Industry News

July 26, 2013 marks the 23rd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990 President George H. Bush signed the Act, giving civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. If you want to help celebrate, check out the ADA Anniversary website created by the Southeast ADA center, a member of the ADA National Network and a project of the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University.

In an effort to commit to persons with disabilities and ensure that they are treated equally with dignity and respect, Singapore has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD). On August 18, 2013 the Convention will come into effect for Singapore marking a significant milestone. Singapore’s Masterplan, which gives Singapore a roadmap for an inclusive society where persons with disabilities are empowered to contribute to society, is credited for making it possible through the 3P (People, Public, Private) collaboration. Read more about Singapore committing to persons with disabilities.

At the 6th Conference of States Parties on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities the Global Alliance on Accessible Technology and Environments was congratulated for its successful Side Event.  The Side Event covered several major challenges and issues that will be address in the near future. This included raising awareness around Universal Design as part of the disability and development agenda, training and global capacity building of persons with disabilities and forging collaborative efforts between organization and institutions. Read the GAATES article here.

Unemployment for people with disabilities rose slightly last month to 13.6% - up from 12.9%,  Shaun Heasley reported on June 7, 2013 in the online news, Disability Scoop

“The Labor Department began tracking employment among people with disabilities in October 2008. … Data on people with disabilities covers those over the age of 16 who do not live in institutions. The first employment report specific to this population was made available in February 2009. Now, reports are released monthly.” said Heasley.

Improved accessibility in electronic products, websites, documents and mobile applications can help close the unemployment rate gap between people with disabilities and the general population, which is now around 7.6%.   Betsy Beaumon, VP and General Manager of Global Literacy at Benetech shared some success stories on Huffington Post in May.

By improving accessibility, persons with disabilities have a better chance at education, employment and improved quality of life.

Where the ADA does not spell out specifics, legal leveraging is filling the gap on how schools must accommodate making course textbooks and materials accessible.  The recent settlement between the nonprofit group Disability Rights Advocates and UC Berkley sets a precedent which proponents hope other universities will follow.

Rebecca Williford, an attorney for the DRA, said, “Access to print material is an emerging issue.  We’re hopeful that the technology is going to get better and that the agreement with UC Berkeley will help to put students on a more equal playing field.”

The improvements Berkeley agreed to include:

  • providing digital versions of textbooks within 10 days,
  • providing  course readers within 17 days
  • encouraging instructors to identify course materials earlier,
  • providing scanning machines to allow students to self-scan materials.

The school will also implement a library print conversion system to enable students to request a specific book or journal from the library.  This system will make materials available in different formats in about 5 days.

Read more about this story at LA Times - Pact gives disabled UC Berkeley students more access to books.

Amazon has updated their Kindle iOS application to make it easier to use for users with disabilities. Amazon currently has 1.8 million books in the Kindle store for the iPad and iPhone. It is great to see that this content is now available for all users.

The new features for blind and visually impaired users include:

  • VoiceOver support to allow users with visual impairements to have the books read aloud
  • Improved navigation within Kindle books
  • Searching for a book within a user's library or searching for text within a book
  • Adding and deleting notes, bookmarks and highlights
  • Facebook and Twitter sharing
  • Looking up word definitions
  • Ability to use iOS accessibility features, as well as peripheral braille displays

For more information, read Amazon's press release "Amazon Bringing New Accessibility Features to Free Kindle Reading Apps".

A recent article by the Wall Street Journal brings attention to the growing number of lawsuits being filed against businesses under the ADA due to inaccessible websites.  The Internet has become a way of doing business and is no different than a physical store in many ways.   The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is currently reviewing the ADA and is expected to issue new regulations on website accessibility later this year that will take a much broader view of the ADA’s jurisdiction over websites. 

Read the full article, Disabled Sue Over Web Shopping.

When emergency responders attend a person with a disability, they may not know how to interact with the individual. For example, they may assume someone who cannot speak to have a hearing or intellectual disability. Therefore, EMS workers may talk loudly to the person or cannot understand her.

First responders in Ellington, Connecticut know better. They have taken a class on working with persons with disabilities. Among the five presenters, two use wheelchairs and one wears hearing aids. The class focused on awareness and interaction etiquette, communication methods, and emergency response plans. For further information, read Ellington CERT Team Hosts Class for Working With Persons With Disabilities.

The Future Publishing and Accessibility Conference will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark June 13th and 14th, 2013. The two-day conference will focus on challenges and innovations within the digital publishing realm. Three main themes that will be discussed include:

  • Changes in publishing companies, manufactures, and libraries
  • Future dominating players
  • Socio-economic and commercial consequences

For a schedule of events and registration information, go to the Future Publishing and Accessibility website.

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