Tips, tools and a reason to care about web accessibility

It isn’t often that a major online tech and social media outlet such as mashable takes on the topic of usability and accessibility, so I want to make sure that their article on the subject gets as much attention as possible.  In an unscientific comparison of how many responses a typical Mashable article receives when posting about the iPad or Google Plus versus the number of comments posted on this topic, I’d say either few care or most are clueless.

 

Granted, it’s not the most exciting subject in the world, but I’m just so worked up into a fizz that Mashable put it out there, I’m going to ride their coattails and augment their efforts somewhat.

 

Here are three posts on the topic of web site accessibility that I wholeheartedly recommend.  First, the reason it’s important by yours truly:

Why You Should Care about Web Site Accessibility

 

Next, some tips that will guide you through the process.  This article was written by Dennis Lembree, creator of Easy Chirp: :

25 Ways to Make Your Site More Accessible

 

Finally, since you will need the tools to accomplish the task, here’s the Mashable piece:

22 Essential tools for Usability

Please take the time to consider how you can develop your projects in a way that is inclusive and accessible to everyone.  I hope these three offerings convince you.

 

LL

On the DOT: Efforts to achieve greater access to transportation

Here is a little more info on the latest efforts on the part of the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to improve access for people with disabilities.

   
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/09/20/department-transportation-continues-fight-accessibility
Department of Transportation Continues the Fight for Accessibility

 
One of Secretary Ray LaHood’s top priorities at the Department of Transportation (DOT) is to make transportation more accessible for people with disabilities.  "Since arriving at DOT, I’ve worked closely with staff across the agency to help raise awareness and develop policies and regulations to help Secretary LaHood achieve this goal."

Just last week, Secretary LaHood announced that individuals with disabilities will have greater access to intercity, commuter and high-speed train travel as a result of a new rule requiring new station platform construction or significant renovation to enable those with disabilities to get on and off any car on a train.  "The disability community from across the country has cited the difficulty or inability to board a train as a major barrier to employment and travel opportunities.  Through this amendment to DOT’s Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations, people with disabilities will now have greater access to intercity, commuter and high-speed train travel. And I’m pleased to say that this new rule considers the needs of multiple DOT partners because it takes into account the critical needs of people with disabilities as well as freight railroads and operations.

"

"I am also pleased that Secretary LaHood today announced that DOT is proposing to require that websites and kiosks be made accessible for air travelers with disabilities. Under the proposed rule, U.S. and foreign carriers would have to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities by meeting the standards for accessibility contained in the widely accepted Website Content Accessibility Guidelines.

"

The proposed rule would also require airlines and airports that use automated kiosks for services such as printing boarding passes and baggage tags to ensure that any kiosk ordered 60 days after the rule takes effect be accessible.  Standards for accessibility would be based on standards for automated transaction machines set by the Department of Justice in its 2010 ADA rule.

 

"As a person who does not have arms or legs, I can say the changes in rail access, and the proposed rule for accessible websites and kiosks, will increase my ability to independently travel and access the world.  These rules demonstrate Secretary LaHood and DOT’s ongoing commitment to improve access to the communities and transportation.  Over the next few weeks, I am looking forward to traveling to Philadelphia, Minnesota and Arizona to meet with leaders of the disability community to discuss these changes and other topics of interest to them."

Richard Devylder is Senior Advisor for Accessible Transportation at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Here’s the world’s most famous address, in case you ever need it:
The White House · 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW · Washington DC 20500 · 202-456-1111

 

LL

New proposal seeks improved access for disabled fliers

While most travelers with disabilities surely appreciate any effort made to accommodate their needs, the proposals mentioned in the article below seem to have been far too long in coming.  Some airlines are certainly better at helping passengers who have disabilities to overcome the barriers imposed by inaccessible web sites and kiosks, some do so only grudgingly, in my experience.  Still, the article left me with a question, which I pose at the end.

 

This article was sent to me via email, so I left the attribution as I found it. 

 

New proposal seeks improved access for disabled fliers
9/20/2011
News Outlet: USA TODAY

The Transportation Department wants to require airlines to make their websites and airport kiosks more accessible to the disabled.

The proposed regulation — made Monday following years of complaints by travelers with disabilities about getting tickets on flights — is similar to a proposal made in 2004 that airlines and travel agents resisted because of the cost and complexity of the changes.

The new proposal calls for the airlines to make their websites accessible to blind people for reservations and check-ins within a year. The airlines would have two years to make the rest of their websites more accessible.

Websites that market U.S. flights also would have to upgrade, although small travel agencies would be exempt.

Under the proposed rule, airlines would also have to upgrade airport kiosks that print boarding passes or baggage tags with braille, audio messages and screens visible 40 inches off the floor. The upgrades to kiosks would apply as airlines replace machines during the next decade.

"I strongly believe that airline passengers with disabilities should have equal access to the same services as all other travelers," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in announcing the proposed regulation.

More than 15 million adults have disabilities with vision, hearing or mobility, according to the Census Bureau, and nearly one-third travel by air.

The advocacy group Paralyzed Veterans of America welcomed the kiosk proposal, saying people with vision and physical impairments have been unable to read screens too high off the ground or use touch-screen functions.

Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, argued that airlines are "openly discriminating" when not using the most accessible technology.

"It is critical for blind people to be able to buy tickets, check in, print boarding passes and select seats independently," Maurer said.

A rule that took effect in May 2008 required airlines to discount tickets for disabled passengers who had to make reservations by phone or in person. Airlines had to provide assistance to disabled passengers who couldn’t use their kiosks.

Parts of that rulemaking were hotly debated for years, with 1,300 comments. The Air Transport Association, an airline industry group, argued at the time it would cost each airline at least $200,000 to upgrade their website, plus tens of thousands more each year in maintenance.

Steve Lott, an association spokesman, said the group is still reviewing the newest proposal.

The administration estimates that tens of millions of dollars spent upgrading websites and kiosks would be offset by having more disabled customers buy tickets and saving the time of airline employees.

The proposed rule will be published this week in the Federal Register, with 60 days for public comment at www.regulations.gov.

 

*End of article.

So, I guess my question is this:  While I’m pleased that the transportation secretary "strongly believes" that travelers with disabilities should have equal access, isn’t it the law?  Why have airlines been exempt from the ADA requirements?  Are they private property, public transportation, or a governmental agency?  All of the above?  If any of my readers can answer the question as to why, over twenty years after passage of the ADA, the airlines are just now getting around to making travel more accessible,  I’d love to know.

 

LL

 

Copyright © 2011 USA TODAY

 

©2011 All Rights Reserved – Copyright 2011 NFB       

Recommended blogs for teaching all

At the risk of being accused of dangling “link bait” out there, I thought I’d drop a quick few lines to encourage you to check out this nice list of resources.  It’s a list of blogs pertaining to various aspects of disability, assistive technology, speech pathology and special education.  Check it out here:  

 

Teaching All:  Recommended Blogs.

 

Of course, it doesn’t hurt my feelings any that in an alphabetical list, I’m right at the top – grin.  Just returning the favor.

 

 

LL

The theme of this amusement park is accessibility

Okay, fun’s over.  The kids are back at school, the long, lazy days of summer have given way to the long haul before the next shot at vacation, and unbelievably, some people (guilty as charged) have already extended holiday invitations.  Drag in the patio furniture, snow is right around the corner.

 

Now that many of you have clicked away, I’ll answer a question that has been asked anonymously of the "everything you ever wanted to know about disability, but were afraid to ask" staff.  In this case, the Accessible Insights Blog staff consists of only me, however I reach out to a brilliant group of masterminds who contribute to the cause.  more on that here .  The question was asked, "Are there any disability-friendly amusement parks or attractions for children?"

 

This question can be interpreted broadly, as in:  Wwhere can I bring a special needs child for fun?"  Or, more narrowly as:  “Is there such a thing as an amusement park specifically for people who have disabilities?”

 

The answer is yes to both.  In this post, I’ll focus on a few ideas for you to consider when it’s time to extend that summer fun for just a little longer.

 

Museums:  Many museums offer special "after hours" programs for a variety of groups.  Give your local galleries a call to find out if they can provide close-up, hands-on and guided educational programs for individuals who have disabilities.  many museums do offer visitors options for viewing the objects via a variety of technologies, such as hand-held recorded

descriptions of the installations, or a docent who can give tours using sign language.  Some museums even offer a special room or wing just for people with disabilities to examine art objects up close.  Seek out museums that encourage interactivity, such as The Exploratorium in  San Francisco, California.

    

National parks:  Did you know that people with disabilities can apply for a "Golden Pass," that permits access to any park at no cost?  This lifetime pass can make planning park visits a little easier for a family.  Also, both local and national parks offer accessible or "barrier free" trails that are specifically for wheelchair users and less experienced hikers.  These trails are usually wider, well graded or in some cases paved, and have fewer topographical obstacles such as rocks, water or steep slopes.  Check out the Oregon Barrier-free trail that meanders through the northernmost stand of Redwood trees, for example.  It’s an easy1/2 mile loop.  I was married along that trail, right in front of a hollowed-out, ancient Redwood. 
      
Amusement parks: If you live near a theme park, you may already be aware of a special day set aside for fun-seekers who have disabilities.   However, I recently learned of an amusement park especially for kids and adults alike who have need of greater accessibility.  It’s called Morgan’s Wonderland.  Here is some copy straight from the Morgan’s Wonderland web site:
 
"Morgan’s Wonderland, located in San Antonio, Texas, was built in the true spirit of inclusion to provide a place where all ages and abilities can come together and play in a fun and safe environment. Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra-accessible family fun park, encompasses 25 acres of rides, attractions and activities for everyone, and all are welcome.”

 

If you  visit the Morgan’s Wonderland web site, (http://www.morganswonderland.com) you can watch videos about the park, check out the attractions, find lodging and make a donation.  Morgan’s Wonderland is the first of what many hope will be other destinations like it.        Admission is free to people with disabilities and only $15 for everyone else.  Read about Morgan’s story, and the gift that brings fun, friends and family together in a safe, accessible and inclusive place.

 

Are there any similar parks, museums or attractions in your area, just for people with disabilities?  If you know of any, please share.  Here is another article on accessible travel that provides more information about places to visit:

 

Travel Outlook for People with Disabilities

 

 

LL