Industry News

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. 

It’s illegal for taxi drivers to choose whom to transport, but that doesn’t stop them from avoiding picking up people with disabilities. Some cities offer subsidized trips for those with disabilities, but they require advance booking and take longer than a direct trip because of multiple passengers. Even ride-sharing services have had their share of growing pains, with lack of wheelchair accessible vehicles markedly increasing wait times.

In an effort to combat these concerns, Uber has rolled out a pilot partnership with MV Transportation called UberWAV that promises to make it easier (and as cost-efficient as UberX) for people with disabilities to hail an Uber. MV Transportation will provide the wheelchair accessible vehicles and Uber will connect drivers with passengers. The pilot program will be rolled out in Washington, DC, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, and Toronto.

“It is very costly, but we recognize this is a thing where we can demonstrably transform the way that people have historically thought about transportation, a population of people for whom there have been huge barriers,” said Malcom Glenn, Uber’s head of global policy, accessibility and underserved communities.

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. 

Unless their eyes are closed and covered with soap, most sighted people rarely mistake the shampoo bottle for the conditioner or vice versa. Unfortunately, this is an everyday annoyance for visually impaired people, as shampoo and conditioner bottles generally lack differentiating physical characteristics.

Recently, however, P&G’s obsession with their customers led them into inclusive design territory: they decided to add vertical lines on the bottom of Herbal Essences’ shampoo bottles and circles to the bottom of the conditioner bottles to eliminate confusion for their visually impaired customers.

While medicinal product packaging must have Braille in Europe, no such regulation exists in the United States. Advocates and people with disabilities hope P&G’s initiative will spark a chang in mindset among other consumer packaged goods companies.

After years of dedicated service to WordPress’ accessibility team, team lead Rian Rietveld has announced her resignation. Citing political complications and multiple accessibility-related problems with Gutenberg (WordPress’ new editor), as her reason for leaving, Rian wished her successor, Matthew MacPherson, the best moving forward.

Considering that WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems in the world (currently powering 30% of the websites on the internet), its efforts towards accessibility are not only crucial for people with disabilities, but to set an example for the rest of the internet. For years there was no dedicated accessibility developer from Automattic (WordPress’ parent organization), but with the addition of Matt to the team there’s hope that the issues plaguing Gutenberg will be resolved. 

On September 18 Orioles and Blue Jays fans were treated to a special display: the Baltimore baseball team sported jerseys with Braille spelling out their team and letter names. Fans also received Braille alphabet cards and listened to blind pianist Carlos Ibay sing the national anthem. The Orioles’ show of support was to honor the 40th anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind moving their headquarters to Baltimore. The jerseys will subsequently be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the NFB.

Concerned with the rapidly increasing number of accessibility lawsuits filed in the US, two Iowa senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, have asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate how exactly the ADA applies to web accessibility. In a letter co-authored by contemporaries in four other states, they wrote “At this time, the lack of regulatory clarity benefits only the plaintiffs’ lawyers...Clarity in the law will encourage private investment in technology and other measures that will improve conditions for the disabled.” While it is widely accepted (and repeatedly upheld by the DOJ) that website accessibility falls under Title II and III of the ADA, the lack of specific language regarding digital accessibility has promulgated a gray area that leads to frustration for both defendants and plaintiffs. 

A new machine being rolled out in Florida voting facilities this fall promises an inclusive voting experience for all users, regardless of their physical abilities. Known as ExpressVote, this machine boasts multiple capabilities that cater to all manner of physical disabilities. A touch screen allows users to enlarge, darken, and lighten the screen to suit their particular needs. For voters who rely on audio, ExpressVote offers the option to listen to ballot choices through headphones and verbally choose a selection. It even has Braille. Once the vote is confirmed, it is printed and tabulated along with the rest of the votes. While many voters with disabilities choose to mail in their votes, ExpressVote provides one more way that they can experience the world just like everyone else.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Industry News