Accessibility in the News: January 2006Friday, February 03, 2006
There's an interesting trend emerging, of disabled people asking publicly on the web for companies to make their products more accessible. Two examples this month are an online petition asking Google to make its CAPTCHA registration system accessible, and one voice asking Apple to consider accessibility improvements to its product range.
January sees the deadline for accessible voting systems being in place, as legislated by the Help America Vote Act. A flurry of stories have surfaced, including vendors backing out of suppling touch-screen voting systems. Encouragingly there's innovation going on in this area, including plastic sleeve based assistive technologies, which are providing an interesting alternative. The argument whether Diebold's offering is accessible or even accurate is still raging on. Also raised this month, the question of what to do with the inaccessible machines that have been replaced.
- e-consultancy: Poor website accessibility can affect customer trust
"Making your website accessible has tremendous benefits to everyone, not just disabled people", said Professor Petrie. "Our research shows that an accessible website can be 35% more usable for everyone - that sort of usability gain can really give companies a competitive advantage, especially those who rely on their website as a revenue channel. That's the kind of results we try to give our clients."
- out-law: Does your website overstate its accessibility?
Website accessibility statements are mostly inaccurate and accessibility logos frequently appear on sites that don't deserve them, according to a study of 500 financial and e-commerce websites. Operators may not realise their failings - and risk losing users' trust.
- eGov Monitor: Council wins RNIB accreditation for website accessibility
Reigate & Banstead Borough Council's website has won a prestigious award for its commitment to making information accessible to the disabled, sight impaired and people with learning and reading difficulties.
The Council has become one of just a handful of local authorities in the country to win the Royal National Institute for the Blind logo for web accessibility.
- University of Kentucky News: UK libraries unveil new web site
- PRLeap: Google asked to make its visual word verification accessible
We at the Blind Access Journal call upon all Internet users to sign the Google Word Verification Accessibility Petition found at http://www.petitiononline.com/captcha asking Google to provide an accessible alternative to the visual verification scheme that currently locks the blind and visually impaired out of participation in all the company's services. Google's implementation of word verification currently denies us access to such important features as the ability to create accounts and blogs, change our passwords, and post comments to most blogs that use the Blogger service. Accessible solutions to visual verification have already been put in place by such companies as America Online, Microsoft, PayPal and SpamArrest. We ask Google to follow this lead with an audio playback implementation now, followed by the creation of new innovative approaches that meet the needs of all users, including the deaf-blind population.
- News Shopper: Access facilities on web
Charity DisabledGo will visit more than 1,000 shops and other business in the borough to assess how disability-friendly they are.
It will then publish the findings in a database on its website so disabled people can find out in advance which are the easiest places to access.
- eGov Monitor: Help is at hand for local authority web managers
Local Directgov has contracted Nomensa, specialists in online usability and accessibility, to offer Local Authorities a telephone and email helpdesk service to support their quest to increase citizen take up of Local Authority online services.
- Chicago Tribune: Seniors' reasons for avoiding 'Net have gotten old
Not when computers are cheaper, easier to learn and more useful than ever. Not when they have evolved from gadgets for geeks into home appliances more useful and vital than telephones or TVs. And not when there is widespread agreement among advocates for the aged that seniors have more to gain from home computers than any other demographic group.
- WebWire: IBM's Intranet one of the world's top ten
Among the features Nielsen Norman recognized:
- Accessibility -- The site is designed to be easy to use for people with disabilities, including older users, users with motor-related disabilities, memory or literacy issues, or low vision.
Hardware and Software
- Whig.com: High-tech machines assist disabled voters
Blind or vision-impaired voters will be able to listen to the voting choices privately through a set of headphones. Braille-coded buttons, or the touch-screen monitor, can be used to enter selections and make write-in selections. The machine also can be hooked to a sip/puff tube for those who can't use their hands.
- Ars Technica: KDE 4 to get Dashboard widget support
Ultimately, KDE adoption of the Dashboard widget format will probably be beneficial to OS X users as well as KDE users. The KDE developers will certainly labor to expand the widget ecosystem, creating all sorts of new desktop components that will be of value to users of both platforms. Will this change be beneficial for all users? Skeptics argue that widget components present serious accessibility limitations and hinder users that depend heavily on keyboard control. If widgets begin to replace conventional desktop applications, it could negatively affect disabled users that rely on screen readers and other similar technologies. Regardless of the implications, the technology is definitely cool. I know that I am looking forward to trying out KDE 4 when it is eventually released.
- National Grid for Learning: Fresh overview on software for all
The 2005 edition of 'Making software inclusive' is available from the Ace Centre Advisory Trust website.
Written by Andrew Lysley and David Colven of the centre, the guide introduces software developers to the issues regarding accessible software. It provides a general overview of the access problems posed by various disabilities, and gives advice about how to deal with them.
- UN News Centre: For disability rights meeting, UN will print first direct-to-Braille documents
In time for negotiations for an international agreement on the rights of persons with disabilities, the United Nations will be able for the first time to produce materials directly in Braille thanks to the donation today of a state-of-the-art printer by a US-based non-governmental organization (NGO) for the blind.
- Mac World: Apple must improve its UI, disability expert warns
Tusler believes a little encouragement is all it will take to generate a new crop of designers who understand the need: "I have faith that the students will embrace the concepts of designing for all when they are exposed to usability ideas. I know they will discover that universal design is a puzzle to be solved that will help people with disabilities and the aging Baby Boomers," he said.
- Computerworld: Florida county e-voting system deal nixed
The Leon County Commission last month voted to scrap its investment in 160 AccuVote optical-scan voting machines from Diebold Election Systems and had planned to swap in new devices from Election Systems & Software Inc. (ES&S) (see Diebold Machines Voted Out by Florida County). Leon County intended to use ES&S's AutoMark optical scan gear to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and Florida election laws. According to HAVA, by this month, every precinct must have a touch-screen or specially equipped optical-scan device for handicapped access. The ES&S AutoMark system has an audio component that lets the blind vote.
- Wired: Vote-PAD rocks the disabled vote
With Vote-PAD, poll workers fit specially designed sleeves over paper ballots. Audio instructions guide visually impaired voters to bumps on the plastic next to each race. Holes in the sleeve corresponding to ovals on the ballot allow voters to mark the ballot with a pencil or pen without going outside the oval. Afterward, voters can run a specially designed LED wand over the ovals to verify their choices.
- Computerworld: ES&S backs out of $1.8M e-voting deal
The Leon County Commission had turned to Election Systems and Software Inc. (ES&S) after voting last month to replace 160 AccuVote optical scan voting machines from Diebold Election Systems Inc. because of fears that the AccuVote machines may not comply with laws on handicapped accessibility. The commission also questioned the accuracy of the Diebold machines.
- Yahoo: California tests find Diebold touch-screen voting 100 percent accurate during November 2005 election
"The performance of Diebold's touch-screen technology was also verified during the extensive system volume testing conducted in September in California, when more than 11,000 votes were cast on 100 touch-screen stations with voter-verifiable paper audit trail printers with 100 percent accurate election results and very reliable system operation. The California Elections Division determined that the volume test would be deemed successful if no more than 1 percent of the machines experienced a failure that affects the record of the vote on the AccuVote-TSX or on the VVPAT paper trail. Diebold surpassed these test criteria with flying colors.
- UB Reporter:
With the aid of the Fortune 500 program, Black & Decker and White-Rodgers Inc. recently introduced new mainstream consumer products, and the Whirlpool Corp. and Eastman Kodak soon will roll out new products with features designed both for the average consumer and people who have difficulty using traditional products due to physical limitations caused by age or disability.
- SFGate: Disabled try out voting machines for accessibility
Daniels, who is unable to see a video screen, sat down at a voting machine Thursday, put on headphones and heard the ballot read to him. He made his selections by pressing a button, and then the machine read his choices back to him.
The headset provides privacy that wouldn't exist if he needed to call in a poll worker to help.
- Witchita Eagle: No longer impossible, blind embrace art and museums welcome blind
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.
- Star Telegram: New voting machine requirements create castoff pile
The Allen County voting machines, purchased in 1995 for $500,000, are collecting dust in a county-owned building because they didn't meet handicapped accessibility requirements. Since the equipment was 10 years old, the county decided to replace the equipment rather than retrofit it to meet federal requirements, Cunningham said.
- eGov Monitor: IT accessibility-gap for disabled widens, says British Computer Society
Chris Mairs pointed out to his audiences in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and London that the UK's aging population means a significant proportion of us will eventually be classified as disabled, particularly with some degree of visual impairment. Added to which, this sector of society also represents an annual spend of £50 billion, a figure likely to grow annually by over ten per cent. Current failure to cater for this enormous market therefore also represents a major oversight by British business.
Legal - US and Canada
- Scripps Howard News Service: California registrars frustrated by voting machine delays
The San Diego County registrar of voters has to run the state's first federal election with an April 11 special election to replace U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who resigned in November after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from defense contractors. And Haas still doesn't have any California-certified machines to meet under the 2002 U.S. Help America Vote Act.
Most counties in California - and many across the country - officially fell out of compliance Sunday with rules mandating that election systems be accessible to voters with disabilities.
- Finger Lakes Times: Needs not met: New voting machines miss mark, disability advocate says
Accessibility for disabled voters is one of the central requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act, but Hilderbrant and other advocates for the disabled were disappointed by Thursday's offerings. Some machines were difficult to access with a wheelchair, some lacked Braille for the vision-impaired and others lacked some of the features that are required by state law.
Legal - UK and Europe
- Irish Examiner: Disabled people are denied their rights for one mean-spirited reason
The [Disability Discrimination Act 2005] goes on to say that most public buildings will have to comply with accessibility regulations by 2015 - yes, 2015! - unless, of course, "making the building accessible to persons with disabilities would not be justified, on the grounds of cost, having regard to the use to which the building is put."