Assistive Technology

Ford has partnered with GTB and a local Italian startup, Aedo, to create a window panel that takes an image of the outside view and converts the colors into shades of gray, each of which is then translated into a different vibration for someone to feel. An integrated virtual assistant helpfully speaks words related to scenery to complete the effect. This technology, called “Feel the View,” was conceived as a way to make driving in a car a more inclusive experience for everyone. 

Apple’s latest iOS release included several voice activated features that promised to improve the user experience for all users, but that would be a huge step towards independence for those with limited mobility. Now Google is trying to catch up. Its new Pixel phone includes motion sensor features that will allow a user to skip songs, hit snooze on alarms, and even silence phone calls, all with a wave of a hand. Google also announced its upcoming face unlock feature, which will let users unlock their phone with a glance at the screen. Accessibility begins to look a lot like convenience in this light.

iPhone Showing Voice Control Screen

Apple has always been a dedicated advocate for accessibility. Their products are designed to be exceptionally easy to use for users with varying degrees of abilities, and this focus on the customer experience has subsequently propelled them to almost 40% market share of the worldwide smartphone market in 2018. If you’re a devoted iPhone fan you’ll know why their share is so high!

Customers of the leading global accessibility solutions provider, The Paciello Group (TPG) – a Vispero company – have been enjoying the benefits of the professional-level accessibility tool, ARC Toolkit, for years. Today, on Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we are excited to announce its release to the public. ARC Toolkit is a powerful single page scanner that identifies accessibility issues on a webpage and provides recommendations for addressing them. It is designed to help developers make web pages more accessible to people with disabilities and improve conformance to the WCAG 2.1 Level A and AA guidelines.

ARC Toolkit complements the website accessibility monitoring and analytics capabilities of TPG’s ARC platform, sharing the same robust rules for detecting accessibility errors. Deployed as a convenient Chrome extension, ARC Toolkit is a must-have tool for developers to create websites that are accessible to everyone.

“There are a variety of accessibility validation tools in the marketplace but none that we believe have the power of ARC Toolkit,” says Kathy Wahlbin, General Manager of TPG and a thought leader in the field of accessibility. “We feel this tool is important to advance our mission of making a more accessible web, so we’re making it open source for public use. What better time to do that than on Global Accessibility Awareness Day.”

TPG is excited for the public to experience this new and exciting tool for helping make the web accessible to everyone.

Learn more about ARC Toolkit at www.paciellogroup.com/toolkit or download it from the Google Chrome store.

Contact Marissa Sapega at msapega@paciellogroup.com or Mark Miller at mmiller@paciellogroup.com if you have any questions.

Auticon, a small California-based technology firm, is staffed entirely by people with autism. It was started by Gray Benoist, the father of two sons with autism after he became concerned about their potential job opportunities. “I felt that the gap had to be filled and there was no other way to fill it than by taking action myself,” said Benoist of his decision.

The firm has grown to over 150 employees since its inception in 2013 and offers a comfortable environment for autistic people - meaning no pressure to socialize, dark rooms for working, and even the option to eschew verbal communication altogether by communicating solely through digital messaging. This accommodating culture has led to a high retention rate that most firms can only dream of. 

Kevan Chandler loves traveling but his spinal muscular atrophy makes it difficult: he has never been able to walk on his own and all too many destinations around the world are not wheelchair-friendly.

Despite this, he and six friends decided to tackle the challenge of traveling together sans wheelchair through Ireland, France, and England. One person always had the 65-pound Kevan strapped to his back, so they were all able to enjoy the magnificent sights of western Europe without worrying whether or not a site would be wheelchair accessible. Kevan chronicled his travels in his book We Carry Kevan: Six Friends. Three Countries. No Wheelchair, which will be released in 2019.

Men used to explain their interest in Playboy magazine by citing the great literary content––not the images of scantily clad women. A legally blindman, Donald Nixon, recently took that argument to the next level by filing a lawsuit against the iconic publication alleging that neither Playboy.com nor Playboyshop.com were compatible with his screenreader. It turns out Mr. Nixon actually does want to read it for the articles, and according to the ADA, he argues, he should have every right to. 

Seeing Eye has been training guide dogs for almost 100 years. (Fun trivia: they patented the term “seeing-eye dog.”) The four months of intense training they employ with the dogs concludes with an trip to New York City as the penultimate test to prove the dog can safely guide a blind person. A trainer and the dog’s new master accompany the dog through busy streets and public transportation as the trainer assesses how well the dog navigates the various challenges. “There’s no more intense place than New York City to train the dogs — it’s the craziest environment they’ve ever been in,” said Brian O’Neal, a Seeing Eye trainer.

Seeing Eye is not the only guide dog training school that uses New York City as the ultimate obstacle course; Guiding Eyes For the Blind and the Guide Dog Foundation also use the frenetic city as a training ground.   Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, applauds these efforts, noting that even if the dogs aren’t going to be living in a city urban training prepares them for crowded public areas like malls and carnivals.

Seeing Eye has been training guide dogs for almost 100 years. (Fun trivia: they patented the term “seeing-eye dog.”) The four months of intense training they employ with the dogs concludes with an trip to New York City as the penultimate test to prove the dog can safely guide a blind person. A trainer and the dog’s new master accompany the dog through busy streets and public transportation as the trainer assesses how well the dog navigates the various challenges. “There’s no more intense place than New York City to train the dogs — it’s the craziest environment they’ve ever been in,” said Brian O’Neal, a Seeing Eye trainer.

Seeing Eye is not the only guide dog training school that uses New York City as the ultimate obstacle course; Guiding Eyes For the Blind and the Guide Dog Foundation also use the frenetic city as a training ground.   Marion Gwizdala, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, applauds these efforts, noting that even if the dogs aren’t going to be living in a city urban training prepares them for crowded public areas like malls and carnivals.

While the accessibility of voting locations still leaves a lot to be desired (an estimated 60% of polling places have impediments for people in wheelchairs according to a 2017 government study), sometimes problems persist even when the buildings and the voting mechanisms themselves are accessible. Lack of training for the people manning the polling places means even the technology for text magnification, height adjustments, or audio features exists, the people who need these features are unable to take advantage of it. The director of Paraquad, a disability services and support organization in St Louis notes that “There is a lot of hesitation and sometimes confusion from poll workers on what they can do.” Other polling stations are using assistive technology that’s over 20 years old. Privacy concerns arise when voters are unable to enter a building and must cast their vote outside - often by telling the pollsters who they’d like to vote for. While there have been definite upgrades inaccessible voting practices in the decades since the ADA was passed, there is still room for much improvement. 

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