Accessibility in the News: May 2005Thursday, June 02, 2005
A few months ago it was a surprise to see a news article announcing that an accessible website has been launched by a business. This month, it seems to be the hot topic. Business are starting to realise the benefits and the great publicity that goes along with the announcement of an accessible website. Its evident that people who benefit from accessible websites tend to be returning customers, and the spending power of such an audience is not a trivial amount.
Fortune Cookie seem to be leading the way in the media environment, notching up two more announcements of accessible websites. The UK public services websites are queueing up, with Stockport and Lancaster councils announcing accessible websites. On the humourous side, two lawyer firms based in Scotland are arguing over who was the first to have an RNIB 'See It Right' accredited website - if lawyers are fighting over this, there's gotta be a serious business advantage in it.
Another story rapidly gaining prominence is the lucrative market based on accessible travelling - accessible hotels, accessible tourists venues. Another multi-billion dollar market as a reward for complying with ADA guidelines.
Note: The web design event of the year kicks off next week on the 9th and 10th June 2005 up in Kings College, Waterloo, London, UK - the @Media 2005 conference. I'm going to be there to see talks by Joe Clark, Ian Lloyd, Molly Holzschlag, and a plethora of other easily-recognised web designers, as well as meeting up with some of the best web talent the UK has to offer. See you there.
- Yahoo: AbilityLinks launches new, more accessible version of website
AbilityLinks, a consortium of over 100 businesses and service agencies dedicated to using Internet technology to match up employers and job-ready individuals with disabilities, is proud to unveil an upgrade of its award winning website that features a higher level of accessibility and user-friendliness.
- netimperative: Fortune Cookie lands travel site contract
Short haul tour operator Cadogan Holidays has appointed web design agency Fortune Cookie to overhaul its website. Set for launch in the summer 2005, the new site will aim to improve usability and accessibility and "deliver a unique online presence".
- e-consultancy: Website overhaul for Cadogan Holidays
Fortune Cookie will work with Cadogan to deliver a unique online presence and a site that combines high levels of usability and accessibility. "The new Cadogan website will deliver a quality experience and the type of service that customers appreciate in a specialist tour operator, simply and effectively" said Justin Cooke, Fortune Cookie's Managing Director.
- Revolution: BSI wants your views on web site accessibility
The document, PAS 78: Guide to Good Practice in Designing Accessible Web Sites, reminds developers of the vital importance of standards and lists those to which sites should conform. It addresses the confusion surrounding web accessibility; for example, the role of automated tools, validating web code, quality assurance and benchmarking, and when to involve disabled people in the design lifecycle.
- Public Technology: 85 per cent of London borough web sites yet to achieve web accessibility
The Nomensa report says that 85% of London borough web sites have yet to achieve the web accessibility recommendations that have been defined by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Priority Service Outcomes Report. 6% of sites tested are meeting this standard, while 9% have exceeded the recommendation, and have achieved a triple-A rating as defined by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).
- ArriveNet: Are people with vision loss being shut out of the blogosphere?
Using JAWS for Windows screen reader and an Alva Satellite braille display -- two popular assistive technology products that provide access to information on a computer screen -- AFB evaluated the accessibility of two blogging services: Blogger and Bloglines and four popular blogs: Hacking Netflix, Fastlane General Motors Blog, Micropersuasion, and Blogspotting -- Business Week Online. What AFB found is that some sites make it difficult to create your own blog if you're a blind user -- though it is possible to read and comment on others' blogs.
- eGov Monitor: Website wins coveted accessibility award
East Sussex County Council's award-winning web team is celebrating another major success. It has been awarded a coveted 'See It Right' logo by the Royal National Institute for the Blind - the first county authority to do so and one of only eight councils in the UK to have met the RNIB's stringent criteria.
- Politics.co.uk: General Social Care Council launches new website
The revamped site can be accessed at www.gscc.org.uk and, thanks to an accessibility audit and other comments from users, it is now easier to access and to keep up to date than the GSCC's first site.
- e-consultancy: Blackwell Publishing appoints Design UK to redesign online presence
Philippa Scoones, Blackwell's Web Publishing Director says, "We appointed Design UK because we liked their elegant, customer-focused designs. Design UK's expertise in usability and accessibility and technical know-how was also a major factor in our decision."
- Public Technology: Stockport Council delivers fully accessible AAA web site
The project to re-build from scratch, and re-launch the Stockport site was handled by RiverInteractive using a powerful yet simple-to-use content management system from Mediasurface. This has meant the Council is able to publish and manage the vital information its citizens need, in a timely and effective manner. The Stockport achievement has been all the more remarkable as the redesign of the Council's extensive web site was completed in just 10 weeks, making it not only one of the most accessible sites in the UK but also one of the fastest deployed.
- Scotsman: RNIB welcomes lawyers' site
Maclay Murray & Spens has become the first UK law firm to have its website accredited by the Royal National Institute of the Blind after meeting rigorous criteria for accessibility.
RNIB web accessibility consultant Bim Egan said: "It's really good to witness a company in the legal sector so enthusiastic and committed to making its website accessible to everyone."
- Scotsman: Lawyers fail to see eye to eye
Two of Scotland's biggest law firms are squaring up to each other after Maclay Murray & Spens claimed to have won a UK first by getting official approval for its website from the blind. "Maclay Murray & Spens has become the first UK law firm to have its website accredited by the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) after meeting rigorous criteria for accessibility," it boasts.
Not so, says rival firm Dickson Minto, claiming it has been accredited for over a year and its website states: "Dickson Minto is committed to making its site available to everyone. This site has been assessed and passed for accessibility by the RNIB." Will the lawyers settle the dispute in court?
- SEE Portal: Associations of the Disabled Persons support the new rules and regulations
The associations of persons with disabilities support the new Book of Rules and Regulations on the use of accessibility sign. The new Rulebook states that the disabled persons that don't suffer from disabling conditions on their lower extremities, or have suffered less than 70 percent damage to their legs, won't be able to use the parking slots reserved for vehicles driven by disabled persons.
- eGov Monitor: Council launches new accessible website
Completely redesigned, the new website www.lancaster.gov.uk has been developed to comply with the latest government guidelines on accessibility and usability.
Visitors to the site can now configure it to meet their individual needs with respect to text size, colour and background contrast. The site has also been designed to make it accessible to those who do not use a mouse, or who use assistive technologies such as text readers.
- net imperative: Charity job site gets revamp
Recruitment site CharityJob has been revamped by Web design agency Fortune Cookie.
The agency has been responsible for an overhaul of the site's architecture, along with the development of a new look and making the site comply with accessibility standards.
Hardware and software
- Register: UK computer boffins build sign language avatar
When you think of accessibility issues on the web, you are probably more likely to think of a blind or partially sighted person needing some kind of text-to-voice translation of a web page. However, Sue Moore, from Norwich charity Deaf Connexions, told the BBC that the package will make web sites more accessible to deaf people whose first language is sign language, but for whom written English is still inaccessible.
- Business Journal: IndependenceFirst in partnership with Microsoft
The Microsoft program is designed to demonstrate accessibility options and assistive technology products that make computers easier and more comfortable to use for people with disabilities.
- A Free Press: DRC launches innovative web service for BSL users
The initiative was prompted by the need to ensure deaf people - whose first language is BSL - get vital rights-based information. And now that one third of net surfers use broadband, the ability to view a high quality video clip - in this case, information in BSL - is more assured than pictures viewed via a modem.
- PDF-Zone: Acrobat 7 Is a 'Major Step Forward,' Author Says
Another feature in this version that is astoundingly useful is the accessibility wizard. In the old days - like, last year - you had to go through four or five steps, but now there's just one with the accessibility command. There's a whole feature in there now to build that wizard.
- PR Newswire: LivePerson announces Section 508 accessibility compliance
By addressing Section 508 access standards, LivePerson ensures that users of Timpani with vision, hearing or mobility disabilities gain greater access to the Internet. Timpani is designed to work with standard assistive technology hardware (such as specialty keyboards and Braille readers), as well as operating system technologies (such as stickykeys and mousekeys). LivePerson has selected Freedom Scientific's JAWS Version 4 as the baseline to test assistive technology software screen reader products.
- ZDNet: FSF works on 'fully free' OpenOffice
Wielaard said the FSF plans to concentrate on improving GCJ or providing optional patches, but a few features may require changes to the OpenOffice code. "We probably won't be able to use GCJ to provide accessibility support," he said. "We will probably write it directly using GNOME [a GNU/Linux desktop environment] accessibility support, in which case I assume it will be added to the OpenOffice codebase."
- Technocrat: Shooting hoops while blind
Researchers have come up with a way for blind people to play basketball. The backboard over the hoop has a sound emitter, and so does the ball, so that blind players can "hear" their way around the court.
- Prudent Press Agency: TecAccess publishes white paper on telecommunications accessibility
The paper discusses the various types of accessible telecommunication systems, including teletypewriters (TTYs), and hearing and voice over IP (VoIP). It also focuses on the different types of individuals who can benefit from accessible telecom devices and services. Furthermore, the white paper explains the positive impact that telecommunication accessibility can have on businesses. It is available at http://tecaccess.net/content/inthenews/telecom.shtml.
Legal US and Canada
- KCRA Channel: Bill targets 'drive-by' ADA lawsuits
Supporters of the bill want to give business people 120 days to make their stores and restaurants fully accessible to people with disabilities before facing a lawsuit. But some disability advocates say that the very idea is insulting and implies that their civil rights are somehow up for negotiation.
- CNW Telbec: New era of accessibility begins in Ontario
The act will take effect on royal assent and will require government to work with partners to jointly develop standards to be achieved in stages of five years or less, leading to a fully accessible Ontario in 20 years. Standards will be set in both the public and private sectors to address the full range of disabilities - including physical, sensory, hearing, mental health, developmental and learning.
- ArriveNet: IBM urges US Senate to support worldwide accessibility standards
West told the Senate Subcommittee that the best way to make technology accessible is through "a global policy that is open, harmonized to existing approaches and promotes an IT environment that enables interoperability. Accessibility is enhanced by open standards," West said, "that permit the free exchange of information, encourage innovation and give businesses, governments, schools and social agencies more flexibility to customize solutions and meet their own, individual requirements."
- Conservative Voice: Why lawsuit abuse continues in California
Accessibility suits have become so profitable that attorneys actively search out businesses with ADA infractions without the grievance of a disabled patron, an act known in the business community as "drive-by" lawsuits. SB 855 would have ended this tactic, insuring that accessibility lawsuits target business owners truly hostile to disabled customers. Unfortunately, such lawsuit abuse lingers because of the trial lawyers' tremendous influence in Sacramento.
- Hospitality net: Travelers with disabilities: The untapped market
There are currently more than 50 million people with disabilities in the United States and 180 million worldwide, representing the single largest untapped tourist market in the world. According to a recent Harris Poll conducted in conjunction with the Open Doors Organization and the Travel Industry Association of America, the 50 million people with disabilities in our country have a combined income of more than $175 billion. In 2002, these people took 32 million trips and spent more than $13.6 billion on travel ($4.2 billion on hotels, $3.3 billion on airfare, $2.7 billion on food and beverage, and $3.4 billion on retail, transportation, and other activities). This study suggested that these travelers would double their spending if some minor amenities were made available. Meet and greet programs at airports, preferred seating on airplanes, hotel rooms closer to amenities, and employees who go out of their way to accommodate guests with disabilities topped the list.
Legal UK / Europe
- Scotsman: Disabled people urged to vote on accessibility
The charity Disability Action launched a survey on the facilities for disabled people wishing to cast their vote in the General and Local Government elections in the province. The study follows a similar survey during the 2003 Assembly Elections in the province, which raised concern about access to polling stations.
- BBC: Disabled voters to assess access
The disabilities charity Scope wants to know if access has improved since the 2001 poll, when it says 69% of polling stations were inaccessible.
- Travel Daily News: Tourism and people with disabilities
At the same time, even if the elements vary from country to country, it is calculated that between 10-20% of European citizens have some type of disability and this percentage is increasing progressively with the general ageing of the population of Europe. The problem of insufficient accessibility of tourist lodgings and other destinations for persons with disabilities has been recognized and pointed out officially by the European Union already from 1990, the year that was nominated as 'European Year of Tourism'. In the framework of the European Year of Tourism various examples of good practice were recorded and awards were granted to lodgings where it was proved, factually, that the obstacles of access can be overcome and that the tourist industry indeed has the possibility of meeting the needs of citizens with disabilities.
- A Free Press: Study of non-discrimination policies & practices in UK & US
People with disabilities still represent a largely untapped employment resource in many countries around the globe, being often greatly under or unemployed compared to their non-disabled peers. In the United States and the United Kingdom, employment disability nondiscrimination legislation has been passed in an attempt to address this inequity. The research described in this report is based on the premise that the implementation of the employment provisions of these pieces of disability nondiscrimination legislation falls chiefly in the realm of the functioning of HR professionals. HR professionals are responsible for the recruitment, pre-employment screening and other workplace practices that affect the hiring and retention of workers with and without disabilities.
- eGov Monitor: Government acts on e-accessibility
Strict new requirements for accessibility and usability are to be formally introduced into the UK Government's technical policies for public sector information systems, eGov monitor can report.
- Computerworld: Tech firms call for US, EU cooperation on regulations
Executives from IBM Corp. and SAP Public Services Inc. called on Congress to work with EU regulators on a global standard governing accessibility for disabled people using technology products. A 1998 law passed by Congress requires US government agencies to purchase the most accessible products available, but some European governments are moving toward tougher regulations that vendors would have to follow, said Joseph Duffy, vice president of SAP Public Services. "If we get into a situation where there are multiple standards for a given technology, then IT developers must either choose one set of standards and forego certain markets, or go to the trouble of implementing multiple standards and hope they do not conflict with each other," Duffy said in written testimony.
- A Free Press: RNIB's response to new government policies for disabled people.
A third term for the Labour government will bring with it a packed first year of this new Parliament, running until Summer 2006. In the Queen's Speech on 17 May it is expected that Bills on reform of Incapacity Benefit, the merger of the Disability Rights Commission into a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights and the re-introduction of the ID Cards Bill will be announced. All these Bills will have an impact on blind and partially sighted people.
- Politics: Disability Discrimination
- There are an estimated 9.8 million adults, and 700,000 children, living with disabilities in the UK.
- In 2001/02, an estimated 3.6 million long-term sick and/or disabled people in Great Britain received either disability living allowance (DLA) or attendance allowance (AA), more than double the number who received these benefits or their equivalents in 1991/92
- 8,908 cases have been commenced in England, Scotland and Wales under the employment provisions of the DDA
- The most common reason given by tribunals for rejecting a claim, in 26% of all unsuccessful cases, has been that the applicant is not disabled
- In 21.9% of all started employment cases, an employer has sought to justify its unfavourable treatment of a disabled employee, most frequently on the grounds of health and safety considerations, or sickness absence
Statistic 1: (Source: Department of Work and Pensions, March 2004)); Statistics 2 to 5: (Source: National Statistics and Disability Rights Commission / Monitoring the Disability Discrimination Act 1995: Report to the Department for Work and Pensions 2003)
- News Medical: Only 34% of polling stations accessible to disabled people
Legal - Rest of the world
- Sydney Morning Herald: NZ firms risk lawsuits over poor websites
About one in five New Zealanders has some form of disability, with close to 100,000 adults and children visually impaired.
The commission hasn't received any official complaints about website accessibility. One unofficial complaint that a bank's website discriminated against the visually impaired was settled privately, she says.