Accessibility in the News: February 2006Saturday, March 04, 2006
The biggest story of the month is the legal suit against Target, for having an inaccessible website. In the comments, there's a massive barrier of ignorance that has to be overcome. Target has made a few noticeable changes when its been flagged up by web accessibility activists, which is a good sign. Unfortunately, a legal decision is necessary to reduce the barrier of public ignorance.
The next amazing story is US museums making their exhibits accessible. This involves hands-on examination of marble statues, as well as exploring the different textures of paintbrush strokes as a ways of explaining a van Gogh masterpiece. Its a fascinating area, and demonstrates how innovative and creative we can be in the field of accessibility.
The complaint and petition aimed at Google for its CAPTCHA barrier to disabled people has received no answer from Google. This month I've been battling to subscribe to some of Yahoo's email groups because of illegible characters. Come on Google and Yahoo, please provide an accessible alternative.
- US Newswire: Sports sites fall short of the end zone when it comes to accessibility
With Super Bowl XL just a few days away, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is reporting that sporting web sites are not high scorers in the game of accessibility. After evaluating NFL.com, ESPN.com, and SI.com, AFB found that many of the sites' features were difficult, if not impossible, to navigate with a screen reader-an assistive technology product used by people who are blind to read the text on a computer screen.
- Scoop: Community website gets accessibility tick
Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Luamanuvao Winnie Laban today accepted an inaugural AccEase Accessibility Tick Accreditation award, for the CommunityNet Aotearoa website (www.community.net.nz).
The awards recognise websites that demonstrate best practice in accessibility, significantly exceeding New Zealand and international mandatory standards.
- Computing: Poor accessibility has a price
Research by user experience consultancy Designed for All last month found that only 30 percent of web sites displaying an accessibility statement or logo were making accurate claims about accessibility. Many of their sites failed basic accessibility tests or claimed standards beyond those actually achieved, according to the firm's report.
In separate Cabinet Office research released at the end of last year, only three percent of 436 public service web sites examined across Europe were found to meet the internationally accepted W3C web accessibility standards.
- Search Engine Journal: Target.com sued over lack of alt tags (attributes)
The National Federation of the Blind and a college student are suing Target and want to establish a class action suit over Target and its lack of accessibility for blind internet users. The suit is centered around Target.com's lack of alt text in its site's images. Wonder who's doing their SEO, as alt tags (or alt Attributes) are a very important part of all around site usability and relevancy.
- Wall Street Journal: Target sued by National Federation of the Blind
The plaintiffs, represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a Berkeley-based non-profit law firm; Schneider & Wallace in San Francisco; and Brown, Goldstein & Levy in Baltimore, charge that Target.com fails to meet the minimum standards of Web accessibility. The suit charges that the site lacks, for instance, compliant alt-text, an invisible code embedded beneath graphics that allows blind users to decipher images. The suit also contends that because the Web site requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind customers are unable to make purchases on their own.
- CNet: Blind patrons sue Target for site inaccessibility
For example, the suit charges that visual information is missing "alt-text," or invisible code that allows screen readers to detect and vocalize a description of an image. In addition, the site lacks accessible image maps, an impediment to jumping to different site destinations, the suit says. As a result, Sexton, who attends the University of California, Berkeley, says that while he can search the site for specific products, he's unable to associate prices with those goods.
- British Journal of Healthcare Computing: Europe-wide survey finds public-sector websites are "not designed to be accessible"
Results of the Europe-wide investigation were published late last year by the Cabinet Office (eAccessibility of public sector services in the EU). The survey compared the accessibility of 436 public-service websites with the World Wide Web Consortium WCAG 1.0 guidelines.
- Internet.com: Google's doors still shut to blind
When internetnews.com spoke to Marissa Mayer, Google's director of consumer experience, last July, she said Google planned to implement some alternatives in the next one to two months to make its captchas more compatible with screen readers, as well as examining whether to add audio versions. (Mayer was not available for another interview.)
- Washington Examiner: Examiner Editorial - Blind to the First Amendment?
Advocates like W3C view enforcing accessibility as a straightforward matter of regulating "form" without dictating content. But if this issue ever reaches the Supreme Court, we hope it will invoke a First Amendment principle articulated in a landmark 1974 case:
"The choice of material to go into a newspaper, and the decisions made as to limitations on the size and content of the paper, and treatment of public issues and public officials - whether fair or unfair - constitute the exercise of editorial control and judgment. It has yet to be demonstrated how governmental regulation of this crucial process can be exercised consistent with First Amendment guarantees of a free press."
- e-consultancy: Usability & accessibility market worth £115m in 2005
E-consultancy predicts that the combined usability and accessibility markets will grow by a further 25% in 2006, resulting in a market value of £144m by the end of the year. E-consultancy's valuation is based on money spent on usability and accessibility resources both client-side (internally) and through agencies.
Hardware and Software
- 24 hour museum: Jodi accessibility awards - nominations deadline approaching
"There are always limitations: content management systems specified three or four years ago may not allow triple AAA level access compliance, but we're looking to reward those who make a sincere effort."
- Society for Human Resource Management: High-tech enables employees
Those were not the good ol' days. Today, as the Washington, D.C.-based director of regulatory affairs at the wireless company Cingular, Mazrui has a wealth of assistive technology products that make her life easier and her time at work more productive. She uses a printer that embosses documents in Braille and a text reader that allows her to surf the web and hear the information available on the sites. She has a software program that transfers text into Braille, a wireless phone that reads e-mail and a Braille notetaker that helps her follow a script while making live presentations.
- The News Tribune: Museums help blind people get a feel for art
The Nelson-Atkins program has participants first feel pieces of slate and marble - the materials of which the works they'll feel are made. Later, specially trained docents guide the hands of the visually impaired across 500-year-old Spanish tomb covers, an Italian bust of St. John the Baptist and numerous pieces by celebrated modernist sculptor Henry Moore, asking them questions about their perceptions and offering them history on the piece.
- Computerworld: Plone expands government user base
Plone's big attraction for government is that it supports the W3C standards for website accessibility. This capability has been tweaked for NZ government use to comply with the government's own web guidelines.
This degree of compliance "means other government agencies can use it to build and manage their websites knowing that they are using best practice accessibility standards," says SSC ICT branch head Laurence Millar.
- Computerworld: PDF 'creature' still haunts government sites
An "umbrella" exemption has also been granted for sites which use PDF documents which will be difficult to convert to HTML. Agencies operating such sites will have to provide an HTML paragraph describing "the key messages" of the PDF document.
- GCN: Web browsers comply with Section 508
Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 requires government agencies to make the information technologies that they procure accessible to individuals with disabilities. Fortunately, when it comes to Web browsers, federal agencies have some choices. The software developers behind both the Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers have been working diligently to meet Section 508 compliance and improve Web accessibility in general.
Legal - US and Canada
- Miami Herald: Disabled sue over access to Tut show
An audio tour, designed for those with disabilities, covers only about 20 of the 130 artifacts, said Tom Ryan. The museum didn't provide a guide to help people who are blind navigate the exhibit, he said.
- Computerworld: New York faces DOJ suit over voter accessibility law
The state of New York is being threatened with a federal lawsuit for failing to comply with the Help America Vote Act, which requires actions such as the development of statewide voter-registration databases and the installation of e-voting systems or other voting machines that are handicapped-accessible.
Legal - UK and Europe, and world wide
- Manchester Evening News: Helping businesses 'wise up' to disabled
The DDA affects more adults in the north west than anywhere else in the UK, including London, with 1.2m people covered by the legislation.
The estimated spending power of disabled people in the UK is around £80bn.
- Supply Management: Act for equality
In April 2005, the updated Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) became law, amending and extending provisions in the DDA 1995. Some parts came into force last December, but perhaps the most significant is a new requirement on public bodies to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people under the Disability Equality Duty (DED).
- BBC: Disabled train users 'railroaded'
The [Disability Discrimination] act covers railway stations but not trains which must be fully accessibly by 2020.
However from December public transport providers cannot discriminate against disabled people by treating them less favourably than a non-disabled person, Mr Gaines said.
- Computerworld: Govt web compliance deadline; for January, read about June
The notional deadline for government agencies to comply with website standards passed on January 1, but the State Services Commission is being flexible about the requirement.
Real pressure won't be applied to website managers until the middle of the year, Computerworld understands.
- Employers Jobs: New employer guide for disabled job finders
Following on from legislation passed under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), Configure, a disabled access consultancy, has published the Guide to Accessibility.
The guide seeks to inform companies that there is more to fulfilling employer requirements than simply installing lifts and ramps, with wheelchair users constituting only three per cent of the UK's disabled population.