Product Accessibility

Amazon will start adding closed captions to instant video and Amazon Instant Video streaming service this year. Criticism has been aimed at Amazon for not providing captions on all services or clearly identifying which DVDs feature captions on their Lovefilm by Post.

15,000 signatures on a Change.org petition call out Amazon to make information regarding subtitles and captions clearer. Comedian Mark Thomas is credited with helping the petition hit the 15,000 mark after he posted two large posters reading, “lovefilm HateDef People”

Sometime this year Amazon will roll out closed captions on its Prime Instant Video service but an exact date has not been announced.

A spokesperson for Amazon stated, “Amazon is committed to ensuring that all our customers can enjoy the full benefits of our products and services. We expect to begin rolling out closed captioned titles on Prime Instant Video movie and TV streaming service this year, and will continue to expand the range of closed captioned movies and TV shows over time.  

“In addition, our DVD product detail pages provide information about the availability of closed captioned titles and subtitles where provided by studios.” 

See our blog post on the Importance of Captioning videos that were posted on YouTube

The public is invited to participate in an online dialogue on the importance of technology accessibility and usability by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and the National Council on Disability. There will be particular attention paid to the universal design in the development of workplace technology products.

The virtual town hall will run from May 15th, Global Accessibility Awareness Day, through Friday, May 30. “Advancing Accessibility and Inclusion in Social Media – The Tech Industry Perspective” is the second of three online events concerning social media accessibility that is co-hosted by ODEP and NCD

Vocal ID logo

I am non-verbal, and one of the reasons that I haven’t been fond of voice synthesizers is that the synthesized voice never sounds like mine.  Yes, although I cannot verbalize, I still can vocalize.  Just ask my IA colleagues when I grunt to signal affirmative responses during our Skype conferences.  My words spoken by a computerized voice, no matter how feminine it is, sounds disembodied.  Moreover, the same synthesized voice may be shared with many of the 2.5 million people in America who cannot talk.

The Apps For All Challenge 2014 is a competition to find Australia’s most accessible apps. It has been launched by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network and the Australian Human Rights Commission. This is Australia’s first competition for accessible mobile apps. The aim is to raise awareness of issues people with disabilities and aging Australians face with apps that are not accessible.

Awards for the best mobile apps will be given in the following categories:

  1. Most accessible mainstream app
  2. Most innovative app designed for people with disabilities or older Australians
  3. Most accessible children’s app
  4. Most accessible gaming app

Nomination will close on Monday July 14th 2014. Winners will be announced at the ACCAN National Conference in September 2014.

The online entertainment service, Crossway Media Solutions, is creating films and television that are more accessible for people with disabilities. They year they will launch TalkingFlix, which will be the first on-demand entertainment service that is audio-described for people with visual disabilities.  Their hope is to help sited and non-sighted people have a shared social experience.

TalkingFlix, a worldwide entertainment platform, will allow people to purchase or rent individual titles, or gain access to a growing library through a monthly subscription.

As part of the new Windows 8.1 operating system, Microsoft has unveiled Cortanan – a voice assistant that competes with Apple’s Siri and Google Now. Joe Belfiore, Corporate Vice-President and Manager of the Window Phone Program Management for Microsoft explained, “Powered by Bing, Cortana is the only digital assistant that gets to know the user”

According to Mr. Belfiore the voice assistant was inspired by the popular assistant in the Microsoft video game Halo, who was a smart AI and deeply personal digital assistant and, therefore, name Cortana after that character.

Windows Phone 8.1 will begin rollout to current Windows Phone 8 users over the next few months and will come pre-installed on new phones this month. 

CVS/pharmacy now provides ScripTalk prescription labels for home delivery from its online pharmacy, CVS.com. The talking label provides a safe and convenient way to access the information on prescription labels for individuals who have vision disabilities or are blind and cannot read standard labels. Customers who wish to listen to the information on the ScripTalk label can obtain a free ScripTalk reader from Envision America.

More information on ScripTalk

AbleRoad allows users to comment and rank business on their accessibility using a five star rating system. AbleRoad worked with Yelp.com allowing both Yelp and AbleRoad ratings to be viewed on the same screen.

AbleRoad’s rating system is based on four main categories and twelve sub-categories. The four main categories are:

  • Mobility
  • Hearing
  • Site
  • Cognitive

The forty-eight distinct categories allows users to rate accessibility issues which include:

  • Path of Travel
  • Directional Signage
  • Captioning on TVs
  • Braille Information
  • Guide-Dog/Service Animal Access
  • Knowledgeable and Respectful Staff

AbleRoad also allows people to upload media and share on social media platforms. There is a badge system allowing users to rate each other and establish the trustworthiness of the source.

We recently posted some videos on the Access Matters blog about setting up and using TalkBack, which is the pre-installed screen reader service provided by Google for Android devices. It occurred to me that there must be some good walkthroughs for iOS accessibility, so I decided to go on a YouTube hunt for you, our loyal Access Matter Blog readers, and find the best iOS Accessibility walkthroughs.

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TalkBack is a pre-installed screen reader service provided by Google for Android devices. It describes the results of actions such as launching an app, and events and notifications using spoken feedback. It works neatly with other Android Accessibility tools such as Explore by Touch, which allows you to touch your device’s screen and hear what’s under your finger.

We at Interactive Accessibility have put together a few short videos that demonstrate the setup and use of TalkBack 4.2 on a Nexus 7 Tablet. As future versions of TalkBack are released we will update the videos.

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