Accessibility in the News: May 2006Friday, June 09, 2006
UK charities and FTSE-100 still not accessible according to recent studies by Nomensa and AbilityNet. The Nomensa report, however, does offer constructive guidance by highlighting some areas some websites do well. This acknowledges the accessibility work put in by a number of organisations and spurs other organisations to adopt these best practice techniques. Nice one, Nomensa! (Although, would you consider making the report available for immediate download?)
Also of note, the Odeon's website has been relaunched and it's leaps and bounds better than the previous monstrosity that's been the subject of ridicule in the past. Still some niggling problems when using Firefox and no Flash.
The OpenDocument Format scored a massive win against Microsoft's so called "open" XML Office Formats by releasing a plugin to add ODF support to Microsoft Office. This largely routs around Microsoft's refusal to support the format, and so alleviates the lock-in Microsoft's own format enjoys over people with disabilities.
The new version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines is in last call, and its looking to be dead in the water, being largely rejected by the web development and design community. In its attempt to be technology-independent and testable, the guidelines are too obscure to actually be implementable. Perhaps its wiser to ignore WCAG 2.0 entirely and focus either on the missing Techniques document for each technology, or stick with WCAG 1.0, and hope Joe Clark and his WCAG Samurais can bring it more up-to-date.
- e-consultancy: Nearly 75 percent of FTSE 100 company websites fail to meet minimum accessibility requirements
The five most common website flaws
- Poor quality web code
- Poor use of lists
- Not using headings and titles properly
- Missing alternative text for graphical elements
- Using pop-up windows
- out-law: Websites of UK's top companies 'actively turn visitors away'
Only five sites were found to be using standards-compliant code. And 58 sites used pop-ups without warning the user. Pop-ups aggravate most people but for those with cognitive impairments or those using screen magnification software, they can be a serious problem.
Simon Norris, Nomensa's managing director, said: "Companies just aren't appreciating how important this is. As well as leaving themselves exposed to legal action, ignoring accessibility actively turns visitors away."
- out-law: Charities failing on website accessibility
A survey of 10 voluntary sector websites has found only one - Cancer Research UK's - gaining a minimum standard of accessibility. The survey was carried out by another charity, computing and disability specialist AbilityNet.
- e-consultancy: Design UK creates new Odeon website
One key element of the new site is that it has been developed to meet AA accessibility standards and has been independently audited to ensure this compliance. Odeon is looking to engage as wide an audience as possible and maximise bookings through an experience that is equally usable for all visitors. To this end Design UK has worked closely with the Odeon team to develop an elegant but simple interface from its existing technology platform that enables users to book cinema tickets more quickly and easily.
- out-law: Berners-Lee applies Web 2.0 to improve accessibility
One such criticism is that WCAG 1.0 is difficult to apply to technological developments on the web. Berners-Lee seemed to understand this concern. "I was having a conversation with someone the other day about video blogging," he said. "Does a video blogger need captioning? It's not easy to do."
So he suggested a novel approach "What about community captioning? The video blogger posts his blog - and the web community provides the captions that help others."
This solution evokes the concept of Web 2.0, a collective term for services that let people collaborate and share information online.
- lxer: Titch's OpenDocument straw man falls
If the Commonwealth had not mandated an open format that allows everyone to compete - including Microsoft's competitors, Microsoft would still be able to keep their competitors effectively locked out of competition. Currently, it is difficult for anyone at all to compete against Microsoft because Microsoft's format is competing with a handicap - it's a patented, undocumented, binary format. And Titch probably doesn't even know that many FOSS developers are still nervous about Microsoft's XML format licensing.
- Computing: Sites deny access to disabled
Ninety per cent of UK voluntary sector web sites do not meet minimum standards of accessibility for disabled people, according to research from computing and disability specialist AbilityNet.
The figures raise concerns because voluntary sector sites target a higher percentage of disabled people than those in the public and private sectors.
- SitePoint: WCAG 2.0 is broken - leave your comments now!
In short, this document is supposed to replace the existing guidelines and move the Web forward in a way that encourages creating accessible sites; in its current form it seems to try and do everything but. Joe Clark has thoroughly dissected WCAG 2.0, and his proposal to start an independent working group to try and fix some of the enormous flaws in the document is not just understandable - it may be the only hope left for an accessible Web.
Editor note: Joe Clark's WCAG Samurai group's first aim is to improve version 1.0 of WCAG with a series of errata.
- Wall Street Journal: Codes on Sites 'Captcha' - Anger of Web Users
The Captcha' flaws are prompting academics, independent computer programmers and some Web companies to craft new variations that they hope will be easier for humans to decipher but harder for computer programs. The World Wide Web Consortium, an international group that encourages improved standards for Web programming, published a paper last November that advocates the creation of alternatives, saying the tests "fail to properly recognize users with disabilities as human" and are vulnerable to defeat by astute programmers.
- Flash Magazine: Adobe Live London 2006: The future of the Internet as an applications platform
James Governor from Red Monk is a pretty funny guy for an analyst. He's also opinionated which is no bad thing when it comes to livening up a panel discussion. James opening point was one that came to thread its way through the rest of the evening; Railing against the constraints of DRM "Digital Restrictions Management" he championed the cause of "open data" and went as far as to urge anyone with a website to give it an API to open it up to the rest of the web. He stressed that not only does open data facilitate accessibility it makes entirely new business models possible. Today's mash ups will be tomorrows tech companies.
Hardware and Software
- PIA Information Service: Webmasters' interface on accessible ICT for PWDs, set
The National Council for the Welfare of Disabled Persons (NCWDP) in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is set to gather all webmasters across the country to empower disabled persons through accessible Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in a workshop dubbed as "Webmasters' Interface on Accessible ICT for Persons with Disabilities" on May 24-26 in Cebu City.
- Silicon Republic: Change in ICT design for visually impaired urged
The paper, entitled An Information society for all - the non-visual way, outlines recommendations on how to achieve a fully accessible information society and is authored by IT professional Ronan McGuirk, founding member of VICS.
- Groklaw: OpenDocument Foundation to MA: We Have a Plugin
The OpenDocument Foundation has notified the Massachusetts ITD that we have completed testing on an ODF Plugin for all versions of MS Office dating back to MS Office 97. The ODF Plugin installs on the file menu as a natural and transparent part of the open, save, and save as sequences. As far as end users and other application add-ons are concerned, ODF plugin renders ODF documents as if it were native to MS Office.
The testing has been extensive and thorough. As far as we can tell there isn't a problem, even with Accessibility add ons, which as you know is a major concern for Massachusetts.
- IT Week: Plug-in teaches Microsoft Office to read ODF
Completion of the plug-in marks an important twist in the discussion over the competing ODF and Microsoft's Open XML document formats. ODF backers tout the format as the most open standard available. Because of its openness, any application can access and store any document that complies with the standard.
- Yahoo!: Diebold Election Systems develops advanced accessibility for touch-screen voting systems
Diebold Election Systems has developed a new device that enables accessibility appliances such as "sip 'n puff" technology, jelly switches, foot switches and other accessibility apparatus to cost-effectively interface with new and existing Diebold AccuVote-TSX and AccuVote-TS touch-screen voting stations. The Universal ADA Interface Device (UAID) facilitates accessibility features to further enhance the ability of physically challenged voters to independently and privately make candidate selections and cast ballots.
- Mining Gazette: Increasing access to voting: Disabled voters get more privacy
The AutoMARK, which is made by Election Systems & Software of Nebraska, consists of a device which resembles a fax machine. There are also accessories including headphones so voters can hear their options and check their ballots for accuracy. There is a "puffer tube" for voters who are unable to use their arms, a braille pad and a foot pedal which controls the size of print on a monitor screen for visually-impaired voters.
- Computerworld: Massachusetts OpenDocument plans questioned by disabled
IBM also is accelerating development of a screen reader and a screen magnifier for Linux. And Sun is working on a combined open-source screen reader and magnifier called Orca. But those efforts are still in the early stages of development, officials said.
Getting support for OpenOffice, Workplace or Sun's StarOffice software built into screen readers and magnifiers won't be easy. According to assistive technology vendors, which are generally small companies, the economics of supporting applications that have limited market demand don't work in their favor.
Freedom Scientific supports Office, Notes and Corel's WordPerfect Office with its market-leading Job Access With Speech screen reader, said Eric Damery, vice president of software product management at the company.
- Brighthand: Accessibility is My Passion
It's not alone; I wonder why speech recognition is not built into Windows Mobile. Sure, there is Voice Command, but you are asking one program to assume that another is coded to be accessible by voice. Unfortunately, that is not something enforced within WM developer standards, and therefore developers do not always make it happen.
- Bob's Guide: Tridion Launches R5 Version 5.2
Tridion relied heavily on customer feedback to develop the new version and tailor it to their specific needs. With the requirement for accessible websites becoming a growing concern for many enterprises, the new content management suite features improved layout for designing fully accessible websites, as well as a warning system which alerts web designers if the content and layout of a website are not compatible with accessibility standards.
- Tectonic: OSS giving voice to the disabled
Patel says the GNApp framework enables people who use assistive technologies to design and develop their own user interfaces, based on the individual's need, education and literacy. "The idea is that we don't just take this and develop, but that we actually get it out there so people can actually contribute to it," says Patel.
- Trade Arabia: Gadget firms tackled on usability
The initiative, which has been given the name of the E-Inclusion Charter, has the backing of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf (RNID), Disabled Living Foundation, technology consultancy Scientific Generics and the Alliance for Digital Inclusion.
Despite the involvement of charities that try to raise awareness of accessibility issues, Guido Gybels, director of new technologies at the RNID, said the charter aimed to help everyone.
- Computerworld: Web 2.0 is hot - both today and tomorrow
Why does a giant like IBM care about web accessibility for people with sight, hearing and learning disabilities? "Because almost every single person has some kind of disability. I have a learning disability. I learned at a very early age that I can't add certain sequences of numbers, so I always add one more than that, and I have no idea why it is that way," says Boloker, who has a masters degree in mathematics.
- Innovations Report: Disability Research leads to chip & pin shoulder surfing fraud breakthrough
Neil Radford an Enterprise Fellow at the University of Warwick has worked with colleagues in the University of Warwick's Manufacturing Group to create a special easy to use "cradle" for chip & pin keypads, which innovatively incorporates a magnifying lens. The use of the lens (patent pending) is of significant benefit to visually impaired people, as it enlarges the pin pad display whilst also improving security. The enhanced view, to any user standing directly in front of the key pad, alone is of great benefit by reducing the degree of difficulty and the associated anxiety many face in simply reading the display - from partially sighted people through to the many people who need simply to switch to reading glasses for some tasks - whilst vendors see improved transaction times.
- Scenta: Disability research that benefits all
The easy-to-use cradle developed by the University of Warwick prevents 'shoulder surfing', a fraud method where someone can casually observe consumers' secret PIN when paying for goods or services.
Legal - US and Canada
- The State: Lawsuits ensure access for disabled when businesses won't
As a former accessibility consultant for the state, I always inform the manager on duty of what the problem is and how it could be fixed. Attempts are made to contact the owners. Letters are sent. Phone calls are made. Sometimes businesses make the changes after being educated. When they don't, the law provides a way to address it.
- Duluth Superior: Ga. lab explores accessibility research
The scientists primarily aim to help products meet a federal guideline, known as Section 508, which encourages companies to make electronic devices more accessible to the disabled. Companies that want to sell products to the federal government are urged to meet the federal statute, which is monitored by the Department of Justice.
So far, the policy has compelled some changes, particularly in the copy machine industry that's embraced tactile displays and is experimenting with voice controls.
- US Newswire: National Council on Disability Statement regarding the Voting Rights Act Reauthorization
For nearly a decade, NCD has made specific recommendations and published information with respect to aspects of citizens' voting rights, including election practices and their impacts on people with disabilities. NCD's findings address voting systems, voter registration, polling place access, poll worker training, and other factors aligned with the current need for reauthorization of the VRA. NCD's 1997 publication, National Disability Policy: A Progress Report, called for new voting systems to be made accessible to all people with disabilities. In its 1999 report, Implementation of the National Voter Registration Act by State Vocational Rehabilitation Agencies, NCD reported that 75 percent of people with disabilities who received services from state vocational rehabilitation agencies were never asked to register to vote, as the law requires.
- ZDNet: Why a landmark court case could force you to redo your whole Web site
David Berlind: The case is a reminder to all of us that we should do what we can to make our sites more accessible (as I have done in this blog post with the links I've included). I know I will try harder and I'll also discuss the issue internally with the IT staff and designers who have access to many of the links on ZDNet that I don't control. And, I can fully appreciate the position of PWDs who are demanding equal access to Web sites much the same way they demand and should have equal access to many buildings. But I can't advocate stretching the American Disabilities Act to cover Web sites. Given the state of the state of technology (tools, Web 2.0), the Web, technologically speaking, simply isn't equipped to make compliance with such a precedent law possible. Shame on Target for not making its sites more accessible. Shame on me too when I haven't done it (again, I will try harder).
- Globe and Mail: Court to rule whether Via ignored accessibility in purchasing railcars
Via is under attack from a coalition of disabled groups over its purchase in 2000 of the railcars that were originally built to ply the underwater Chunnel connecting England to France. Via's opponents say that the cars fall far short of acceptable standards for wheelchair accessibility and safety, and that Via has put money ahead of basic humanity in clinging to its bargain-basement purchase.
"First we were lied to, then we were left to bear the unbelievable costs of litigating against a Crown corporation which seems willing to spend more on legal fees than the Canadian Transportation Agency found it would cost to make the trains accessible," said Pat Danforth, a spokesperson for the Council of Canadians with Disabilities.
Legal - UK, Europe and Worldwide
- Ghana Web: Disability Bill goes through second reading
He asked that the Bill should aim at empowering PWDs to escape the dependency syndrome and not to draw them into it.
- SABC News: Landmark decision for disabled people
The case against the minister of justice and public works department centres around lack of access to the Kabega Park police station by disabled people. Melissa McGregor, the magistrate, says the firearm licence office should be moved to the ground floor within the next month. She also ruled that a system like a wheel chair elevator should be brought into the current renovation plans and need to be completed within the next two years.