Accessibility in the News: December 2005Sunday, January 01, 2006
Its not been a good year for UK Government departments or local governments. By January 2006 all government department websites are supposed to be accessible. A recent report revealed that only 3 per cent of sites are actually accessible. So either the 97 per cent of government websites are working serious overtime this Christmas, or there's a big problem. Its encouraging that the Clackmannanshire Council are leading the way in terms of web accessibility for local government. But its disappointing to see this positive attitude is not reflected across the country.
Across Europe the same disappointments are evident. The Disney Stores UK also got some column inches this month with their massive leap backwards in terms of web accessibility.
GAWDS is gaining recognition in the media. This month ICT Wales published biographies of two established members:
Blwyddwyn newydd dda!
- ZDNet: Cabinet Office hit by Web site outage
Last week the Cabinet Office published eAccessibility of public sector services in the European Union, a comprehensive report on accessibility of government online services across the European Union (EU).
The report revealed that only 3 percent of the 436 online public service Web sites achieved a Level A rating, which is considered to be the minimum standard under the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. A further 10 percent achieved limited level A and 17 percent marginal fail Level A. The remaining 70 percent were found to fail Level A. No Web sites tested reached the higher double A standard, according to the Cabinet Office.
- The Inquirer: European government sites are impossible to use
More than 97 per cent of government sites across Europe are inaccessible to the disabled, according to a scribe using a quill pen at the UK Cabinet Office. That's a government department, not UK Office World.
- Digital Divide: Swiss ePower-Initiative: Some worrying points
The unframed and undescribed frames of www.epower-initiative.ch, and the absence of alt descriptions for pictures, are not a good sign as to the initiants' respect of accessibility norms, which the law and directive on equal access for disabled people (BehiG and BehiV) made compulsory as from Jan. 1, 2004.
- Ping Wales: Disney takes one compliant step forward, two invalid steps back
- ComputerWeekly: BCS disability charity and RNIB offer website access accreditation
AbilityNet said organisations with sites inaccessible to disabled people are in effect turning away 15% of their potential UK customers - eight million people - with a total spending power of £50bn a year. They also risk being taken to court.
In addition, research by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) has shown that sites that are difficult for disabled people to access also turn off non-disabled visitors.
- BBC: Real-time texting for deaf people
Relay services allow a deaf person to make and receive a call via an operator, who turns the voice part of the conversation into text and relays the deaf person's text replies into speech.
The RNID's new software effectively extends the facility to people using mobile phones which are now an everyday part of most people's lives.
- 24Dash: Councils set to be 97% e-enabled by end of year deadline
"This is a success story and recent research bears out this transformation. After randomly selecting 10 of the best known names across multiple industry sectors in the FTSE 100, we pitted their performance against a range of local authorities across the country.
"On average, local authorities came out on top in terms of the speed of their websites - and achieved over 99% availability figures.
- Businesswire: Kansas launches enhanced web portal at www.kansas.gov
The state Web site continues to put a strong emphasis on accessibility and usability. The Kansas State School for the Blind recently tested the new site. "The new Kansas.gov Web site not only looks nice, but it has also made some major advances in the areas of accessibility and cross-platform compatibility over the previous site," said Bradley Hook, education technician for the Kansas State School for the Blind. "The new Kansas.gov site is an excellent example of how to approach accessible Web design, and we can only hope more state agencies will follow the lead of the Kansas.gov team."
Hardware and software
- Training Press Releases: Tata Interactive Systems hosts conference on 'Accessiblity'
Ensuring that e-learning materials are fully 'accessible' to anyone - especially those with physical or learning disabilities - was the theme of a conference, held in London at the end of November. Organised by global e-learning producer, Tata Interactive Systems (TIS), the invited delegates were drawn from senior learning executives from the public and private sectors along with leading educational publishers - including HM Treasury, the Office of National Statistics and Hertfordshire County Council, British Airways, Legal & General and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Oxford University Press and Hodder Murray.
- GCN: New Firefox browser bulks up on 508 compliance
Leventhal admitted that earlier versions of Firefox had pretty poor accessibility, a trait that the new release rectifies. The Firefox VPAT describes a number of new features, including:
- The ability to run a program entirely from a keyboard without the help of a mouse
- A method of alerting assistive technologies which part of the program has the operating system's focus
- A method to provide information about the user interface so that an assistive technology application can represent that interface to users and
- Product documentation in alternate formats.
- TMCNet: Nuance introduces the Nuance Accessibility Suite; provides unprecedented user accessibility to mobile devices
Estimates show that more than 150 million people worldwide have some form of visual impairment. This makes it difficult for them to use certain devices - especially mobile phones - that have small displays and smaller font sizes. Through verbal feedback, visual enhancement, or Braille keyboard support the Nuance Accessibility Suite enhances the way in which information is displayed, enabling these individuals to access the content found within mobile devices. The Accessibility Suite comprises Nuance TALKS, a market-leading screen reader for the blind or severely visually impaired that converts mobile phone text into highly intelligible speech, and Nuance ZOOMS, a new application for users with mild to severe vision problems that magnifies the contents of mobile phone displays from 1.5 times up to 16 times.
- Commentwire: BNP Paribas Group improves ATM accessibility
Other accessibility features include a more consistent transaction flow, pronounced bezels for card readers and headphone jacks, a single-style keypad that provides consistency across the entire line of ATMs and grouping of primary and secondary transaction functions. Opteva terminals are built with a standard headphone jack and the necessary hardware to enable audio capability for users with visual impairments.
- Georgia Institute of Technology: Improving access for people with disabilities
GTRI's Accessibility Evaluation Facility assesses a variety of products based on the requirements outlined in Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act. Beyond evaluation, however, the researchers can recommend improvements to the products based on the concept of universal design.
- Search CIO: Advocates for disabled wary of Open Source
Microsoft products have only gradually become user-friendly for the disabled, as third-party vendors have generated a suite of tools that cater to the visual and motor-impaired user. While the representatives for the disabled do not doubt that new formats can be made user-friendly, they worry that these modifications will take considerable time and money.
Legal US and Canada
- CNW Telbec: McGuinty Government launches new accessibility Council
"Our new Accessibility Standards Advisory Council will be a guiding force as we work to make Ontario accessible," said Pupatello. "People with disabilities should be able to fully participate in the social and economic life of our province, and our Accessibility Standards Advisory Council will help make sure we do it right."
- Miami Herald: Voting machines won't be retested, state officials say
Top computer scientists and voting experts said Thursday that Florida must re-examine the way it tests voting machines and needs to verify claims by a Tallahassee elections official who said hackers could alter some computerized election results.
But acting Florida Secretary of State David Mann, whose office oversees the state elections department, said Thursday that he has such ''confidence'' in his agency's certification process that he has no intention of doing any double-checking right now.
- North County Times: Disability-rights advocates split on support of lawyer
Fix it - and pay up to the tune of a few grand - or face an expensive lawsuit and an uphill legal battle. That's what 67 Julian businesses heard last month from a disabled customer - who is also a lawyer - after he took a weekend trip up to the quaint mountain hamlet and found that the businesses were not in total compliance with access laws for the disabled.
It's a negotiating tactic that has advocates for people with disabilities divided.
- MSNBC: Experts say law has changed way companies interact with customers and employees
The law also doesn't decide what accommodations have to be made for people with disabilities. Instead, the law largely leaves it up to businesses to figure out how to accommodate employees and customers with disabilities.
- SignOn San Diego: Disability warrior swoops on Julian
But Pinnock, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, offered a solution. Enter into negotiations with him, pay somewhere between $2,500 and $4,000 to the attorney for his fee and agree to correct the accessibility issues at their businesses.
The alternative: Face trial and the exorbitant legal fees that would likely follow. Community and business leaders in the town screamed, "Shakedown!"
Legal - UK, Europe and worldwide
- EU News: Commission to outline measures to help the 'active inclusion' of people with disabilities in the EU
The European Commission will today put forward concrete measures designed to improve the lives of disabled people in the European Union during the 2006-2007 period. The Communication's overall aim is to improve the 'active inclusion' of disabled people through a range of initiatives and measures, including raising disability awareness among small and medium sized companies, reviewing how the European Social Fund can help support employment, training and equal opportunities for disabled people and promoting the concept of independent living for disabled people. These measures will be outlined at European Day of People with Disabilities conference in Brussels.
- Bucharest Daily News: Public space almost inaccessible to the disabled
Only four percent of the public areas are accessible to people with physical disabilities, according to a study made by a non-governmental organization and its partners, which monitored about 200 institutions in Bucharest.
Eight of the 200 buildings that were monitored were declared accessible for people with disabilities, as they had special parking places near the entry, ramps, elevators and toilets adapted to the needs of disabled people, according to the representatives of the Open Society Foundation and the Motivation Foundation yesterday.
- PR Web:
New website advises organizations on accessibility for deaf and disabled people
"Hands On Access has launched this website to explain exactly what we can do to benefit different organizations", explains Director Jonathan Gibbons. "We have a highly qualified team of specialists able to determine areas of concern and implement the specific changes required to make an organization fully accessible to Deaf and Disabled people."
- Asian Tribune: Implement enactments on accessible for persons with disabilities
AA points out that Bill was gazetted last week and awaits parliamentary approval that would creates Regulations on providing access for the persons with disabilities in public buildings, public places and at common services. Thus, all the parties involved in post-tsunami reconstructions should be aware of this newly approved legislation and the accessible guidelines provided in the guideline book published by the Ministry of Social Services which they would be compelled to adhere.
- Noticias: EU: Ombudsman pursues inquiry into action taken by Commission to integrate people with disabilities
The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has called for more information from the European Commission regarding the actions it has taken to ensure the integration of people with disabilities. This follows the extensive response from members of the public, non-governmental organisations and national ombudsmen to the Ombudsman's own-initiative inquiry into the issue. The Commission should submit a report to the Ombudsman by 31 January 2006, on its actions in areas such as employment, accessibility of its premises and information policies.