Accessibility in the News: February 2004Monday, March 01, 2004
There is most definitely a trend in accessibility-related announcements in this month's online press. More and more articles are noticing that the baby boomer generation are reaching the stage where they start to lose their perfect eyesight. And companies, including Microsoft, are starting to appreciate the revenue stream this disability offers.
The Diebold voting machine paper-audit trail brouhaha continues unabated. With the US general election scheduled for December 2004, there's no end in sight. PDF documents continue being slated as inaccessible.
Hardware and Software
- HeraldNet: Microsoft's new campaign targets aging baby boomers
The technology it's touting, such as text magnification, speech recognition and filter keys, already exist in Microsoft products, and was developed mainly for disabled users. But with the U.S. workforce getting older, Microsoft figures more people are finding their computer has become "awkward."
- KDE.org: KDE project ships new major release of leading open-source desktop environment
Attention was also paid to ensuring that KDE is accessible to those with disabilities. Several accessibility related applications are included with [KDE] 3.2 and work on integrating accessibility technologies directly into KDE's foundations is ongoing.
- GCN: IBM brings text-to-speech to the Linux desktop
A few years ago, the company had made a beta Linux version of the speech engine available for downloading, but took it offline when it stopped working with later versions of the Linux kernel.
- The Feature: Wirelessly enabling the disabled
One system, called an "auditory display," combines GPS, a mobile PC, and headphones outfitted with a head-tracking sensor to help blind individuals navigate on their own. The GPS receiver pinpoints the wearer's location and the head-tracker monitors which direction he or she is facing. Meanwhile, the computer generates spatial sound signals, tones that the user perceives to be emanating from a specific direction. Once a path has been programmed into the system, the user then follows the sound cues like virtual trail markers to get to his or her desired destination.
- FCW: Web development made easier
Also keep in mind that Dreamweaver has tools to make sure your site meets accessibility requirements, an important feature for government users.
- Ottawa Business Journal: Accessibility tools more than niche market: experts
Heading up the group is Helen Maskery, president of her own consulting company, Maskery. By donning special glasses that simulate partial blindness, earplugs to imitate deafness or oven mitts to create a lack of dexterity, she can demonstrate how to test the accessibility of a company's software programs or web site.
- PDF Planet: PDF facing new accessibility challenges at some government Web sites
Meanwhile, an article titled "Govt forces web rules" posted on a New Zealand Web site reports that "Most government websites will have to be changed to meet new design rules, creating a potential bonanza for web developers." Among the revised guidelines -- voluntary rather than mandated: "Any website document that is in the popular PDF format will have to be available in HTML code as well."
- al.com: Disabled await ruling on suing states for damages under ADA
People with disabilities in Alabama are awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether states can be sued for money damages under a federal law.
- The Leaf Chronicle: Wheelchairs hit dead ends on city curbs
The city [Clarkesville] has agreed to settle the suit by forming an ADA compliance team to study Clarksville's wheelchair accessibility and by offering $20,000 to cover the group's legal fees.
- News Press: Protect rights of disabled at polling places
A recent federal court ruling in Duval County could affect 52 counties that don't currently provide such systems. Lee County is among 15 counties wise enough to buy touch-screen systems with audio capability included, following the troubled 2000 general election.
- Pantagraph: Checking poll accessibility should head off problems
As most polling places are in public buildings already subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, there shouldn't be problems with accessibility -- in theory. But, in reality, there can be problems, such as a building being accessible, but the specific area where voting occurs having an impediment.
- Daily Bruin Online: Government rejects online voting
More than two weeks prior to the decision to scrap SERVE, a report was released by four computer scientists - including a computer science professor from the University of California, Berkeley - that pointed out potential security flaws with the system.
- Wired: The computer ate my vote
The Computer Ate My Vote campaign, which raised $100,000 in its first two days of fundraising last week, aims to convince other states to follow the lead of California. In December, California mandated that e-vote machines used in the state must produce a voter-verified paper trail by July 2006. Shortly thereafter, Nevada and Washington state followed suit.
- Newsday: Accessible bathrooms with style
Moreover, other trends have converged with the ADA guidelines to spur industries into accessible design. Aging baby boomers are a huge potential market for such products: higher toilets that make it easier to sit and stand, showers and tubs that don't require high leg lifts, attractive grab bars and non-skid flooring.
- FCW: Voting bill still stalled
Touch screen machines used in recent elections have had votes disappear from their counts, said David Dill, a professor computer science at Stanford University. In one case in 2002, more than 400 votes were lost, he said, and election officials were somehow able to determine which citizens' votes had disappeared. Officials contacted the voters to offer them a chance to revote.
- IT Business: Make online resources accessible to disabled users as well: Experts
Canada has been making significant strides to use technology to serve the needs of the visually impaired. In November, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind unveiled what it called the world's largest online digital library for the blind, as well as a "discovery portal" for visually impaired children.
- Silicon: UK gov sites ignore standards
Only seven were in full compliance with Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines - which aim to ensure that people with disabilities are not prevented from accessing information on the website - although this is an improvement on the previous study back in November. The e-Envoy, UK Online, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission all scored top marks here.
- Irish Examiner: Government websites inaccessible, says report
Initial results from the eGovernment Benchmarking survey reveals that overuse of inaccessible PDF documents is creating significant difficulties for people with disabilities.
Real world accessibility
- Guardian: Accessibility good, London heritage bad
An "accessible" bus has doors, to stop passengers getting on and off when they choose to in heavy traffic, muddled floorplans, decor designed as if by an underachieving ape let loose with a box of crayons, an ear-splitting engine, hissing air-brakes, sticky, plastic-backed seats, some facing backwards to induce nausea, and lighting swiped from an FBI interrogation room.
- The Publican: Pubs rewarded for disabled facilities
Alongside major attractions such as the London Aquarium, Tate Modern and the London Eye, pubs making the top 50 list, voted for by disabled people living in the capital, included All Bar One in Farringdon and the Hog's Head in Islington.
- USA Today: Foundation works to make tech accessible to the blind
Although special products are available for individuals with visual impairment, they are often expensive and bulky. A blood glucose monitor at a local drug store costs around $25, Uslan said. A device that's added onto the monitor to make it useable by the visually impaired costs around $500.
- GlobeTechnology: On-line accessibility
For the past 10 years, my grandfather - a stubbornly optimistic guy - has slowly been going blind. Unwilling to shortchange his lifestyle with his new disability, he marched off to the CNIB's woodworking mill where he learned how to sightlessly operate jigsaws, drill presses and belt sanders.
I'm not making this up. No fingers have been lost.
- All Africa: Zimbabwe: New study sheds light on lives of disabled
The last census, in 2002, estimated that 2.9 percent of Zimbabweans were disabled. But what had not been properly documented were the actual living conditions of those with disabilities. Now, a new study by the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD), in collaboration with the Norwegian Federation of Disabled People, has shed light on their daily lives.
- Irin News:
Three times as many disabled people - 28 percent - had never been to school, compared with just 10 percent of the non-disabled. Women faced the greatest discrimination, with 34 percent of those with disabilities never having entered a classroom.
- Poynter Online: Tuesday edition: Travelers with disabilities - an emerging market
The mobility-impaired traveler, once ignored, is now no minor niche: The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality estimates its market spent $13.6 billion on vacations in 2002 alone. From South African safaris to diving vacations in the Caribbean, rates for disabled adventurers finally compare favorably to mainstream prices.
- Sacremento Business Journal: Wells Fargo garners kudos from disability council
This award is given to companies that have expanded opportunities for people with disabilities by improving accessibility to the company's products and services. Wells Fargo was chosen based on its leadership and commitment to accessibility including its award-winning Web site, wellsfargo.com, and its more than 4,880 talking ATMs.
- Yahoo: ALVA Wins GSM Association Award
The MPO puts resources at the user's fingertips in one small durable device he or she can access using braille or speech. Standard cellular phones and have almost no accessibility features, short of a few voice-activated commands. Cell phones are increasingly visually oriented, requiring the caller or user to navigate through detailed layered menus and select options displayed on tiny screens. The ALVA MPO offers all the key features traditional cellular phone and PDA users have come to expect, with additional features incorporated for blind and visually impaired users.
- Modebee.com: Accessible design on way to becoming universal
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. These revelations ushered universal design into a transition from commercial buildings to the residential arena.