least that number is going down, we are making progress, however slow.
- eMedia Wire:
Barclays launch on-line application for opening current accounts
The new application has several features to help the disabled apply online. It's AA compliant with the World Wide Web accessibility standards. It's compatible with speech browsers and customers can also specify whether they need correspondence in a different format such as Braille or large print.
- eGov Monitor: Winners announced of the Jodi Awards 2006
The Everyday Transformed, Tate Modern. This site does what seems impossible to many people, by making modern art (and its key concepts) accessible to blind and partially sighted people. It is one of the few to describe collections for visually impaired people. The images are highly contrasted and made visible to partially-sighted people. The judges were unanimous in selecting the winning site, which they agreed had yet more ground-breaking qualities and was destined to set the standard in global best practice. The site is already the world leader in making online collections accessible to blind and partially sighted people.
- San Antonio Business Journal: Web site-design rally for disabled makes local debut
Called the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR), the event is being hosted locally by nonprofit organization Knowbility. The rally marks the San Antonio debut of the Austin-based organization, whose mission is to increase the availability of information technology to those with disabilities. AIR is its central initiative for raising awareness and rallying communities around the idea of IT inclusion.
- Sydney Morning Herald: Wading through waffle a turn-off for web users
By encouraging potential clients to use the call centre, poor web content increases costs. Poor content equals risk, an item for the board - but how many directors discuss the risks of a poor web content strategy?
- Computer Interactive: Tate Online wins accessibility award
The site incorporates audio content so visitors can hear detailed descriptions of each work as well as watch full screen animations, which highlight and simplify key aspects of the included works.
- out-law: Insurance site is first to wear new accessibility badge
UnumProvident's UK site is the first to wear the 'See it Right with UseAbility' badge following a process that combined RNIB's accessibility assessment with usability testing by AbilityNet's panel of web users with disabilities. The exercise cost around £4,000 for the 200-page website. UnumProvident also used an external agency, e-scape media.
- Computing: FTSE 100 websites breaking disability rules
The research was conducted by website design firm Nomensa, which counts British Gas and Local Directgov among customers. It found that 75 out of 99 sites of companies on a recent roster of the FTSE 100 failed the minimum requirements of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as defined by the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative. The initiative aims to make the web accessible for people with disabilities.
Hardware and Software
- CC News: IBM accessibility technology opens Web to students and faculty at California State University, Long Beach
IBM WebAdapt2Me software allows individuals to view the Web in a way that's most productive for them. For example, people with low vision can change the size of the type and the colors and contrast of the page for easier viewing. People with learning disabilities can reduce the visual clutter of the page by, for example, reducing several columns to one, so they can follow the text more easily. People without full mobility can set up their system so the mouse and keyboard are easier to use. And people with learning disabilities can ask WebAdapt2Me to read the text on the screen aloud, using IBM ViaVoice technology.
- WebPro News: KOffice 1.5 Released For Linux
The decision of the Commonwealth of Massachussetts to base its future document format on open standards started a great debate with many different people and organization taking part. The start of it was Microsoft's assertion that programs using the OpenDocument file format could not be used by handicapped people.
The direct outcome of this debate was that OpenOffice.org, KOffice and vendors of other office software started to work hard on rectifying this situation. This version of KOffice has support for enhanced accessibility through the means of mouseless operation and text-to-speech functionality.
It is therefore our hope that KOffice can in future be used even by handicapped users, and we are very interested in feedback on this.
- Desktop Linux: KOffice 1.5 goes gold
The 1.5 version of KOffice has new support for enhanced accessibility through the means of mouseless operation and text-to-speech functionality. This improvement was sparked by Microsoft's assertion that programs using the OpenDocument file format could not be used by handicapped people, which surfaced during the ODF-vs.-proprietary formats debate in the Massachusetts legislature last fall.
- VNUNet: Guide Dogs for the Blind gets new intranet
Supplied by Percussion, the intranet will allow more of the charity's employees to contribute content, increasing the information it carries. Previously just six people had been able to make contributions.
- Linux World: KDE gets an update with improvements to file formats, accessibility features
Both the OpenDocument and accessibility features were partly the result of feedback coming out of the controversy of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' decision to move to OpenDocument formats. Part of the criticism, by disability advocates and Microsoft, was that accessibility features in OpenDocument were limited, according to KDE developers.
- Computer Weekly: BCS backs open source project to boost software for disabled users
The Open Source Assistive Technology Software (Oats) project is a one-year pilot scheme. It was set up last year to provide a "one-stop shop" for end-users, clinicians and open source developers to meet, exchange notes, promote new ideas, develop new software and download reliable open source assistive technology software.
- IT Director: Wake up - Text-To-Speech is getting emotional
If you are sitting in a top of the range Mercedes you would not be impressed by a tinny voice telling you to 'fasten your seat-belt', the voice becomes part of the Mercedes corporate image and it needs to be as smooth, unique and as well mannered as the car. As more information is provided to the driver through speech so the quality of the speech has to improve. Not only must the words be pronounced correctly in context for example 'close' in 'Please close (cloze) the door.' and 'You are too close (clos) to the car in front.' must be pronounced differently and correctly; but also the intonation of the sentences and words must match the context.
- Addict 3D: The Windows Vista Developer Story: Speech
Windows Vista automatically provides basic speech capabilities to any application that is designed to work with two Windows accessibility technologies: Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) and Microsoft Windows UI Automation (WUIA). At runtime, when speech is used to open or switch to an application, the speech engine queries that application to determine which accessibility features it supports, then works through those. Developers can add accessibility support to their applications by using the Active Accessibility API, which is COM-based. For more information, see "Microsoft Active Accessibility" in the Windows SDK. Managed applications can use the types provided in the Accessibility namespace, which are largely just COM wrappers for the Active Accessibility API. For more information, see "Accessibility Namespace" in the Windows SDK.
Legal - US and Canada
- Press Connects: New York's new voting system must be accessible to the disabled
New York is dead last among the 50 states in HAVA compliance. Although new fully accessible voting machines are supposed to be in place in time for this September's primaries, New York has declined to choose a statewide accessible machine. Instead, legislation gave this responsibility to each of New York's 62 counties to each choose their preferred accessible machine from a list of those certified by the state as being accessible and meeting other state requirements.
- Boston.com: MBTA to upgrade accessibility for disabled riders
Under the settlement of a class action lawsuit announced Monday by MBTA officials and groups representing people with disabilities, the authority also will create an assistant general manager for accessibility, and train transit workers with the help of disabled riders.
- Times Union: New York must do more to implement HAVA
Hundreds of disability advocates tried on numerous occasions to educate all interested parties -- to no avail. We developed voting system survey tools and conducted numerous tests of various voting systems. We presented our findings, provided testimony and attended all of the legislative conference committee meetings -- and we are yet to be heard.
- OpEd News: e-Voting 2006: The approaching train wreck
So far this year two states have conducted primary elections. In Texas there is at least one candidate who has stepped forward and has challenged the election because of anomalies in vote counts and known voting machine failures. One county's machines counted some votes up to 6 times which resulted in approximately 100,000 more votes being counted than were cast. Though the vendor, Hart Intercivic, initially blamed the problem on human error, they finally had to admit that it was a programming error and not poll workers or voters who had erred. In Illinois some county officials are threatening to withhold final payment of funds on contracts with Sequoia Voting Systems because of failures with their machines that resulted in results in the primary not being known for over a week after the voters went to the polls. In both states the involved vendors were very successful in the media with deflecting the blame from their machines to "human errors" or "glitches". However, when you listen to people who were there and who saw and worked through the problems you get a different picture.
- The Daily Star: Survey: Disabled prefer absentee ballots
"We heard from about 90 percent, and they said they'd much rather continue voting by absentee ballot," Jarvis said. "Some said, 'Please, don't take our absentee ballots away.' Others said, 'You can install new equipment, but I'm not going to use it. I want to vote by absentee ballot."'
- Democrat and Chronicle: Voting options on table in N.Y. would leave disabled out in cold
New York is considering two basic plans to implement some of the accessibility provisions of the Help America Vote Act, collectively known as "Plan B." The first option would require New York to have one machine it determines to be accessible in every polling place by November 2006. The second option is a phone-in system that would be used only for disabled voters.