Benefits of Accessibility

The Do Good Mission is one of eight Nokia Create contests that encourages the development of apps for Windows Phone 8 and Nokia Lumia devices. Highlighted on the Microsoft Accessibility Blog is the contest that calls for the creation of apps that will enhance the lives and mobile experience of people with vision related disabilities.

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As Americans continue to rely on the web to perform everyday functions like shopping, banking and travel, web accessibility rises to the surface as a growing concern. In a major effort to make online communications accessible, DOT has implemented new rules as part of their continuing implementation of the Air Carrier Access Act of 1986.

By the end of this week a new app that helps people with hearing disabilities book cabs more easily and enhance their communication with drivers will be released on Windows phones. It took 12 months for Dubai Taxi Corporation, Microsoft and the Community Development Authority (CDA) to develop this free tool. Users will now have the ability to order taxis, track their trip, calculate their fair and talk to the drivers using pre-programmed voice commands.

This Thursday, October 24, in Berkeley, CA Frances West, director of IBMs Human Ability & Accessibility Center, will be speaking at the 15th Annual Disability Policy Summit and Ever Widening Circle at the World Institute on Disability. 

The Policy Summit will focus on improving accessibility within corporate technology policy and their online services and systems. It will feature roundtable discussions between consumers with disabilities who use access technology and industry representatives who develop that technology.

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If you have an accessible website, more persons with disabilities will frequent it.  By word of mouth, its good reputation will start to permeate the community of users with disabilities.  They might spread the word that all active elements are keyboard accessible, all images have proper text equivalents, and content has sufficient color contrast.  Since there are about one billion users with disabilities worldwide, accessible sites have the potential of getting a lot more hits than inaccessible ones.

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When a video goes viral no one ever says, “This video was so serious and informative, I just had to share it.” No, they’re usually belly laughing when they click the share button. Unfortunately, the subject of digital accessibility doesn’t inspire laughter. And in the Section 508 guidelines, there isn’t a single punch line. The TV show Tosh.0 is funny, but WCAG 2.0? Not so much.

Ravenshaw University in Cuttack, India has installed a screen reader, JAWS, for students with vision disabilities. JAWS, which has been installed on eight computers kept in the Kanika library, will read text on the computers. In addition, a scanner has been connected which will enable the screen reader to read books placed inside. Read more about the Ravenshaw University Screen Readers.

At the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI) at Matunga four students have created a portable device that will enable people with vision disabilities to navigate without help, offering unprecedented autonomy. The unveiling will occur on Wednesday at a school for people with vision disabilities and will be exhibited at the annual technological festival of the institute, Technovanza, in December.

Raj Samant explains, “The device consists of cameras mounted on spectacles that will send feeds of the terrain to the handheld computing device. It will convert the video files into stereo signals that will be sent to vibrators attached to the body of the blind person. The vibrations will warn users about obstacles in front of them, thus allowing them to navigate (walk) without colliding with the obstacle.”

As someone who uses Assistive Technology (AT) to make it through her day, I’m telling you, you non-AT users can get pretty… weird. Something about interacting with an assistive technology (AT) user like me causes some normally very composed and astute people to lose a bit of their cool. I get it. I’m sure when I roll up in my wheelchair not in full control of my own body and chatting with my mom using my word board, I can catch the average bear off guard.

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