Industry News

After years of dedicated service to WordPress’ accessibility team, team lead Rian Rietveld has announced her resignation. Citing political complications and multiple accessibility-related problems with Gutenberg (WordPress’ new editor), as her reason for leaving, Rian wished her successor, Matthew MacPherson, the best moving forward.

Considering that WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in the world (currently powering 30% of the websites on the internet), its efforts towards accessibility are not only crucial for people with disabilities, but to set an example for the rest of the internet. For years there was no dedicated accessibility developer from Automattic (WordPress’ parent organization), but with the addition of Matt to the team there’s hope that the issues plaguing Gutenberg will be resolved. 

On September 18 Orioles and Blue Jays fans were treated to a special display: the Baltimore baseball team sported jerseys with Braille spelling out their team and letter names. Fans also received Braille alphabet cards and listened to blind pianist Carlos Ibay sing the national anthem. The Orioles’ show of support was to honor the 40th anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind moving their headquarters to Baltimore. The jerseys will subsequently be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the NFB.

Concerned with the rapidly increasing number of accessibility lawsuits filed in the US, two Iowa senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, have asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate how exactly the ADA applies to web accessibility. In a letter co-authored by contemporaries in four other states, they wrote “At this time, the lack of regulatory clarity benefits only the plaintiffs’ lawyers...Clarity in the law will encourage private investment in technology and other measures that will improve conditions for the disabled.” While it is widely accepted (and repeatedly upheld by the DOJ) that website accessibility falls under Title II and III of the ADA, the lack of specific language regarding digital accessibility has promulgated a gray area that leads to frustration for both defendants and plaintiffs. 

A new machine being rolled out in Florida voting facilities this fall promises an inclusive voting experience for all users, regardless of their physical abilities. Known as ExpressVote, this machine boasts multiple capabilities that cater to all manner of physical disabilities. A touch screen allows users to enlarge, darken, and lighten the screen to suit their particular needs. For voters who rely on audio, ExpressVote offers the option to listen to ballot choices through headphones and verbally choose a selection. It even has Braille. Once the vote is confirmed, it is printed and tabulated along with the rest of the votes. While many voters with disabilities choose to mail in their votes, ExpressVote provides one more way that they can experience the world just like everyone else.

Ahmet Ustunel inspired the world when he made the solo trip from Asia to Europe without being able to see a thing. Aided by a GPS that beeps to warn him if he steers off course and a Victor Stream Reader, he dodged shipping vessels and navigated choppy waves to successfully cross the 3-mile strait. His courageous expedition was funded by his winnings from the Holman Prize, a Lighthouse initiative intended to support exceptional endeavors of “blind ambition.” 

While many hands have wrung over the allegedly eminent “death of the printed book” due to e-readers, that’s actually not the case reported reading both e- and regular books. Not exactly a death spiral.

Braille books, however, being much more unwieldy and expensive than traditional printed books, have felt the e-reader presence more so. In 1963, over 60% of blind students used Braille books for reading; by 2011 that number had dropped to just 11%. Experts believe the rapidly improving speech-to-text technology is the primary reason for the drop, but availability and accessibility of e-books has also contributed.

But for those who appreciate the tactile experience of a good read through Braille, along with the cognitive benefits that accompany the act of reading, Harvard is coming to the rescue with reprogrammable Braille books. The method: a stylus imprints dots on a flexible elastic shell (which retains the imprints of the stylus), but readers have the ability to “erase” the imprints, allowing different configurations to replace the originals. This process would make Braille books infinitely easier to produce, as well as minimize their bulk– the Braille version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix(already quite a sizeable tome) contains a whopping 30% more pages than its regular printed version.

While there is still much work to be done to refine the process, researchers are excited by the prospect. Stay tuned for the next evolution of Braille books.

New research from the CDC shows that one in four US adults have a disability that impacts their daily activities. The most common one is mobility disability, which disproportionately affects older adults ages 65 and above at a rate of 40%. The research also reveals an inverse relationship between income and disability, especially mobility. According to the CDC, “mobility disability is nearly five times as common among middle-aged (45- to 64-year old) adults living below the poverty level compared to those whose income is twice the poverty level.” The study also reported that those with vision disabilities were the least likely to have access to medical care.

On August 19, legally blind plaintiff Himelda Mendez filed a lawsuit against Apple, alleging an inability to navigate Apple’s site due to multiple WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) violations. One noted infraction was the absence of alternative text on images and links. As many visually impaired individuals use a screen reader to navigate websites, missing “alt-text” poses a huge barrier to site accessibility–screen readers are only as helpful as the text they can find to read.

Apple has been a long-standing proponent of accessibility practices; its products are all intentionally designed to be used by people with a wide range of physical abilities. If Mendez’s claim turns out to be accurate, this lawsuit could tarnish its sterling brand and discredit its many advances in the field of accessible technology. 

The May updates deliver a broad range of enhancements for using ZoomText 2018 and Fusion 2018 with popular applications, including Adobe Acrobat Reader DC, Microsoft Office (2013 and 2016), web browsers (Chrome, Firefox and IE11), iTunes, and more. Stability, performance and ZoomText/Fusion features have also been enhanced for greater usability and productivity.

 

These free updates can be downloaded and installed over top of previous ZoomText 2018 and Fusion 2018 installations. You can also use the auto update feature which will alert you to the update on the next restart of ZoomText or Fusion.

 

To update ZoomText 2018

To download the full installer for the ZoomText 2018 May Update:

  1. Go to the ZoomText Downloads webpage.
  2. In the section titled “ZoomText 2018” and choose the “All Languages” download link.
  3. When the download is complete, launch the installer to perform the installation.

You can also use the ZoomText update wizard to get the ZoomText 2018 May Update. On the ZoomText 2018 toolbar, choose ZoomText > Manage License > Check for Updates. This will launch the update wizard and walk you through the ZoomText update process.

To learn about the changes in the ZoomText 2018 May Update, see the ZoomText 2018 release notes.

 

To update Fusion 2018

To download the full installer for the Fusion 2018 May Update:

  1. Go to the ZoomText Downloads webpage.
  2. In the section titled “Fusion 2018” and choose the download link for the language that you need.
  3. When the download is complete, launch the installer to perform the installation.

To learn about the changes in the Fusion 2018 May Update, see the ZoomText 2018 release notes and JAWS What’s New in JAWS 2018.
 

We hope you are enjoying your ZoomText 2018 or Fusion 2018 product and would love to hear your thoughts on how we can make it better. Send your feedback to support@vfogroup.com.

logo "The IAP Your Accessibility Podcast"

In this episode:

The Interactive Accessibility Podcast (IAP) is an entertaining approach to accessibility. We enjoy sharing our discussions on accessibility and how it relates to technology, real-life issues, information, businesses, and people with disabilities.

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