Accessibility in the News—1/6/17
In this issue, accessibility in the digital, housing, and transportation realms gets a lot of attention. At the intersection of digital and government policies, the US Access Board prepares to launch a long-awaited update to its electronic information rules for federal procurements and telecommunications, and the Federal Communications Commission grants video games a waiver extension.
Businesses continue to evaluate both risk and value of online accessibility. In housing, baby boomers want to “age in place,” which puts a spotlight on how home design and affordability, as well as local transportation services. Even when affordability isn’t an issue, sometimes finding a contractor willing to making home alterations is a challenge—that’s the experience of one US vet with multiple sclerosis.
Technology is advancing in both photo identification for visually impaired users and in harnessing crowdsourced volunteers for assistance via mobile phone apps. And, first-hand accounts from a blind amateur astronomer and a blind architect showcase incredible beauty in outer space and the way earthly spaces can be experienced.
AITN Quote of the Week
It is very much a thing, as I’m sure it is in many, many places. I do find myself a little bit saddened sometimes when I have conversations with colleagues where the tone of the conversation is one of compliance. Like, “Oh man. We’re going to get sued.” They have fear or something. We really undertake this because we see this as part of the job as online education professionals. We’ve got to be concerned about accessibility.
Kelvin Thompson, University of Central Florida’s Center for Distributed Learning
TOPcast Episode 21 – Accessibility: It’s a Journey, Not a Destination
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What Companies Lose by Ignoring Digital Accessibility
12/23 | Source: DataInformed | Digital Accessibility, Business, UX | United States
The mind-boggling growth of data, analytic capabilities, and applications in today’s business environments has provided an unprecedented opportunity for companies to collect and analyze data from customer interactions and to provide the customization and personalization required to serve a “market of one.”
While organizations are seizing this opportunity to provide customers with an enhanced user experience, many are missing the mark by failing to consider customers of all abilities. In the US, approximately 57 million people ― 20% of the population ― have a disability that includes cognitive, vision, hearing, or fine-motor-control challenges. These people are potentially your existing customers or prospects who need to communicate with your organization and interact with your digital assets…
Arizona Disability Groups Work To Stop ‘Cure Period’ Legislation
12/26 | Source: KJZZ | ADA, Advocacy, Government, Policy, Business, Litigation | Arizona
Advocates for people with disabilities say a push by Arizona lawmakers to give businesses a “cure period” to solve problems with the Americans with Disabilities Act isn’t a workable solution.
State lawmakers are proposing legislation that would give businesses 90 days to fix any violation of the ADA. This move comes after a growing number of lawsuits targeting businesses for ADA violations, particularly more than 1,700 such lawsuits brought by the group Advocates for Individuals with Disabilities in Phoenix.
Night Vision: The Blind Astronomer of Nova Scotia
12/27 | Source: Great Big Story [Video] | Personal Account, Blindness | Nova Scotia, Canada
Tim Doucette is legally blind, yet he sees the stars better than most people. A childhood diagnosis of congenital cataracts forced doctors to remove Doucette’s lenses and widen his pupils. That left the amateur astronomer with only about 10 percent of his eyesight, but it also allows his pupils to pick up more light at night. You’ve never seen the night sky quite like Doucette…
uHelp and iSee
12/28 | Source: Bangalore Mirror | Innovation, Volunteerism, Blindness, Tech | India
It’s Christmas and the New Year — the perfect time to make a wish for a more compassionate year ahead. And thanks to technology, you won’t even have to get up from your couch to do that. You just have to “donate” your eyes to the visually impaired and help them see. You can do that by using a novel iOS app and the camera in it. Be My Eyes is an app that connects the blind and visually impaired with sighted helpers from around the world via live video/audio chat. The “Be My Eyes App” explainer video covers it.
The crowdsourcing idea is simple in its brilliance. The visually impaired need some help with a simple task. For instance, picking up the right color from a shade card. They connect to people with sight through the app and a volunteer picks up. The volunteer understands the task through the remote video call and helps…
Video Games Get Accessibility Waiver Extension
12/29 | Source: Broadcasting & Cable | Digital Accessibility, Gaming, Government, Policy | United States
Video games will not have to meet accessibility standards for other advanced communications systems for at least another year to allow them more time to “innovate, experiment and explore accessibility solution[s].” The FCC Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau has granted the Entertainment Software Association’s (ESA) request to extend the class waiver of the FCC’s accessibility rules to video game software through Jan. 31, 2017, but will require a progress report halfway through that waiver period.
The Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) requires providers of advanced communications services (ACS) equipment—which could include Xbox consoles and other systems—to be accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities unless that “is not achievable.”…
Group Works on Mobility
12/31 | Source: The Fiji Times | Mobility, Disability, Advocacy | Fiji
The Spinal Injury Association (SIA) Fiji is working with stakeholders in the country to improve the lives and welfare of people with disabilities.
SIA Fiji executive director Joshko Wakaniyasi said the association was in the process of holding talks with authorities to improve accessibility for its members.
“Getting easier access for our members has always been a problem for us,” he said. “We are now trying to focus on people with disabilities to have an opportunity to join the workforce and universities so they can grow and develop themselves.”…
Chris Downey Designs Spaces Unseen
12/31 | Source: Cosstores | Building Design and Architecture, Personal Account, Blindness | California, United States
Designers and architects like to say that they’re visual people. But when brain surgery left Chris Downey completely blind in 2008, he refused to walk away from his 20-year career in architecture. Instead, he continued to plan and design buildings and went on to found Architecture for the Blind, a firm that specializes in creating spaces for the visually impaired. As Chris re-encountered his chosen profession without sight, he came to realize how limited his view of architecture had previously been. Now, by prioritizing aspects other than visual aesthetics – in particular how buildings feel to the touch – he aims to create more engaging, multi-sensory spaces for everyone. Chris lives and works in San Francisco.
ANN FRIEDMAN: Before you lost your sight, did you ever think about how blind people might be using the buildings you designed?…
Can America’s Aging Stay in Their Homes?
01/03 | Source: City Lab | Aging, Mobility, Housing | United States
The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies recently published a report with stunning statistics on housing and aging. By 2035, one in three U.S. households, versus today’s one in five, will be headed by someone 65 or older. This will also mean an American population with one in five people over 65—almost 80 million people—up from one in seven today. That’s an increase of more than 30 million people over the next 20 years.
Many of these Baby Boomers, the report notes, intend to “age in place,” or stay in their homes or communities. This is where the report sounds an alarm: In many ways, we’re just not ready. For example, only 1 percent of housing stock is currently equipped with no-step entrances, single-floor living, wide halls and doorways to allow a wheelchair, electrical controls reachable from a wheelchair, and lever-style handles on faucets and doors—“universal design” elements that help occupants age in their homes. The report highlights accessibility challenges, as well as other hurdles for an aging population: affordability, the need for in-home care, and the potential for isolation…
Disabled Vet has VA Cash, but No Contractor for Accessibility Addition
01/04 | Source: New Hampshire Union Leader | Mobility, Housing | New Hampshire, United States
Mike Beauregard isn’t sure what he’s going to do if he can’t find a contractor to build an addition on his home as he battles multiple sclerosis. It’s been a struggle for the 51-year-old disabled Army veteran, whose condition has worsened since he was diagnosed in 2007.
Beauregard, who uses his electric wheelchair more and more these days, has been approved for a $73,768 grant through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ specially adapted housing program. The money can be put toward construction of a handicapped-accessible master bedroom with bathroom on the first floor of his duplex on Power Street…. Beauregard’s wife, Karen, said she believes some contractors don’t want to go through the process of getting the VA’s stamp of approval for the work….
Improved Accessibility Funding for Ferry Networks
01/04 | Source: The Orcadian | Transit/Transportation | Scotland
The second round of awards from the Ferries Accessibility Fund will see around £180,000 spent on projects to further improve accessibility on Scotland’s ferries, Minister for Transport and the Islands Humza Yousaf has announced. The successful bidders are Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Serco Northlink Ferries, Scrabster Harbour Trust, Shetland Islands Council and Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd.
The Ferries Accessibility Fund started taking applications in November 2014 and is open to bids from the public and private sector. It aims to make improvements to existing vessels and harbours that go beyond regulatory standards set for accessibility. The awards are made on a match-funding basis. The bids include plans to upgrade walkways and doors at harbours, the installation of vessel floor plans in braille, and improved access to facilities at ferry terminals…
Access Board to Hold Public Briefing on Final Rules
01/05 | Source: United States Access Board | Government, Policy, ADA, Digital Accessibility, Transit/Transportation | United States
The US Access Board members and staff for a public briefing on three recent final rules:
- Updated ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buses and Vans (published December 14)
- Accessibility Standards for Medical Diagnostic Equipment (to be published January 9)
- Information and Communication Technology Standards and Guidelines (to be published soon)
Barcelona, Singapore and Berlin: World’s Best Cities to Travel if You’re Disabled
01/05 | Source: Independent | Travel, Mobility, Transit/Transportation | International
As Emily Yates, an accessibility consultant, travel writer and TV presenter who recently wrote the Lonely Planet guide to Accessible Rio de Janeiro, points out, the spontaneous, unexpected joys of travel aren’t so easy to achieve if you’re disabled.
“Holidays and adventures mostly require good planning and preparation to ensure that our flights, accommodation and activity providers are aware of our additional requirements and that we ourselves have everything we might need for the journey ahead,” says Yates, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at a young age and is a full-time wheelchair user.
But, she adds, “As frustrating as it can be to know that just booking a flight and jetting off without a care in the world probably isn’t the best of ideas, advice and suggestions from other people in similar situations can be really helpful.”…
In Britain, It’s Not Just the Train Toilets that Disabled People Can’t Get Into
01/05 | Source: The Guardian | Transit/Transportation, Travel, Personal Account, Mobility | Great Britain
When it comes to a day out, I don’t do spontaneous. I’m an organisational bore. Booking a cab, looking up train times, finding a restaurant. This obsessive planning isn’t out of choice but circumstance. I was born with spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic muscle-wasting condition, and I’ve used an electric wheelchair since I was a toddler. Like many other disabled people, I find the stresses of planning a day out are exacerbated when everyday activities, such as catching a train or finding a public toilet, are an obstacle.
In my lifetime the UK has become a more accessible place for disabled people, with efforts to adapt facilities and transport going some way to improving the ease of independence. But the mission isn’t complete. The concept of accessibility is an inconsistent and unreliable one that can leave even the most rigorous plan in tatters…
Uber Slow to Fix Wheelchair-Accessibility Woes
01/05 | Source: Chicago Tribune | Transit/Transportation, Mobility | United States
Every company, young or old, faces a defining moment that shows what type of corporate citizen it’s going to be. In Chicago, ride-sharing giant Uber Technologies is fast approaching such a flashpoint as it determines how to serve an important customer constituency, people who require wheelchair accessibility.
This month, Uber is scheduled to present a blueprint to the city outlining its plan for providing transit to people using electric and manual wheelchairs. Right now, San Francisco-based Uber isn’t saying much except that it’s committed to increasing service to that community.
That’s good to hear, but what Uber really does, and how much money it invests, will be the definitive test of its corporate credibility. So far, the ride-sharing company’s outreach to Chicago travelers using wheelchairs has been confusing and plodding. More troubling, Uber is being sued by Access Living, a locally based and influential advocacy group, for failing to comply with the comprehensive Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990…
Facebook Uses Computer Vision Algorithms to Caption Your Photos
01/05 | Source: Vision Systems Design | Innovation, Tech, Digital Accessibility, Blindness/Visual Impairment
Most Facebook users know by now that when you upload an image with you or one of your friends in it, that the social networking website uses facial recognition algorithms to suggest who you might “tag” in the image. What some users may not know, is that Facebook also tags photos with data like how many people are in a photo, the setting of a photo, and even whether or not someone is smiling.
In April of 2016, Facebook rolled out automated alternative (alt) text on Facebook for iOS, which provides visually impaired and blind people with a text description of a photo using computer vision algorithms that enable object recognition. Users with a screen reader can access Facebook on an iOS device, and can hear a list of items that may be shown in a photo…
Werklund Grad Student Believes Students with Disabilities are an Asset in the Classroom
01/06 | Source: University of Calgary | Higher Education, Blindness/Visual Impairment | Calgary, Canada
Students pursuing a post-secondary degree accept that the endeavour comes with certain challenges such as extensive reading, lab work or attending long lectures, but what they may not anticipate are the additional barriers that make it difficult to succeed in their academic pursuits. And some students are faced with challenges beyond the normal academic expectations.
Werklund School of Education graduate student Chris Ostrowski is researching the obstacles that students with visual impairments face every day, and the ways in which they overcome these barriers. What makes Ostrowski’s research distinctive is that he has gone directly to the students themselves to hear accounts of their experiences, an approach he feels is key to the success of his study.
“I wanted to give students a voice and use their own words as much as possible in sharing their stories,” says Ostrowski. “This was important because the stories of students are seldom heard in literature from the student perspective. Most articles are from clinical, instructor or researcher perspectives and don’t incorporate students’ own words.”…
Accessibility Training and Information
- CSUN 2017 Conference
- The Inaugural Knowbility Accessibility Leadership Symposium
- Captioning for WCAG 2.0 Compliance
- Designing Mobile Interactions for the Ageing Populations
- Accessibility: It’s a Journey, Not a Destination
- Accessibility Wins
- Improve Your Website’s Accessibility With WAI-ARIA
- Accessibility Online
- Bank of the Pacific
- Manitoba Hydro
- Morris County Sheriff’s Office
- Mt. Shasta Ski Park
- National Portrait Gallery
- Metroland Media
Accessibility Product Releases and Announcements
- Consumer Electronic Show 2017: Autonomous Vehicles to Intergenerational Technology
- The AppleVis Community Names the Apps and Developers that were its Golden Apples of 2016
Additional Accessibility Information
Digital Accessibility Digest
One of our three industry blogs, Microassist’s Digital Accessibility Digest is the “umbrella” for much of our accessibility content. It features commentary, guidance, curated news, and event information. Accessibility in the News is a regular feature of the Digital Accessibility Digest.
Microassist Accessibility Services
Outlining a host of accessibility-related services, Microassist Accessibility Services: Barrier-Free Digital Development, provides background on Microassist expertise and the various offerings available for digital content and platforms. Services cover accessible elearning, website and application development, accessibility audit services and accessibility remediation services across various formats.
Please contact us for any questions you have about our accessibility services and how we might support your organization.