Accessibility in the News: January 2005Tuesday, February 01, 2005
January is the month of looking ahead. On the horizon, Opera are looking to release their first talking browser, ear marked to be the most accessible browser out there. Competition in the audio browser market is very welcome indeed, and that competition can start to make inroads to the inexcusably high prices of de facto standards screen readers.
SiteMorse have embarrased themselves publicly by railing at the DRC for their lack of interest in automated testing of accessibility. The DRC are quite right that user testing is far more important. Nomensa's study into Local Government accessibility looks a far better, and more practical report anyways.
- SitePoint: 2005 - The year of the DOM
- Managing Information: Nominations wanted for web accessibility awards 2005
The Jodi Mattes Webaccessibility Awards were established in 2003, European Year of Disabled People, to celebrate the most accessible museum, gallery and heritage website. This year sees the awards opening to nominations from libraries and archives too.
- icCoventry: National award for web firm
The Derbyshire site, which is at www.thederbyshire.co.uk, was judged on function and performance, availability and monitoring as well as accessibility for users, including those with disabilities. The suitability of the site for visually impaired users received particular praise.
- Politics.co.uk: Nearly half Government websites fail accessibility standards
A new report into the accessibility of Government websites and services has concluded that only 57 per cent are meeting the minimum standards set by the Cabinet Office e-government unit. But, 78 per cent of central government sites are achieving UK accessibility targets. The findings are contained in new survey by Nomensa, a Bristol-based usability and accessibility consultancy.
- e-Consultancy: Central Government websites fail to meet accessibility targets
Nomensa, the Bristol-based Usability and Accessibility consultancy, today publishes its Web Accessibility in Central Government report that assesses 28 central government websites against accessibility guidelines. The report shows that 78% of central government websites are achieving UK accessibility targets but only 57% meet the "single A" minimum standard defined by the Cabinet Office e-Government Unit.
- Online Recruitment: Confusion reigns over website accessibility compliance
Head of Media at the DRC, Patrick Edwards, gave me a hostile reception when interviewed about the test results. He seemed to place usability testing through human interaction above web accessibility compliance. He caused confusion when he inferred in a telephone conversation that there are no legal standards for website accessibility, even though a number of DRC speeches and documents (including comments made in the Guardian) clearly state that it is a legal duty for organisations and businesses to make their sites accessible to the UK's 8-10 million disabled people.
- Net Imperative: TV License site gets revamp
Site improvements include a "community relations" section from which community groups and advisers can download or order a range of TV Licensing literature for onward distribution, and FAQ section, and a clearer path to payment pages. Meanwhile, navigation has been improved and the site conforms with Bobby and W3C accessibility guidelines.
- 2 the advocate: Designer's sites open Web
What began as a hobby --learning the ins and outs of Web site design -- prompted Lagrange to get her own company, Kalidust Designs Inc., up and running in 2000. She is now responsible for the Web sites of a dozen different organizations that serve clients with disabilities.
- Online Recruitment: Confusion reigns over website accessibility compliance
RNID has been aware of the problems of our current site and has been working on redeveloping the site, involving consulting with a range of people with disabilities at every stage of design and implementation. The new site will be launched shortly, and we are confident that this will demonstrate how accessible design can be visually attractive as well as providing accessible content for all."
- Internet Week: Making the Web a sight for sore eyes
On the economic side, websites that are more accessible to the disabled could be more successful in tapping the $225 billion in disposable income among the nation's 54 million disabled people, the National Organization on Disabilities says.
Hardware and Software
- ArriveNet: Download audio books are sweeping the nation's libraries
OverDrive Audio Books were developed in cooperation with leading public libraries including King County Public Library, San Jose Public Library, Cleveland Public Library and Denver Public Library. In addition to the growing collection of popular unabridged titles, OverDrive Audio Books permit burn to CD, transfer to over 500 portable devices including MP3 players, and contain accessibility features built-in for blind and visually impaired readers.
- Linux PR: IBM pledges 500 U.S. patents to open source in support of innovation and open standards
IBM's focus on innovation goes beyond standard technology. For example, in 2004 IBM received dozens of patents related to accessibility for people with disabilities, including: advances in speech recognition, wireless Braille devices, web site accessibility and a portable colorimeter for the color-blind.
- The Feature: Paying attention to one group's disabilities enhances usability for everyone else.
Even more mundane assistive technologies, such allowing users to tab through links as they browse Web sites and applications, has made the same sites much more accessible to WAP and mobile phone users. By the same logic, designing wireless interfaces with maximum usability for a maximum of users will make them more broadly accessible down the road. How accessible? The imagination is the only limit.
- Queen's Journal: Douglas library computer lab helps students with learning disabilities
The specialized software includes Kurzweil 300, a program capable of interpreting scanned images into text. Using Optical Character Recognition, the Kurzweil 300 is able to interpret these images and read the text back to the user.
- BusinessWire: ScanSoft SpeechPAK TALKS nominated for global accessibility award
World Health Organisation estimates suggest that between 40 and 45 million people worldwide are blind. These individuals do not have access to the range of GSM services that others take for granted such as SMS, email and phone directories. ScanSoft(R) SpeechPAK TALKS(TM) is an application designed specifically to make handsets accessible to blind and visually impaired users, and works with the phone's existing interface to read aloud the device's text display such as menus, contacts and short messages in a natural-sounding, synthesized voice.
- Corvallis Gazette Times: Lego engineers build their dreams block by colorful block
The theme of this year's competition was "No Limits." Students were challenged to develop ways to improve accessibility and mobility for people with disabilities. The robots were evaluated on their ability to navigate hurdles that people with disabilities face every day.
- Response Source: One of the biggest single advances in teaching visually impaired learners ever achieved
How it works
- A laptop sized, touch sensitive device is connected to a standard computer that coordinates audio and haptic sensations
- The programme CD is inserted (these relate to the national curriculum and are supplied by RNC or developed by the teacher themselves)
- When various symbols, icons, and regions of the tactile surface are pressed, audio information on what the user is feeling comes from a connected computer
- Allows the visually impaired learner to access Maps, Charts, Diagrams & Text
- Facilitates and encourages independent learning - Programme content/information easily accessible by the vision impaired without sighted assistance
- Works with minimum spec PC's and laptops
- BBC: Latest Opera browser gets vocal
The latest version of the net browser can be controlled by voice command and will read pages aloud. The voice features, based on IBM technology, are currently only available in the Windows version.
- MSNBC: A step forward in the voting wars
A renowned cryptographer with a keen interest in voting, David Chaum has persuaded a team of election officials, computer scientists, interest-group advocates and voting-equipment makers to join in a coalition called Voting Systems Performance Rating (VSPR). The goal is to generate a set of voting-system standards that everyone can agree on - sort of a Consumer Reports for election machines. There would be ratings in areas like security, privacy, reliability and accessibility to the elderly and the disabled.
Legal US and Canada
- Star: Disability stats revealing
- One in eight Canadians has a disability, for a total of 3.6 million people.
- More than 80 per cent of Canadians believe there has been some progress in including people with disabilities in Canadian society over the past decade. Yet only one in 10 believes these individuals are fully included today.
- North Jersey Media: Dispelling misconceptions about ADA
Many business owners think the ADA contains rigid language requiring large expenditures to make existing facilities accessible. In fact, the law and its regulations are quite flexible. Requirements to remove architectural barriers in existing facilities (such as stores, banks, hotels and restaurants) must be "readily achievable" and "without much difficulty or expense."
- 580 CFRA: Province starts public bill debate
The Ontario Government is kicking off six days of public hearings on bill 1-18. The proposed "Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act." It aims to make Ontario barrier-free for residents with physical, mental or sensory disabilities.
Legal UK / Europe
- Kings Lynn Today: Disabled woman's rail despair
The case has been highlighted by WNDIS in a bid to raise awareness of the Disability Discrimination Act - which came into force in October. A spokesman for Wagn said the Act only applied to its standard of service and not to the accessibility of stations.
- Scotsman: Investment woes hit disabled access plans
South Leith Parish Church had been promised a £5000 grant to help pay for a lift, but were later told the money had been spent.
- out-law: Accessibility consultation launched in EU
The European Commission launched today a consultation on how best to make computers, mobile phones and web sites accessible to the widest number of people, including the disabled and the elderly. One of its suggestions is to pass new legislation.
- ElectricNews.net: Brussels aims to improve e-accessibility
A number of support measures are also outlined in the document including the introduction of benchmarking for accessibility and monitoring, investigating new technological solutions to address the needs of people with disabilities and ultimately raising the awareness of the needs of people with disabilities in accessing ICT products.
- Cordis: EU launches consultation on e-accessibility
The consultation, unveiled on 10 January, suggests introducing new legislation to remove the technical challenges and difficulties faced by some EU citizens when trying to use electronic products or services such as computers, mobile phones or the Internet.
- Disabilities Free-Press: New service aims to boost access
Scope has teamed up with Allied Surveyors to offer a new service which will identify where businesses are failing to meet new Disability Discrimination Act guidelines about accessibility.
- Personnel Today: EC consults on making computers and mobile phones usable for everyone
The consultation document argues that EU member state public authorities should develop common requirements to facilitate the purchasing of accessible goods and services. This would in turn create larger markets for "design-for-all" products, says the Commission.
- Net Imperative: Vision 2005 conference addresses accessibility issues
Of particular interest to the web development community will be speeches by: Imed Eddine Chaker, president of the National Union of the Blind in Tunisia, talking about the impact of information communication technology on the quality of life of the visually impaired in Arab countries; Michael Paciello from the US-based Paciello Group, whose speech concerns enhancing accessibility through usability inspections and testing; Rachel Hager, vice president of Lighthouse International, talking about VisionConnection, a global internet portal for the visually impaired community; and Dr Milan Vasilko, a senior lecturer from Bournemouth University, whose speech will concern a-TV, a new inclusive digital television technology.
- Politics.co.uk: Disability Discrimination
8,908 cases have been commenced in England, Scotland and Wales under the employment provisions of the DDA
- EurActiv.tv: MEPs raise EU budget for online content
The programme will try to address issues related to the accessibility of content over multiple platforms (computers but also 3G mobile phones), including interoperability and digital rights management (see EurActiv, 19 Feb. 2004).