Industry News

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.

Philadelphia has a lot going for it: reasonable cost of living, plentiful restaurants and bars, and historic charm, to name a few of its better qualities. However, it is not generally considered an incredibly accessible city. Saron McKee, the city's new director of ADA compliance, aims to change all that. As someone who uses a wheelchair to get around she has firsthand experience with the frustration of navigating a city that is less than fully accessible. Starting with a $300,000 budget, her department will partner with MIlligan & Company to assess the accessibility of 500 structures over the next three years. The city has high hopes for McKee’s success, and her almost 20-year track record of helping people with disabilities will well serve her in this new role. 

The microblogging and social media site recently unveiled its new design, which sources say was inspired by a desire to align as closely as possible to the W3C WAI. To the sighted, the most obvious change is a greater color contrast in the updated design. Appropriate contrast ratios are a crucial part of an inclusive design, as many visually impaired people find it difficult to distinguish elements on a low-contrast page.

The jury is still out on whether users will embrace or reject this new change, but for those who long for the previous layout there’s a solution: an Xkit extension that will revert the look and feel back to the original. 

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. 

In this episode:

Mark and Derek interview Daniel Castro, VP of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Earlier this year ITIF published a report benchmarking federal and government sites on eight factors including accessibility, security, and mobile friendliness, among others. All three discuss the results of the study as well as reasons for the wide variabilities between the state ratings. The podcast concludes with Daniel’s broad recommendation to states for improving the accessibility of their websites.

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