Accessibility in the News—12/23/16
A note from our AITN curator, Jack McElaney
It has been a fast moving and productive year in the accessibility world and collectively we have made some very good progress and influenced some positive changes for countless people. I want to thank each of you for your hard work, dedication, and contributions that have benefited the accessibility community. Special thanks to the many individuals that have regularly provided me with guidance and the insightful articles and ideas that have been shared via this weekly email.
Special thanks to Sharron Rush, Mike Paciello, Lainey Feingold, Ron Lucey, Hiram Kuykendall, Paul J. Adams, Jeff Kline, Aaron Bangor, Pat Pound, Jan McSorley, Sarah Horton, Rich Schwerdtfeger, and Susan Osterhaus. These are some of the individuals that have helped the accessibility community for years and have educated, counseled and coached many corporate, educational, and government leaders on why accessibility is so vital to all individuals.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and all of your loved ones. I hope everyone has a rewarding and healthy 2017.
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AITN Quote of the Week
My aunt May had polio and was wheelchair bound for many years. My sister Anne had epilepsy which resulted in her untimely death. My father, Bud, had Parkinson’s and he suffered for years from a paralyzing stroke that ultimately took his life. My mother, Agnes, died from the merciless Lou Gehrig disease. None of them ever benefited from the ADA and accessibility, it was enacted after their deaths. People have asked me if my passion for accessibility is driven by business and I just answer, “It’s personal.” —Jack McElaney
Disabled Viewers Criticize 60 Minutes Story
12/8 | Source: CBS News | Media, Litigation | Unites States
Supporters of disability rights took to Twitter this week to criticize Anderson Cooper’s 60 Minutes report about lawyers who may be exploiting the Americans with Disabilities Act by targeting businesses with frivolous “drive-by-lawsuits.”
Individuals with disabilities complained that the plight of the business owner was the focus of the story…
How the Fast-Growing ‘Sharing Economy’ Can Benefit Those with Disabilities
12/14 | Source: The Huffington Post | Digital/Website Accessibility, Travel | United States
The fast-growing “sharing economy,” which enables buyers and sellers to connect through digital platforms, can perform a great service by increasing choice and independence for Americans with disabilities, including many who wish to travel during the holiday season.
But it has a long way to go. For all Americans to share in its benefits with a sense of security and safety, companies in the sharing economy must address a range of issues, according to a new AARP study. “Who protects me, and who protects that other person?” asked an adult with a disability who had concerns about personal safety in the untraditional, peer-to-peer transactions. “…Is there any type of insurance protection or background check?”
While the term “sharing economy” is not yet well known, some of its major enterprises have become household names, including Airbnb, Lyft and Uber, and it is transforming entire industries. Companies using digital platforms to sell goods and services have popped up in fields varied as transportation, lodging, handyman services, housecleaning and more…
Hurtling Through the Dark: Blind Skier Races up to 70 MPH
12/16 | Source: CNN | Mobility, Personal Account, Athletics/Sports | United States
Danelle Umstead can’t see when she skis down a mountain. Instead, the visually impaired alpine ski racer relies on her husband and guide, Rob, to get her down safely. “The fear does creep into your mind and into your heart,” said Umstead, who competes on the US Paralympic Team. “You just have to use that mental training”
Umstead grew up with low vision and wore thick Coke-bottle glasses to see. Her vision got worse at 13 when she was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease. “I lost all usable vision in my right eye,” she said. “It was really tough growing up and getting involved in sports.”
Over time, her vision continued to deteriorate. By 27, Umstead lost central vision in her left eye and fell into a deep depression. “It seemed like my life was just crumbling day by day,” she said. “I spent a long time feeling like there was not an easy way out or a way out at all.”…
Robotics and Disability; Friend or Foe?
12/16 | Source: Linkedin | Innovation, AI/Robotics, Assistive Technologies, WCAG
A Fourth Industrial Revolution, centered around technology, is predicted to usher in a Schumpeterian gale of creative destruction, radically changing the face of the workplace and our daily lives. What is this Fourth Wave? It is a rapid evolution of technologies that integrates areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence, natural language communications, image recognition, and high speed data analytics.
For people with disabilities there is much potential excitement – personalized robotic caregivers allowing the severely disabled, exoskeletons that can help people with spinal cord injuries people walk, wrist watches that can cue folks with autism to the emotions of others, automated personal assistants that optimally organize time and tasks for people with executive dysfunction and new ways to address deafness and visual impairments. Faster, smarter, more resilient, more connected – these technological advancements offer the opportunity for ever more integration and access for people with disabilities…
Local Site Rates Venues on Accessibility
12/17 | Source: WIVB | Innovation, Mobility, Travel/Transit | New York
We first met Nick Heilig in early December, when he was having trouble getting the state to approve a wheelchair ramp for the front entrance of his Cheektowaga home. He has an electric lift in his garage, but he’s growing more and more concerned that in the event of an emergency, he’d have trouble getting out. Heilig told News 4 the lift has a tendency to jam in the winter, and he can’t reach the manual hand crank. Since our first story aired, he’s gotten a lot of positive feedback.
“People are offering to help build it. I’ve had cooperation from the Town of Cheektowaga as far as, I’m trying to get a permit currently,” Heilig said.
But he’s not done fighting. He’s determined to get the ramp covered by the state as part of a waiver through the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities…
Washington Library Nears End of Long Path to Accessibility
12/18 | Source: Rutland Herald | Government, Mobility | Vermont
A wave of unexpected emotion washed over Andrea Poulin last week as the local library trustee confronted the dawning reality that a high-minded plan to make the Calef Memorial Library accessible to everyone finally had its incredibly elusive happy ending.
Sure, there are still five big birch bookcases to move, but getting in and out of what was once a one-room library with five daunting concrete steps leading up to its columned porch can now be accomplished by anyone with a disability — temporary or permanent — through a door that didn’t exist three months ago.
That isn’t why Poulin, a matter-of-fact woman who has served on the library board for more than a decade, found herself uncharacteristically choking back tears after meeting with contractors who declared the $300,000 project “substantially complete” late last week. “I don’t get misty,” Poulin stubbornly insisted, even as she used the backs of her hands to prevent fresh tears from spilling out of her eyes and onto her cheeks…
Wheelchair Accessible? Just Ask Google Maps
12/19 | Source: The Christian Science Monitor | Innovation, Mobility | United States
Google is relying on crowdsourcing to make the world more wheelchair-friendly. The search giant has launched a new feature through Google Maps that lists whether a location is wheelchair-accessible. Available only in the US to start, the feature relies on users to answer questions about the accessibility of a place they visit.
The new feature could impact millions of people in. There are 2.2 million people in the US who depend on a wheelchair, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the information could also assist users who rely on walkers, canes, or crutches, of which there are another 6.5 million people in the US, as well as mothers with strollers…
DOJ Projects Rulemaking on State and Local Government Websites in July 2017
12/19 | Source: The National Law Review | Government, Digital/Website Accessibility, DOJ, ADA Title II and Title III | United States
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced that it is expediting its timetable and expects to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding accessibility of state and local government websites in July of 2017. The comment period for this NPRM would close in September of 2017. The DOJ’s announcement in the Unified Agenda also indicated that it continues to expect the regulations under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act to pave the way for the Title III regulations applicable to private businesses’ websites.
This action comes on the heels of the DOJ’s April 2016 withdrawal of the prior Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for state and local government websites and May 2016 issuance of a Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The recent projection of relatively swift action by the DOJ indicates that it is interested in moving the needle on this topic; however, a change in administration may thwart this goal…
Hotel Industry on the Right Path to Full Accessibility
12/19 | Source: PR Newswire | Travel/Transit | United States
The Open Doors Organization (ODO) is pleased to report that while the percentage of American adults with disabilities staying in hotels has remained steady, there has been a sharp decline in the obstacles they encounter during those visits. Over 75% of travelers with disabilities stayed in a hotel over a two-year span (2013 –2015), with 33% falling into the “heavy hotel users” category, staying 3 or more times.
Among the various hotel franchises visited by travelers with disabilities, the most frequently visited are Comfort Inn, Best Western, and Holiday Inn Express (in descending order of frequency). These findings are from ODO’s 2015 nationwide survey, conducted by Mandala Research, LLC, as a follow-up to ODO’s groundbreaking studies of 2002 and 2005 on the spending trends and market scope of U.S. adult travelers with disabilities…
New Assistive Technologies Aid Employees with Disabilities
12/20 | Source: Society for Human Resource Management | Assistive Technologies, Employment, Innovation, Digital Accessibility | United States
It’s a new world for employees with disabilities who require assistive technologies to function in the workplace. The arrival of powerful new apps for use on smartphones and tablets, as well as the continuing evolution of older technologies, is allowing workers with sensory or motor impairments to be more productive and efficient than ever.
Among those benefiting from advancing technology are employees with visual disabilities. Workers who are blind or who have vision loss now have next-generation computer screen readers like JAWS or Window-Eyes available to them. These programs, which cost about $1,000, read the content of computer screens to users and provide speech and Braille output for the most popular computer applications. Free screen readers like Non-Visual Desktop Access also have improved functionality, experts said…
Complaint Filed on Accessibility of School Website
12/20 | Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch | Education, Digital/Webiste Accessibility, ADA, Government, Compliance | Virginia, U.S.
The various websites run by Powhatan County Public Schools will be limited in the content they can show for the time being after an out-of-state complaint was filed saying the sites are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the Tuesday, Dec. 13 meeting of the Powhatan County School Board, Dr. Eric Jones, superintendent, informed the board members and the public that he had received a letter from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) earlier this month saying not all content on the school district’s websites was accessible for people with disabilities.
Jones said he later learned that the complaint didn’t come from anyone in Powhatan but from an individual or group in Michigan that is filing hundreds of similar complaints across the nation with the Office for Civil Rights. He said he had heard at least 500 school districts nationwide that have similar complaints. “There are hundreds of school districts across the country where this is taking place. This isn’t an isolated incident where we are being picked out because our website is subpar. It really is something that is going on throughout the country,” he said…
Website ADA Compliance Remains a Pressing Concern
12/20 | Source: The National Law Review | Digital/Website Accessibility, ADA, Title III, Assistive Technology | United States
As discussed in a prior alert, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which forbids “places of public accommodation” from discriminating against those with disabilities, may also apply to websites. Blind and visually disabled people often use adaptive software to “read” websites and navigate using keystrokes rather than a mouse. For this assistive technology to work properly, particular coding must be used in creating the website.
Observers and experts in this area have been waiting for the Department of Justice, which enforces the ADA, to promulgate rules regarding the ADA’s applicability to websites for years, but the rulemaking has been repeatedly delayed. Most recently, the DOJ issued notice that it intended to release rules in April 2016. Instead, at that time, the DOJ withdrew its notice and indicated that it “intend[ed] to solicit additional public comment on various issues to help the Department shape and further its rulemaking efforts” in light of continually changing technology. It now appears that rules will be promulgated in 2018 at the earliest…
Can a Tweet Really Trigger a Seizure?
12/20 | Source: Time | Social Media, Technology, Digital/Website Accessibility, Seizures | United States
It’s hard to know what it takes to convince yourself that sending a Twitter message designed to trigger a seizure in someone known to have epilepsy is an OK thing to do. But someone apparently did just such a thing on Dec. 15, targeting the tweet at Kurt Eichenwald, a writer for both Vanity Fair and Newsweek, who has epilepsy and has talked and written about it frequently.
Once before, in October, he received a tweet that included an animation flashing in what is known as an eleptogenic pattern—one that can trigger seizures in someone with epilepsy. It happened again last week, this time with a message that read “You deserve a seizure for your postings.” The first time, Eichenwald said, he dropped his iPad in time to avoid seizing; the second time, he was too late. Eichenwald, who lives in Dallas, is pursuing both civil and criminal actions, and a local judge has agreed to subpoena Twitter to release the identity of the alleged assailant…
Sanctioned Austin ADA Attorney Now Targeting Websites
12/21 | Source: KXAN | Digital/Website Accessibility, Litigation, ADA | Texas, U.S.
A Texas attorney, known for filing hundreds of Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuits in Austin, now appears to be peppering healthcare businesses across the state with letters asking the recipient to pay $2,000 or be sued for alleged ADA website violations. The letters related to alleged ADA website violations have landed in mailboxes from Amarillo to Beaumont.
Omar Weaver Rosales’ “demand” letters and threats of litigation are a new twist to a familiar pattern, according to longtime civil rights attorney Jim Harrington. Harrington announced Wednesday he is forming the Texas ADA Defense Project. The Defense Project will combat “exploitative” litigation threats, such as those sent by Rosales, that could undermine the integrity of ADA law, Harrington said in a news release. Harrington retired in 2015 from the Texas Civil Rights Project, which he founded…
Website Accessibility—An Introduction to the Problem and Best Practices for Education Agencies and Schools
12/21 | Source: JD SUPRA Business Advisor | Digital/Website Accessibility, Government, Education | United States
Are you reading this article on a computer? I would venture to guess that you are. How did you access this page? Did you have to navigate through multiple web pages? While you were at it, were you surfing the internet, doing some online shopping, watching a video, reading some other articles on the web? My guess is that many of you already did (or will likely do so after reading this piece). We use computers at school, at work, and at home. Every day, we log on to websites to conduct research, to shop, to check the news, to listen to music, and even to watch shows and movies. The internet has become an indispensable tool for nearly every facet of life.
When most people log onto a website, they take for granted their ability to read a webpage, navigate links, click through web-content, and consume media. Yet, for many people, parts of the web are inaccessible and unusable. Blind individuals, individuals with low vision, individuals with limited manual dexterity, and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing are adversely impacted by websites that are either incompatible with assistive technology or that lack features that enable these individuals to access and comprehend the website. For these individuals, using the internet can be a cumbersome, clumsy, and nearly impossible task…
Website ADA Compliance in Healthcare
12/21 | Source: Phase2 Technology | Healthcare, Digital/Website Accessibility, ADA Compliance | United States
I heard an analogy about accessibility years ago that stuck with me. It went something like this…
If there wasn’t an accessibility requirement “made known” in the beginning, a designer and builder may construct a beautiful entry with stairs and gorgeous landscaping to create the most welcoming entrance. But if someone responsible for accessibility compliance comes along and informs the builder and designer that a ramp must be built, they have to bring back the shovel and dig up the shrubbery and make room for the ramp, and potentially build a different doorway/entrance.
The problem is, they have no more budget and they’re opening next week. If they open as-is, they face risk of a fine for ADA violation which would really hit your budget and cause a disruption while the building is open due to ongoing construction…
Compliance Issues to Watch in 2017
12/21 | Source: ABA Banking Journal | Digital/Website Accessibility, ADA Compliance, DOJ, Litigation | United States
Finally, while not a fair lending matter per se, website and app accessibility is going to be a top compliance priority in 2017, says ABA’s Toni Cannady. Website accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act is a top priority for the Department of Justice—and while the ADA’s “auxiliary aids” definition does not explicitly include websites, although it seems strongly implied, and there are no firm standards for what constitutes compliance—plaintiffs’ lawyers have smelled blood in the water.
In the past year, law firms have sent thousands of “demand letters” under the ADA and filed at least 244 federal website accessibility lawsuits since the beginning of 2015. These suits are hard to dismiss and often settle. To mitigate compliance risk, Cannady recommends that banks adopt an accessibility policy and standard, audit their websites for accessibility, appoint people to oversee all IT accessibility, train their website teams, direct the IT department to create implementation plan, create accessibility webpage, require accessibility in vendor contracts and conduct annual audits for conformance.
12/22 | Source: The New Yorker | Personal Account, Disability
Last summer, my partner and I signed a lease on a new apartment on the third floor of a brownstone in Harlem, across from the Pentecostal Assembly and a bodega with dusty bottles of Fanta in the window. We thought little of the fact that the building was a walkup—we were young and able-bodied and joked that now we wouldn’t need a gym membership. But in the two months that passed between the signing of our lease and the arrival of our move-in date I developed an autoimmune disease that left me unable to walk. It started with sporadic, increasingly intolerable spells of joint pain, which began in one shoulder and spread symmetrically to my wrists, ankles, and knees, until one morning I woke and could not lift myself out of bed. On June 1st, we arrived at our new place with my partner pushing me in a wheelchair. We left it in the entryway, where I sat down on the stairs and then slid up the three flights backward on my butt…
Travel tools for disabled travelers
12/22 | Source: Buying Business Travel | Innovation, Technology, Travel/Transit | International
As well as being a troublesome disruptor, new technology can equally be an enabler. Innovative apps, while upsetting the status quo in the traditional travel industry landscape, are opening up possibilities in business travel, from car-sharing to accommodation to communication platforms. Yet is this new wave impacting those travelers with special needs when it comes to booking?
In the leisure sector, numerous dedicated agencies cater for disabled travellers, in part due to their focus on elderly holidaymakers. When it comes to corporate travel, travel management companies (TMCs) are aware of the Equality Act 2010, which states it is against the law for employers to treat an individual less favourably than someone else because of a personal characteristic, including being disabled…
Accessibility Training and Information
- The Paciello Group Elsewhere in 2016
- CSUN 2017 Conference
- Australian Web Accessibility Laws and Policies
- Nyle DiMarco Foundation
Accessibility Product Releases & Announcements
- Looking for people to interview on mobile accessibility!
- Local Gov Goes Digital: 5 Trends that will Drive Online Citizenship in 2017
- Health Ministry wins gold in the Web Ratna category of Digital India Awards 2016
- Office 365 December update brings more accessible and efficient content creation
- Microsoft Makes Year-End Improvements to Office 365 Accessibility
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, audit and remediation services, and accessibility testing across various formats. Content is available online and as an accessible PDF for printing.
Please contact us for any questions you have about our accessibility services and how we might support your organization.