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In this episode:

Joe Devon, co-founder of GAAD, joins Mark for his second appearance on the Interactive Accessibility podcast to discuss the history of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) and how the landscape of accessibility has changed since GAAD’s inception, over eight years ago. They talk about how getting to the end user and having the end user demand accessibility will be the real the catalyst for significant change in the industry. Joe explains how he’s using his GAAD pledge to rally the developer community around accessibility.

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!

With people with disabilities representing a tiny minority in public office, others who may want to run are hard-pressed to find help in this arena. However, one non-profit, the National Council on Independent Living, prides itself on being one of the only resources for people with disabilities to get answers to their tough campaign questions. It recently launched the nonpartisan Elevate Campaign Training program, which specifically caters to people with disabilities who are interested in pursuing public service positions. This new online-only initiative offers webinars so people all over the country can watch and learn about topics as diverse as fundraising, campaign online strategy, operations, and messaging.

With an estimated market value of over 30 billion dollars, assistive technology is gaining traction among entrepreneurs and startups all over the world. Take the wheelchair that goes up stairs made by Scewo, whose fans are eagerly awaiting its late 2019 rollout. Or the Swiss-made MyoSuit, a robotic exomuscle suit that helps support movement and provide stability to people who may have trouble going up stairs or getting out of chairs. The Young Guru Academy in Turkey is keen to help visually impaired people with their WeWalk stick, which warns users about obstacles above chest height and can be integrated with a voice assistant and Google Maps. It’s a growing market, and more and more people are realizing how important it is for people with disabilities to live normal lives.  

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.

The target of a new class action lawsuit claiming it failed to equitably find rides for people with disabilities, Lyft has opted to defend itself by claiming it is not in the transportation business and that ADA regulations do not apply to its services. An additional lawsuit against the firm originating from the Bay area also alleges it discriminates against people with disabilities, but Lyft has stayed mum on its strategy for disputing that charge.

The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is the primary sponsor of a new local initiative intended to help the parents of special needs children. Many of the top attractions in Fairfield County have made efforts to accommodate children with disabilities, but the parents of those children are often unsure how to find out if the attraction caters to their specific needs. “Accessibility For All,” as the initiative is called, is intended to make the relevant information easily accessible for parents. To accomplish this, they added a role of “Accessibility Coordinator” at each attraction, an individual who will always know what accommodations are available. They also created a website where parents can go to find all the accessibility information for each attraction in one place online.

Much of the NYC subway stations are inaccessible to people with disabilities, a situation that has resulted in multiple lawsuits against the MTA. Services like Access-A-Ride exist to help bridge the gap in public transportation options for people with limited mobility, and riders are charged what they would pay for a ride on the subway: $2.75. However, the MTA is considering a fare hike of $.25 per ride, which would no doubt impact people with disabilities more than the average New Yorker, given that they often live on fixed incomes. The disability community is split on whether the fare hike should extend to services like Access-A-Ride: many feel they should not be treated differently from anyone else, but others are concerned with the financial impact on a vulnerable group.

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