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The Challenges of Surfing While Blind–taken from the Wall Street Journal

My seeing-eye dog can’t help me with your website. Please code it for accessibility.

By

DeAnn Elliott

July 26, 2015 6:39 p.m. ET

8 COMMENTS

The other day while going about my business on the Internet, I hit a brick wall: a map of the United States.

I was diagnosed at 28 with retinitis pigmentosa and declared legally blind at 41. I no longer see the screen well enough to use my mouse to point and click. But with a standard laptop and some software that reads the screen to me in a voice that sounds like Stephen Hawking’s, I can accomplish nearly everything that I once did with a mouse using memorized key commands.

But to make a purchase on this particular website, I was asked to choose my home state not from an alphabetical list, but by clicking on a map. For a blind person, that’s akin to being in a wheelchair and encountering a flight of stairs.

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/BN-JO179_edp072_TOP_20150726112203.jpgENLARGE

Photo: Getty Images

A well-designed website that conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) permits use by people of all abilities. In my case, text labels that identify the buttons and graphical features allow me to “see” what’s on the screen. The code is hidden and need not interfere with the way the website works for sighted customers. But without these features, a site that works beautifully with a mouse is useless to me.

Technology has removed many of the barriers that people with disabilities face in the physical world, making life in the mainstream tantalizingly close. Can’t drive to the mall? There’s Amazon! Can’t read the electric bill? Bank online! As my guide dog and I contemplate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the landmark civil-rights law signed July 26, 1990, the gap between sight and blindness has never been narrower.

The ADA requires government websites to be accessible. Sadly, the law provides little guidance to the private sector on this point, since it was passed before the Internet became ubiquitous. It applies to a “place” of public accommodation—but is the Internet a place? That question has been wending its way through the courts.

Disability advocates have worked to broaden the law’s applicability, with some success. In April, Harvard University and M.I.T. announced plans to voluntarily make their edX website for online courses compliant with the WCAG after deaf advocates filed federal lawsuits alleging discrimination. In 2010 the Justice Department announced it would consider issuing Web-accessibility regulations under the ADA, though the rule-making process lumbers on. With the number of websites growing rapidly, change isn’t coming fast enough.

“More than 50 percent of the websites on the Internet are either inaccessible or unusable for people who use adaptive technology,” Brian Charlson, director of technology at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Mass., told me in his office a few months back.

The consequences range from inconvenient to significant. When I can’t place an online order at my favorite Vietnamese noodle shop, I get Chinese instead. If a task is urgent, I pester family and friends for “favors.” When they hover over my screen to help me navigate around a virtual barrier, I’m keenly aware that my charge-card number and the details of my transaction are on display. At work, unequal access in an increasingly networked economy contributes to an unemployment rate that’s more than twice as high for people with disabilities—and that’s not counting many who have given up looking for work.

Recently I met a Web programmer who confessed that she omitted accessibility features because they weren’t explicitly required. Deadlines were tight. Budgets were tighter. Most customers liked the graphics. I appreciated her candor.

I explained that making a site accessible shouldn’t be seen as a bother. Rather, compliance helps a company reach the largest number of customers. As techno-savvy baby boomers age into vision and hearing loss, many more people will need accommodation. Companies that fail to adjust risk squandering years of accumulated goodwill.

Further, accessible websites often perform better in search results, since images are tagged with descriptive text. These features benefit people who have limited English proficiency or are using technology in places where they have difficulty reading the screen.

Several organizations, including the nonprofit Carroll Center, offer accessibility consulting to help businesses. “The changes are often cheaper and easier than people think,” Mr. Charlson says. There are three levels of WCAG conformance, and though the highest level might look intimidating, settlements to accessibility lawsuits usually recommend the middle one.

In the 25 years since the passage of the ADA, businesses have removed brick-and-mortar barriers to their facilities, erecting ramps and installing elevators. Now it’s time to finish the job and tear down the virtual barriers. Besides, I’d rather shop than sue.

Ms. Elliott is a Boston-based disability advocate who blogs for the Carroll Center for the Blind.

 

Sometimes it is useful to produce printed materials with Braille or Sign Language Fonts. This page serves as a resource of free fonts. A good source for ASL (Mac and Windows) fonts is University of Oregon Yamada Language Center Sign font page ( External link )  or Luc Devroye Sign language font page ( External link ). A good source for Braille (Mac and Windows) fonts is Luc Devroye braille font page ( External link ).

 

Jonathan Mosen hosts FSCast for Freedom Scientific and many many other great things for the education of the blind world–and of the sighted world who create for the blind world

FSCast features news, interviews, and product demonstrations. Hosted by Jonathan Mosen, each episode is a mixture of learning and entertainment. All episodes are archived, and you can download and listen at any time. In the December episode 101, we discuss the 20th anniversary of JAWS for Windows, the Braille selection feature, and Windows tablets running JAWS 16 and iTunes 12 with JAWS. The January episode 102 has just been posted. It includes information about our JAWS 20th Anniversary video project, events at the upcoming ATIA and CSUN conferences, information from Bryan Carver about our Technical Support process, and an interview with Kelly Ford, who tells us about the Microsoft Accessibility Answer Desk, available toll free in a growing number of countries.

Go to our FSCast page to hear these and other podcasts.

If you are seeking an incredible $75 price for Jaws talking software–this is it

Freedom Scientific made some announcements this week via its FSCast podcast, with Jonathan Mosen breaking the news.  If any of you are planning to go to the NFB convention this year, this should be of great interest to you if you own or are considering buying software from Freedom Scientific.
First, ACB convention attendees will be offered slight discounts on FS products. There will be a ten percent discount on Freedom Scientific software. This would cover JAWS, MAGic and OpenBook. Five percent discounts are available on FS hardware products. While Jonathan Mosen did not mention specific products I am assuming that this would cover products such as the Sara stand-alone readers, their various video magnifiers, Braille displays, Plextalk Pocket and even the Pac Mate, if you can justify buying that particular device.
Jonathan explained that Freedom Scientific offers something known as home-use programs for certain organizations, which they started doing last year. This is a program offered to companies which have many software installations for their employees and the home use program allows employees of such companies to purchase a product like JAWS at a considerable discount. Other tech companies do this for certain organizations. As an example, when my wife was a college student the university she was attending was able to offer her new, legal copies of software at very, very inexpensive pricing. Apparently, Freedom Scientific offers similar programs. Jonathan mentioned that organizations such as the IRS, Social Security and some state agencies for the blind are able to offer discounts to their staff. Since NFB uses many copies of JAWS at its headquarters and because it is celebrating its 75th birthday this year, Freedom Scientific is extending this same pricing offer to all registered attendees of this year's NFB convention, regardless of where you work or, for that matter, whether you're employed or not. These offers are only for the duration of the NFB convention and you must actually visit FS at the exhibit hall to obtain their products at this special pricing.
A complete JAWS 16 Home Edition license will be available, under the conditions I've described above, for $75.00. This is not a misprint: that's seventy-five dollars. This is not an upgrade but will get you a brand new JAWS 16 license. If you already own an older  version of JAWS you can upgrade your old version to version 16 for just $50.00. For this offer, it doesn't matter which version of JAWS you own; it can be an upgrade from version 14 or from version 2.0.\
An SMA will cost you $100.00.
New copies of OpenBook are available for $75.00.
MAGic with speech can be purchased for $50.00.
 MAGic SMAs are being offered for $75.00.
I have proofread this message and what you are reading is not a series of misprints.
Also, FS will be demonstrating JAWS 16 with an intro to Windows 10. Since it is possible that we may see Windows 10 released by the end of July it sounds like that JAWS 16 will be able to work with Windows 10, without users needing to go to JAWS 17 to obtain Windows 10 support.
I am personally quite excited about this series of offers. My personal JAWS license is stuck at version 6.0 and, as a trainer, I do need to update my license but frankly cannot afford to do so. However, as I have family in that area I am seriously considering attending my first NFB convention to upgrade my version of JAWS.

For more information about Jonathon Mosen's work, please visit the links below

The Mosen Consulting Store is at http://mosen.org/index.php/mosen-consulting-store/
Some blog posts that may be of particular interest. My top 10 wish list for iOS 9: http://mosen.org/index.php/my-top-10-wish-list-for-ios-9/
My new Synology NAS – Great Product, NASty accessibility: http://mosen.org/index.php/my-new-synology-nas-great-product-nasty-accessibility/
Buy Free Range, Buy Fair Trade, Buy Accessible? http://mosen.org/index.php/buy-free-range-buy-fair-trade-buy-accessible/
iCloud or iTunes, what's the best way to back up your iDevice? http://mosen.org/index.php/icloud-or-itunes-whats-the-best-way-to-backup-your-idevice/
Two posts on using blindness technology with hearing aids. http://mosen.org/index.php/now-hear-this-musings-of-a-blind-hearing-aid-wearer/ and
And finally, The Apple Braille Crisis, it's got to be fixed for the kids: http://mosen.org/index.php/the-apple-braille-crisis-its-got-to-be-fixed-for-the-kids/

Families around the country have had exchange students this year and one particular family of which mom is blind had a blind exchange student from Bosnia for the past year. She explains:  "One of her many talents is a beautiful voice.  She and my husband
wrote this song and he used pictures from her American experience. " Please watch on Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hz6f03y080&feature=youtu.be

The U.S. State Department is trying to find American blind students to study abroad on one of their scholarship programs.  Try and think of someone you know who could participate in a
study abroad program that can change their lives forever: http://www.miusa.org/news/2015/blindabroad

 

 

What technology does your child or students need to learn today– to be prepared for tomorrow’s job market?

This is a huge argument among anyone using his or her favorite piece of technology. However, statistics on what is used now and will be used in the near future is a better option to look at for facts. Then you will know what your child should be learning now to be prepared for tomorrow.

This data is taken from the PewResearch Center on Science and Technology—Numbers don’t lie. Ninety percent of the population uses a Cell Phone. For accessibility and speed, the accessibility features of a cell phone have propelled the blind population as well as the rest of the people into accessing the world fast. But when it comes to doing the hard core work, the desktop or laptop computer still tops it all with 80% of the work population. The combination of a cell phone and computer will enable your child to do anything. Tablets such as an iPad or ereader are just frosting on the cake. Just make sure you are not teaching just the frosting but the hard-core cell phone and computer….adding a braille display to these devices gives power unrealized before.

Here is a basic layout:

  • 90% of American adults have a cell phone-(cell phones are 90% and of that 64% have smartphones)
  • 80% desktop or laptop computer-of computers 2014 statistics are in below table.
   

Windows 7

58.04%

Windows XP

16.94%

Windows 8.1

10.55%

Mac OS X 10.10

3.96%

Windows 8

3.52%

Windows Vista

1.97%

Mac OS X (other)

1.71%

Mac OS X 10.9

1.61%

Linux

1.5%

Windows (other)

0.2%

  • 32% of American adults own an e-reader
  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer

 

To back up the facts of the above Device Ownership Over Time of the teen population, which will dictate future jobs and success with these tools in the job, is cell phone and smart phones is 78% and desktop and laptop use is 80% which is reflecting what is occurring in the job world right now. Tablets are only 23%.

Data Trends for Internet Use Over Time shows that 87% of Americans use the Internet, so once again, our blind and deaf/blind students need to know how to use the Internet at the speed of our sighted peers which takes talking software keyboard commands and braille displays. Using a variety of talking software commands and OCR programs allow great feats of ability to work at the speed of …well…anyone else.

Think about it, then make the changes if you need for the best education of your child or student.

Fast, easy cheat sheet to keep you going on the new UEB Braille code

Thanks APH

Get yours at UEB Cheat Sheet

In addition–see these new cheat sheets out

The first is from Duxbury and lists the contractions and short forms in alphabetical order:
 
The other is from Aroga Technologies and presents the contractions and symbols by category:

Social Media Accessibility

Facebook Accessibility for Users with Visual Impairments: What Facebook Wants You to Know

Bill Holton

Facebook is an excellent way to keep in touch with friends and family. For users of computer and mobile access technologies, however, at times, there can be challenges. The company continuously evolves its products, which can introduce changes to screen reader flow. So, in order to help readers more fully enjoy their Facebook experience, we are excited to offer the following information.

Thanks to consumer feedback, and working with several organizations, including the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), Facebook has taken accessibility to a whole new level. In July of 2011, the company formed the Facebook Accessibility Team to improve its support of accessibility across products. Recently, AccessWorld spoke with team founder, Jeff Wieland, and accessibility engineer Ramya Sethuraman, who offered us a top-10 list of things they'd like our readers to know about Facebook's accessibility program and products.

Facebook Offers Extensive Keyboard Navigation

For computer users who do not use a mouse, including most screen reader users, the main Facebook website makes extensive use of headings, landmarks, and lists, which can be easily navigated with your screen reader navigation keys. Additionally, the main Facebook website also offers an extensive roster of Access and Shortcut keys to help you navigate the site and quickly perform actions, such as liking, searching, and sharing.

Go here to learn all the commands that go along with Facebook accessibility

Mississippi State University-National Technical Assistance Center has a wonderful site with a selection of options to look at if you are seeking a job in the blind field

Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired also has tremendous resources at your finger tips for all things on — Professional Preparation or How Do I Become a VI Professional?

……and if you have all the education you need and are just looking for a position, try spedex.com or AER Job Exchange

Education job and many other types of jobs can be found at https://www.edjoin.org/

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