Accessibility in the News: August 2005Monday, September 05, 2005
August saw SiteMorse furiously back-pedaling again. They correctly acknowledge that an automated tool cannot make the judgements required to determine whether a site is accessible. SiteMorse look to be ignoring the evidence that their tool is making precisely those judgements, and getting them wrong, and flagging errors where there are none. In a change of tack, SiteMorse now claim their tool measures the usability of the site. Perhaps pedaling backwards is making them dizzy. Their hatchet job against the DRC seems to continue.
IBM continues to make positive moves in both the open source and web accessibility communities. Its latest code contribution to Firefox includes a raft of useful accessibility features improving on keyboard access, and making pages more compatible with text-to-speech software. There are a few odd standards-breaking features (like negative tabindex values), but on the whole the contribution is an especially constructive one.
- News Observer: Travelling with a disability
At www.amtrak.com, links are provided to a host of subjects to better prepare for rail travel. Making reservations for accessible space, including information needed to obtain a discount, is covered. The section dealing with accessibility at all Amtrak stations also specifies how to get assistance at a station.
- net4now: IE7 will not support W3 standards
"Microsoft's admission that IE7 will not support leading and well established standards such as CSS is shameful and undermines accessibility efforts. While accessibility may well not be a mission critical element like security, this is a moral issue - saying it's not a priority sets a callous example, and thousands of businesses will follow suit. Microsoft needs to lead by example and be at the cutting edge.
- out-law: Onetel rated as best UK telco for web accessibility
Both Onetel and Kingston Communications were awarded four out of five stars following its evaluation by automated and manual checks. Onetel wins in Abilitynet's view because it offers e-commerce, compared to Kingston's information-only pages.
- e-consultancy: Effective working with automated accessibility testing.
Firstly, SiteMorse only tests sites against already established, recognized standards we have not created any of our own.
And yet not even their Technical Director, Jon Ribbens, could reference an established, recognised standard that forbids the presence of a filename in an alt attribute.
- BBC: Phone sites fail disabled surfers
"We are now beginning to see examples of highly professional and accessible sites that prove incontrovertibly that an organisation's website can and should be accessible to the broadest audience possible," said Christopherson.
- DM Europe: Onetel, Kingston top accessibility study on telecoms websites - report
The Government's recently published Digital Strategy (March 05) acknowledges the evidence of a 'digital divide'. This tendency to exclude is exemplified in the 'barriers to accessibility' exhibited by some websites preventing disabled people from benefiting from the 'potential to improve quality of life' offered by ICT and the internet.
The Strategy points out that websites, just like other suppliers of services or information, are required to take 'reasonable steps' to ensure accessibility under the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act. Despite the legislation, however, cyberspace, it seems, can contain just as many obstacles as the physical world. A Disability Rights Commission investigation 1 reveals that over 80 per cent of sites fail to satisfy a base level of accessibility.
- Red Nova: Site offers tips for Disabled
The site, www.dotcr.ost.dot.gov/asp/emergencyprep.asp, contains information to help ensure safe and secure transportation for persons with disabilities in the event of a disaster or emergency. It also includes advice on emergency preparedness, transportation accessibility and evacuation methods for certain modes of transportation, such as rail and transit systems.
- Pressbox: The problem with automated accessibility testing tools
Automated accessibility testing tools can be useful as they can save a large amount of time in performing some very basic checks for accessibility. However, they must be used with caution and they cannot be used as a stand-alone guide for accessibility checking. Indeed, some expert accessibility knowledge should always be applied in evaluating a site accessibility, perhaps in conjunction with the fantastic web accessibility toolbar to help dramatically speed up manual checks.
- Scoop: [New Zealand] Party websites discriminate against the disabled
Mr. Aylward again: "The WCAG defined three levels of accessibility: levels A, AA and AAA. Yet all 5 of the party websites that we have surveyed did not even meet the minimum requirements. This is particularly despairing in the light of the Labour Government's commitment to make all government sites accessible by January 2006 as well as the fact that they are breaching the Human Rights Act."
- IT Director: Accessibility Fora
The second issue I have been following was about the use and abuse of automated testing tools, in particular the decision by the Public Sector Forum (PSF) to stop publishing the SiteMorse league table of local authority web sites. The PSF felt that the automated tests were not providing an accurate reflection of the comparative accessibility of the different sites; this is because the tests cannot check for all the accessibility rules and in fact can, in some cases, produce false negatives. The PSF provided a series of examples of problems with the automated testing and they are all absolutely valid.
- ZDNet: Support standards, not multiple browsers
In fact organisations, such as the Department of Work and Pensions, that want to make their sites compatible with as many browsers as possible need do only one thing: build them according to formal Web standards. That support for Firefox or Opera - or any other minority browser - should mean extra work is flawed thinking. In the long term, writing to the standards will save work, as those who build to what they see as the de facto 'standards' of Internet Explorer will find that they end up having to support different versions of IE in very different ways. Given Microsoft's stated intentions about IE, this remains a very real possibility.
- Computer weekly: Many e-business sites still failing disabled users, says BCS charity
Christopherson, who is blind, has led AbilityNet's regular studies of websites of companies ranging from banks to supermarkets and airlines, and the results have been consistently disappointing. The latest survey, of 10 telecoms services, gave Onetel and Kingston Communications four stars out of five - only the second time in eight surveys that any sites have gained four stars.
Indeed, AbilityNet's results support a Disability Rights Commission study of 1,000 UK sites which found 81% failing basic accessibility tests.
Hardware and software
- ZDNet India: A standards truce in the browser war?
Goldfarb said WaSP convinced Microsoft to make Visual Studio 2005 and ASP.NET 2.0 conform by default with the W3C's XHTML 1.0 Transitional recommendation and WCAG accessibility guidelines. For developers, that means fewer Microsoft-specific workarounds. For end-users with disabilities, it means more accessible pages.
- PR Newswire: Onetel top of the league in website accessibility
Onetel is leading the field in the e-commerce accessibility stakes according to computing and disability charity, AbilityNet, in a report on the top telecoms sites released today. The charity's eighth quarterly e-Nation assessment of websites in selected sectors has awarded www.onetel.co.uk a four-star rating - only the second time that any site featured in the on-going survey series has gained such a high score (the Labour Party achieved a similar ranking in the last report on the main political parties).
- Bob's Guide: Diebold gives a voice to its ATMs
Diebold's partnership with ScanSoft on its Opteva ATM range was announced in February 2005. By leveraging ScanSoft's RealSpeak text-to-speech (TTS) technology, Diebold can provide a high-level of accessibility at the ATM. The technology guides visually impaired users through transactions with an easy-to-understand, natural sounding voice, enabling them to quickly complete transactions with increased ease. ScanSoft RealSpeak helps users navigate their transactions - from simple requests such as account balance information to deposits and cash withdrawals - and alerts ATM users to any errors that may have occurred during the transaction.
- CNet: IBM helps Firefox reach disabled
The market for access technologies is large. Between 750 million and a billion people globally have a speech, vision, mobility, hearing or cognitive disabilities, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., the Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to provide access to electronic and information technology for all employees and citizens, irrespective of their abilities.
- IDM: IBM helps make Firefox browser more accessible
In addition to contributing code that will make it possible for web pages to be automatically narrated or magnified, and to be better navigated with keystrokes rather than mouse clicks, IBM is contributing Dynamic Hypertext Markup Language (DHTML) accessibility technology to the upcoming Firefox Version 1.5. This will allow software developers to build accessible and navigable "Rich Internet Applications" (RIAs) - a new class of applications that are particularly visual and interactive.
- Mozillazine: IBM Contributes DHTML Accessibility Code to Mozilla
Computer giant IBM is contributing accessibility code to the Mozilla project. IBM has announced that it is donating technology to improve the accessibility of Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) by making it easier for Web developers to produce keyboard-accessible DHTML widgets. In Mozilla Firefox 1.5, the behaviour of the tabindex HTML attribute will be altered, allowing authors to create Web applications that are faster to navigate with the keyboard. In particular, it should take fewer presses of the tab key to move the focus to a particular element on screen.
- Always On: Flash and 508 Compliance
For Flash developers, the challenge remains: create sites that functions with screenreaders. One great step toward compliance comes from show.me.uk, the group that developed "Our Global Garden". This site, created exclusively in Flash, has gone the extra mile, creating full support for screenreaders, while keeping the primary site's content visually dynamic.
- Security Focus: Apple patches OS X security flaws
The HIToolbox human interface API has been patched to prevent the VoiceOver accessibility app from reading out the contents of secure text-entry fields such as passwords.
Legal US and Canada
- Mercury News: California tightens rules for e-voting vendors
Counties are approaching a deadline under the federal law that requires every polling place have at least one handicapped-accessible voting machine - such as a touch screen machine - that allows disabled voters to cast a secret ballot.
In addition, California requires e-voting machines to have a paper trail.
- GCN: OMB reminds agencies to comply with Section 508
The General Services Administration has developed an electronic guide to help agencies comply with Section 508 requirements to make electronic data accessible to federal employees and members of the public with disabilities.
Legal - Rest of the world
- UN News Centre: Key articles in draft disability treaty approved at UN meeting
Marking another step forward for persons with disabilities, the United Nations panel negotiating an international treaty codifying their rights has wrapped up its sixth session having agreed on draft articles on such issues as education and children's disabilities, as well as accessibility and personal mobility.
- Seniorscopie: The law of accessibility in a rapidly aging nation
Japan has a very serious challenge : it is aging at a rapid pace. Most experts say that more than 25 percent of the population will be age 65+ by 2014. It took only 24 years for the elderly population in Japan to grow from seven percent to 14 percent. The same demographic change took nearly 114 years in France. Since our society is in the midst of this rapid change, community accessibility and social welfare have become policy issues.