Monday, October 22, 2012

Texas Department of Information Resources Launches Website Accessibility Scanning Program

The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) has announced a new program to assist state agencies, local government entities, and institutions of higher education in improving the accessibility of their public websites for people with disabilities. DIR will utilize web accessibility scanning services from Virginia-based Deque through a DIR cooperative contract with Knowbility, Inc., an Austin-based accessibility services vendor.

DIR logo
This new program will help agencies ensure that their websites are accessible to all Texas citizens, regardless of ability, by improving accessibility levels of public facing web pages. The service scans and analyzes key portions of agency public websites and provides precise information on accessibility errors found.

“The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) understands that full inclusion and accessibility allows Texans with disabilities to participate fully in state government and its programs and services,” said Angi English, Executive Director of GCPD. “This new DIR program will assist Texas government public websites achieve this imperative.”

“This accessibility program is the first of its kind as it encompasses a large cross section of state agencies,” said Karen Robinson, State CIO and DIR Executive Director. “It is a cost-effective approach to improve and monitor key elements of website accessibility for the state, and we believe that it can serve as a model for other states to follow.”

“We are delighted to support DIR’s goal of providing an accessible online experience for government sites in the state of Texas,” said Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque Systems. “Deque’s tools will help to support the important efforts that are underway to ensure that online users with disabilities will be able to access the important information and services that appear throughout the network of sites that the state administers.”

“The program will use a graduated approach, ramping up to bring agencies into the scanned environment over a number of months;” according to Jeff Kline, Statewide Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator at DIR. “We selected a scanning model that provides high benefit at a very low cost on a per agency basis. We elected to scan the top 150 pages per agency, which are typically the most frequently visited or most important pages.” Once fully deployed, the accessibility scanning services will include nearly every state agency and state-funded institution of higher education.

For more information, contact

Source: GAATES

Winnipeg Announces 2012 Accessibility Awards

 On October 16, Mayor Sam Katz presented five deserving organizations with the City of Winnipeg’s 2012 Accessibility Awards. The awards demonstrate the diversity of spaces in Winnipeg that are accessible for all citizens.

The following organizations received accessibility awards:
  • Parks Canada and Variety the Children’s Charity for the Adventure Playground at the Forks
  • The University of Winnipeg for the Richardson Environment and Science Complex
  • Manitoba Centennial Centre for the Steinkopf Gardens
  • The Province of Manitoba for the Province of Manitoba Birthing Centre
  • The Winnipeg Airport Authority for the James Richardson International Airport (Honourable Mention)
In addition, University of Manitoba Professor Kelly Beaverford and the City of Winnipeg Public Works Department received special recognition awards.

“The accessibility awards are an excellent way for us to take note of the real progress our city is making in terms of accessibility and inclusive design,” said Mayor Katz. “As Mayor, I am proud to see organizations and individuals ensuring that Winnipeg is a city of opportunity for people of all abilities.”
The City of Winnipeg Access Advisory Committee makes the selections for the annual awards.
“Today, we will reflect on ‘Universal Design’ from an international perspective,” said committee chair Councillor Ross Eadie.

“The committee conducted site tours and came away impressed,” said committee coordinator, Chris Sobkowicz. “The Richardson Environment and Science Complex, for example, used colour to identify different floor levels, placed tactile indicator strips at all stair locations, and provided colour identifiable and fully accessible washrooms on each floor and other features. University of Winnipeg planners and Number Ten Architectural Group should be very proud of a job well done.”

Source: GAATES

Report on the Accessibility of Communications Technology Released

Interesting news on the accessibility front this month with the release of the first biennial report to Congress on the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). After all, nothing says “interesting” like “biennial report to Congress."

The CVAA, which was passed in October, 2010, is an extension of the Communications Act of 1934 and, in a nutshell, is meant to ensure that communications and media services, content, and equipment are accessible to users with disabilities. It will require that things like smartphones are accessible, as well as video programming on television and the Internet.

Under the CVAA the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) of the FCC must report to Congress every two years on how it’s going. This month’s report is the first of those and, while the full implementation of the many facets of the CVAA is still underway (and full compliance of some aspects won’t be mandatory until next year or beyond), the report provides a few interesting nuggets on the current state of accessibility for communications technologies.

These biennial reports (among other things) must provide assessments of the current state of accessibility compliance with the following of sections of the law:

1. Section 255: Telecommunications equipment and services - Including wired, cordless, and wireless telephones, fax machines, answering machines, voicemail and voice over IP (VoIP).

2. Section 716: Advanced communications services - Including e-mail, short message service (SMS) text messaging, and instant messaging, as well as video conferencing services.
3. Section 718: Mobile phone Internet browsers

To assess compliance, the CGB solicited feedback from users, consumer groups, manufacturers and industry groups. Feedback for this round was sparse, again given that compliance with all provisions is not yet mandatory. However, given the feedback received, the CGB came to the following conclusions about initial efforts to comply with the CVAA:
  • Users who are blind or low vision have consistent problems using new telecommunications devices (those covered by section 255), with the big exception of the iPhone. The feedback in the report from the American Federation for the Blind (AFB) said “Apple’s iPhone continues to be the only smart phone providing truly equal access at no extra cost to users with vision loss.”The situation is better for hearing impaired users, with the CGB concluding that telecommunications services and equipment “generally are meeting the hearing aid compatibility needs of people with hearing disabilities.” However, in the report, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) said that some mainstream phones have still have issues with speakerphone or Bluetooth features providing good enough sound quality for users with hearing disabilities.
  • The CGB couldn’t properly assess the accessibility of advanced communications services, due to inadequate feedback. Although, they do say that the industry is currently taking steps to ensure that communications technology and services will soon have a wide range of accessible functionality.
  • The Commission did not assess the accessibility of mobile phone browsers, since they have not yet issued rules for implementing the provisions of the law.
The big take-aways? Well, mainly that the implementation of the CVAA is still in its infancy; we should know much more by the time of the next binennial report in 2014. What we do know now is that, for smartphones, the problems are more significant for visually impaired users and, for them, the only real choice currently is the iPhone. Also, manufacturers and content providers are currently working towards meeting full compliance with the law by the required due dates.

Source: it world, GAATES