Accessibility in the News: August 2004Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Eliot Spitzer, the New York Attorney General must surely be the accessibility Man-of-the-month. Priceline and Ramada - two travel agencies with a significant online presence have settled with Spitzer and conceeded to make their websites accessible according to a list of guidelines taken directly from the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. A positive shot in the arm for the accessible web, and a strong rejoinder to the Seitz Southwest Airlines misruling.
Just under one month to go before Section 21(2) of Part III of the UK Disability Discrimination Act comes into force. This section applies to alterations to physical features of buildings, yet many accessibility "experts" incorrectly apply it to websites. Websites are already liable under the DDA, and have been since May 2002. I am astonished how many web accessibility experts still get this wrong. Even UsableNet recently got it wrong in their newsletter promoting their text-only "solution".
The electronic voting system argument is heating up in the US. In favour of electronic voting are the disability groups - with good reason - the disabled have the tools to cast their own votes without needing to rely on the "help" of others. The other side is populated by groups insisting that the choice they make won't be recorded correctly, or stored correctly by the computer and so are insisting on a printed record of the vote. Of course, the downside is that waiting for this will almost certainly hinder the wide-spread usage of electronic voting in the November US election, and consequently, affecting the voice of the disabled. Yet still the expected levels of accessibility in polling stations on November 2 is mediocre.
- Netimperative: Sainsburys launches new corporate site
The new site enables equal access to people with disabilities who may be using technologies other than standard web browsers. Following W3C accessibility standards the site allows users to control a number of features including the size of the text, layout and navigation.
- Netimperative: Train operator hands Fortune Cookie relaunch
Fortune Cookie says it will create a new design with a clear and simple layout, with the website slated for a launch in autumn 2004. The new site will also adhere to RNIB accessibility guidelines, to enable access for those with disabilities as well as users of various browsers and internet connection speeds.
- AGI online: Even the blind can search for books on the Internet
Even the visually impaired can search for library books and magazines on the Internet. It will be possible through the website of the Siena Library System, thanks to the changes planned by the directives of W3C, the consortium which issues the guidelines for making the web accessible and useful for everyone
- Register: Text is best for website accessibility
Personal comment: There's nothing in this syndicated "news item" that's newsworthy, apart from the fact it is counter-productive to suggest that text-only is a solid basis for accessibility. This approach is flat out wrong. Newbies beware! Text-only conversions is not a complete solution to an inaccessible website. One of the comments from this syndicated piece is quite insightful:
Lift Text Transcoder is A Bad Thing for the following reasons:
- Text-only web sites do not provide equivalent access for disabled people.
- It assumes that partially-sighted people have no use for design.
- It removes one of the major incentives for refactoring Web sites to use Standards-Compliant markup and CSS.
- It is unnecessary - access improvements happen under the hood (in the markup), and it is possible to layer presentation on top.
- It encourages a form of segregation - disabled people are shunted off to a separate corner of the web site. "Use the back door, please"
"This text-only utility is widely seen as the stupidest thing to come along all year. And people are falling for it."
"Your site can itself be made accessible. You don't need a Ladies' Auxiliary to which you shunt disabled visitors." -- Joe Clark, author of "Building Accessible Websites" (New Riders)
- UC Berkley News: Website chronicles history of disability rights and independent living movement
The Bancroft Library's Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) has just launched the site to make its collection of interviews with movement leaders, participants and observers, along with documents, photographs and audio and video clips, widely accessible.
- dot Journalism: Publishers discuss web accessibility
AOP advises web publishers to comply with at least the first level of the WAI guidelines and with the codes of practice issued by the DRC. The association is also writing to the DRC to seek clarification on how the DDA legislation applies to websites.
- W3 Reports: Usability & Accessibility Working Group announces launch of new web site
The first initiative the UA-WG is looking to promote is the first ever accessibility accreditation scheme for suppliers of web design services. The accreditation will enable the digital industry to identify qualified suppliers in what is a legally essential requirement for all organisations on the web. It will include education elements, a continuous self-assessment facility and a formal accreditation process.
- out-law: Should web developers wear an accessibility badge?
OUT-LAW spoke to one developer (who asked not to be named) who sympathised with those trying to choose between suppliers. "How can you possibly know if a supplier really knows what they're talking about?" he asked. "I've seen loads of web developers' sites with Bobby and WAI badges that quite clearly aren't what they're claiming it to be. This accreditation should help."
- W3 Reports: Nomensa publish article stating Access Keys can hinder accessibility
There are no universal standards for what link should use which access key. That is not to say there are not some example standards in place, but that even with one, a common standard may not make sense on some web sites. Presently, the UK government has instigated a standard that is aimed at government sites, yet may not work for other sites. It is difficult to envisage a common set of access keys that could be applied across different sites, which would have to be the aim for wide spread usage by people.
- Web Hosting Industry News: WiderWeb offers web hosts accessibility
To deploy the services, a Web site owner places a link from their home page redirecting disabled users to their site through the gateway. The gateway then makes the request on the users behalf, translating it into an accessible version before delivering the page back to the user. All subsequent page requests in the session are then automatically directed through the gateway.
- IT Director: Accesskey for or against
The standard is somewhat loosely worded and this has meant that different browsers have implemented the keys in somewhat different ways.
Hardware and Software
- NJ: Adapting to a new world
An estimated 10 million blind and visually impaired people live in the United States, according to the American Foundation for the Blind. More than 1.5 million blind and visually impaired Americans use computers. Adaptive technologies make it possible.
- OS News: Mini-Report from LinuxWorld Expo Day 1
Matthias Ettrich talked to us about KDE, freedesktop.org and the need for a unified HIG. He believes that accessibility is one of the most forgotten sides of the Unix desktop and so he mentioned the adoption of Sun's ATK by KDE, a library which is still not as complete as he would like it to be though.
- FCW: IBM previews aDesigner
The new program, aDesigner, simulates the perspectives of users with low vision and those who are blind to give Web developers a clear idea of what changes need to be made for compliance with disability regulations and general usability. The software helps developers determine if a Web site is compliant with all current accessibility guidelines by offering guidance on how to fix problems.
- FCW: IBM accessibility: It's business, not charity
One such product, ViaScribe, automatically puts spoken words in captions so that college and university professors or anyone giving an oral presentation can have their lectures and speeches captioned in real time. The program has obvious benefits for people who are hard of hearing, but test situations also have demonstrated learning benefits for students for whom English is a second language, visual learners and even those who occasionally tune out due to fatigue or boredom.
- GCN: The eyes have it
NaviGaze allows people who lack arm or hand mobility to control cursor movements with simple head movements. It can be customized to support a wide range of head mobility, the system's developers said.
- Linux Electrons: Mozilla Foundation announces Xforms development project
Using XForms, an enterprise can ensure increased accessibility of electronic web transactions in order to meet Federal Accessibility Guidelines as mandated by Section 508.
- ZDNet: Take a longer look at accessibility
According to Microsoft's subsequent research, 22 percent of the workforce was found to have severe impairments, and 38 percent have "mild impairments" -- that is, they could benefit from assistive or accessibility technology.
- CNet: Open-source developers focus on accessibility
The next version of KDE, which will either be called 3.4 or 4, will be compatible with accessibility software, which currently only runs on GNOME.
KDE's developers are also keen to ensure that all applications on the next release fully support the Linux operating system's accessibility features and pledged to improve utilities that automate the use of a mouse, magnify parts of the screen and convert text to speech.
- MacWorld: Apple Expo: Accessibility tools unveiled
The company showed new versions of its KeyStrokes (3.2) on-screen keyboard, its SwitchXS 1.6 switch access solution and a completely new multilingual speech product, Proloquo 1.0. The products are expected to ship in October.
- MLive: Disabilities act improved access to work, school, social events
But what they wanted was for business and government and service agencies to think of creative ways to accommodate people with disabilities. If you're a small business on the second story of an old building, and it would cost you $35,000 to put in an elevator, that's not reasonable and the law recognizes that. People said, 'So, I'm going to have to have a sign language person on my staff?' No. It's as simple as common sense. You can write notes (to a hearing impaired customer.) Restaurants asked if they would need a Braille menu. No, because the server can read the menu to someone.
Sears did an interesting study where they looked at 436 accommodations they created in all their stores. They discovered that 69 percent of them cost nothing to do, 28 percent cost less than $1,000 and the other 3 percent cost more than $1,000. And I don't think people realize barriers, ramps, that kind of thing, you don't have to do it all at once. You can have a back door ramp that's kind of small. Next year if profits are better, you can improve on that.
- MLive: ADA made changes but remains work in progress
Advocates say there's good news in a Harris Survey of Americans with Disabilities released by the National Organization on Disability in late June. The Harris poll showed that the 35 percent of people with disabilities were either in full- or part-time employment in 2004 compared with 32 percent in 2000, 29 percent in 1998 and 31 percent in 1994.
- St Petersburg Times: Citrus must face, fix accessibility issues
For the second time this year, the U.S. Department of Justice has cited Citrus County for hundreds of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and has forced county government into a settlement agreement that gives it a strict timeline to fix problems.
- This is Hertfordshire: Disabled groups to sue if new Act isn't implemented
Disabled people in Barnet are being urged to sue the borough's council, businesses and health authority for refusing to comply with new disability legislation which comes into force in October.
- Business Review: Travel Web sites agree to improve access for visually impaired
Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said over the past year investigators from his office found that portions of the Ramada.com and Priceline.com Internet sites were not accessible although the Americans With Disabilities Act requires that private Web sites be accessible to blind and visually impaired Internet users.
- CNet: Travel sites agree to changes for the blind
The companies will ensure that their sites accommodate assistive technologies, such as screen reader software, which converts Web page text into speech, they said. They've also agreed to clearly label graphics and images and comply with a range of other accessibility standards outlined by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an Internet standards body.
- Myrtle Beach Online: Web sites to increase accessibility
"This is a precedent-setting decision," said Carl Augusto, president and chief executive officer of the American Foundation for the Blind. "We hope it's going to be influencing other companies throughout the United States so that the 10 million blind and visually impaired people can fully participate in our society at all levels."
- ZDNet: Blind surfers win concessions from travel sites
The Americans With Disabilities Act has spurred several lawsuits related to Internet accessibility. In 2000, the National Federation for the Blind sued the state of Connecticut for linking to inaccessible online tax filing services on the state's internal revenue site. The suit led Intuit, H&R Block and several others to adjust their sites for the visually impaired.
- out-law: Travel sites settle New York accessibility investigation
Spitzer's view is consistent with a Congressional hearing of 2000, which concluded that, "the ADA does apply to the internet". The settlement figures won by Spitzer could be the first to be paid in relation to web accessibility since the Organising Committee of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games was fined AUS $20,000 in the first decision ever to identify web accessibility as a legal obligation.
- CBC: UN: Only 5 of 24 countries in the Americas protect rights of the disabled
The 441-page International Disability Rights Monitor Regional Report of the Americas was released during a two-week meeting of a UN committee drawing up a treaty to protect the rights of an estimated 600 million people worldwide suffering from disabilities. The next report, to be released in December, will focus on the Asia-Pacific region.
- Wichita Eagle: Americas Graded on Disabled Facilities
Brazil ranked first with the highest marks on all six issues. The United States had the highest marks on five issues, but was second because President George W. Bush's administration has voiced opposition to a global treaty to protect and promote the human rights of disabled persons, saying national action is more effective.
- PRWeb: New Americans with Disabilities Requirements
The new Americans with Disabilities Act now requires a brand new surface texture on all new public sidewalk ramps called "Detectable Warnings," or effectively, "Braille for your feet." This gives blind and visually impaired persons a "tactile cue" to warn them of impending danger or a grade change. Required in all states, this new mandate opens up worlds of mobility for those previously held hostage in their homes for fear of safety issues most take for granted.
- Portsmouth Herald: Revamping the ramps
According to the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office, not one of the state's voting venues is completely accessible to the handicapped.
- The New Standard: Progressives split over electronic voting machines
But a number of disability rights activists and organizations oppose these voter-verified paper receipts, saying that they are not useful to blind voters, and that the cost of installing printers and upgrading software would delay gaining access to the machines.
- Portsmouth Herald: Poll places: Towns must improve access
The AG's office wants each town in the state to make all its polling places fully accessible by Sept. 14, the state primary. Local town administrators said this past week they are doing their best to comply.
- Bellaciao: How they could steal the election this time
Pointing out in a recent speech at the NAACP convention that "a million African-Americans were disenfranchised in the last election," Kerry says his campaign is readying 2,000 lawyers to "challenge any place in America where you cannot trace the vote and count the votes"
The principal stated objection to a DRE paper trail comes from some spokespersons for the disabled, who characterize it as a step back from the touch-screen's improved accessibility and privacy.
- SearchCRM.com: Bush, Kerry sites get vetoed
Web sites need to accommodate the visually and hearing impaired, Temkin said. In this regard, Kerry's site passed the accessibility test, but Bush's failed. It didn't contain transcripts for video on the site and lacked alternative paths that take the visually impaired to specialized browsers that say printed words aloud, Temkin said. Additionally, both sites fail to accommodate physically impaired visitors who use a head wand or might have dexterity problems with the mouse, Temkin said. The sites each require complicated mouse movements and clicks.
- Marietta Times: Disabled voters can count on access to polls
A potential sleeping giant in this election are the nearly 770,000 disabled Ohio citizens. Most are finding it easier to get to polls now more than ever.
The American Association for People with Disabilities estimates more than 56 million people in the United States have a disability. According to 1997 U.S. census numbers, 1.7 million Ohio citizens of voting age have a disability. In the 2000 presidential election, about 777,000 disabled citizens voted.
- Connection Newspapers: Arlington casts electronic votes
Last year, the county took a big step to update older electronic touch-screen voting equipment, enlisting a computer touch-screen machine, called the WINvote machine. Sleek and compact, the WINvote machine looks like a flat-screen computer monitor and has improved accessibility for those with disabilities, particularly the blind.
- Concord Monitor: Polling places are ramping up access
The state has required accessible polls for more than 20 years, but many of New Hampshire's 309 voting locations don't pass muster. A survey during last winter's primary found inadequate parking, narrow doors, icy ramps and other barriers that made voting difficult for people who use wheelchairs, walkers and canes.
- Daily Item of Lynn: Handicapped voters unable to access Lynn polling places
Election officials are grappling with how to make 27 of the city's 28 public polling places accessible to physically handicapped voters as the national election draws near.
- Herald News: Survey: 60 percent of precincts not fully accessible
BOSTON -- Sixty percent of the state's 1,488 polling places did not meet accessibility regulations for disabled voters, according to a survey released by the Massachusetts Office on Disability Monday.
Only 67 of 351 Massachusetts cities and towns had fully accessible polling places complying with the state law designed to ensure that elderly and disabled voters can exercise this democratic right without impediment.
- Berkshire Eagle: Disabled must have access to polls
The finding by the Massachusetts Office on Disability that 60 percent of the state's 1,488 polling places do not meet accessibility requirements for disabled voters is discouraging enough, but it is doubly discouraging to learn this now because there is little or no time for these problems to be addressed before the September 14 primary and November 2 general election. Many of the problems are concentrated in specific communities, such as Boston, and many could be solved with relative ease, but the state should make sure all polling places are accessible to the disabled and provide the funding necessary to bring them up to standards.
- MetroWest Daily News: Disabled voters challenged: Accessibility problems abound at MetroWest polling places
Voters with disabilities may run into trouble casting ballots at polling places in 17 area towns during the Sept 14 primary because of problems with ramps, parking, curb cuts and entrances, a new survey said.
Real world accessibility
- Denver Post: The other Independence Day
The walls of Atlantis' headquarters south of downtown Denver attest to members' struggle for civil rights. As big as a school gym, the main room is wallpapered with newspaper articles, from 1975 to now, that wind around the entire perimeter. Photographs show Atlantis members demanding attention at government meetings, picketing narrow-minded employers or service providers, and receiving awards under headlines that blare "11 Arrested in Protest," "28 Busted in D.C.," and "Protesters Ready for Long Jail Stay in Cincinnati.".
- Seattle Times: Parents of disabled must plan for future
Nearly one in five adults and young children in the United States - 49.7 million people - have a disability or long-lasting condition, reported the 2000 Census.
- Daily Star: Conference calls for action to improve plight of disabled
"Visibility is the most obvious indicator of rights for the disabled."
- Kansas City Star: Globe-trotting couple undeterred by accessibility obstacles abroad
As Greenwood residents Ron and Valerie Kassen charted a recent European cruise, they did all the usual things: researched cities to visit, shopped for the best deal and gathered recommendations from people who had been there, done that. They also packed two wheelchairs, brought their voice-activated laptop and rented oxygen. Ron is blind, and Valerie has muscular dystrophy.
- Jewish Press.com: Understanding the caregiver of the chronically ill - the person behind the chair
Accessibility is not just a ramp or a lift. It is not just Braille on light switches and rooms. It is also the way we treat people. Are we inclusive in our community or exclusive? Do we consider the needs of everyone and not just when we build or renovate, but when and how we hold a simcha, celebrate a holiday or hold a class event?
- Winterset Madisonian: Supervisors mull ADA access to courthouse
One rather eye-appealing approach that was dismissed was to introduce an oval shape to the courthouse complex. That would have entailed large, sweeping spiral arms emanating from the courthouse steps to the perimeter sidewalk on two sides of the building. The arms would sweep in a clockwise direction toward the street. The arms would actually be a wheelchair accessible ramp.
- North County Times: Universal design coming to a home near you
When homeowners just say no to stairs, they take their first step to embrace "universal design," a philosophy that creates buildings - including homes - that are more accessible and user-friendly.
But a funny thing happened on the way to free-and-open access: lots of people found the improvements easier to navigate and more comfortable, too.
- MSNBC: Some live theater is now captioned
A sold-out matinee on Sunday at the Kennedy Center, one of the pioneers, furnished CART as a moving sign in red on a black background. Placed at one side of the stage, it scrolled three lines at a time of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" as the actors delivered them.
- Innovations Report: Emergency evacuation easy with descending wheelchair
The chair's arm lever works in a similar fashion to a ratchet screwdriver which propels the wheelchair down the stairs when it is pushed forward. The wheel system at the front of the chair controls the speed and descent down stairs whilst gears attached to the arm lever and the tri-wheel underneath allow the chair to descend, move along flat ground and turn on the spot, making it ideal for manoeuvring around tight corners on stairwells.
- News Medical: Revolutionary evacuation wheelchair
Simon said: "I definitely think this could be adapted to a normal wheelchair, I also think it could be made to go upstairs by using either hydraulics or a small motor. The reason I didn't apply that sort of technology is because there would have been far too much work involved for a final year University project so I thought I would focus on the evacuation aspect."
- New York Daily News: TLC leaves disabled at the curb
The Taxi and Limousine Commission claims it's multiplying by 10 the number of yellow cabs that will be available to people in wheelchairs. True, technically, but going from three wheelchair-accessible taxis to 30 in a fleet of 12,787 is meaningless, and insulting.
- BBC: Challenges for disabled in Athens
On finals night at the Helliniko baseball stadium, BBC News Online saw wheelchair users having to be carried up flights of stairs because of a lack of ramps and lifts.
- Journal Advocate: Barriers are everywhere
If I were in a wheelchair, I couldn't live in my apartment downtown, work on the second story of city hall or eat my favorite Mexican dish at "Delgado's Dugout."
- CBC Montreal: Metro stops short at wheelchair accessibility
None of the subway stations in Montreal is currently fitted with wheelchair ramps or elevators.