Accessibility in the News: July 2005Monday, August 08, 2005
Troubled SiteMorse's public relations campaign backfires spectacularly again this month. They initially criticise GAWDS on not "meeting basic accessibility standards" based on what turns out to be a false positive from the SiteMorse tool. They then quietly retract the allegation with no explanations or apologies. SiteMorse public display of belligerence wins no fans, and later in the month the Public Sector Forums decides to drop support for the SiteMorse league tables. A move met with overwhelmingly positive support.
The launch of the new Harry Potter book, and the dedicated website make a positive spin for web accessibility. Involving the RNIB, Macromedia and Lightmaker, the site uses accessible Flash to wow and dazzle its audience.
The Americans with Disabilities Act celebrates its 15th birthday this month (26th July). Experts, layers and disabled people recognise things have improved, but there is still quite some way to go for equal opportunities for disabled people.
- IT Analysis: Websites compliant yesterday but not today
Creating websites that comply with all the relevant standards and regulations is not easy, but, once you achieve it, ensuring that they remain compliant as the content and structure changes is even more difficult. This has been borne out by a recent report from SiteMorse which looked at the websites of organisations that are involved either in defining or implementing such regulation or standards. The sites included the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) and the Guild of Accessible Web Designers (GAWDS) and many others that failed basic automated accessibility tests.
Note: SiteMorse quietly removed the allegation against GAWDS a few days later, offering no public apology or explanation.
- Internet News: Is Google shutting out the blind?
Google uses captchas during registration for the many betas and non-search offerings, such as Blogger.com and Gmail. Captcha is an acronym for "completely automated public Turing test to tell computers and humans apart." Developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, they're used to separate the humans from bots in Web site registrations, preventing large-scale automated registrations that can then be used to send spam.
But captchas are gotchas for the blind.
- eCommerce Times: How small or medium-sized e-businesses can compete
You need to check regularly for HTML code compliance, broken links, spelling errors, browser compatibility and so on. While your hosting company is supposed to do all of this for you, it might make sense to watch over their commitments by using a service that provides you with virtually all of the tools to not only check for integrity of your site but also give repair suggestions. Additionally, you also get to verify that your site is compliant to privacy and accessibility standards.
- News.com: Standards activists target scripts
Many pages that rely heavily on scripts do not present their content in a way that blind people and others with disabilities can access them. And Web authors who are intent on using the latest scripting techniques may leave older browsers choking on their code. WaSP wants authors to provide scripts that "gracefully degrade" with older browsers, providing some data and functionality, if not the full effect.
- Leaky Cauldron: JKRowling.com to feature accessibility for disabled and visually impaired users
The site is now navigable by keyboard without a mouse, and contains an accessibility menu, including the ability to enlarge text in certain areas, pause movement, and turn off background sound. A sound glossary has been built in so that users can look-up the meaning of important sound clues on the site and a caption element allows all users to read contextual content of sounds.
- Computer Business Review: Harry Potter website emphasizes accessibility
"Too often, accessible sites are not examples of great design," said Regan, who added that developers have long labored under the notion that making sites accessible would force them to dumb down their designs. According to him, the Rowling site is visual proof that accessible sites can still be visually and artistically stunning.
Hardware and software
- Daily Item: Software a sight for sore eyes
The company's [IBM] Web Adaptation Technology software allows Malk and others with vision impairments and disabilities to manipulate Web pages to suit their needs. The software can read aloud what's on the page, magnify text, block distracting screen backgrounds or animation as well as make the keyboard easier to use.
- Yahoo: Microsoft prepares for worldwide launch of Visual Studio, SQL Server and BizTalk Server
Today, Visual Studio 2005 and ASP.NET 2.0 enable developers to create documents that conform to Section 508 of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)'s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). In addition, all ASP.NET 2.0 pages and controls generate XHTML 1.0 Transitional markup by default.
- FCW: Can you hear me now?
Transcription for the medical and legal fields continues to be one of the most frequent applications of voice-recognition technology. Enabling accessibility for users with disabilities runs a close second. Although most organizations that use a computer-assisted transcription process won't totally replace manual labor, they often use employees in quality assurance and editing roles rather than as professional transcribers.
- Business Wire: AT&T Natural Voices for Apple Mac OS v.10.4 Tiger now available from Wizzard Software
"We are excited to be able to provide Apple developers with a product that has recently become very popular with Windows(R) and Linux developers," said Danielle Lewis, Marketing Director for Wizzard Software. "This TTS technology is conservatively priced and very valuable to many application categories including accessibility, interactive telephone systems, alert systems and other markets where a natural sounding speech engine is a necessity. We are pleased to invite Windows, Linux and especially Apple developers to visit our newly designed website at www.wizzardsoftware.com where they can review technical information and purchase this and other state-of-the-art speech technologies."
- Wireless Developer Network: New interactive demo lounge will put the power of speech in consumer's hands
The SpeechWorks division of ScanSoft will demonstrate its market-leading screen reader application. The SpeechPAK TALKS Premium Edition converts the display text of a cellular handset into highly intelligible speech, providing extensive feature accessibility for blind and visually impaired individuals as well as greater convenience for all users.
- Planet PDF: PDF Webinars to offer Section 508 clinic
"What we see over and over again in our training is that creating accessible PDF is an 'upstream' issue," says Carl Young, Adobe Certified Instructor and producer of the PDF Conference, who will deliver the training. "The key is to design and set up your source documents properly. If you do that, creating an accessible PDF is much simpler."
- Information Society Technologies: Visually-challenged computer users can now explore technical drawings
The IST programme-funded TeDUB project has overcome the limitations of existing technologies by creating an innovative, accessible system. The Image Interpreter analyses drawings semi-automatically or automatically using image processing and knowledge processing techniques.
- Yahoo: Microsoft Accessibility Resource Centers empower people with disabilities
Even before passage of the ADA, Microsoft had started to develop software that was designed to empower people with disabilities. For nearly 20 years, Microsoft has been committed to increasing the accessibility of its own products while providing a platform that enables other developers to create assistive software and devices that are compatible with Microsoft Windows operating systems and other Microsoft products.
Legal US and Canada
- The Reporter: Foot-dragging by state on voting booths leaves county clerks in lurch
With approximately five months until federal law will require every municipality in Wisconsin to have voting booths with handicapped accessibility, the state has not yet approved a single piece of specialized voting equipment.
- Toronto Star: Editorial: TTC sees the light
An interim order issued by an Ontario human rights tribunal has found the Toronto Transit Commission discriminated against visually impaired passengers by not regularly calling out coming subway stops. The order requires the TTC to ensure station names are announced "clearly and consistently" in future and that training be held for employees within the next three months.
- Australian IT: IBM takes lead on standard for accessibility
IBM's worldwide accessibility centre director Frances West told the subcommittee accessibility is enhanced by open standards that allow free exchange of information, encourage innovation and give agencies more flexibility to customise systems.
- Tallahassee: Volusia blind voters sue for touchscreen voting
The lawsuit alleges that the county's exclusive use of the optical scan system violated state law and the Americans with Disabilities Act by not letting blind voters cast secret ballots. It asked the court to require the election supervisor to have the touchscreen machines in place for October municipal elections.
- Online Ledger: Blind voters sue for touchscreen ballot
The suit was filed about a month after the Volusia County Council, some its members uncomfortable with the lack of a paper ballot provision with touchscreens, narrowly rejected a $782,185 contract with Diebold Election Systems to buy some of the machines.
- Computerworld: Florida county in legal fight over e-voting machines
On June 29, the Volusia County Council voted 4-3 against authorizing the purchase of 210 touch-screen systems from Diebold Election Systems. According to Florida state law, all counties were obliged to have at least one state-certified touch-screen machine in place by July 1. These particular systems, which have a touch-screen interface, meet the handicap access requirement because they also house devices that enable blind voters to receive verbal prompts to enable them to vote.
- Post Gazette: Americans With Disabilities Act: A job not done (yet)
Likewise, captioning on television designed for people who are deaf or hard of hearing is used by those not hearing impaired in noisy places like sports bars. And new building and product designs that are ADA compliant have universal appeal -- an adjustable podium, a stairless entrance, a computer that can respond to voice commands or a voting machine that can read the ballot in multiple languages are enjoyed by everyone.
- Kansas City Infozine: EFF supports disabled voters in fight against paperless e-voting
On Thursday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Florida attorney Jeff Liggio filed an emergency amicus brief on behalf of Volusia County disabled residents who oppose the purchase of paperless touchscreen voting machines. The brief, supporting Volusia County Council members who are seeking to purchase an alternate voting system that better addresses accessibility issues and also produces a voter-verified paper ballot, was submitted in opposition to a lawsuit filed July 5th by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
- The New Standard: Electronic voting law splits Florida disabled advocates
Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation joined in the legal fray, filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the four Council members on behalf of the Handicapped Adults of Volusia County (HAVC), a disability advocacy group opposed to spending money on machines that do not provide a paper record of a person's vote. The legal filing came one day before oral arguments in the US District Court were to be heard.
- Lawrence Journal World: Act has changed landscape in 15 years
"It's given people with disabilities the same civil rights everybody else had," said Tanya Dorf, executive director of Independence Inc., a nonprofit agency that serves about 1,000 Lawrence residents with disabilities.
- TMCNet: Make telecom update your highest priority, disability groups tell Congress
Citing a report issued last month, Two-Way Technologies: A History of the Struggle to Communicate, by Hofstra University Professor Frank Bowe, the groups underscore the fact that the quality of life for many people with disabilities rests on decisions that only Congress can make. One of the report's recommendations is that people with disabilities be assured accessibility to services delivered over broadband connections, just as they now are to the same services offered over traditional phone lines. Said NAD chief executive officer Nancy J. Bloch: "Thousands of deaf and hard of hearing Americans are now 'making phone calls' using high-speed broadband connections. We can sign to each other, just as other people speak to each other. Since the functionality is the same, so too should be the regulations governing the service."
- Orlando Sentinel: Disabled lose again in battle over voting
Advocates for the blind suffered another legal setback Monday: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit refused to order Volusia County to immediately purchase disability-accessible touch-screen voting machines for the fall elections.
- Fort Wayne: ADA turns 15
The law has not caused every door to immediately fling open. But the ADA gives legal standing to the assumption that all Americans should have the ability to participate in society. It has caused many to reassess what they do to encourage inclusion. But progress needs to continue so that by the time Jones graduates from college, she, and not her disability, will decide her career path - be it judge, scientist or high school track coach.
- Newswire: Diebold design meets Canadian standards
Diebold, Incorporated, has received a "letter of attestation" from the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Canada's leading developer of standards and codes, confirming that the company's Opteva automated banking machines (ABMs) comply with its accessibility standards and tests for older adults and the disabled. The assessment pertains to Diebold's Opteva 500, 520, 720 and 760 models.
- New Standard: Voter verification, accessibility within reach, group says
David L. Dill, founder of the Verified Voting Foundation, a nonprofit advocate for certifiable ballot accuracy which has partnered with disability advocates, testified before the Assistance Commission yesterday on problems with implementing electronic voting systems. Dill pointed to what he considers flaws in the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, Commission rules designed to bring state voting into compliance with HAVA provisions.
Legal UK / Europe
- eGov monitor: Glasgow launches new on-line access guide to city centre
The DisabledGo guide will provide valuable information on access to hundreds of shops, museums, pubs, restaurants, cinemas and other public venues for people with hearing, vision or mobility related access concerns.
- News.com: Accessibility could take a step backward
Now the technology industry is concerned that the positive impact of Section 508 may be disrupted or side-tracked: Several governments in Europe are in the process of exploring or establishing their own accessibility policies. Some are similar to the U.S. standard, but others offer new, divergent or conflicting accessibility guidelines for public procurement.
Legal - Rest of the world
- Computerworld: Agencies baulk at accessibility rules
The New Zealand government's guidelines stipulate sites must comply with WAI level 1. But they are also expected to comply with at least some of the more extensive level 2 and level 3 standards, as well. In addition, features such as closely-spaced controls, which are inconvenient for users with restricted mobility, are proscribed.