Benefits of Accessibility

The company that brought Video Relay Service (VRS) communication to people who are deaf, Sorenson Communications, has now introduced the first American Sign Language (ASL) Phone Tree called the Sorenson Bridge.

The Sorenson Bridge will strengthen the way people with hearing disabilities communicate when using a VRS. The Sorenson Bridge replaces the time-consuming process of navigating audio phone trees using sign language interpreters with video menus shown in ASL. The ASL video menus make it much faster and easier for people whose native language is ASL to select the option they want.

Read more on the Sorenson Bridge

CAPTCHA, googles system for detecting whether or not a user is human, has in the past been a challenge for people with disabilities. However, it may “vanish” completely. That is not to say that it is going to go away, just become invisible. According to a recent CNET Article, Google is working on a new system that would be undetectable by the user called Invisible ReCAPTCHA. Last year CAPTCHA became easier for all users when No CAPTCHA appeared with its simple check box next to “I’m not a robot,” eliminating the need for solving a puzzle or typing a word from a difficult to discern image of text.  Invisible ReCAPTCHA would eliminate human interaction altogether.

If you are interested in Invisible ReCAPTCHA visit the Google ReCAPTCHA website.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, played a video that focused on the accessibility features of Apple’s products. Paulson, a woman with cerebral palsy, starred in the video. But that was just the beginning; using Switch Control to interact with her computer, Paulson edited the entire video, too.

Cook also announced a redesigned accessibility website featuring accessibility needs and how Apple’s devices address these needs. It also includes a section for inclusive education. 

For years the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines have help developers create a web experience that is more usable by people with disabilities. UMass Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center is currently conducting research to determine if simplifying text can further help comprehension for people with cognitive disabilities.

The Shriver Center in conjunction with IBM, UMass Boston, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is working on this project, which will be the first to create clear steps that can be followed by people to simplify text. Moreover, it will be the first to leverage and develop the cognitive computing and natural-language processing of the supercomputer, IBM Watson, to automatically simplify text.

For more information read the Global Accessibility News Article.

A French start-up Moodstocks specializes in rapid object recognition using smart phones. Moodstocks is different from other existing object recognition apps because it runs directly on the smartphone and does not rely on outside servers. This more affordable, mainstream and accessible method has caught the interest of Google, who has agreed to purchase the start-up. It is still unclear whether Google will use the tech solely for its customer-facing offerings or also launch its own SDK for developers. It is clear, however, that this could be a great step forward in accessibility. 

The W3C’s WAI Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG) has made public the first version of Web Accessibility Perspectives, which introduces ten videos that explore the impact of accessibility on people with disabilities and how accessibility benefits everyone. The videos show how accessibility benefits everyone in different situations and inspires viewers to explore web accessibility. The WCAG 2.0 guidelines inform accessible web development.You can read more about the initiative at Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

The science of touch is helping scholars from around the world develop new technology that will improve access for people with disabilities. Many of these haptic devises were on display at Northwestern University’s recent Haptics Conference. Among the new innovations are:

  • Playing music with the touch of a finger
  • Experiencing in-game gravity with a special stylus
  • TPAD – a sensory phone that allows the user to feel texture

Read more on the abc Eywitness News webpage. 

Here are the answers and explanations to last week’s GAAD Accessibility quiz.

Q. Who benefits from accessible content?

A. Everyone

On the eve of Microsoft’s 40th anniversary founder, Bill Gates, wrote a letter to all of the company’s employees encouraging them to make technology more accessible. The note, which was posted on Twitter, opens with a reference to Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s original goal of, “a computer on every desk in every home.” The letter later states that, “In the coming years, Microsoft has the opportunity to reach even more people and organizations around the world…,” then goes on to read, “…So I hope you will think about what you can do to make the power of technology accessible to everyone, to connect people to each other, and make personal computing available everywhere even as the very notion of what a PC delivers makes its way into all devices.  

How do people that use a wheelchair know where to go during an emergency? This is the question the director of Egress Group Pty Ltd, Lee Wilson, asked as he was writing an evacuation guidebook for people with disabilities.

Realizing that existing exit signage does not cover people with disabilities, especially those that cannot use fire escapes or stairs, Lee developed the “Accessible Means of Egress Icon,” which can be used to help identify accessible egress routes, exit doors, refuges, elevators and other means of egress. The signs combine the Running Man image and the Accessible Means of Egress Icon working together to escape the building.

The Accessible Exit Signs website has ideas for accessible exit signage and example accessible exit signs.

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