Accessibility in the News—02/09/17.
This week had several stories related to visual impairments and blindness, including tactile maps covered by National Geographic and improved image descriptions from Facebook. Even so, many barrier-laden websites still exist, hampering those with visual disabilities, including legally blind website users, from being able to use them easily or well. Accessibility litigation for such websites is on the rise, and as one article predicts, demands for accessible apps are sure to follow a similar pattern.
Federal government agencies (along with federal contractors) recently welcomed clarity from the Section 508 refresh, but private industry may not want to hold its collective breath: With a new U.S. president and administration in place, the previously anticipated update to Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act seems at risk (as do health insurance benefits for those with disabilities). Many had hoped that the update would provide clear and nationally consistent digital accessibility requirements to organizations with sites potentially considered “public accommodations.” As it now stands, the marketplace, in the form of demand letters and litigation from website visitors with disabilities, is the prime catalyst behind digital accessibility implementation.
Lest anyone think a move to the U.S.’s northern neighbor, where accessibility is a priority, is a valid option, well…that might not be as easy as some think.
AITN Quote of the Week
The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life . . . the children; those who are in the twilight of life . . . the elderly; and those who are in the shadow of life . . . the sick . . . the needy . . . and the disabled.
—Hubert H. Humphrey
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A Tactile Atlas Helps the Blind ‘See’ Maps
1/18 (We admit, we missed placing this one in our 1/19/17 issue. But it was too cool not to feature as soon as we discovered it.) | Source: National Geographic | Innovation, Blind/Visually Impaired | Zurich, Switzerland
Some maps are meant to be felt, not seen. The photograph above shows a page from an atlas commissioned by a Swiss psychologist for a friend who loves geography and maps but is unable to use traditional atlases because he is completely blind. The new atlas is printed with special ink that expands when heated to create tiny bumps and ridges on the page.
Making a tactile map like this isn’t easy, says Anna Vetter, a cartographer who works in Zürich for the mapping software company Esri and led the team that created the new atlas. “It was quite challenging for me because you really have to think in a different way,” Vetter says…
Facebook AI Paints Better Word Pictures for the Blind
2/2 | Source: cnet | Digital Accessibility, Social Media, Blind/Visually Impaired | International
Blind users of Facebook just got an upgrade in the social network’s ability to explain photos to them — and the same technology helps everyone else, too. In brief, Facebook’s artificial intelligence technology now uses verbs, not just nouns, in the photo captions that computers can read to blind people.
“Until recently, these captions described only the objects in the photo. Today we’re announcing that we’ve added a set of 12 actions, so image descriptions will now include things like ‘people walking,’ ‘people dancing,’ ‘people riding horses,’ ‘people playing instruments,’ and more,” said Facebook’s applied machine learning leader Joaquin Candela, in a blog post Thursday.
That technology also helps others among the 1.23 billion who use Facebook daily. That’s because, as with Google Photos, you can now search for photos based on Facebook AI’s assessment of their content, not just based on how humans happened to describe the photos with text when they posted them…
Canada is a Progressive Immigration Policy Dream—Unless You Have a Disability
2/3 | Source: The Washington Post | Disability Rights, Health Care, Politics/Government | Canada
It is no secret that many progressive Americans fetishize Canada as a northern utopia: It has universal health care, it legalized same-sex marriage a decade before the United States did, and it has a cute, lefty prime minister (complete with a tattoo and a literature degree). After President Trump restricted refugees, immigrants and travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries, Prime Justin Minister Trudeau tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada.” Cue collective liberal swoon.
The problem is that Canada’s immigrant policy isn’t quite as dreamy as Americans might imagine. It includes a virtual ban on disabled immigrants that goes back decades: Under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, foreigners can be turned away if they “might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demands on health or social services.” What this means is families rejected for having deaf children and spouses denied because they use a wheelchair, a practice too harsh for even the United States’ difficult immigration system…
Executive Order Likely Dooms Website Regulations for Public Accommodations
2/3 | Source: Seyfarth Shaw | Digital Accessibility, Politics/Government, DOJ | Washington, D.C.
President Obama’s Department of Justice (DOJ) had stated that proposed regulations for public accommodations websites would be issued in 2018—eight years after the agency began its rulemaking process. The likelihood of such a proposed regulation being issued now is virtually non-existent.
Among the flurry of executive orders President Trump signed this week was one entitled “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs”. This EO virtually obliterates any chance that the DOJ will issue any website regulations for public accommodations websites during Trump’s Administration…
There is an Increasing Rate of Lawsuits over Digital Accessibility
2/3 | Source: ARC | Digital Accessibility, Advocacy, Awareness, Accessibility Litigation | United States
The barriers to inclusion are moving. Slowly. For the majority of Americans, Ed Roberts is not a household name. Roberts didn’t play sports, star in blockbuster movies or invent life-changing technology. But to the disabled community, Roberts is a legend.
Ed Roberts was a political activist who became the first student with severe disabilities to attend the University of California at Berkeley. At the age of 14, Roberts contracted polio and became paralyzed from the neck down within 18 months. From his teenage years on until his death in 1995, he slept in an iron lung at night. And for 43 years, he spent every day fighting for the right of persons with disabilities to lead a normal life.
His impact in terms of accessibility awareness and activism is so far-reaching that Google’s daily doodle on January 23 was of Roberts giving a lecture from his wheelchair. If Roberts were still alive, it would have been his 78th birthday…
ADA-Compliant Websites: What You Need to Know
2/3 | Source: Wilmington Biz | Digital Accessibility, ADA, Government, Section 508 | United States
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications and governmental activities.
What you may not know is that the ADA and other standards require governmental websites be accessible to those with disabilities. I’ve been asked about this by several clients, so below, I answer the most pressing questions…
New Baseline for Accessibility
2/3 | Source: Inside Higher ED | Digital Accessibility, Higher Education, Government, Section 508 | United States
A long-awaited update to a federal rule ups the pressure on colleges and universities to ensure that their information and communication technology services are accessible to students with disabilities, experts say. The federal government last month finished work on updating Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which details the accessibility standards federal agencies, contractors and employers must meet both online—like on a public-facing website—and in person, like an information kiosk at the DMV.
Section 508 is now almost two decades old—it was added as an amendment to the Rehabilitation Act in 1998—an eternity in the world of information technology. An advisory committee in 2006 recommended that section 508 be refreshed, and work on updating the rule continued throughout the Obama administration. The final rule was published in the Federal Register on Jan. 18—two days before the presidential transition of power…
Are Rallies in the United States Accessible?
2/3 | Source: Sat Press News | Advocacy, Cultural Accessibility | Chicago, Illinois
The number seemed daunting. We had just committed to providing accessibility for an event where the number of attendees might be as high as 10,000. Christena Gunther. Evan Hatfield. Risa Rifkind. Anna Cosner. We’d worked together on various cultural accessibility initiatives before, but never on this scale. But we knew it would be worth it.
The details: Petrillo Stage in Grant Park, Saturday, January 21, 2017. The five of us met weeks ahead of the march to put together a plan to make the rally portion accessible. We wrote access information for the Women’s March website, conducted a site visit to scope out all the access points and determined placement for all the accessibility needs.
A $200,000 Backpack Keeps this Toddler Alive
2/3 | Source: Boston | Personal Account, Health/Medical, ACA | Boston, Massachusetts
Caroline Hammatt’s expensive backpack goes everywhere with her. The 3-year-old literally can’t survive without it.
The small knapsack hugs the little redheaded girl when she’s in dance class, when she’s sleeping, and even when she takes a bath at her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She wears it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The backpack contains a pump hooked into her tiny body that dispenses Remodulin, a drug that treats the toddler’s rare incurable disease, idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension…
Disability Benefit to be Cut by £30 per Week if Tory Cuts Go Ahead
2/3 | Source: Metro | Jobs/Employment, Disability Benefits, Politics/Government | United Kingdom
Disabled people won’t be able to pay for essential items because of government cuts to benefits, MPs have claimed. The new tranche of cuts to the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) were meant to encourage disabled people to find work. But that’s been slammed by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee who said that it was: ‘ambiguous at best’.
Government officials want to reduce the difference between the employment rates of the disabled and non-disabled. That figure is referred to as the ‘disability employment gap’. New cuts were designed to half this gap but the committee pointed out that it would require almost 1.5 million disabled people to find work…
Ohio Must Fix Voter Website Access by September
2/6 | Source: Bloomberg | Digital Accessibility, Voting, Politics/Government, Blind/Visually Impaired, ADA, DOJ | Columbus, Ohio
Ohio’s secretary of state has until Sept. 29 to make the state’s voter services website accessible to blind people, according to a federal district court order. Secretary Jon Husted’s website violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it wasn’t formatted in a way that’s accessible to all voters—especially blind voters who use screen reading software to access public websites, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio said in Hindel v. Husted.
The case marks the first time a court has ruled that a voter website violates Title II of the ADA, according to Bloomberg Law data. The Department of Justice has yet to issue regulations addressing the accessibility of government websites under the law…
Tap in to Some Tips on Designing Loos to Suit Disabled People
2/6 | Source: Linkedin | Buildings/Architecture | United Kingdom
Addressing accessibility for disabled people can take in a variety of environments and facilities. Inside a building there are doors, corridors, steps, lifts and much more. Outside you’ve got car parks, footpaths, kerbs, approaches to buildings and a number of other features. The obvious one, usually inside but sometimes outside as well, is accessible loos. Almost all buildings will have at least one, but recognition of the need doesn’t always equate to awareness of how it should be done.
Providing an accessible WC is not just about ensuring privacy for the people who use them. It’s about making their lives a bit easier, about making the process of going to the loo as hassle-free as possible, and as close as possible to the experience of a non-disabled person who needs to spend a penny…
Avoiding the Website Accessibility Shakedown
2/6 | Source: ABA Banking Journal | Digital Accessibility, Blind/Visually Impaired, DOJ, ADA, Banking/Financial Services | United States
Website accessibility demands are on the rise, and mobile apps are next. While “a picture is worth a thousand words” to most, it is meaningless to someone who is blind. Similarly, other features provided on websites and mobile apps are useless to those with other disabilities absent built-in accessibility features.
Nearly six years ago, the Department of Justice began the rulemaking process for website accessibility provided by covered entities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Today, DOJ—the agency charged with enforcing ADA—continues to delay the issuance of Title III website accessibility regulations until 2018. But banks cannot wait until 2018. Demands for accessibility to websites are circulating now…
Collegiality and Disability
2/7 | Source: Vitae Chronicle | Higher Education, Accommodations | United States
By tradition, faculty refer to each other as “colleagues,” not “coworkers,” and value a collegial environment where they share responsibility for a common mission. I would argue that a collegial environment is also one where colleagues share responsibility for one another. But these days, it seems, the solitary, competitive, and even cutthroat nature of academic culture makes it unusually hard for that form of collegiality to manifest. Academia has become a zero-sum game— which makes it more likely that faculty will feel slighted, even cheated, when they believe someone else is getting something extra without merit. And who can blame them? The structure of higher education today makes everyone feel cheated.
Sometimes that ire is turned on academics with disabilities who request accommodations. Rather than sharing responsibility for one another, some abled academics gossip and feel resentful toward their disabled colleagues. After all, if someone else is getting “more,” then that means we must be getting “less,” right? (Such resentment reveals itself outside the academy as well, of course. Anderson Cooper, of all people, just reported a segment for 60 Minutes on how wasteful accommodations can be for businesses. A business owner, however, does not profess to be the colleague of a person who wishes to purchase a widget.)…
New Windows 10 Accessibility Features will Improve Many Lives
2/7 | Source: TechRepublic | Digital Accessibility, Microsoft Windows, Physical Impairments | United States
Accessibility in an enterprise setting can be essential to both the business and the individual. The next build of Windows 10 will make many lives easier to manage.
On February 1, 2017, Microsoft announced the release of Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15025 for PC to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring. While the build has been dubbed the primary build for the second Creator’s Update Bug Bash, there is actually something more interesting about it than that. Build 15025 marks the addition and improvement of several accessibility features directly requested via customer feedback.
The ubiquitous nature of Microsoft Windows 10 requires that the operating system at least try to accommodate as much of its diverse customer base as it can. This accommodation is particularly important for individuals coping with physical impairments. Microsoft’s commitment toward full inclusion is good business, and so much more…
Failure to Allege Brick-and-Mortar Hurdle Dooms Website Access Suit
2/7 | Source: Bloomberg | Digital Accessibility, Accessibility Litigation/Lawsuits, Retail/Online Shopping, ADA, Title III | Florida
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that an audio equipment company’s website violated a blind person’s civil rights. Plaintiff Andres Gomez alleged that Bang & Olufsen America Inc.’s website contained various accessibility barriers and didn’t provide him with the same online shopping experience as non-disabled consumers. Gomez alleged violations of Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §12182(a), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of public accommodations.
Judge Joan A. Lenard of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida ruled that Gomez failed to show that the lack of website access hindered his use of Bang & Olufsen’s physical locations.
Section 508 and Game-based Learning—a Disability Mismatch?
2/7 | Source: CommLab India | Section 508, Accessible Elearning, Section 508, Higher Education
Did you know that 1 in 5 Americans suffers from some form of disability? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17.5 percent of persons with a disability were employed in 2015. The government has taken steps to cater to the needs of this group of individuals in the workplace, and Section 508 is one such provision.
Section 508 requires all federal agencies, and private organizations that receive federal funds, to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. This means that even online learning courses must be made compliant. This is not a problem with regular eLearning courses because eLearning authoring tools such as Lectora Inspire, Articulate Storyline, and Adobe Captivate have the capability to create Section 508 compliant courses…
Disability Perspective—BART /MUNI Accessibility Problems Persist
2/7 | Source: BeyondChron | Transportation/Transit | San Francisco, California
MUNI travel on Saturday, 4 February is an example of how many different things can go wrong for those who are transit dependent and need lifts, escalators, and / or elevators. MUNI travel from near Church & Market to a BART station took over ONE hour.
Well before 8 am, a trolley bound for a nearby BART station approached my stop. When the lift was deployed, it stalled near the top. With some restart action, the operator got me on. But the lift did not retract into its storage position. Then the bus totally stalled out. The operator called Central Control and followed the instructions; after several more restarts, the lift was retracted, but still no power…
Pier 1 Imports Class Action Says Website Fails ADA Accessibility Standards
2/8 | Source: Top Class Actions | Digital Accessibility, Accessibility Litigation/Lawsuits, Retail/Online Shopping, ADA, Title III | United States
A New York woman says the website for Pier 1 Imports fails to satisfy basic legal requirements for accessibility by visually impaired consumers. Plaintiff Lucia Marett says that by failing to implement its website with certain features that enhance accessibility for visually impaired users, defendant Pier 1 Imports Inc. deprives those individuals of equal access to goods and services.
She argues the website violates New York State civil rights laws and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Marett is legally blind. She can use a computer, but only with the assistance of screen-reading software. This kind of software can, for example, read out loud the text on the page or the alt-text embedded in images that describes the image…
How to Make Websites More Accessible if You are Color Blind or Dyslexic
2/8 | Source: Computer World | Digital Accessibility, Color Blindness, Dyslexia, Visual Impairment, Tools/Resources | United States
Many people have disabilities that can make online access a significant challenge. Here are a few simple steps that can help improve accessibility. According to the latest information from the U.S. Census, approximately 56.7 million Americans have some sort of disability. This means that about 1 in 5 people face challenges doing things that many of us take for granted.
As online access becomes more of a necessity in the modern world, it is increasingly important that people aren’t walled off from websites because of their disabilities. Here are a few simple steps that can improve website accessibility for people with two of the most common visual disabilities: color blindness and dyslexia…
Southwestern Idaho Polling Places Need Accessibility Upgrade
2/8 | Source: The Ledger Independent | Voting, Buildings/Architecture, ADA, DOJ | Idaho
Five polling places in southwestern Idaho may need to be relocated if modifications can’t be made to make them more accessible.
The Idaho Press-Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/2kOrCuD ) that a U.S. Department of Justice investigation conducted on Election Day questioned Canyon County’s measures to bring the polling places into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act.
Accessibility Training and Information
- GA Conference– San Francisco CA
Date: Monday, February 27, 2017
- Do No Harm: People First Design for Humane Products- Sarah Horton and David Sloan- The Paciello Group (TPG)
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
- Section 508 Refresh – Understanding the New Requirements
Date: Thursday, March 23, 2017
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Eastern
- Accessible Design for an Aging Population
Date: Thursday, April 20, 2017
Time: 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Eastern
Date: May 17- 18, 2017
- The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities
- Professional Certificate in Web Accessibility alumnus spotlight
- Tedx: How Argentina’s blind soccer team became champions
Accessibility Products and Announcements
- Why website accessibility is so poor and what we need to do
- Tongue-controlled wheelchair
- Mada okays Accessible Qatar app
- Joey Travolta created Inclusion Films that helps people with disabilities to discover their passion in film-making
- Library to provide online accessibility tools
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: Websites, Applications, Documents
Our instructional design, web, and application development teams are well-versed in internationally recognized accessibility standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, or WCAG 2.0) and federal and state laws (e.g., Section 508, TAC 206 and 213). We’ll work with you to ensure compliance and open your public-facing content to those previously prevented from enjoying it.
Please contact us for any questions you have about our accessibility services and how we might support your organization.
Image source: Flickr, Ben Churchill, “Tommy Edison,” Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)