The WebAIM Web Accessibility In Mind Conference on September 7 and 8, 2022, provided participants with sessions and information to help them advance in their use of digital accessibility. Following are highlights from a few of the presentations. Recordings of sessions from this virtual conference, presented in partnership with Pope Tech, will be available soon. Additional coverage will continue in next week’s Bulletin.
The Future of Accessibility in 2022
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
In the opening keynote address, Crystal Preston-Watson, Senior Digital Accessibility Analyst at Salesforce, made some predictions about trends in web accessibility ten years from now. She calls her framework “Accessfuturism,” based on Afrofuturism, a movement within black literature and historical studies that explores the intersection of the black experience with science and technology, notably through the lens of science fiction. Expanding this philosophy to the accessibility space, Preston-Watson presented ideas along with “potentials” (upsides and downsides) of various projected accessibility developments. One relevant point for the blind and visually impaired (BVI) community is that captions and transcripts will be embedded within media files, due partially to advances in artificial intelligence. This has the potential to make it easier for captions, transcripts, and alt text to be shared and even to be automatically created by devices. However, this would likely lead to errors when being converted to other formats (e.g., audio), which is already a factor in YouTube captions, for example. By 2032, Preston-Watson believes that these kinks will be worked out, although there may also be a risk of tampering with such files. Other interesting potential developments could include autogenerated code via artificial intelligence and the phasing out of problematic accessibility overlays on websites. You can find more of Preston-Watson’s content on her website, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Advocacy Through Relationships and Stories
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Disability rights lawyer and author Lainey Feingold gave a presentation on how effective advocacy for systemic change is built on the power of “convincing” and “storytelling”. Through a process she calls “structured negotiation,” Feingold helped to secure the first web accessibility agreement in the United States between a group of blind people and Bank of America for their online banking service. She oversaw agreements for the first talking ATMs, also with Bank of America, as well as one for talking pill bottles as currently used by CVS. All these agreements were brought to fruition without a single lawsuit being filed. In this talk, she presented several “dos and don’ts” for advocates. Key among the “dos” was to build personal relationships within companies, as people want to help out those they know and can “put a face on,” and telling stories about relevant accessibility challenges. Emphasizing the need for companies to hire people with disabilities in all stages of the process is also a must. It is important to be patient and explain; as Feingold says, “many of us live and breathe this stuff, but most people don’t.” Advocates should speak about the law as a civil right, not as a foundation for fear and a compliance mindset. Feingold believes that motivations prompted by compliance result in companies doing the bare minimum to avoid a lawsuit, not creating an evolving accessibility infrastructure. Among the “don’ts” are not to shout, threaten, scare, or reduce accessibility to a checklist of present issues. Feingold puts it as “Don’t be a shark, always be a dolphin,” citing an experiment where two dolphins had to collaborate as a team in order to get a food reward. You can find out more about Feingold on her website and on Twitter.
Obtaining Accessible Solutions for Your Organization
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Independent accessibility consultant Corbb O’Connor spoke about how organizations can work with software vendors to find accessible solutions and workarounds for their work environments. O’Connor believes that companies are forced to “buy inaccessible technology even with the best of intentions”. In light of this, he provided a six-step approach that anyone in an organization can take to prioritize procurement of accessible software and hardware. The first step is to ask those in the disability community about products they use or what they want and need in an accessible service. The second is to examine the voluntary product accessibility template (VPAT), which is a document that organizations release voluntarily regarding a product’s accessibility, of any technology being considered, keeping an eye out for key terms like “supports” or red flags such as “does not support,” “supports with exceptions,” or “fails.” Pricing is the third leg, and cost can also be a barrier to accessibility. Fourth and perhaps most important is remediation. In the case of inaccessible software, this could involve meeting with the accessibility, product, and/or legal teams for a software vendor, and if nothing else works, negotiations for alternative pricing plans can be tried with the understanding that full price will be paid once the software becomes accessible. Fifth is to consider usage alternatives, such as using mobile apps instead of desktop software, as apps can sometimes be more usable. Lastly is a “do-it-yourself” approach, which could involve either doing things in a somewhat slower, less efficient, or old-fashioned way if it means accessibility improves, or else creating an accessible system from scratch. You can find out more about O’Connor on LinkedIn and on Twitter.
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) holds webcasts each month with experts covering a wide range of topics related to disability employment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and job accommodations. All sessions are free and are available remotely on Zoom. Following are their offerings for September and October:
On September 22, 2022 from 2 to 3 pm ET, the webcast on “Accommodation Solutions for Sleep Disorders,” will be “an informative and interactive session,” providing specific examples from JAN to stimulate thinking and questions from attendees. Employees and employers contact JAN for guidance on sleep issues, whether the disorder is related to too much sleep and being unable to wake up, falling asleep without control, a lack of sleep, or other issues that “compound cognitive difficulties.” Click here for more information or to register for "Accommodation Solutions to Sleep Disorders."
On October 13, 2022 from 2 to 3 pm ET, the session focuses on “Building a Disability Inclusive Organization.” Those attending will explore how to create a workplace that is “disability-inclusive” while meeting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) goals, looking into what are the core elements of an inclusive work environment, discussing practical strategies that have been developed with input from a variety of employers with outstanding track records in employing individuals with disabilities. This collaborative training is provided by JAN and the Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN). Find out additional details and register here for "Building a Disability-Inclusive Organization."
For more information about the Accommodation and Compliance series, visit the JAN Webcast Series Registration page here.
Accessible Pharmacy Services for the Blind invites participation in its webinar on September 23, 2022 at 12 pm ET on "Blindness and Diabetes: Dexcom vs FreeStyle Libre." Both of these devices provide sensor-based Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) and the program will compare CGM devices available to people who are blind, DeafBlind, or have low vision and are living with diabetes. The speaker, Abigail Chesterson, director of the Diabetes Education Center at Penn Medicine—University of Pennsylvania Health System, will discuss the difference between the two products as well as their accessibility features. To learn more or register, visit Accessible Pharmacy’s webpage on the Blindness and Diabetes Webinar: Dexcom vs FreeStyle Libre. For background information about Dexco and FreeStyle Libre, as well a primer on CGM, visit the healthline webpage on Dexcom vs. Abbott FreeStyle Libre: CGM Function, Accuracy, and Cost.
Every month, the New York Vision Loss Coalition invites parents in New York and beyond to join in “an evening of resources shared in a safe space.” Each session features a guest speaker who covers a topic related to the needs of youth with vision impairment. This month’s program will take place on Thursday, September 29, 2022 at 6 pm ET, when sports enthusiast and founder of the Foreseeable Future Foundation Griffin Pinkow will share his personal experience growing up with vision loss and how he started a nonprofit organization “to help others with vision loss continue to enjoy sports and activities.” He will be available to respond to questions as well. For more information and to sign up, click on the registration link for See What is Possible. To learn more about the series and other initiatives, visit the VISIONS webpage on the New York City Youth and Vision Loss Coalition.
While the “demand for inclusive digital products is rising…tech designers, engineers, and project managers aren’t being trained in accessibility skills.” And employers have difficulty hiring employees with “even basic knowledge and skills related to digital accessibility.” The AFB Talent Lab, a new education experience, seeks to close the gap between need and skills through a “’hands-on learning environment.’” The first group of participants in the Intern and Registered Apprenticeship programs of the AFB Talent Lab have completed their first term of educational requirements and will start to work on projects with corporate partners this fall. Participants build skills that will be an asset to employers, helping individuals with disabilities to develop careers as accessibility project managers and provide guidance to partnering organizations on how to achieve accessibility goals. The program curriculum fosters greater understanding of needs as well as skills in accessibility, along with studying low and high tech assistive technologies (like screen readers), their impact on people’s quality of life, how to design for visual accessibility, how to report accessibility issues, and more. The lack of competency in the current tech work force has a significant and acknowledged impact. A report from the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT) indicated that 63 percent of companies stated that their current employees lack adequate accessible technology skills, and 97.4 percent of the top one million websites worldwide do not feature full accessibility. Applications to join the AFB Talent Lab programs in Summer 2023 are anticipated to be available in the winter. To learn more, visit Client Services at the AFB Talent Lab. For companies interested in partnerships opportunities for the Intern and Apprenticeship programs, visit Support AFB Talent Lab or contact [email protected] For more details about the program, read the press release from the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) about how the AFB Talent Lab Fosters Digital Inclusion Experts of Tomorrow.
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Readers may remember that the 2022 U.S. Open featured an accessible broadcast from , which was developed with the assistance and input of the (IBTA). This is the first in a series of articles covering different aspects of the sport of blind tennis or soundball tennis. This sport was created in Japan in 1984 by Miyoshi Takei, who was blind and desired to play tennis with sighted people. He created the sport with rules that align with standard tennis but for a few . Blind tennis is often played on a smaller court and uses a different, soft ball with ball bearings or bells inside which makes a sound when it bounces and travels much more slowly than a normal tennis ball. Similar to other blind sports, it uses a sight classification system, with B1 players having the least sight and B4 the most. Players can participate in their own category or a category for better sight, but not for less vision. Categories also make a difference in how many bounces a player is allowed before a point scores for their opponent: B1 players get three bounces, B2 and B3 get two, and B4 players get one. Before serving, the player must ask “Ready?,” wait for the receiver’s “Yes,” and then shout “Play!” before throwing the ball. The IBTA has an executive committee with representatives from 19 countries, with Lolina Fernandez representing the United States. The IBTA also holds a yearly championship with the most recent taking place in Spain. Future articles will examine the state of blind tennis in the U.S.
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