Accessibility in the News: October 2004Tuesday, November 02, 2004
The biggest story of the month is not strictly an accessibility story. Christopher Reeve has done a tremendous amount of work promoting and advocating stem-cell research as a means of curing a number of spinal injury related disabilities. He passed away on the 11th October 2004.
With the US Presidential elections underway, the focus is on the actual voting. Apparently 80% of voting stations in the US are still inaccessible. One in four votes will be cast on a touch screen computer, and Florida won't be having chads this time around. The voting turn-out amongst the disabled is expected to be the highest so far, especially since voting stations are starting to move towards being accessible, and the touch screen voting systems along with audio output proving to be very disabled friendly.
Section 21 of Part III of the UK Disability Discrimination Act is now in force. Online newspapers are focusing on how the shopping centres have improved. There is clearly still work to be done. There have been a few accessible websites published under the misunderstanding that the law comes into force this month (its been enforceable on websites for close on three years now).
In terms of accessibility of websites, the job seeker industry have recognised that disabled job-seekers offer an audience that are well worth pursuing. Hopefully FTSE 100 companies will start to realise their folly soon. Manchester United - once the jewel in the crown of accessible websites - failed the AbilityNet State of the e-Nation test, top scoring with two points out of five. And PDFs are still inaccessible.
- FTSE 100 firms ignoring disabled web access
And in the last three years only 14 per cent of FTSE 100 companies have taken steps to ensure website accessibility for users with disabilities, the study found.
- Computerworld: Government warned on Web site discrimination
Bruce Maguire, the disabled rights advocate who sued the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games for providing a site inaccessible to blind people, said the government's trend towards online PDF documents was attracting "a growing number of DDA [Disability Discrimination Act] complaints".
- Auto Industry: BMW Education Programme website meets highest new internet access standards
Each page on the BMW Education Programme website has been analysed and rewritten to comply with the new standards, and a final check for access was carried out by an independent, visually disabled user. One example of the new layout means that for users with special reader equipment, a computer-generated voice will read the text and describe the images on the screen.
- Online Recruitment: Blind jobseekers see new opportunities online
The announcement is likely to be seen as a tremendous boost to those jobseekers with visual impairments as recent statistics provided by UK charities Action for Blind People and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), indicate that up to 75% of blind and partially sighted people of working age are currently unemployed.
- IST Results: Access to all Europe's websites
European Union websites must be accessible to all, including the 37 million European citizens with a disability. This was an e-Europe Action Plan 2002 goal, which called for public websites to adopt the international Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Guidelines by the end of December 2001. Three European projects played a vital role in supporting this agenda.
- eBCVG: Authentication solution helps the disabled securely access computers at work and elsewhere
VASCO's Digipass 300 Comfort is a PIN code protected, token-based authentication solution where the size and format of the token display and keypad are designed to assist visually and physically challenged users.
- out-law: Football clubs fail on web accessibility
The report reveals that only Manchester United's alternative "accessible" web site achieved more than a one star rating. However its two stars still fall short of the three star minimum required to achieve what AbilityNet considers to be a basic level of accessibility.
- Computerworld: E-government mostly achieves its 2004 milestone, although few users notice
New Zealand e-government has arrived at the first of its self-imposed milestones, and reckons it's not doing at all badly. There are still, however, weaknesses in seamless collaboration among agencies, and a disappointingly low number of internet users are using it to access government information and services The government's e-government strategy promised that by 2004 "the internet will be the dominant means of enabling ready access to government".
- out-law: Web accessibility on a tiny budget
The targets of the service are those without the cash for consultants to repair their non-accessible web sites or intranets (which should also meet accessibility standards), and also those intending to get the necessary work done but seeking an interim solution.
- Computerworld: NZ E-government makes its invisible mark
New Zealand e-government has arrived at the first of its self-imposed milestones, and reckons it's not doing at all badly. There are still, however, weaknesses in seamless collaboration among agencies, and a disappointingly low number of Internet users are using it to access government information and services.
- Online Recruitment: Diverse appeal - independant survey reveals that Totaljobs leads the way
Attracting and catering for disabled jobseekers is key for totaljobs.com. And with the changes to the Disability Discrimination Act, accessibility should be high on the agenda for all companies. Totaljobs.com's site is accessible to disabled candidates and its audience is representative of the UK disabled workforce. While there are six per cent of jobseekers in the UK with disabilities who are able and willing to work (Disability Rights Commissions), eight per cent of totaljobs.com's audience has a disability.
- Yahoo: Historic turnout of voters with disabilities expected
A recent nationwide poll conducted by the National Organization on Disability, http://www.nod.org, and Harris Interactive found that 21% of voters with disabilities were unable to vote in past presidential or congressional elections because of barriers faced either at, or in getting to, the polls. Additionally, 22% of survey respondents stated that poll workers challenged their eligibility to vote.
- IST Results: Web accessibility best practice for the classroom
The IST project IDCnet, which finished in May 2004, aimed to create a series of recommendations on how to incorporate accessibility guidelines into mainstream university curricula, to ensure that future designers and engineers would build DfA (Design for All) considerations into their products. The project intended to provide support for the work of EdeAN (European Secretariat for the Design for All e-Accessibility Network http://www.e-accessibility.org).
- ic Birmingham: Sites for disabled shown red card
All the clubs reviewed were invited to make a public commitment to accessibility and to date, Everton, Chelsea and Premium TV, which hosts the sites of ten of the clubs - Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace, Middlesborough, Newcastle United, Norwich City, Portsmouth and West Bromwich Albion - have pledged to improve standards.
- Business Week: For the blind, a welcoming web
Priceline didn't argue and started working on its site right away, says spokesman Brian Ek. By the time the August announcement was made in Spitzer's office, the airline-ticketing part of the Norwalk (Conn.) discount e-tailer's site had been recoded to be easily read by screen readers. These PC programs typically read sites like a page of a book -- left to right and top to bottom. They allow a blind person to hear, rather than read, a Web site. "Once we were made aware of it, we did it because it was the right thing to do," Ek says.
- Public Technology: surreyjobs.info achieves AA-standard web-accessibility
Following 15 months of development work by jobsgopublic (our partner helping us with surreyjobs.info) a new version of the site has now gone live, compliant to AA standard, which means it now achieves internationally recognised accessibility standards designed to help disabled people use the web effectively.
Hardware and Software
- BBC: Mobiles get magnifier software
Although the RNIB has yet to evaluate the product, its technology specialist, Steve Tyler, doubts whether split-screen magnification is what visually impaired users actually want. "I think that what most people have in mind when they ask us for magnification is to have the whole screen enlarged," he said.
- informit: Creating accessible sites with IBM aDesigner
A problem exists with most web sites on the Internet - they lock out anyone with any kind of special needs. Unfortunately, many developers are unaware of the problem. Those who are aware of the problem usually end up using mediocre tools that they can download free, or expensive accessibility applications that are overkill for many situations. IBM's aDesigner provides a middle ground. This tool is extremely easy to use, yet quite capable. With aDesigner, you can address most problems that crop up on web sites.
- Register: WiderWeb promises accessible net
There are two versions of the product available, one for enterprise scale organisations and one for smaller webhosters. The first is a fully managed service that can be customised, and is run by Moore Innovations. The second is a simplified version which webhosters can resell to individual site owners, and involves adding a button to the home page that says: "Click here for an accessible version".
- Content Wire: XHTML WYSIWYG editor Mozilla Firefox version
XStandard is an advanced, standards-compliant WYSIWYG editor used as a plug-in for content management systems. It permits non-technical authors to manage rich, multilingual content and ensures the markup they produce is always standards-compliant and accessible. Today's release of XStandard for Firefox extends the use of Firefox as the front-end to content management systems at the enterprise level.
- Innovations Report: Developing a voice-activated control device for household electrical goods and ticket machines
The work being carried out aims to fit products with the ability to orally communicate with people, to recognise them and to respond to their requests with natural voice technology. The main result of the project will be the design of two robust functional prototypes, reduced in cost, and made using - embedded hardware-software - architecture, with the following tasks allocated to each company
- Kiosk Marketplace: Diebold products designed for accessibility
According to the NFB's findings, those who tested the Opteva machines preferred the raised keys and the tactile feedback the keys provided when used. Testers also liked the "click" heard when the card was accepted into the machines' motorized readers; this audio feedback is a positive sound that gives sight-impaired users confidence that the machine is working properly.
- Civil Rights.org: National Council on Disability calls for changes in design and manufacture of electronic and information technology for people with disabilities
Users with disabilities are often asked to pay high prices for products with features that are not useful to them.
Disability Discrimination Act
- politics.co.uk: New rights for disabled people
Maria Eagle, Minister for Disabled People added: "By taking early action to improve accessibility, many businesses have already benefited from a wider customer-base. And the spending power of this country's disabled population is £50 billion so it makes sense to cater for their needs. And from Friday legal action can be taken if you don't."
- out-law: Disabled access to buildings: law in force today
From today, every business should be more user-friendly for Britain's 10 million disabled people. But according to a new report, businesses on 80% of Britain's biggest high streets are ill-prepared.
- ic Coventry: City venues failing the access test
The Birmingham Post visited more than 20 premises on Broad Street with Rani Varraich, a disabled office worker who campaigns on behalf of the charity Scope. The investigation revealed that seven out of 23 venues visited fell short of requirements necessary under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
- Newquay Voice: Town is better prepared for disability act than it realises
"There is a great fear over the perceived cost of carrying out these changes, but the reality is that a small amount work would make a huge difference. She added: "There are an awful lot of positives here in Newquay and if we could just remove the fear we would be very close to complying with most areas of the act."
- ic Wales: Making access available to all
A service provider who does not implement best practice guidance will be expected to provide an Access Statement, which sets out the rationale for the decision. The relevant Codes of Practice give guidance as to what is reasonable and achievable though this will not be tested until challenges alleging discrimination have passed through the law courts.
- BBC: Attitude to disabled 'must change'
But, Mr Hain added, legislation would only solve part of the problem of inequality. "Anti-discrimination laws alone are not enough - a change in society's attitude is also required," he said. "We have to move towards an attitude that doesn't see impairments as a problem and allows people with disabilities to take a full part in society.
- Rockingham News: Town to fix poll access
Deficiencies found in the town's polling location are gradually being addressed by the Board of Selectmen, under the advice of the town moderator. The state recently informed Raymond, along with several other area towns, that it had issues concerning accessibility to its polling place.
- Wired: E-Voting fans: the disabled
While many voter rights' advocates are fighting to decertify electronic voting machines, arguing that they're not reliable, one bloc remains steadfast behind the new equipment - disabled voters who say the machines give them long-denied privacy. "The need for greater access by millions of people should not be overshadowed by this concern about security to the point that some people throw up their hands and say, 'Let's go back the punch card," said James Gashel, an executive at the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind, or NFB.
- Grand Forks Herald: Disabled are pleased with e-voting
Most models come with the ability to produce an audio recording of a ballot that blind voters can listen to with headphones. The recording instructs them on how to use a keypad to cast their votes. The height of the machines can also be adjusted for people in wheelchairs. For those who are not blind but have difficulty seeing, the text size can be increased and the contrast adjusted to make the ballot screen easier to read.
- Journal Gazette: Improving voter accessibility
The good news is that many of the problems can be easily remedied. The most frequently noted problems were with parking accessibility and inappropriate door hardware - round door knobs are difficult for people with arthritis or hand paralysis. The solution to the door problem can be as easy as propping the door open on Election Day.
- Information Week: Build strong e-votes so paper isn't needed
The CalTech/MIT Voting Project pointed out in a statement made in February that any new voter technology has to be built on two tenets that are really the bedrock of the democratic process: (1) confidence in the result and (2) the ability to audit the election through a "voter-verifiable paper trail." Paperless versus a paper-trail system is where much of the voting-technology debate is centered.
- Pittsburgh Live: Alternative ballots available for some
Disabled voters and senior citizens may have an additional type of ballot available for the Nov. 2 general election, depending on the accessibility of their polling place. It's called an alternative ballot, but people with disabilities and those over 65 don't automatically qualify to use it. The alternative ballot comes into play only if the county election bureau determines that a particular polling place is not accessible to the handicapped.
- CNN: Disabled hail e-voting despite doubts
Critics of the touch-screen machines, on which nearly one in three U.S. voters will cast ballots on Election Day, want the machines to produce a paper record of each vote cast. Nevada already has that requirement, and California will by 2006.
- The Reporter: Act requires that local polls be accessible to all voters
Voting is accessible for disabled people through absentee ballots, Buechel said. All polling places have a ramp allowing people with mobility issues access to the polls. Poll workers will even go to a person's car with a ballot if the person is unable to enter the ward, she said.
- Modesto Bee: New and improved election laws
New technology: There is no more punch card voting. Stanislaus County now uses new optical-scan technology and a paper ballot. New technology is also being put in place to insure accessibility to the blind and disabled. Our office is working with the Disability Resource Agency for Independent Living to increase accessibility at polling places.
- Register Guard: Disabled describe barriers to voting
"In terms of this year's election, we've already heard stories of people having to crawl into their voting place," said Jim Dickson, vice president of governmental affairs of the American Association of People With Disabilities. Dickson said there is no concerted effort nationwide to make polls more accessible, though some states are making more progress than others.
- Star Telegram: Accessibility complaints at polls reported
At least five people who could not climb stairs apparently walked away from Keller Town Hall this week because a broken elevator made it impossible for them to reach the second-floor voting area.
- WCF Courier: Black Hawk precincts exceed national accessibility standards
n Black Hawk County, those concerns are minimal. Of the more than 60 precincts, only two do not meet stringent accessibility guidelines. And one, Jewett School in Evansdale, meets nearly all the criteria except for parking, said Kyle Jensson, county elections manager. The same cannot be said across the United States. Nationally, about 80 percent of polling places are not fully accessible, according to the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Real world accessibility
- Belleville News: Granite City public housing is sued
On Thursday, IMPACT and the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council filed a lawsuit against the housing authority and Environs Architects-Planners of Maryville. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in East St. Louis, states both parties failed to design and build 36 apartments in Anchorage Homes adaptable for those with disabilities.
- St Louis Business Journal: Granite City Housing Authority, architect sued for accessibility violations
The suit alleges that the Granite City Housing Authority discriminated against persons with disabilities by failing to design and construct 36 new units of housing to be accessible to persons with disabilities, the plaintiffs said in the release. The new units, completed in October 2002, are part of Anchorage Homes, a public housing complex for seniors.
- New Zealand News: In a wheelchair, Sydney's the place to be
Notions of Kiwi courtesy took a battering at a hearing in Auckland yesterday when a wheelchair user praised Australian transport operators at the expense of their New Zealand counterparts.
- The Record: Finding services for disabled made easier
A Rexford woman's temporary disability and a permanent injury to a Clifton Park councilwoman's son have resulted in creation of the area's first handicapped accessibility directory.
- CIO: ... and equal access for all
Studies suggest the problem is much larger than many departments realize. In a 2003 Forrester Research survey of more than 15,000 adults in the US, 27 percent reported having a visual difficulty or impairment, while 26 percent had a dexterity difficulty or impairment, 21 percent had a hearing difficulty or impairment, 20 percent had cognitive difficulties and 4 percent had a speech difficulty or impairment. Although figures in Australia might vary slightly from these results, the point remains: a significant proportion of the general population is dealing with one or more impairments that can curtail their ability to access information systems. Statistically speaking, this would mean that an 1800-strong organization like FaCS would have nearly 500 employees with dexterity impairments, and still more with other handicaps. However, Mee says, the department has only 40 people that require "significant assistive technology support".
- Wichita Business Journals: Towne West gets restraining order
Wichita's second largest shopping center, Towne West Square, was issued a restraining order Wednesday requiring that the mall remove barriers in the parking and entrance areas in order to allow access for people with disabilities. The order was filed by attorney David P. Calvert on behalf of the Kansas Disability Coalition, a nonprofit disability advocacy group, and issued by Judge Karl Friedel.
- Concord Monitor: 'He humanized the disability'
Reeve, who died Sunday at 52, became an instant symbol for spinal cord injury when he was paralyzed after a fall from a horse. The actor soon decided to dedicate the rest of his life to spinal cord and disability rights causes and lobbying for increased funding and research. Though doctors told him he would never move again, through aggressive rehabilitation therapies, he regained some movement in his hands, arms and legs, in addition to some of the touch sensation doctors thought was gone forever. Citing the unexpected progress, Reeve had said enough research would lead to a cure for paralysis injuries. And he had vowed to walk again.
- 4NI: Transport plan for disabled and older people outlined
The Department for Regional Development's (DRD) draft Accessible Transport Strategy (ATS) aims to tackle barriers currently affecting both groups including access to public transport, passenger assistance and information. John Spellar, Minister for Regional Development, said that a "whole of journey" approach was at the heart of the development of an accessible transport network.
- Albuquerque Tribune: Enabling the disabled: Hiring handicapped can raise productivity and give an identity
Making modifications is usually the first concern employers raise when a proposal to hire a disabled person is brought to the table. Accessibility is important, but most modifications are very inexpensive and many businesses already have taken care of this issue for their customers.
- South Florida Business Journal: Judge strikes ADA suit
The judge called for a change in ADA legislation to prevent "shotgun litigation," explaining "the means for enforcing the ADA (attorney's fees) have become more important and desirable that the end (accessibility for disabled individuals)."