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

A creative approach to help bridge the employment gap: Project Starfish


On Wednesday, march 19th, 2014, at 1:50 PM, I will be presenting a session at the CSUN Conference on Disability entitled, “A Creative Approach to Help Bridge the Employment Gap: Project Starfish.” As a business advisor and the Director of Recruitment for the program, I have acted as a face of the organization since its inception. I invite you to attend the session, and learn how you can share my passion for facilitating employment opportunities for people who are blind or visually impaired. If you’d like to indicate your interest in the session and save a seat, go here:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/361

The founder of Project Starfish, Subhashish Acharya, or “Subs,” as he is called, sat for an interview with me to introduce the program to anyone who might have a desire to gain entry to, or to re-enter, the workforce. If you have a business, and find the idea of helping to build a platform by which people with disabilities can learn, earn, and grow, read on, then join us.

LL: Please tell my blog readers about the inspiration behind Project Starfish.
Subs: The straight answer is the high unemployment rate. Seventy to eighty percent is too high a number, which is exceptionally concerning to a person like me who has been in the industry for nearly 16 years. Imagine what the unemployment rate is in other countries like India, China etc.

The biggest inspiration has been to try and use my own talent in business that I have acquired over the years, and find out if possibilities exist. Can we find a solution, has been the inspiration. I have come across many, many blind people, and everyone has some kind of talent. It will be a waste not to leverage that for someone who needs it. To put the talent to use, provide the right training and creating a unique model that creates social impact and business impact together, and bringing hope in businesses and the blind community has been my inspiration. Humanity is always under evolution. There are choices we all make, every day, whether we believe it or not. While earning a paycheck from a good job and keeping the self happy is really important, it is also critical for all of us to reach out and create opportunities for those who need it. Over the years, I’ve realized compassion, charity, sympathy do work sometimes, but doesn’t provide a solution. The only thing that provides a solution to problems , I believe is, cooperation. We can all work together, can’t we? The only thing we need to do is devote time and have a purpose. Creating a model where businesses, business leaders, and people who are blind work together in a cooperative environment is the pilot of human evolution. A model that creates an example of cooperation has been my inspiration. I am proud of my members, businesses and teachers who have walked the talk and made it possible. Truly, you can look up to humanity again and say, “yes, Possibilities exist, if we work together.” Isn’t that quite an inspiration for everyone, not just me alone.

LL: Please explain the origin of the Project Starfish name.
Subs: The answer is going to quite surprise you. Just like many, I was always inspired by the story of a young boy in the Starfish story. In brief , here it is for those who haven’t read about it:

An old man is walking along the ocean and
sees a beach on which thousands and thousands
of starfish have washed ashore. Further along
he sees a young man, walking slowly and
stooping often, picking up one starfish after
another and tossing each one gently into the
ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the
ocean?” He asks.

“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out
and if I don’t throw them further in they will
die,” replies the boy.

The old man counters, “But, young man, don’t you realize there are miles
and miles of beach and starfish all along it?
You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even
save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you
work all day, your efforts won’t make any
difference at all.”

The young man listened calmly and then bent
down to pick up another starfish and threw it
into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”

You see, eighty-three percent of small businesses or startups die every 5 years because of the lack of talent. Imagine when these businesses die it brings demise to the product, the inspiration, sometimes their livelihood as well. Imagine what a devastating impact it can create to people, their families, business and the economy of a country. They need a lot of hands to help, and sixty percent of the country’s economy depends upon them.

On the other side, eighty percent of the adult blind population are looking for opportunities to learn, earn, and prove themselves. Why cant we simply create a workforce that will help these businesses out, grow them, and earn their employment just by working together? The only thing we need is training, creation of opportunities and cooperation. The workforce of participants who are blind helping the businesses is exactly the Starfish story. Imagine the workforce of blind team members worldwide helping each starfish(business) get back to the ocean. While this makes a difference to the business, it also makes a difference to the worker who is blind, where they experience real mainstream work, learn, earn grow and become employable. The key is to make both sides work together. A social and business camaraderie.

That’s the reason we named the initiative Project Starfish. Project defines the exactness of the purpose to work together and get as many starfish back to the sea, resulting in millions of jobs, happier families, income for all involved and a better economy, where business impact creates social impact as well.

LL: Tell us about your short term goals for Project Starfish.
Subs: We are 6 months into the journey. Our goal at the start was 10 blind professionals working with 10 businesses, at least fifty percent of whom were earning an income. Currently we have 25 people, working with 22 businesses, 20% of the businesses are international. It seems we can now be a little ambitious, I guess. Our short term goal by the end of 2014 is to have 100 blind professionals, 60% in the USA and 40% in India, Australia and UK. We will work with 100 companies, eighty percent of our professionals making an income. We have already started in Australia. Now we are looking to hire blind veterans as well.

LL: What do you see for the program five years from now?
Subs: We see 1000 blind professionals, becoming a huge change maker in helping startups across the world, and Project Starfish becoming a business research powerhouse for just-in-time, information as a service platform for corporations and small businesses.

LL: Can anyone join the team, or is it strictly for people who are blind?
Subs: We welcome anyone to interview with us, if they have a passion to succeed, ambition and want to make money. Seventy percent of those we interview have joined us and we put a lot of labor into revamping their skills so as to be relevant to businesses. Currently, we are focused on professionals who are blind, and we will slowly lead with people in different categories of disability.

You can follow Project Starfish via @ProjectSTARF1SH on Twitter.

More about the Project Starfish founders:
Founders Soumita and Subhashish ( a.k.a. Subs are a husband and wife team. Soumita is a filmmaker and owns 3 accessible films. Subs is a Director at Oracle America, managing the worlds largest management consulting company. Subs has over 15 years of business experience with technology and business. Subs was a programmer, a design artist, a multimedia expert at a different lifetime. He has phenomenal experience with business, processes, six sigma, sales, business development, innovative business strategies, management consulting, business operations and is an avid networker. They are passionate about serving the blind community, and both are advocates for people with disabilities.

During my presentation at the CSUN Conference on Disability, I will be speaking to two different audiences simultaneously. My aim is to attract both potential candidates for employment as well as the businesses that might employ them. Please plan to attend my session, and I will be available all week during the conference to answer questions and further elaborate on Project Starfish details.

About Laura Legendary:
Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, educator and entrepreneur, specializing in disability awareness, advocacy, accessibility, and assistive technology. She has developed and delivered curricula for the State of Washington Aging and Disability services for use in the continuing education program for independent in-home health care providers. To book Laura for your next corporate, community, or caregiver training, go to her flagship site, Eloquent Insights (www.eloquentinsights.com), or email l.legendary@eloquentinsights.com. Laura’s latest venture, Elegant Insights Braille Creations, showcases her distinctive collection of Braille embossed jewelry and accessories. Follow Laura @Accessible_Info or @ElegantInsights on Twitter, or for information about job opportunities for accessible web development, testing, accessible mobile, and other access and assistive technology professionals, follow @Accessible_Jobs on Twitter.

To indicate your interest in attending the session, go to:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/361

I look forward to seeing you. Don’t forget to use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

LL

Advantages and disadvantages of automated web accessibility testing tools: Chetan Bakhru at CSUN 2014


Whether you are an independent web developer or you work for a consulting firm interested in web accessibility, a veteran in the accessibility industry, a tester or a novice, you’ll want to be sure to attend Chetan Bakhru’s presentation outlining the advantages and disadvantages of automated web site accessibility testing tools. Use of these tools, while thought by some to be a labor saving shortcut, when used by someone without thorough knowledge of accessibility, can paint a misleading picture of web access compliance. For example, an automated tool cannot make a determination as to how descriptive alt text may or may not be, as it cannot interpret what is contextually relevant or considered to be descriptive enough. Chetan generously granted my request for an interview, and explained for my readers what they can expect when they attend his session at the CSUN Conference on Disability.

LL: Please describe for the readers of the AI Blog the goals for your presentation.
CB: The goal of my presentation is to educate individuals and organizations on what the advantages and disadvantages of using automated accessibility testing tools to verify the accessibility of websites are, what the characteristics of good automated testing tools are, and why the use of other methods of testing for accessibility is essential.

LL: Who is the target audience for your talk?
CB: The target audience includes testers, developers, QA engineers, and/or anyone else interested in learning more about how to properly test for accessibility.

LL: What do you hope attendees take away from your presentation?
CB: The takeaway from this presentation is that automated testing has an important place in a tester’s toolset. The use of a good automated accessibility testing tool can result in increased productivity, efficiency and in the accuracy of results. However, there are many issues that these tools are unable to check for, and users of such tools must not rely on the tool to be the final determining factor in whether their site is accessible. Anyone using these tools should be well trained on their use, how to interpret their results, and have a good knowledge of accessibility.

More about Chetan Bakhru:
Chetan Bakhru is an IT consultant, web developer, technology trainer and accessibility advocate. He obtained his Bachelor’s of Science degree in Information Technology specializing in Software Engineering from the University of Phoenix in 2009, and his Master’s degree in Software Engineering from Penn State University in 2013. Over the past several years, Chetan has worked for many organizations providing technical support to customers, training users on the use of computers and assistive technology, developing websites, and helping make existing websites, desktop applications, and mobile apps accessible to people with disabilities. He is originally from southern California, currently works in the DC metro area as an Assistive Technology Tester at SSB Bart Group, and intends to relocate back to the west coast sometime soon. On the side, he also runs a website called Blind Planet (http://blind-planet.com), a site which labels itself as “Your one-stop resource for anything blindness related” and which contains a wealth of technology-related material. Blind Planet also provides web development, assistive technology, and general computer training services to those who are blind or low vision at a nominal cost. Some of the websites Chetan has either developed or helped make accessible include http://www.nib.org, http://www.worldaccessfortheblind.org, http://www.nonvisualdevelopment.org, and http://www.colorfascination.com

To learn more about Chetan, or to follow his work, here are his contact details:
Twitter Handle: @cbakhru
Twitter Page: https://twitter.com/cbakhru
LinkedIn Page: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/chetan-bakhru-pmp/2a/663/15a
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/chetan.bakhru
Google+ Profile: https://plus.google.com/112898281638210974817
Website: http://blind-planet.com
Email: chetan@bakhru.net or webmaster@blind-planet.com
Phone: 714-816-4105

Don’t forget to click on the link to indicate your interest in this session, and save yourself a seat. Go to the CSUN Conference session details page:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/presentations/view/173

Be sure to use hashtag CSUN14 when tweeting about the event.

See you there!

LL

29th Annual CSUN Conference on Disability news and info


It’s time to roll out my annual series of posts pertaining to the CSUN Conference on Disability. Each year I post news and information about the conference, showcase a few of the conference presenters, provide notes about special events and write a post-conference wrap-up. If you would like to add your own information as to your presentation, exhibitor booth number, or other relevant info about the conference, feel free to add your comments.

Registration is open for the 29th Annual CSUN Conference on Disability. Go to the main conference web site page:

http://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/sessions/index.php/public/website_pages/view/1

You can either register as an attendee for the educational sessions as well as the exhibit hall, or you can register for the exhibit hall only. Both links are available on the main registration page, above. There is no cost to be admitted into the exhibit hall if you register for the exhibit hall only. To see a directory of vendors who will be showing their latest products and services at the conference, go here:

https://www.csun.edu/cod/conference/2014/rebooking/index.php/public/exhibitors/

Check out the roster of presenters and topics that the Center on Disabilities at CSUN is offering this year. Add a Pre-Conference Workshop to your registration to enrich your knowledge and conference experience.

There are numerous special events to attend each year. I pulled this list right from the special events page on the conference web site:

The Fred Strache Leadership Award:
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Time
5:30 PM to 7:00 PM at Keynote Address.

Featured Presentations:

Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
12:00 pm

Copyrights and Third Party Captioning: Challenges and Solutions
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
4:20 pm
Presenter and Author of the Report:
Blake Reid, Assistant Clinical Professor, Samuelson-Glushko Technology Law & Policy Clinic, Colorado Law
Moderator:
Axel Leblois, President & Executive Director, Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict)
The proliferation of inaccessible video contents of the Internet creates the need for third party captioning via automated or human processes, including via crowd sourced solutions. However, while those solutions provide the required accessibility to videos for deaf persons or those living with hearing loss, they can infringe on the copyrights of the owners of audio-visual contents, creating a conflict between disability and copyright laws. After conducting an in depth research on this topic with legal experts, industry and disability advocates, G3ict will publicly release at CSUN 2014 the report which will serve as the foundation for a global dialogue on solutions that could be adopted in the U.S. and internationally to solve those issues. The presentation will include perspectives from stakeholders. Audience participation (questions and answers) will be welcomed if time permits.

Exhibit Hall Opening & Reception:
Location
Grand Hall, 1st Floor
Date
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Time
12:00 PM to 7:00 PM
The Exhibit Hall in the Grand Hall will open on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 12:00 – 7:00 PM. There will be an opening reception at 12:30 pm. This will be your preview into the latest and greatest array of AT products and services that will keep you coming back over the next 3 days!

Sponsor News & Events:
Comcast
Location
Harbor Ballroom C, 2nd Floor
Date
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Time
6:00 PM
With your input, Comcast Accessibility is working hard to enable all customers to easily access and fully experience a range of products. Attend an evening of cocktails, light fare and demos of the latest accessible Comcast products, such as the talking TV interface. Discover the improved self-help and customer support resources and learn about their inclusive hiring practices and how to apply.

Amazon Kindle
Location
Cortez Hills A
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Amazon Kindle invites you to “Play with Kindle Fire”. Come by the Cortez Hill A session room anytime between 8 am-5 pm on Thursday on March 20 to get hands-on with the all-new Kindle Fire tablets. Representatives from the Kindle Accessibility team will be on hand to listen to your feedback and answer questions about Kindle Fire’s new and improved accessibility tools. Short demonstrations will be given throughout the day and start times correspond with conference general sessions.

CSUN Cyber Café
Location
2nd floor, near Registration
The CSUN Cyber Café, sponsored by The Paciello Group, is located on the 2nd floor adjacent to Registration. It’s the perfect place to check your e-mail, follow conference sponsors and presenters on Facebook & Twitter, review the website for session changes or just surf to see what else is happening at the Conference.

CSUN Tweet-Up 2014
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Time
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
The 6th Annual CSUN Tweet-Up is taking place Thursday, March 20 from 6:30-8:30 pm in the Harbor Ballroom. Join the group and spread the word about your conference experience. Visit the web site, http://csuntweetup.com/ to RSVP and make sure you’re connected to the other plans and participation options the tweet-up sponsors have in store for you!

WebAble TV
WebAble TV is the official conference webcaster. The WebAble TV team will be conducting interviews with sponsors, exhibitors and featured presenters, as well as recording several general sessions. For more information please visit the WebAble TV website.
Student Poster Session
Several groups of graduate students will be presenting their work on assistive technology projects on Friday at noon in a student poster session outside the Exhibit Hall in the Grand Hall Foyer. This year the poster session will feature student projects from San Diego State University, St. Augustine University’s Occupational Therapy Program and Grossmont College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program.

SS12 Code for a Cause Finals – Project:Possibility
Location
Harbor Ballroom, 2nd Floor
Date
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Time
9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Once again the Final Competition for Project:Possibility’s SS12 Code for a Cause will be held at this year’s conference. This exciting event will host the innovative open source projects the top teams from CSUN, UCLA and USC have created. A continental breakfast will be served following the presentations and judging, prior to the announcement of the First Place Team. We encourage you to mark your calendars for this important occasion to support the student teams and the time and work they have invested. Saturday, March 2 from 9-11 am in the Harbor Ballroom.

Accommodations:

While the conference group rate has now expired, you can still reserve a room at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. For more information, go to:

http://www.manchestergrand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html

You can also follow the Manchester Grand Hyatt on twitter: @ManchGrandHyatt

There are a number of other hotels near the conference venue, many of which are easily accessible, as well as affordable. If you have stayed at one of the other nearby hotels, please feel free to add a comment as to the best way to navigate to the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Transportation:

As I recall, cab fare from the airport to the Manchester Grand Hyatt was around $15. There is also a Super Shuttle Service you can reserve in advance for airport to hotel transit. Follow: @SuperShuttle on Twitter. They often tweet out discount codes and relevant info in advance of the conference.

Navigation:

Don’t let your concerns about ease of navigation keep you from participating in the events. The staff at the Manchester Grand Hyatt has been hosting the CSUN Conference for a few years now, and they are well staffed and trained to assist anyone who needs it. There are also many volunteers, some of whom lend their time to the CSUN conference every year, who will ensure your safe and comfortable travels from point A to B throughout the week. I have found that I am seldom able to wander too far afield before someone is at my side, asking if they may be of assistance. There is also an orientation and mobility lesson available for anyone who wishes to familiarize themselves with the vast hotel property. The lesson will be Wednesday morning, march 19th, and you will be asked to express your interest in attending the training during the registration process. You will be in good hands, thanks to the excellent customer service provided by the team at the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

Finally, follow @CSUNCOD on Twitter for the latest announcements, and use hashtag #CSUN14 when tweeting about the event. Please return here to the Accessible Insights Blog for more information about a few presenters I’ll be featuring in an effort to showcase their work. If you haven’t already, make plans now to attend the 29th annual CSUN conference on Disability.

I look forward to seeing you in San Diego!

LL

Easy Chirp returns with new sporty features and more power under the hood


A few months ago, the social networking site Twitter made an important update to its API, which necessitated some serious scrambling by third-party users of the previous API version. One of the third-party clients was Easy Chirp, the accessible, cross-platform Twitter alternative. Many users were forced to find other ways to tweet their updates while Easy Chirp and other Twitter clients either faded into the sunset, or in the case of Easy Chirp, went down, but not out, for the count.

Dennis Lembree (@DennisL), creator of Easy Chirp, decided this API update presented an opportunity to rebuild Easy Chirp, updating the back-end architecture and adding some new bells and whistles.

After months of a from-the-ground-up rebuild, Easy Chirp is back. Just within the last week, Lembree quietly reintroduced Easy Chirp, with a middle-of-the-night tweet announcing a “soft launch.”

Happily, Dennis had already invited me to test drive the beta version, which can be found at www.easychirp.org for now. The revised app will be available on the regular dot com domain during the official launch, reportedly within a few weeks. I was so excited that my preferred web-accessible Twitter client was back, I immediately flew to the site to check it out.

The first thing I noticed, which surprised me, was that the new version is almost exactly the same as the previous version. For some reason, I had expected a completely new look and feel. However, the differences between old and new versions quickly became obvious. The “under the hood” changes are what make Easy Chirp 2 a new experience.

First, it is much faster. I am using NVDA as my screen reader and the latest version of FireFox as my browser. Wow…The page loads and navigation were blistering fast. Also, because of improved page organization in some areas, navigating from various elements has been streamlined.

Mr. Lembree partnered with Seattle developer Andrew Woods (@awoods) to complete the project. After considering a number of partners for the work, he chose Woods because of his experience with PHP. Mr. Woods recommended a PHP development framework called CodeIgniter. One reason Lembree decided to go with this framework was that it offers translation features, allowing Easy Chirp to be translated into multiple languages. First after English will be Spanish, says Lembree, which is “about 98% done.” German and Arabic translations are in the works, and other languages such as French are also planned for future availability.

While Woods worked on the back-end architecture, Lembree focused on the front end, populating the data and reworking many aspects of the user interface. “Between the new PHP framework and the new Twitter API, it’s a lot faster,” says Lembree. “Another one of the big coding changes is moving from XHTML to HTML5,” he adds.

There are a few new features of the platform. Notably, the option to choose a dark or light theme, which is useful for people who have light sensitivity or difficulty with light/dark contrast perception. One of Lembree’s favorite new features is the “quick search,” and the “go to user” functions, which are accessible modal windows. If that means nothing to you, I suspect this is one of those esoteric’s that only a developer can truly appreciate.

There is a short list of development tasks that are yet to be completed, which you can review on the Easy Chirp 2 home page. Among the most important of these tasks is the addition of a pagination type of behavior, available currently only on the main timeline page through a link at the bottom that reads, “view older tweets.” More tasks and features are planned but not yet made public.

If you enjoyed using Easy Chirp prior to the “API-pocalypse,” (I still can’t stop saying that, I’m so proud of it), then give Easy Chirp 2 a try. Don’t forget to click on the “donate” button on the home page, and thank Dennis and Andrew for their hard work by tossing a few bucks in the development tip jar.

About Dennis Lembree:

Mr. Lembree has over 15 years experience in web development. He’s worked for a variety of startups as well as large companies including Ford, RIM, Disney, and is now on the accessibility team at PayPal in San Jose, California. Mr. Lembree enjoys attending and presenting at conferences and social media. And besides Easy Chirp, he runs WebAxe.org, a blog and podcast on web accessibility.

You can follow Dennis on Twitter at: @webaxe or at: @EasyChirp for more info and updates.

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 2013: The Adversity of Anything


I was sitting across the desk from my high-school advisor, who was officiously scrutinizing the completed applications I intended to submit to the universities of my choice. She sat back, and, peering at me over her horn-rimmed, half glasses, she announced, “You may as well go to the local community college, and not bother with this. From where I sit, Miss…uh,.” she paused, distractedly shuffling through papers, trying to find my name, then continued: “Laura, is it? Because I doubt you’ll ever amount to…anything.”

Later, while attending the four-year university of my choice, and thinking ahead as to my career, I aggressively sought full-time, gainful employment. Overcoming the barriers imposed by small minds required a patience I didn’t know I possessed. Sitting in the office of a potential employer, I was asked, “Come on, now. What can you people really do? if you can’t see, how can you really do…anything?”

After being invited to speak at my City Hall to a group of officials conducting a workshop on community access, the meeting facilitator briefly interviewed each speaker as to their credentials, for the benefit of the attendees. As the only speaker on the panel who was disabled, I was advocating for reasonable accommodations as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Each speaker was asked about their vocation and qualifications. Upon turning to me, she said, “And what is it that you like to do with your time, dear? What is it that you do for work? Or, do you do anything?”

Sometimes, when we hear stories of people who have overcome adversity, we hear tales of epic struggles, like those we see in movies. Much of the time, though, what stands in our way can be subtler, not so much a battle as a series of slights, or the persistent pressure we might experience through chronic adverse circumstances, such as poverty or isolation. To overcome the adversity of anything, you need to know your strengths, identify allies, seek out heroes and be open to the idea that you are your best advocate.

Identify your strongest supporters. you may be disheartened to realize that this may not include family, or even close friends. While this can be devastating to anyone seeking self-sufficiency, keep in mind that your loved one’s lack of support may be due to reasons that have less to do with you or your decision to become independent. Sometimes, we become so deeply entrenched in our expected roles, especially in families or close relationships, that when we make changes, this can inadvertently cause the role of the other person to become redefined. If, for example, your spouse or loved one has become accustomed to managing certain aspects of your life, she may feel she is fulfilling a purpose. One friend confided in me, after deciding to move from the East coast to the West coast that his mother wailed, “Now, what am I supposed to do?” Sometimes, we find out the hard way that our families are not our best support system. If this is the case for you, then find support elsewhere. Seek out friends, peer counseling, outreach services, a like-minded online social network.

Find the people who are doing what you want to do, and contact them directly to learn how they overcame barriers. Don’t be intimidated. If you are rejected or dismissed, realize that is not the kind of person you want to emulate, and any advice they would offer would only be tainted by their ego, and not offered generously in the spirit of elevating others. Try to keep in mind, though, that not everyone wants to be the “poster child” for disability, and that their non-responsiveness may be due to the fact that they, too, are still finding their own way forward. Once, I wrote to a high profile entrepreneur who dominated his industry, and who shared my particular form of vision loss. Since I admired this person a great deal, I not only wrote to him, but attempted to meet with him in hope of learning how he had conquered the attitudinal barriers I knew he faced everyday, and a further hope that he might offer some sage advice. Unfortunately, I never heard a word from him, and I was deeply disappointed. Later, I learned that he carefully guarded his public persona, to the degree that he micro-managed the means by which he interacted with people, to the point that he insisted he never be seen using a white cane, and that he was always seated or situated in place first in any meeting conditions, so that he should never appear weak or disadvantaged in any way.

Consider disability-specific education or retraining. When it became necessary for me to begin using a white cane, my department of services for the blind vocational rehabilitation counselor insisted I attend a school for blind adults. at first, I refused. I was strongly independent, and in my opinion, attending a school for the blind would only define me as a person who was blind, a label I desperately wished to avoid. It took quite a bit of convincing before I agreed to go. I won’t go so far as to say I arrived kicking and screaming, but I was not exactly willing to embrace the situation. My attendance at the school for the blind completely changed my life. It is where I learned my love of advocacy, it was the genesis of my passion for educating others. It is where I learned the meaning of dignity and what it means to ascend to meet your circumstances. I expected to learn Braille, independent living and cane mobility skills. but it was what I had not expected to learn, from which I benefited the most.

Overcoming adversity doesn’t always mean that the barriers are external. Sometimes, it is the inner conflict, our personal narrative, playing on the endless loop of our subconscious, that holds us back. Those private, negative messages may have begun early in childhood, through social conditioning, parental expectations, or catalytic events. If it were true that time heals all wounds, then psychologists’ offices wouldn’t be filled with adults seeking to heal childhood hurts. Our jails wouldn’t be filled with precious human beings who couldn’t find a productive way to cope with their circumstances and manage their lives. Social media wouldn’t be a labyrinth of nonexistent personas desperately seeking to manifest the celebrity, excitement, success, or attention that is missing from their real lives. It is when we permit ourselves to be defined by the external that we are weakened, because we are then vulnerable to the vicissitudes of opinion. It is perhaps the greatest struggle in our lives that we must find out who we are, and live our lives on our own terms, with our own sense of purpose. It is only then that you will be able to overcome the adversity of anything.

About the author: Laura Legendary is a speaker, author, and educator specializing in disability awareness, accessibility, advocacy, and assistive technology. Learn more at her flagship site, Eloquent Insights, www.eloquentinsights.com. More recently, Laura has been working on a start-up enterprise, Elegant Insights Braille Creations. To read product descriptions and sign up on the mailing list, go to www.elegantinsightsjewelry.com, or find the Elegant Insights page on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Elegant.Insights.

You are welcome to leave a comment or link to your own BADD 2013 submission in the comments section. Please use the accessible contact form on the blog home page if you would like to write to me directly.

Previous BADD posts:

2010: You Don’t Look Blind

http://tinyurl.com/26dam92

2011: It’s on Aisle 5

http://tinyurl.com/d5m9egg

2012: Your Ingenius Life

http://tinyurl.com/cyp36wg

Thanks for reading, and fight on.

LL

Need access to better nutrition? There’s an app for that


Kel Smith, author of the just-released “Digital Outcasts,” and about whom you will soon read more here on the Accessible Insights Blog, has been reaching out to his fans, friends and colleagues in an effort to bring attention to a great cause. Just this morning, Kel sent out information about his project, and I was so eager to get the details to my readers that I asked Kel if I could post excerpted content of his email below. Want to make a real difference in the health and well-being of people with limited access to nutritious food? Read on to find out how.

Kel’s project is called Aisle Won. For screen reader users, note that the spelling is w o n, as opposed to the numeral one. It’s a combination mobile app and outreach program to connect people living in “food deserts” with sources of healthy, affordable food. Kel has been developing this for the past year or so, and just launched the pilot. Now, he is reaching out to folks to help spread the word.

Kel writes: “An estimated 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts and rely on unhealthy sources of nutrition, such as corner bodegas and fast food restaurants. To say that this is a health problem of growing national concern would be an understatement. For people with disabilities who cannot leave their homes, it’s an even greater burden.”

Here’s how it works: shoppers place an order and check a map to see where locally-grown produce is available in their neighborhood. They can maximize purchases according to individual budgetary and dietary needs. They can also peruse recipes that are delicious and easy to prepare. Local urban farms, then, expand their reach into more areas. Everybody wins.

Anikto completely self-funded the first pilot, now being launched in the Clifton Park section of northeast Baltimore. “We have participating support from the Mayor’s Civic Works office and a six-acre plot called Real Food Farm.” Smith says. “To get Aisle Won to the next level, though, I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Wednesday was the first day and we already gathered 10% of our goal!”

So … if you follow nutrition literacy, are interested in urban farming, or just appreciate the importance of healthy eating — then please go to:

http://igg.me/at/aisle-won/x/3047094 where you’ll see details of the campaign, which will be live for 40 days. Please contribute to this delicious cause!

Connect with Kel:

215.285.2274
Kel.Smith@anikto.com

http://anikto.com

@KelSmith on Twitter
@DigitalOutcasts for info on Kel’s new book.
“Digital Outcasts: Moving Technology Forward Without Leaving People Behind”

http://digital-outcasts.com

Maintain situational awareness while accessing audio input with AfterShokz


Sometimes, a good sales pitch can begin with a story. What follows is a story about someone I met at the recent CSUN13 conference. If you can stay with me until the end, I will try to make it worth your while.

One morning during the conference week while sitting alone at the Grand Hyatt Starbucks, at a tiny table adjacent to the busy lobby coffee bar, a voice said, “Excuse me, Mind if I join you?”

I looked up. “Of course not,” I answered, hurriedly clearing away the detritus of my coffee and muffin. “Thanks,” he said. “Tables are at a premium here.”

We introduced ourselves, and he asked if I was attending the conference. I said yes, then realized that I had not noticed that he was using a service dog, nor did he seem to have a white cane. “Are you?” I asked. “Are you exhibiting? A vendor?”

“Not exactly,” he explained. “But I’m here to market my product to the blind community. Here. Let me show you.” Then, he placed something on the table in front of me. “It’s a pair of headphones,” he said.

I picked up a feather-light, super-streamlined piece of gear, noticing immediately that it resembled no pair of headphones I had ever seen. “They’re called bone-conduction headphones,” he continued. “Let me put them on you.” He placed the headphones around the back of my neck, placing what would normally be the portion worn over the ears at my temporal bone instead. Then, I experienced a surreal sensation. I was hearing both full volume music coming from the headphones, along with the ambient noise of the crowded coffee shop. I could…feel…the sound, while not only hearing it, but also being fully aware of the activity around me.

Dennis Taussig is the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer VP of AfterShokz, a company that has produced the world’s first open ear bone -conduction headphones for runners, cyclists, sports enthusiasts, and now, thanks to the blind community, an ingenious application for us, too.   
 
Originally, the technology was created by VoxTech, one of the leading companies in the world to supply this technology to the military.  Dennis worked on a number of projects with the principle of Voxtech, and one day Dennis was contacted to find out if a consumer version of this technology was possible.  Within months, a company was formed, and AfterShokz made it’s debut at the Consumer Electronics show )International CES in January, 2012. 
 
AfterShokz bone- conduction headphones are ideal for anyone who wants to maintain situational awareness while still listening to important audio cues, such as that which is provided by text-to-speech GPS navigation devices.  You can travel to your destination while hearing instructions from your iPad or iPhone, listen to music or a podcast while on a bus, or work out at the gym to your favorite motivational guru and still hear the tap of your white cane, the driver call out your bus stop, or your personal trainer counting off the reps.  It’s a fascinating product, and Dennis credits the blind community with providing the ideas that expanded the business. 
 
“I was getting calls from people who are blind,” says Taussig.  “And they kept asking if the headphones could be used with their Bluetooth devices for navigation.” 
 
Since his exposure to the disability community, Dennis has gone “all in” with respect to his commitment to accessibility.  He volunteers at Syracuse University working with disabled students, and he has assisted educators to enable their blind students to learn math by providing the headphones so that the students can hear their screen reader and the professor at the same time.  “They’re not cut off from the teacher, nor the teacher from them,” Dennis explains. 
 
The sonification lab at Georgia Tech has conducted a study on teaching systems for blind students, who are learning math graphing using audio.
AfterShokz is providing equipment for the testing, enabling the students to hear the sonification and teacher at the same time.
 
Dennis wants these headphones to be available to all of us, and he is so emphatic that they should not be financially out of reach that he has permitted me to offer my readers a generous discount towards the purchase of AfterShokz.  Go to the AfterShokz web site at www.aftershokz.com and choose from one of several models.  If you’d like to be able to make/take calls, order the Sportz M2 which features a microphone. If you require a headset that isBluetooth compatible, choose Bluez. Enter LL40 at checkout, and you’ll get 40% off the price.  No, I do not financially benefit, I just want my readers to experience the AfterShokz phenomenon.  Since I know my geek friends love a good technical specifications deck, just write to me using the accessible contact form on the page, and I’ll send you product data sheets on the different models, along with spec info.
 
Don’t forget to enter LL40 when you check out to save some serious coin. 
 
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