Accessibility in the News: June 2006Saturday, July 08, 2006
The Stockholm syndrome-laden argument against the Open Document Format surfaces again despite the ODF Alliance producing an OpenDocument plugin, and Microsoft starting to concede ground on its refusal to support the OpenDocument Format in its Office product.
Members of the European Union recommit to making all public websites accessible by 2010. Its a watered down position from their original 2002 ruling that all public sites meet Level AA.
- Computing: Soccer sites fail accessibility tests
The two sites reviewed by the charity were the English version of Fifa's World Cup site and the FA's World Cup site. AbilityNet carried out a number of tests on the sites, and found that they failed to meet basic accessibility requirements.
- Public Technology: CIOB relaunches website to improve accessibility and usability
The new site represents a significant step in the CIOB's progress towards making all of its information and services electronically available. The site already attracts on average 20,000 visitors each month and with a more accessible and usable design, and even more services becoming electronically enabled, that figure is set to grow significantly.
- Ping Wales: Gwalia pushes the accessibility envelope
Andy Elliott, senior web editor at Gwalia, explains why the Shaw Trust's input was necessary: "We test our web sites extensively using assistive technologies like screen readers during development, but no-one uses this equipment like the expert users at Shaw Trust - they are phenomenal."
"We visited them during testing and spent an hour or so just watching them use our site and chatting about their experiences. They then produced a written report suggesting a couple of changes for us to make in order to meet the Shaw Trust Accessible standard. We complied and have also incorporated this feedback in developing our other sites."
Hardware and Software
- Just Load it: Terminalfour scoops Content Management deals with eight Irish Local Authorities
A key driver for the investment is to improve online facilities for citizens and make the web sites more user-friendly and accessible, especially to users with different levels of sight, hearing and dexterity capability. TERMINALFOUR Site Manager functionality ensures that all content published meets industry regulations, such as the as the W3C WAI accessibility standard.
- PortalIT: Opera Mobile 8.6 hits the market
Zoom - Magnify text and images in Web pages for better accessibility.
- Beta News: MS: Vista most accessible Windows ever
Thus, Microsoft has focused its efforts to improve accessibility into three different areas: an Ease of Access center to assist users in finding ways to make using their computer easier; new technologies, such as better speech recognition and magnification; and Microsoft UI Automation.
First, the Ease of Access Center is a redesigned version of the Accessibility control panel option. Microsoft is moving away from the "disability" or "accessibility" terms, as it found that users ignored the features since they didn't identify as disabled.
- Marketwire: IBM Contributes Ajax Software Development Technology to Open Source Community
IBM will be providing expertise to integrate Dynamic Web Accessibility into the Dojo Toolkit widget set. The Dynamic Web Accessibility specification is being developed within the World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative. It provides a mechanism for creating rich user interface components on the Web which are fully accessible via the keyboard and when using assistive technologies such as screen readers and screen magnifiers. This enhanced accessibility, which mimics the behavior of client side user interface controls, is crucial for supporting the rich internet applications built using Ajax and Dojo.
- GCN: Test Drive: Vista makes new strides
For example, Microsoft put Vista's accessibility tools (magnifier, speech recognition, etc.) in a central location called the Ease of Access Center. It's a powerful addition for agencies striving to adhere to Section 508 accessibility requirements. We were especially impressed with the improved Narrator function, which reads menu items in a pleasing, natural voice.
- Ping Wales:
Released three years ago, KarovaStore is a standards-based accessible e-commerce platform. The company says it provides web developers with complete artistic control over their e-commerce applications, while online store owners without IT knowledge can configure and extend the platform to meet the needs of their business. KarovaStore has been used to create the World Wildlife Fund UK website.
Working closely with The Paciello Group, international experts and pioneers in the field of accessible interface design, the Bindows development team spent over a year solving many of the technical complexities that accessibility requirements pose to Ajax and Web 2.0 applications. The Bindows framework enables the fastest time to market for Ajax and Web 2.0 applications that work with leading screen readers, such as JAWS, without requiring any download or installation (zero-footprint).
- out-law: MPs call for eBook accessibility
RNIB told the inquiry that Adobe eBooks usually have accessibility settings disabled and that Microsoft eBooks reader implement "owner exclusive" markings so cannot be transferred to a Braille device.
In some cases, RNIB said "audio rights" to a book had been sold to another party and the eBook publisher was cautious not to infringe. The charity pointed out that there is a significant difference between a trained actor's performance in creating an audio-book for the mass-market and what can be achieved by computerised text-to-speech systems. "There is clearly no likelihood of the latter damaging sales of the former," noted the APIG report.
- What PC: Sun joins IBM for Ajax development
Sun will allow DoJo to become an enterprise grade developer tool by helping developers to create internationalised applications and meet accessibility standards, according to Russell.
- News Factor: Sun Microsystems jumps on Ajax Bandwagon
As part of the OpenAjax Alliance, Sun will collaborate with some 30 other companies and organizations, Including IBM, Oracle, Yahoo, AOL, and Red Hat, to create interchangeable Ajax tools and spur adoption of the technology throughout the industry.
Sun will contribute applications that meet the Dynamic Web Content Accessibility specifications being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), as well as applications that speak different languages.
- Newsforge: Planning for Ubuntu Edgy: A mid-week report from the Ubuntu developer's conference
Ubuntu has, since day one, made accessibility support one of its most important philosophical goals. Led in large part by a big push by Henrik Nilsen Omma, Edgy aims to improve the state of accessibility in Ubuntu by including some of the best and most cutting edge accessibility tools in the free software world. This includes software to take advantage of hardware video acceleration for screen magnification and evaluation and integration of a whole set of next-generation tools for screen-reading and more. In addition to this being the right thing to do, it will open doors to Ubuntu in government and big business environments.
- CNet: Report blasts Mass. OpenDocument policy
"Senator Pacheco is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. We are committed to an open-standards approach that fully takes into account all accessibility, cost and statutory requirements," said Felix Browne, an administration spokesman.
- Computerworld: Opponents to ODF strike back in Massachusetts
Updegrove also said that the Microsoft Office plug-ins the ITD is now evaluating sidestep the thorniest issues with OpenDocument for disabled computer users. "As a result, the recommendation of the committee to delay conversion until adequate accessibility tools are available is simply not necessary," he said.
Legal - US and Canada
- Montclair Times: Voting machines ready for election: Long-awaited, often-debated electronic models
The Essex County Task Force on Voting, a citizens group formed by residents concerned with Essex County's purchase of electronic ballot boxes, was particularly vocal in protesting the Sequoia Advantage.
The group still contends that the machine needs a full upgrade to meet the state's mandated requirement to provide a paper record of each vote that is cast, and it has an 18-year-old internal processor, poor accessibility and in-sufficient height adjustment.
- Z-Wire: New touch-screen machine debuts Tuesday
Blind voters can maneuver through the ballot without assistance, using voice guidance prompts that recite the name of each candidate. Voters in wheelchairs have full frontal and sideward accessibility to the screen. They can either use the touch screen to cast their vote, or they can use a tethered keypad with voice prompts to complete their ballot.
"The voter can easily move through a ballot the ballot using a telephone-style keypad that is designed for ease of use and handling," Blount said.
Legal - UK, Europe and Worldwide
- Cordis: A common approach to accessibility for all
"We are developing a harmonised evaluation methodology setting out criteria that will enable Web and software developers to create accessible sites," says Eric Velleman, project coordinator of the IST-funded EU Web Accessibility Benchmarking (WAB) Cluster initiative at the Bartimeus Accessibility Foundation in The Netherlands. "We are working on guidelines, checklists and common interfaces for benchmarking tools, evaluation, repair tools and language."
- eGov: Internet for all: EU ministers commit to an inclusive and barrier-free information society
A pan-European drive to use information and communication technologies to help people to overcome economic, social, educational, territorial or disability-related disadvantages was endorsed by ministers of 34 European countries in Riga (Latvia) today. "e-Inclusion" targets include halving the gap in internet usage by groups at risk of exclusion, boosting broadband coverage in Europe to at least 90%, and making all public web sites accessible by 2010.
- Silicon: Web accessibility to be mandatory in Europe?
The question of accessibility for disabled people looms large in the EC's plan for inclusion too. The Commission is studying the possible introduction of mandatory accessibility standards in public procurement, to be brought in by 2010. The EC is also considering legislation to improve e-accessibility.
- Tiscali: EU Ministers commit to all-inclusive Internet
"e-Inclusion" aims to halve the gap in internet usage by disadvantaged groups, boosting broadband coverage in Europe to at least 90%, and making all public web sites accessible by 2010. Welcoming the move, Commissioner Viviane Reding said: "Many Europeans still get too little benefit from information and communication technologies, and millions are at risk of being left behind".
- out-law: Public sector websites to be accessible by 2010
It is less demanding than the Parliament's Regulation of four years ago, adding a generous seven years to the original target for member states. It asks them to ensure "accessibility of all public web sites by 2010, through compliance with the relevant W3C common web accessibility standards and guidelines."
There is no echo of the Parliament's call for Level AA conformance. Instead, Ministers have agreed that, by next year, signatory states will "make recommendations on accessibility standards and common approaches".
- IT Director: Europe to mandate accessibility
Paragraph 25 of the declaration is the most prescriptive "Promoting and ensuring accessibility of all public (meaning government) web sites by 2010... Calling on the private sector to do likewise, ... and to develop the appropriate authoring tools and software". This paragraph is really mandating all participating governments to sort out their own houses. I think it will have a major impact that will have knock on effects to all parties.
- London Free Press: New London guide helps disabled people get around
Access Guide London, launched yesterday at the Independent Living Centre London & Area, gives information on the accessibility of local destinations, including restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and tourist attractions.
It lists where to find full-service gas stations, 24-hour drugstores and accessible-vehicle rentals.