In an attempt to make its products easier-to-use for a wider range of consumers — including the elderly, or hearing- or seeing-impaired, for instance — IBM has appointed its first “chief accessibility officer.”
The move places IBM alongside other tech giants, such as Microsoft, who already have executives dedicated to accessibility. The title could help IBM better influence policy and industry standards, said Frances West, the new appointee. West previously led IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility research center based in Cambridge, Mass.
West’s team is developing software that adapts to a user’s individual behavior in real-time, she explained. The ubiquity of mobile devices — and the ability to import user preference information to those devices from the Internet cloud — make it easier to customize technology, she said.
Digital learning materials such as lesson plans, videos of instructional practice, and formative assessments can improve the classroom experience for all students, and they may hold particular promise for students with disabilities. Digital content can be designed and developed with flexibility and customization capabilities at the outset, reflecting the principles of universal design, and can be revised in a more timely manner than the labor intensive and costly process of updating traditional, static materials like printed textbooks.
I’ve been working (more or less) full time in digital accessibility for quite some time now, so naturally I’ve watched with great interest the unfolding developments in recent years towards establishing the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), and specifically IAAP’s focus on the subject of individual accreditation of accessibility professionals. I was involved in a few very early discussions, I work for a founder member organization of IAAP, and I’ve had some discussions with colleagues more closely involved. But aside from that I’ve had no direct involvement, so these opinions are my own, as a curious potential member looking in from the outside.
Google's self-driving cars get the headlines -- and they should, because self-driving cars may save lives and significantly increase passenger safety. The cars offer freedom and mobility for people unable to drive, such as people who are blind or low-vision. Unfortunately, the cars remain an experimental project, not a mass market product (as of the time of this writing).
Yet there are Google tools available now to help blind or low-vision people use the web and Google Apps. These tools include customized settings, keyboard shortcuts, and browser plug-ins. (If you're using a Google Apps account, an Administrator may need to configure a few settings to allow access to some of the following options.)
Apple has proved that operating system manufacturers can build useful accessibility tools right into their platforms, which makes the lives of its users much better. OS X and iOS are no exception. For example, Apple is shipping some of the best accessibility tools for their users in the form of VoiceOver, screen magnification, and many more. In this article, I'll highlight three utilities in iOS that can benefit almost any user, regardless of his or her ability. Continue reading, and learn how to get the most out of the built-in accessibility features of iOS.
Accessibility is one of those areas of WordPress contribution that hardly ever ends up in the spotlight. Much of the work that goes on in this area is invisible to the vast majority of users. Accessibility experts are generally in shorter supply than other types of contributors as well. Why aren’t more people involved in this important aspect of the web?
David Kennedy has been an active member of the WordPress Accessibility team for more than a year, and he believes that accessibility can be an artful science. His involvement began shortly after he started working on Accessible Zen, a free accessible WordPress theme. This led him to attend the weekly IRC meetings and contribute by testing patches.
Comprehension may suffer when students read on the digital devices now flooding into classrooms, an emerging body of research suggests.
In response, some academics, educators, and technology vendors are pushing to minimize the distracting bells and whistles that abound in high-tech instructional materials. They're also trying to figure out how best to help students transfer tried-and-true print reading strategies into new digital learning environments.
Chuck Hitchcock's insight:
Note that the article does not reference the use of digital materials provided specifically for the purpose of accessibility for students with print disabilities. Nor does it highlight the benefits of offering accessible digital materials provided directly by publishers that may be used by all learners.
If a website is designed haphazardly, it doesn’t just look messy; it can be messy for someone who can’t see, too.
"News apps are just completely frustrating," said Christopher Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind. "Blind people, the way we deal with this, is we share information about what apps tend to work, so I don't tend to download something unless I have a pretty good sense that I'm going to be able to deal with it."
The problem with much of the web—and, in particular, its newsier corners—is that it's designed without consideration for people who aren't navigating by sight. In many cases, the busier a website looks, the harder it is for people who use tools like audio screen-readers to get where they want to go, or even figure out where to go in the first place.
The primary aim of this site is to provide faculty assistance in creating or converting online instructional materials to be accessible to the widest audience possible. The same techniques to make course content accessible can be used by anyone who has responsibility for creating public documents, videos and websites. We encourage all faculty and staff to proactively use these tools so that all public materials are accessible for anyone.
Not all online programs are equal when it comes to their accessibility for students with disabilities.
Online education can seem like a promising alternative for students with physical and sensory disabilities, some of whom would struggle to navigate a physical campus. But even the most accessible online programs can still pose challenges for students like Taylor.
Since not all online programs are equal when it comes to their resources for students with disabilities, experts suggest students do their research before choosing a program and prepare to advocate for themselves once enrolled.
Applying accessibility techniques to an unusable site is like putting lipstick on a pig. No matter how much you apply, it will always be a pig.
There are many ways in which a web site might be made inaccessible. Believe me, we’ve seen them all. Occasionally we are asked to conduct an accessibility evaluation on a site that is almost entirely unusable. Such efforts are usually pointless. No amount of technical accessibility can fix something that is not useful or usable.
Audio-supported reading (ASR) is a technology-based approach for accessing and working with text presented in either braille or enlarged (magnified) print. This approach allows a user to listen to a spoken version of text while looking at screen-displayed print or touching braille. In ASR, both the rate of information pick up and the portion of attention paid to braille or print—in combination with speech—can be controlled by the user. With sufficient practice, both braille readers and magnified print readers can greatly increase the rate at which they move through text using ASR.
Nashville, TN (PRWEB) July 07, 2014 -- Vital Source Technologies, Inc., Ingram Content Group’s leading e-textbook solution, showcased new features to its comprehensive accessibility support for its VitalSource Bookshelf® platform at the National Federation of the Blind National Convention, July 1-6, in Orlando, FL.
As a result of rigorous, ongoing accessibility testing of the various Bookshelf platforms, Tech For All, Inc. can attest that a real asset of the Vital Source approach is its strong commitment to deliver an accessible, rich eBook reading experience which students with disabilities, like their peers, can access from home, in the classroom, and in a mobile environment," said Rick Bowes, Executive Consultant for Tech For All, Inc., a leading accessibility and universal design consulting firm.
The Authors Guild has lost yet another legal battle in a long-running dispute over who can access digital copies of library books created under Google’s book-scanning program.
A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the HathiTrust, a searchable collection of digital books controlled by university libraries, does not violate copyright, and that the libraries can continue to make copies for digitally-impaired readers.
The decision is a setback for the Authors Guild and for other groups of copyright holders who joined the lawsuit to shut down the HathiTrust’s operations. By contrast, it is a victory for many scholars and librarians who regard the database a an invaluable repository of knowledge.
There has been some activity lately from the U.S. federal government related to accessibility requirements for web sites. Unfortunately, that activity is sending a mixed message to many burdened with making a case for accessibility compliance in the private sector.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) made news in the accessibility community back in March by issuing a Consent Decree in a case with H&R Block requiring H&R Block to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
This is a post about the U.S. Department of Justice delaying web accessibility regulations, and the DOJ's consistent view that the ADA does cover web sites. (No More Excuses. The ADA requires web accessibility.
Chuck Hitchcock's insight:
Note that these regulations will pertain to state government, local government and private websites.
Accessibility enables people of all abilities to realize their full potential. By virtue of designing apps with assistive technology features, you can create a better experience for anyone who uses your app. Accessibility features may include clearly visible text, navigable controls with various input and output methods and content viewable and usable when zoomed in.
Whether you’re in the process of planning, developing or updating a Windows Store app, there are tools available to test your app. To help you get started, follow these tips and check out the convenient accessibility tools.
As a deaf-blind person, I’ve had to fight for seemingly trivial things like the right to access cafeteria menus or participate in rock-climbing. Most of the barriers I have encountered stemmed from misunderstandings by people unfamiliar with accommodations for people with disabilities. Through guidance from teachers and parents, I learned to educate community members about accommodations for deaf-blind individuals. The process of advocating for myself allowed me to develop strong problem-solving and analytical skills. I later realized that I could use these skills to help others in the disability community.
Chuck Hitchcock's insight:
Note the comments regarding mainstreaming of accessibility features. I strongly agree.
The James T. Vaughn Correctional Center’s sprawling campus east of Smyrna houses 2,500 men at any given time. Many have prison industry jobs, but only a handful get to spend their days in Building B. There, 11 men meticulously peck away at keyboards, filling a screen in front of them with a series of staggered dots.
It’s a visual representation of what Homer’s Iliad or a Spanish textbook will look and feel like when it’s eventually embossed in Braille. The program partners with the state Division of the Visually Impaired to crank out these materials requested by the 15 school-aged Braille readers in Delaware.
The International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) officially began accepting membership applications last week, an important step in elevating, defining, and improving accessibility as a profession around the world.
The new group is dedicated to supporting people working in accessibility through professional development, networking and the creation of a global community. The goal is to encourage more companies, groups and individuals to adopt and implement accessible products, services and content for people with disabilities.
NEW YORK: Here comes the first ebook for children with vision disabilities which would soon be available at Apple’s iBook store and can be downloaded for free on iPads.
The book, titled ‘Reach for the Stars: Touch, Look, Listen, Learn,’ is inspired by a latest Hubble Space Telescope image of the colourful ’30 Doradus Nebula’ – a giant star-forming region.
“We want to convince children that science is cool, is fun and that anybody could be a scientist, if they want to,” said astronomer Elena Sabbi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland and the inspiration behind this project.
These resources focus on the production and use of AIM in a variety of formats and include information on content development, creating NIMAS files, conversion services, digital talking books and other output formats, and hardware and software for AIM.
The U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights has entered into an agreement with the South Carolina Public Charter District to make the district's Internet-based schools accessible to students and parents with disabilities, particularly those with visual impairments.
The district enrolls about 14,000 students in all, 9,000 of whom are in seven Internet-based schools: Palmetto State e-Cademy, Provost Academy South Carolina, South Carolina Virtual Charter School, South Carolina Calvert Academy, South Carolina Connections Academy, South Carolina Whitmore School, and Cyber Academy of South Carolina.
Explore the story of Juna Gjata who has a visual impairment which prevents her from reading standard print materials; and how she—with the help of supportive teachers, assistive technology, and accessible instructional materials—excels academically.