Blogging Against Disablism Day 2017


Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2017

If you love to write, or read, about the experience of disability, then you will love this day. For over ten years, this global event has attracted activists, advocates, parents, and people from all walks of life, disabled or non-disabled, who blog about life from their point of view. You will read about overcoming adversity, triumph over tragedy, practical coping strategies, and learn more effective ways to interact with people who have disabilities of all sorts. It can be a little emotional, reading about the day-to-day experiences of individuals who live in places that do not have the equivalent of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or, who do, yet suffer discrimination,, disrespect, or indignity anyway. Some of what you read may be discouraging,, depressing, or even infuriating. But you will also read stories that are heartwarming, uplifting, and even funny,, as bloggers around the world share their lives. You can read all about Blogging Against Disablism Day here, along with archives of past year’s posts:

Blogging Against Disablism Day

Use hash tag #BADD2017 when tweeting about the event. Don’t forget to go to the site to link to your own post, if you plan to participate.

LL

Two must-attend CSUN COD sessions presented by Lainey Feingold


This year at the CSUN 2014 Conference on Disability, some of the people presenting educational sessions will be busier than others. Lainey Feingold will be among the busier ones, as she is giving more than one talk at the CSUN Conference. Lainey does some incredible advocacy work on behalf of people with disabilities, and I encourage you to attend both of her sessions. This award-winning legal eagle will be offering key information on a couple of important topics.

First, Lainey will be co presenting with her colleague, Linda Dardarian. The session is her Annual Legal Update on Digital Accessibility. To indicate your interest in this session, and to get location information, go to the CSUN COD page:
http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/119

Lainey described her sessions this way: “The legal update session will be an overview of everything that’s happening with digital accessibility law suits, settlements, regulations and laws. The focus will be on the U.S., but we’ll touch briefly on other countries. We will present the legal issues in a straight-forward way designed for non-lawyers. The session is for anyone who cares about digital access and usability for everyone regardless of disability and is curious about the role of the law in making tech and information more accessible.”

The second session (Friday morning at 8:00) is called Structured Negotiations: the Book! Lainey says, “this session is conceived as a give and take. Structured Negotiations is a collaborative process that aims for a win-win solution to information and tech access issues. It can be used to resolve other issues as well.”

“I’m in the middle of writing a book about the process and the advocates who have made the work possible.” Says Feingold. “I’ve negotiated, along with Linda, close to 50 agreements using this method without filing a single lawsuit. In the session I want to share what I’ve learned about the process, it’s potential for other issues, and what I’m learning in writing the book.”

Feingold continues, “Most of all I hope to hear from the audience their experiences with the issues we’ve worked on. Those issues include Talking ATMs, web and mobile access with MLB, Bank of America, Weight Watchers, and many other companies, accessible pedestrian signals, tactile point of sale issues, video description in movie theaters, and more.”

Go to the Structured Negotiations: the Book! (page on the CSUN site: http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/343

Lainey was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to answer a few of my questions about her presentations. After reading more about her, I concluded that the disability community couldn’t ask for a better advocate. After you finish reading, I’m sure you’ll agree.

LL: Who is the target audience for your presentation?
For the “Legal Update” session, anyone working on technology and information accessibility. Advocates need to understand how the law can help convince entities of the importance of access. Champions inside even the largest corporation need the legal developments at their finger tips. There are legal digital accessibility developments this year across a wide spectrum of issues — education, travel, retail, voting, news consumption, employment, government, and more. Our goal is to demystify the legal issues and focus on the civil rights foundation — the right of people with disabilities to access information and technology so they can fully participate in all aspects of society.

For “Structured Negotiations,” the Book session: The target audience is anyone interested in resolving access problems collaboratively. For anyone who would like to know how the blind community was able to get some of the largest companies in the United States to the negotiating table and end up with positive national results. Also, anyone who would like to share their experience with any of the issues we’ve worked on is especially welcomed to come. (A list of all the settlements is here: http://lflegal.com/negotiations )

LL: What do you hope your audience takes away from your talk?
In the Legal Update session, a way to talk about the law in human terms. A way to use the law not to frighten people into compliance, but to make people understand why we have laws protecting access to digital information. People will also get an understanding of different legal strategies being used to improve digital accessibility and how to use the law most effectively.

In the Structured Negotiations session, an understanding of a different way to use the law without filing lawsuits. An understanding of how the blind community has used Structured Negotiations over the past twenty years and what the results have been, and how the method could be used for other disability civil rights issues, and other issues generally.

LL: What has been your motivation to continue your work as an advocate?
I am motivated by the ongoing need for a digital world that is available to everyone regardless of disability. The feeling that if we don’t do this work now, today, we will miss the opportunity to create the digital environment as it should be: open and available to everyone. There are many, many people who share this vision and are working hard to make it a reality. I am lucky that as a lawyer I can have a role to play and I am motivated by the work being done by everyone else in their roles. I’m motivated by the blind people who have trusted me with their legal claims and who teach me every day about what true access and usability means. I’m motivated by the amazing flood of friendship and community that the accessibility world constantly brings me. I’m motivated by everyone’s generosity in helping me and teaching me about issues that I need to do the lawyer part effectively.

LL: What are your long-term goals for your firm, and for advocating for people who are blind or otherwise disabled?
Short and long term, I hope to finish my book, find a publisher, and spread the stories of blind advocates and how they used structured negotiations to make information and technology more accessible. I hope to be able to mentor younger lawyers who want to practice law in a more collaborative way and have a commitment to disability justice. I would like to find audiences outside of the accessibility world to “spread the gospel” of accessibility. I would like to keep doing the work I’m doing, but I also have a fierce desire for the world to be so accessible that there will be no business for lawyers like me!

LL: Some of my readers may already know you won the California Lawyer of the Year award. Where can we learn more about it?
Linda and I won this together. The post about it is here: http://lflegal.com/2014/02/clay-award/

More about Lainey Feingold:
Lainey Feingold is a disability rights lawyer who has worked with the blind and visually impaired community on technology and information access issues for the past twenty years. She is nationally recognized for negotiating landmark accessibility agreements and for pioneering the collaborative advocacy and dispute resolution method known as Structured Negotiations. Along with her colleague Linda Dardarian she has negotiating digital accessibility agreements with entities as diverse as Major League Baseball, Bank of America, the American Cancer Society and Safeway Grocery Delivery. A full list of her settlements is available at http:lflegal.com/negotiations

To contact Lainey Feingold:
Email: LF@LFLegal.com
website: http://lflegal.com
Twitter: @LFLegal
Phone: 510.548.5062

About Linda Dardarian:
Linda is a partner in the Oakland California civil rights firm of Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian and Ho. http://gbdhlegal.com. Linda does the structured negotiations work with me and others, and also litigates disability rights cases, including the CNN captioning case which is one of the biggest development in digital accessibility law this year. Her email is LDardarian@gbdhlegal.com

Head to the CSUN conference main sessions page to read more about these two must-attend sessions at the 29th annual CSUN International Conference on Disability. Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

See you there.

LL

Tools of choice in the fight for equal access: sledgehammer vs. constructive engagement


Amongst the many topics listed in my open file of future articles and other writing projects, you would not find the topic about which I am writing today. In fact, even if I was forced to augment the list by including unsavory subject matter such as disabled abuse or institutionalization, I would have avoided adding this topic. Not because I have nothing to say on the matter, but because I’m not so sure I can express myself in a way that is logical and articulate. It seems that the more removed a topic from my personal feelings, the more easily I am able to make a point. Yet, when it’s time for me to write about a topic which is philosophical, and may differ from the opinions of others, I veer off into the land of couching and justifications. Unlike so many who can write using language learned from having been steeped in academia, I have not learned the glib rejection of an argument as illogical, nor have I developed the thick skin necessary to take criticism of my core beliefs and shake it off. As a result, the final version of this post is likely to be a well watered-down version of the original draft. In a way, that’s a real shame, but I try to resist editorializing here, even though that is one purpose of this platform. The problem is, I’m a listener, and a thinker, not an arguer. It isn’t that I stand for nothing, it’s that I’m willing to take into consideration another viewpoint, which may make my own arguments appear weaker.

The day I began this post was a very interesting one for me. I found myself in discussions (or, more accurately, debates), with fellow persons who are blind, who might well have considered themselves to be intellectually or morally authoritative. These are people with whom one can win no argument, as there is no winning, there is only debate for the sport of it. Gratuitous argument is not my way. I love a spirited debate as much as the next person, but only if the exchange is not conducted at the expense of another’s dignity. One learns in marriage, for example, that going straight for the jugular, seeking to crush the spouse as though they are the enemy, reducing the partner by way of condescension and contempt is a fast track to marital dissolution. This, for the academics in my audience who would demand a source, is from Dr Gottman’s research at his Relationship Institute. Dr. John Gottman is the nation’s foremost researcher in marriage and parenting. He often refers to contempt as one of the “four horseman of the apocalypse” when it comes to argument. Admittedly, this is in reference to marriage, and not meant as one of the tools of successful intellectual debate, but I haven’t taken debate class since high school, so I may be at a disadvantage.

What does any of this have to do with a blog about accessibility? Everything, if you follow some of the important issues that affect people with disabilities every day. Within the disability community, there is an ongoing disagreement as to the nature of the techniques that should be used as a way to enforce compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. I found myself unexpectedly involved in such a debate, and just as unexpectedly feeling dissatisfied with the substance of that debate. It’s not that I maintained an opposing viewpoint, rather, it’s that I found that I was in fact, not agreeing strongly enough to suit the people with whom I was having that debate. Wow…I’ve never thought of myself as not feeling something strongly enough before. Typically, I’m advised to adopt a less reactionary position.

As is so often the case when we fall into the trap of the ease with which to express an opinion in 140 characters, remarks can tend to be more pointed than they might otherwise be, given more digital real estate. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it is also the soul of insult and offense.

On May 14th, 2013, there was a full committee hearing on disability and accessible media, called The ADA and Entertainment Technologies: Improving Accessibility from the Movie Screen to Your Mobile Device. The hearing was streamed live. I watched the hearing with great interest, and commented via Twitter as I did so, while encouraging others to watch as well. I found the panel members to be articulate and reasoned in their comments, and I felt that the disability community was well represented by these advocates. The discussion that resulted on Twitter, however, and other discussion held offline, made me realize that I may need to examine my views about advocacy and the methods we use to gain equal access to the world.

Unwilling to go so far as to say, “one attracts more flies with honey,” I will say that my advocacy style has been one of constructive engagement, rather than one that requires use of a sledgehammer. That is not to say I do not own a sledgehammer, or that I see no value in using one, or that there is no place for a sledgehammer in one’s blunt-instrument drawer. Nor do I make any judgements about those who choose to use a hammer, the judicious use of which is admirable.

There is a long history of disagreement in the disability community regarding the best way to fight for equal access. Some believe that forcible compliance through litigation is the only way, since voluntary compliance is practically unheard of. Even with the passage of the ADA in 1990, the consensus in the community seems to be that progress has been slow, and that change has been affected only by way of threat of ruination through legal action. A friend with whom I found myself “debating” pointed out that there are no web site owners, none, who voluntarily comply with accessibility. I was incensed. “That’s ridiculous.” I said. “Name one,” he shot back. I couldn’t.

Surely, I thought, there is a company out there who voluntarily designed their web site to be accessible to people who have disabilities. “Not without the threat of a lawsuit, there isn’t.” My friend commented. “They wouldn’t bother if the law didn’t require it.”

“So, what are you saying?” I demanded. “The only way to have equal access is to hit people over the head with a hammer? what if they don’t know? Isn’t that what raising awareness is all about?”

With the unhurried pace of a predator toying with his prey, my friend said, “Amazon is aware. So are all the big players. But they don’t do anything about it until they have to. Being nice, writing letters, saying ‘pretty please’ has gotten us nowhere. It’s been twenty years.”

“But…but…there’s been progress,” I protested. “It’s a process. We can’t fix everything overnight. What about education? what about winning hearts and minds? Getting people on our side?” I felt my argument losing strength. Partially because at the center of his comment was an implicit accusation that my work is worthless, that I, and others like me, have proved to be a failure, and that all the awareness-raising in the world has not made a bit of difference. In fact, the words “sitting around and singing Kum Ba Yah,” came out of his mouth. Okay, minus 1 point for lack of originality.

He went on to point out a few interesting facts, which I will not bore you with here. I do want to point you to a couple of links from which to gather some statistics, should you ever need to do some research, cite a source, craft an argument. Keep in mind, though, the old joke that goes, “only lawyers and painters can change black to white.” Same goes for statistics. I think, though, that the Justice Department and the United Nations are at least somewhat reliable, so check out these links:

U. S. Department of Justice Accessibility report:

http://www.justice.gov/crt/508/report/content.php

United Nations Convention on Human Rights and Disability:

http://is.gd/PmlPrU

Ultimately, the question is one of approach. Do we begin to make changes by applying the least intrusive, education-oriented techniques, and only bring out the hammer as a last resort? This negotiated approach can sometimes take years to affect change, as is the case with businesses to which I have personally contacted. Sometimes, the response has been a sympathetic but impotent, “we’re so sorry, but we’re working on it, stay tuned” sort of response, other times it has been to placate me and then utterly ignore my complaint. There have been more than a few times, however, when I have been contacted by someone in the corporate hierarchy, who asked me for help right then and there, to find ways to make changes immediately. One company actually labeled a button within a few minutes of my request. Granted, all I wanted was an alt-tag, which took seconds to add, but they did it right away, then asked me to do some quick testing. Now, that’s responsive. No hammer required.

What about the small business, though, an ecommerce site that serves to be the only contact point for consumers, where the site developer was most likely the business owner’s college-age kid? He certainly cannot afford to hire an accessibility remediation expert, even if he was made aware of the web site usability shortcomings. I’ll just go out on a limb and use myself as an example here. I may regret this, but here I go.

I have a number of web properties, all of which fall into the pathetically inadequate, not one-hundred percent accessible column. Why? Because when I put the sites together, I didn’t know enough about programming to know what to ask for with regard to access, and while I was able to impart a certain amount of education as to alt-tags and headers, I quickly reached the limit of what to instruct my employee to do. Now, I’m in the awkward position of advocating for web accessibility when my own sites are barely navigable at best. As a small business owner, I lack the funds to hire someone to rebuild the sites with say, html5. What is this type of business owner to do?

One question I have to ask is, what is the real point of direct legal action? In my opinion, it should be more about making change, and less about pecuniary interest. Instead of merely filling the coffers of an advocacy organization, why not make those funds available for remediation assistance? That way, businesses who want to comply, yet lack the skills, or resources, can tap into these funds. That way, we can accomplish two things at once.

Back to the argument in favor of the hammer for a moment. In late 2011, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) released a Report and Order implementing provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (“CVAA”) to ensure that people with disabilities have access to advanced communications services (“ACS”). Providers of ACS and manufacturers of equipment used for ACS will be required to make their products and services accessible to people with disabilities, unless it is not “achievable” to do so. Failure to comply results in fines of up to $100,000 per violation, or each day of a continuing violation up to a maximum of $1 million. Obviously, this is meant to be extremely punitive, and while I concede that this requirement is likely to affect only large companies, and that there appears to be a bit of wiggle room here, thanks to the use of the term “achievable,” one wonders if the only beneficiaries will be the lawyers and bureaucrats involved in the documentation, certification, and enforcement rules.

My concern about this type of action is that while it may force compliance, it may also create catastrophic hardship for a business that is unable to bear the cost, put established businesses in peril, and further solidify negative attitudes towards people with disabilities and the organizations that represent us as tyrannical or heavy-handed. Yet, perception seems to be the last concern of the advocates in favor of the hammer. Why does it matter what any company thinks of people with disabilities, it’s the law of the land. Comply, or you will be forced to do so.

What is problematic for me with regard to this type of thinking is that one thing we cannot legislate is the attitudinal barriers we must overcome as a result of systemic discrimination. Once the hammer falls, and the business has been litigated into compliance, there is no room left for goodwill. In the world in which I choose to live, I need there to exist compassion, forgiveness, and goodwill. For others, though, goodwill has no place in the framework of this argument.

I’ve built a career speaking to audiences about disability awareness and the need for equal access. I can tell you from personal experience that there is a line that can be crossed, no matter how justified your argument may be, where the group whom you are attempting to convince simply will cease to listen. Once we alienate others by shoving our views down their throat, they may do what they are required to do to make the noise go away, but they won’t like it, and there may be unintended consequences that we may suffer as a result. If you look at the civil rights movement as an example, African Americans are still fighting to overcome discrimination, despite gaining equal access over 40 years ago. What that tells me is that we have an attitudinal problem as well as an accessibility problem. Therefore, I believe there is a place for awareness education as well as constructive engagement as part of a negotiated solution.

The day after the Senate hearing and subsequent “debate,” I received a letter from one of the friends with whom I had a heated verbal exchange. He admitted that my compassionate approach had merit, and that he had been thinking about our conversation, and realized that the awareness component should be included as part of an action plan for developers. He wrote:

“I’ve started sketching out a blog piece about a multi-stage approach to web accessibility that begins with a compassionate approach to site publishers. I agree that we first need to educate. It would probably be good if the highly visible advocacy organizations who are rightfully pushing for accessibility also offered remediation steps on their web sites.

For most web sites, accessibility can be done pretty easily by a novice to both accessibility and web development. From googling around, I could find a number of web validation and repair tools. Some of these are no cost and I’ve no idea how to judge which are good and which aren’t. Nonetheless, NFB, ACB and AFB, as far as I can tell, have nothing on their web sites giving a basic set of steps for a person to try to do their own remediation. I could envision a tutorial for individuals, small businesses, mid-sized and even enormous sites. It should include links to the standards and guidelines but not be filled with the sort of jargon that goes into such things. I guess, I’m admitting that you were more right than I thought yesterday. During our conversation, I added the constructive engagement to my set of steps for approaching web developers; today, I’ve added your awareness component.”

My friend went on to point out that if there was a simple English set of steps for web site remediation, something that anyone who uses WordPress could follow, more of the non-technical site owners would do it. He also wrote:

“I also think that our web consultant friends do the community a disservice. I don’t begrudge them their big hourly rates but I think they intentionally try to maintain a level of mystery surrounding the topic so they can maintain their guru status. None of them has a page on their sites saying, most people cannot afford our services and we work for wealthy businesses with very complicated needs. You, however, can probably do your own site remediation if you follow these simple steps: 1. For WordPress, 2. For Drupal, 3. For Joomla, etc. I think this is the dirty little secret of web accessibility, it’s relatively easy. Obviously, for it to be easy to the gal on the street, though, it needs easy documentation, something that my searches did not find.”

Finally, my friend wrote: “So, yes, awareness is probably even more important than legislation and should certainly come sooner in the process than filing complaints or taking direct legal action through a suit,” he concluded.

Great. One down, six billion to go.

The irony here is that my use of constructive engagement with regard to this conversation netted a fought-for result. This proved to be the case on Twitter as well, when an exchange began with, “hammer all the way,” and finally concluded, 18 direct messages later, with “constructive engagement is the only way.” Maybe mine is a velvet hammer.

To see a replay of the Senate hearing, go here:
http://tinyurl.com/aqf5dm4

For your own edification, here is a link to a timeline of disability rights by Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_disability_rights_in_the_United_States

LL

Blogging Against Disablism Day is May 1st, 2013


It’s time to start thinking about your contribution to the annual, international, “Blogging Against Disablism” day. Each year for the past several years, I’ve submitted an article associated with this event. Blogging Against Disablism Day, or BADD for short, is a way bloggers from around the world raise their voices in a concert of commentary about discrimination, disability, ability, inclusion, employment, trials, triumphs, and what it means to experience life with a disability from a singularly profound point of view…your own.

Write an essay, post it on your blog or web site, and on May 1st, read posts from other bloggers from all over the world who are sharing their stories. First, though, go to the BADD 2013 page and make a comment that you intend to participate. Your article will be linked to, and also tweeted, throughout the day. You can follow @BADDtweets for news and info about the event, and be sure to use hashtag #BADD2013 when you tweet about your post, or RT that of others. Come back here to the Accessible Insights Blog to read my offering, and feel free to link to your own post in the comments section here, too.

Read more about the event here:
http://blobolobolob.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/blogging-against-disablism-day-2013.html

See you May 1st!

LL

Author’s note: As an update to the above, I urge you to go to the BADD page and read the entry. As a result of a Twitter conversation that involved the use of the word “disablism,” I must point out that, in the post describing the event, there is a well-written explanation of the need for ‘linguistic amnesty.” The author makes the point that everyone brings to the table differing values as to effective and inclusive language, some of which may be off-putting or offensive to others. I almost asked permission to quote the text in it’s entirety, because I found it to be so valuable, but I’d rather you go to the BADD post and read it for yourself. it’s important that we do not allow ourselves to get bogged down by one another’s choice of words. I’m not saying it’s trivial, I just think we need to allow for a wide latitude on a day involving submissions from around the world, from places where use of what we might consider to be arcane terms may still be the norm. ~ LL

The 2013 Assistive Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference


If you are a person who has a disability, or if you know or love someone who does, you will soon have an opportunity to attend what could be a life-changing event. If you have never before attended the International Conference on Disability, presented by California State University, Northridge, I am going to work hard over the next few weeks to give you some compelling reasons to attend. This annual conference is the largest of its kind, and each year showcases the very latest assistive technologies, teaching techniques and best practices for web and mobile accessibility development, as well as the latest in disability-related policy news and legislation. You’ll hear inspiring words from thought leaders and educators, and you can experience the camaraderie and fellowship of others who may be living with a disability similar to your own. If you can only attend one event this year, this is the one to attend. There is truly something educational, fun and uplifting here for everyone.

Start with this link, below. It will take you to the main page, where you will find all the info you need. Attendee registration is now open, so make your plans soon.

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2013/sessions/index.php

If you want to explore the full list of educational sessions, click this link:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2013/sessions/index.php/public/conf_sessions/

You will be amazed at the range of topics, and the depth to which they can be explored. If you are not a technology fanatic, don’t worry. There are sessions on just about every aspect of disability awareness, accessibility and advocacy. All levels of expertise are addressed at many sessions, so don’t let intimidation or feelings of technical illiteracy keep you away.

There are also some social events you can attend. For example, The Paciello Group, WebAIM, Infoaxia, PayPal, The Center on Disabilities at CSUN, EZFire, OpenDirective, and CA Technologies will coordinate and sponsor a tweetup at the CSUN Technology & Persons with Disabilities Conference. The tweetup will be held Thursday, February 28th at 6:00pm at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego. Additional details will be coming soon. The tweetup is open to all Twitter users, but attendees are asked to RSVP.

http://csuntweetup.com/

Finally, be sure to use the hashtag #CSUN13 when tweeting about the conference. Check back here throughout February, as I will be showcasing a few of the presenters you can look forward to seeing at the conference. Make your travel arrangements early, and I look forward to seeing you there. You can follow me at @Accessible_Info on Twitter, so tweet me up so we can meet!

LL

A word with CSUN 2012 presenter and author Kel Smith


The week of the CSUN 27th Annual International Conference on Disability and Assistive Technology promises to be another action-packed week of education and inspiration.  Once you have absorbed all you can of the information shared by the 25 speakers, and walked the length and breadth of the enormous exhibit hall, you’ll want to save some energy for the many social events, some planned, some spontaneous, that will be held throughout the week.  You will have an opportunity to meet people you’ve tweeted with but may have never actually met in the "meatspace," and you can shake hands with those responsible for bringing to life the innumerable technologies upon which many of us rely.

 

One of the presenters at this year’s event is Kel Smith.  Kel Smith is a longtime speaker, author and practitioner on digital accessibility. His articles and papers have appeared in multiple publications, and he has presented worldwide on the topic of emerging technologies in inclusive design. He formed Anikto LLC in 2008 to explore and develop barrier-free digital experiences in various sectors, including healthcare, service design, engineering, government, product marketing and K-12 education.

 

Mr. smith, who will be speaking on Wednesday, February 29th at eight o’clock a.m. the week of the CSUN conference, was kind enough to offer a few thoughts on his connection to an industry that, for him, means more than technological advancement at the expense of the individuals it serves.

       
 
"Innovation is not specific to any device or platform. It is driven by an understanding of behavior, the business climate in which that behavior resides, and the social responsibility to manifest a common good. I consider it a privilege to align myself with people and organizations who contribute to this moral cause.”

 

Kel Smith is the author of a book in progress called "Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward Without Leaving People Behind," currently scheduled for a 2012 release.

 

Click here for more info on ‘Digital Outcasts."

You can follow Kel Smith on Twitter here:  @kelsmith

 

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

 

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