Weblogs: Web Accessibility

Accessibility in the News: September 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Target accessibility suit

A Californian judge, Marilyn Hall Patel, has thrown out Target's motion for dismissal in the court class action against its inaccessible website. From a National Federation of the Blind's press release, the judge held that federal and state civil rights laws do apply to a website such as target.com after taking the ordinary meaning of ADA's prohibition against discrimination. This sets up another test of the Americans with Disabilities Act (and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act) as to whether websites are covered under the legislation.

In a separate statement, Target have said it would continue fighting the lawsuit. On a recent test of Target's website Steve landed on the Dyson vacuum cleaner button the synthetic voice said, "Link GP browse dot html reference zero six zero six one eight nine six three eight one eight zero seven two nine seven three five 12 million 957 thousand 121."

Accessibility of Vista

Kristyn Juan samples tools designed for people with limited use of their hands at the Microsoft's Accessible Technology Group.Microsoft's new operating system, Windows Vista, is bulging with accessibility features. Microsoft recently demonstrated the screen reader that will be shipped with Vista. Other accessibility features include speech recognition. Microsoft's aim is to expand the use of such features as screen magnifiers and high-contrast text displays to a wider audience, including baby boomers, which is based on a 2003 Forrester Research study (commissioned by Microsoft) that found some 57 percent of U.S. computer users between 18 and 64 years old were likely or very likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology.

In Windows XP, the accessibility options are found under a green wheelchair icon in the Control Panel. A Seattle Times piece titled Window of opportunity notes that because many people don't consider themselves disabled, they don't make use of the features offered. Vista instead has an "Ease of Access" centre, without an explicit wheelchair icon, and offers a wizard dialogue that describes typical problems a visitor might face as a means of optimising the setup (for example Images and text on TV are difficult to see offers screen magnification).

Retail websites

Nomensa's survey into the accessibility of retail websites found that none of them meet minimum accessibility standards for disabled shoppers.. The BBC reports that the British Retail Consortium said the rules needed clarification, and that a lack of information about the extent of legal obligations had hindered progress towards improving accessibility.

According to IMRG, a lobby group of online retailers, 40% of the UK population shopped online in the run up to last Christmas and spent an average of £94 each.

Based on these figures, Nomensa estimates that disabled people could potentially spend £376m, some of which is being lost because of poor accessibility.

W3C roadmap for web application accessibility

As part of the Web Accessibility Initiative, the W3C published documents assisting developers on making dynamic Web content usable to persons with disabilities, Infoworld reports. The roadmap documents an approach for ensuring interoperability between rich Internet applications and assistive technologies used by people with disabilities.

Eweek reports, in W3C sets road map for web app accessibility, Technologies such as Ajax have been known to break the accessibility features in some applications. The W3C is hoping to overcome this with its new specifications.


Microsoft's battle against the Open Document Format rumbles on. The Massachusetts' CIO has set a November deadline for the OpenDocument plugins for Microsoft Office. Microsoft expects to deliver the Word plugins in December, followed by Excel and Powerpoint plugins next year. The first beta of the Word plugin was released on August 18, according to a Brian Jones blog post. Meanwhile, the OpenDocument Foundation have accessibility at the top of their to do list, and already have plugins of their own for Microsoft Office.

A multilingual speech solution for Mac OSX - Infovox iVox - has been released by Acapela in conjunction with AssistiveWare. This brings high quality speech synthesis to the Apple platform.

Assistive software is now portable. Serotek's FreedomBox is a USB drive containing a text-to-speech and speech-to-text software as well as mainstream applications like Word, Firefox and Skype. This enables blind people to use any Windows computer just by plugging in their USB drive. Prices at $129 (or £69).


BBC: Deaf people to hear public address announcements.IBM has developed a system to make public announcements available to deaf people - through a mobile phone. Called Location Aware Messaging for Accessibility (LAMA), public announcements are delivered to handsets in a person's chosen format, be it a text message, an image or a vibrating alert.

Similarly, Sound Transit have unveiled talking signs that communicate with handheld devices used by blind people. It tells the holder where he or she is -- near steps leading to a train platform, for example -- and broadcasts each location as the user approaches it with the handset scanner.

UK and Europe

Out-law reports that Anti-discrimination powers underused in UK, where all three equality commissions made no use of the enforcement powers they have at their disposal. The report's author, Rupert Howard, thinks the commissions are neglecting, but from my impression of the Disability Rights Commission, they prefer an open approachable stance instead of wielding the stick. In a ways, this is good news, the commissions are holding back on legal enforcement, but it is clearly within their mandate. That shows good restraint, and organisations people can work with.

The European Union is ploughing 3 million Euros into a new technology project that will aim to use technology to improve the lives of elderly and disabled people by making them more independent, says a Silicon piece. Their first focus is technology that will help individuals fill out forms.

Legal Worldwide

One in five New Zealanders suffer with a long-term impairment or disability. In an article: Dyson marks Deaf Awareness Week, it reports New Zealand Sign Language is part of New Zealand's rich cultural diversity. It is used by approximately 28,000 people - an estimated 7,000 of these people are Deaf.

The United Nations has added Access to ICT for disabled people as a clause in the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. This requires countries to take appropriate measures to ensure equivalent access to people with disabilities.

The United Arab Emirates has approved a law that protects the rights of disabled people. A Gulf News report describes the law as matching international standards, providing equal rights, opportunities and choice for people with a disability.

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