Accessibility in the News: December 2004Saturday, January 01, 2005
When I first started my monthly scour through Google News for accessibility stories about eighteen months ago there were very few stories. Now it takes six hours, and the blog post summary is too big to be digestible. Starting from this month I'm refocusing the stories particularly around the World Wide Web, software and hardware. Those are the areas that interest and motivate me in pushing every day for a more accessible web. Also, software and hardware is a critical juncture for web accessibility, it needs to be in the spotlight.
Thank you to the KDE and GNOME developers for their efforts in getting their desktop software packages accessible. I look forward to each iteration to see your accessibility improvements. Thanks also to IBM for their succession of accessibility related products, including the generous allowance of their text to speech technology in open source products.
Regular readers will notice that there wasn't a November 2004 edition of accessibility in the news. Two factors collaborated to make that edition impossible to write. My local gas company put in a new gas pipeline and thoughtfully took the opportunity of chopping through the local phone line. I was without a phone line from end of November through the first half of December. The second factor - an expected one this time - South African telephone infrastructure is still way behind an acceptable level for Internet use. The best that can be achieved is a 14,400 connection, yet that is still far too slow to attempt perusing over 2000 news articles looking for accessibility stories. My apologies for the missing month.
Wishing you the best for 2005.
- PR Leap: Central government league table for November
Accessibility - 16 sites scored 100% and 37 sites scored 90%+ on the automated tests looking at the requirements of Priority 1 (A) accessibility. 5 sites had less than 1% compliance when tested against the mandatory requirements for Priority 1 accessibility.
- PR Leap: Banks league table for November
Accessibility - 1 site scored 100% and 17 sites scored 90%+ on the automated tests looking at the requirements of Priority 1 (A) accessibility 4 sites had less than 1% compliance when tested against the mandatory requirements for Priority 1 accessibility. n No sites passed the tests for AA, Priority 2 compliance.
- PR Leap: FTSE league table for November
Accessibility - 8 of the of sites scored 100%, 40% of sites scored 90%+ on the automated tests looking at the requirements of Priority 1 (A) accessibility, 11 sites had less than 1% compliance when tested against the mandatory requirements for Priority 1 accessibility. Only 1 site Daily Mail General Trust passed the tests for AA, priority 2 compliance.
- Web Host Directory: The rapidly changing face of website design
Straight2web overcomes these [accessibility] problems by automating the inclusion of all the necessary codes. Even web virgins can type their content into Straight2web's front end and the software will automatically extract the key headings and adapt them for use in the hidden data for screen readers. Web designers are free to modify the master template to control the exact way this information is displayed but automating the procedure will save huge amounts of time when creating a full site. And just as importantly, any changes made later will also be instantly reflected in the hidden tags of the site.
- Public Technology: Leicester City Council website gets multilingual accessibility
Leicester City Council's website has been upgraded to provide new features and meet latest standards for accessibility.
- eMedia Wire: Now you have a web site - have you ever heard of accessibility?
Web site owners should be aware of accessibility standards, because most designers and developers often ignore them. It is a waste of your investment to develop a great site that many Web surfers may not even be able to use.
- PR Scotland: Web Developers failing Scottish business
The online success of Scottish businesses is being held back by the design practices of the web development community, according to recent research by leading online marketing consultancy Scotti Internet Marketing.
- Credit Management: Menzies beats off competition from UK's Top 50 Accountancy firms to win prestigious award
"We are delighted to have won this award since we have worked hard to ensure our website is both client-focussed and professional in appearance. We evaluate our site on a regular basis and are constantly looking at ways of making it more accessible. We have recently allowed for the font size on the web pages to be enlarged to make it easier to read for those visitors that are visually impaired."
- All Africa: The blind also want the net
He noted that any content posted on the Internet should cater for blind people. "After all, there are more than 180 million blind people in the world and many do have disposable incomes."
- ZDNet: Seeing for the blind
For the blind and visually impaired the Internet has been a boon, an astonishing wealth of information that was previously not available can be had with a PC and text reader software. News, research papers, journals and even gossip are a mouse click away, millions of pages and facts that never would have found their way into braille publications.
- Only Punjab: Net-Guide achieves RNIB Accreditation
net-guide is an Internet search engine and website directory. It has been designed to be easy to use, regardless of whether or not you are blind or partially sighted. What makes net-guide unique is that all the websites in its database have been checked and rated for accessibility, so giving the visitor an idea of the ease of use of the websites returned in a search or from browsing the directories. By giving the results an accessibility rating, users have an indication of the quality of visit they can expect before going to the website.
- PR Leap: December league table for Councils
Accessibility - 76 sites scored 100% and 241 sites scored 90%+ on the automated tests looking at the requirements of Priority 1 (A) accessibility. 28 of sites had less than 1% compliance when tested against the mandatory requirements for Priority 1 accessibility.
- PR Leap: December league table for UK Government
Accessibility - 15 sites scored 100% and 39 sites scored 90%+ on the automated tests looking at the requirements of Priority 1 (A) accessibility. 7 sites had less than 1% compliance when tested against the mandatory requirements for Priority 1 accessibility.
- PR Leap: FTSE league table for December
Accessibility - 9 sites scored 100% and 39 sites scored 90%+ on the automated tests looking at the requirements of Priority 1 (A) accessibility. 8 sites had less than 1% compliance when tested against the mandatory requirements for Priority 1 accessibility.
- Register: Web inaccessibility 'creates net underclass'
"[The problem] has arisen because web designers are building increasing complex sites optimised to work a specific browser, typically Internet Explorer. Inevitably the viewing experience is reduced with other browser types and so sites are increasingly being locked down to work with limited browser types," says Jones.
- Hispanic Business: Verizon Wireless web site made easier for users with disabilities
"Making our Web site accessible to all Internet users and customers is another demonstration of Verizon Wireless' dedication to providing customers with simple and easy-to-use wireless services and products," said Carl Eberling, Vice President for Information Technology at Verizon Wireless.
- Slashdot: New technology for the blind?
"A friend of mine is blind, yet he effortlessly navigates through his Windows XP box (installing programs, buying stuff on eBay, reading web-pages, etc) using JAWS. When I asked him what open source resources were available for him, I was surprised to hear him say, 'Almost nothing.' Is this true? Are we just not looking at the right places, or do blind-friendly resources tend to be Microsoft-centric? I tried to get him to switch over to Firefox, but he says that it doesn't work as well with JAWS as IE does."
- out-law: PLCs hit back at complaints on web accessibility
Some FTSE 100 companies receive three or four complaints every week saying that their web sites are not accessible, according to a corporate forum which this month attacked the lack of guidance to accompany the UK's disability rights legislation.
- Online Recruitment: Finance websites report top Newcastle, bottom Portman
Accessibility - 1 site scored 100% and 17 sites scored 90%+ on the automated tests looking at the requirements of Priority 1 (A) accessibility. 3 sites had less than 1% compliance when tested against the mandatory requirements for Priority 1 accessibility.
- out-law: Web sites fail disabled shoppers this Christmas
The text labels attached to images upon which blind visitors and text browser users rely for an explanation are often uninformative or completely absent. Without these spoken labels on graphical links, navigation for a blind visitor is pure guesswork. "Imagine trying to drive to your destination where exits at each junction are left blank," said Christopherson.
Hardware and Software
- TMC Net: Royal National Institute of the Blind -RNIB- endorses ScanSoft SpeechPAK TALKS
There are nearly 2 million people in the UK with sight problems and every day in the UK another 100 people start to lose their sight. SpeechPAK TALKS directly addresses the growing concern by providing a "talking phone" that enables individuals to have full access to features and information on their mobile phones - from short text messages to caller ID read aloud to them in a natural-sounding voice. Leading service providers, including Cingular, Vodafone, Orange and Telecom Italia, and a global network of assistive technology dealers currently market and offer SpeechPAK TALKS to customers across the globe.
- Web Pro News: AOL's service for the hearing impaired
This service, developed by MCI, provides deaf and hard of hearing individuals with a unique local number, giving them the ability to receive telecommunication relay calls on any stationary or mobile computing device that features the AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) service.
- KDE.News: KDE 3.4 will talk to you
Both ktts and KSayIt (an application to read out longer texts) will be included in KDE 3.4. They are important additions to KMouth (an application for speech impaired people) and the other two assistive technologies in KDE, KMouseTool and KMagnifier.
- KDE.News: Qt 4.0 Beta 1 Released
A fully cross-platform accessibility module, with support for the emerging SP-API Unix standard in addition to Microsoft and Mac Accessibility.
- Daily Home: Touch screen drivers testing machine unveiled in Talladega County
The result of the project is a touch screen testing machine that can give a randomized driving test in 14 different languages, including ASL. When the machine is in ASL mode, a video on an individual signing the questions and multiple-choice answers appears on screen. The test taker is free to toggle back and forth between text and video.
- ZDNet: Opera hints at version 8 with latest beta
The new version of Opera also features voice technology, allowing users to browse the Web using spoken commands, such as "Opera next link", "Opera back", or "Opera speak".
- Korea Herald: Silver surfers: Net makes life easier but hurdles remain
Over 70 percent of the entire population use the Internet in Korea, but only 14 percent of people aged over 50 have ever gone online. In 2001, it was 8.7 percent. There is a stark gap of 80 percent between net users in their 10s or 20s and the over 50s
Legal US and Canada: ADA
- Tahoe Daily Tribune: Tahoe business owners work to avoid disability-access lawsuits
Corfee told about 20 business owners gathered at South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce workshop on Tuesday that the best way to avoid being hit with an expensive lawsuit is to be proactive.
Kelly's advice for businesses who might be vulnerable to a lawsuit: Write it down. Improvements made to increase accessibility should be documented.
- US Newswire: National Council on Disability calls for changes to Americans with Disabilities Act
According to NCD Chairperson Lex Frieden, "The purpose of the ADA was 'to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.' The provisions of the ADA addressing architectural, transportation, and communication accessibility have changed the face of American society in numerous concrete ways, enhancing the independence, full participation, inclusion, and equality of opportunity for Americans with disabilities. However, the provisions of the ADA that have been narrowed by Court rulings currently do not provide the same scope of opportunities and protections expressed by those involved in the creation and passage of the ADA. Legislation is urgently needed to restore the ADA to 'assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency' for Americans with disabilities."
- CNW Telbec: McGuinty government's accessibility bill moving forward
The bill would provide for the setting of mandatory accessibility standards in both the public and private sectors and would address the full range of disabilities - including physical, sensory, hearing, mental health, developmental and learning disabilities. Standards could deal with such matters as pedestrian routes into buildings, lower counter heights at cash registers, large print menus, staff training in serving customers with learning disabilities, and adaptive technology in the workplace.
- Benton Courier: Bryant antique store shut down for ADA violations
Junktiques has a number of items for sale outside the store, and the additions have created a pathway to the entrance. Sulivan said that the problems were the same the last time that the store was closed, and that the owner, James Buchanan, made the necessary changes.
Legal UK: DDA
- Yorkshire Today: Disabled attack operators over lack of access
"In 2002, the Government revealed that there wasn't a single UK station which met Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) design standards, and we've got to wait at least another 15 years before trains are forced to get their act in to gear. It is time for the rail industry and its regulators to take responsibility for this shameful situation and put an end to social exclusion on the trains."
- BBC: Most leisure venues are inaccessible
Cinemas provided the best access, with more than 50% having no access barriers.
Nearly two-thirds of the venues surveyed had no accessible toilet facilities, but in more than 60% of those that did, the toilets were unusable.
Miscellaneous / Real world accessibility
- Frommers: Disabled travelers: A compendium of trip planning resources
Travelers with disabilities have more resources on which to rely than ever before, making it easier than ever get where you want to go. We want to mention the most prominent of the thousands available in the following comprehensive list. Print and save this for future reference.
- iBerkshires: Remembering Christopher Reeve
As a remembrance of Mr. Reeve, we print this story by Ralph Hammann from 1996, the first local interview granted by the actor after his tragic accident.