The 32st Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference, known to people in the industry as the 2017 CSUN Conference, is being held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, CA from February 27 to March 3. CSUN, through the International Conference on Assistive Technology for Persons with Disabilities, provides an inclusive setting and hosts many groups including:
NVDA, a popular, award-winning and free screen reader for Microsoft Windows, released version 2.017.1 yesterday. The top new features and changes include:
- Reporting of sections and text columns in Microsoft Word
- Support for reading, navigating and annotating books in Kindle for PC
- Improved support for Microsoft Edge
From February 27 to March 4th the 32nd annual CSUN Assistive Technology Conference will be held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in San Diego, California. On Tuesday, March 7th Dr. Kellie Lim, a physician at UCLA Health will be giving the Keynote speech and sharing her first-hand experience in accessing medical care, especially those with severe physical disabilities and limited resources.
The conference will feature several sessions throughout the week. On March 1st the doors to the Exhibit Hall will open and conference goers can browse through the many innovative products and services on display.
The company that brought Video Relay Service (VRS) communication to people who are deaf, Sorenson Communications, has now introduced the first American Sign Language (ASL) Phone Tree called the Sorenson Bridge.
The Sorenson Bridge will strengthen the way people with hearing disabilities communicate when using a VRS. The Sorenson Bridge replaces the time-consuming process of navigating audio phone trees using sign language interpreters with video menus shown in ASL. The ASL video menus make it much faster and easier for people whose native language is ASL to select the option they want.
Read more on the Sorenson Bridge
In an effort to bridge the communication gap between American Sign Language (ASL) speakers and people with hearing, two undergraduates at the University of Washington developed gloves that translate sign into text or speech.
The SignAloud gloves, invented by Thomas Pryor and Navid Azodi, won the Lemelson-MIT competition. Sensors in the gloves record hand position and movement and send the data via Bluetooth to a central computer that analyzes the data through various sequential statistical regressions. When a match with a gesture is found the corresponding word or phrase is played through a speaker.
You can read more about the SignAloud Gloves on GAATES
On January 9, 2017 the U.S. Access Board released a final rule that updates accessibility requirements for information and communication technology (ICT) in the federal sector covered by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The rule also refreshes guidelines for telecommunications equipment subject to Section 255 of the Communications Act.
"This update is essential to ensure that the Board's Section 508 standards and the Communications Act guidelines keep pace with the ever-changing technologies covered and continue to meet the access needs of people with disabilities," states Sachin Pavithran, Chair of the Board's ICT ad hoc committee. "The Access Board is grateful for the input it received from the public and stakeholders throughout the rulemaking process which greatly enhanced the final product."
The rule jointly updates and reorganizes the Section 508 standards and Section 255 guidelines in response to market trends and innovations, such as the convergence of technologies. The refresh also harmonizes these requirements with other guidelines and standards both in the U.S. and abroad, including standards issued by the European Commission and with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a globally recognized voluntary consensus standard for web content and ICT. In fact, the rule references Level A and Level AA Success Criteria and Conformance Requirements in WCAG 2.0 and applies them not only to websites, but also to electronic documents and software.
"Throughout this process," according to Access Board Executive Director David M. Capozzi, "the Board worked very hard to ensure consistency with other consensus guidelines and international standards to promote global harmonization and facilitate compliance." He noted that, "ICT requirements that are closely aligned remove ambiguity, increase marketplace competition, and lead to better accessibility features and outcomes."
The updated requirements specify the technologies covered and provide both performance-based and technical requirements for hardware, software, and support documentation and services. Access is addressed for all types of disabilities, including those pertaining to vision, hearing, color perception, speech, cognition, manual dexterity, and reach. The rule, which will be published later this month in the Federal Register, restructures provisions so that they are categorized by functionality instead of by product type due to the increasingly multi-functional capabilities of ICT products. Revisions are also made to improve ICT usability, including interoperability with assistive technologies, and to clarify the types of ICT covered, such as electronic documents.
The Board released a proposed version of the rule for public comment in February 2015 and, before that, earlier drafts of the rule. The rule is based on recommendations from an advisory panel the Board chartered, the Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee which included representatives from industry, disability groups, government agencies, foreign countries, and other stakeholders.
The rule will take effect in one year. The Section 508 standards, which are incorporated into the federal government's procurement regulations, apply to ICT procured, developed, maintained, or used by federal agencies. The Communications Act guidelines cover telephones, cell phones, pagers, computers with modems, switching equipment and other telecommunications equipment.
The Board will conduct a webinar on the rule on February 2.
NVDA 2017.1 is slated to be available in late February. It will support the enhanced accessibility functionality in the Amazon Kindle for PC version 1.19. In the new version users will be able to:
- read books in browse mode
- read with the cursor
- use continuous reading
- have pages turn automatically as they read
- highlight text
- add notes
- perform dictionary and Wikipedia lookups
- copy text to the clipboard
In addition, users will be able to access:
- highlighted text
- user notes
The beta version of NVDA with Kindle support is available for testing now. You can download Kindle for PC 1.9 and download the beta version of NVDA with Kindle support. Read more about NVDA and Kindle for PC on NNVACCESS
A new directive is being drafted by the EU parliament that will make private companies accommodate people with disabilities in the offering of their goods and services. The draft directive will point to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0), which were created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
Read more in the QA Financial article
Google has a well-known policy that allows its employees to spend 20% of their time working on projects not related to their main job. Rio Akasaka, a project manager on Google Drive, took advantage of this policy and put in 20% of his time as a project manager to work on accessibility features for Google Maps.
Mr. Akasaka has worked for a year with a small team of contributors to introduce accessibility guidelines to Google Maps. The result is that, in addition to the information the map tool displays about venues and locations, it now displays information helpful to people with access needs.
While this may seem minor it is a major help to those who use a wheelchair. As with much accessibility, the new information will help other people as well including people who use other devices to assist their mobility and parents of small children using strollers.
For more information read the Business Insider India article.
CAPTCHA, googles system for detecting whether or not a user is human, has in the past been a challenge for people with disabilities. However, it may “vanish” completely. That is not to say that it is going to go away, just become invisible. According to a recent CNET Article, Google is working on a new system that would be undetectable by the user called Invisible ReCAPTCHA. Last year CAPTCHA became easier for all users when No CAPTCHA appeared with its simple check box next to “I’m not a robot,” eliminating the need for solving a puzzle or typing a word from a difficult to discern image of text. Invisible ReCAPTCHA would eliminate human interaction altogether.
If you are interested in Invisible ReCAPTCHA visit the Google ReCAPTCHA website.