In our increasingly digital work environments, accessibility programs are vital to ensuring that federal agencies and other employers are inclusive of employees with disabilities. In developing accessibility programs, some strategies and practices have been more effective than others. In creating digital documents, many authors across different federal departments collaborate. A webinar from the ADA National Network on September 28, 2022, from 1 to 2:30 pm ET, will cover some features and processes used successfully in document accessibility programs. Presenters will include representatives from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Social Security Administration (SSA), who will review important practices such as approaches to maximize training efforts through target recruitment, scoping and protocols in workplans, how to maximize the impact of centralized document services. Questions can be submitted online prior to the program or during the live webinar and attendees can receive a participation certificate. To find out more or to register, visit AccessibiltyOnline’s listing for Building a Successful Document Accessibility Program: Strategies, Methods, and Workplans for Inclusive Programs.
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Apple’s iOS 16 went to public release on September 12, 2022. This latest update brings several improvements to the lock screen, the mail app, iMessage and more, as detailed in . However, the company generally does not mention accessibility improvements in its press releases. This is where an article from AppleVis, a website specializing in the accessibility of Apple products, comes in. Every year, AppleVis covers the major accessibility developments in the newest iOS, and this year there are several. For example, the number of available voices and languages for VoiceOver has dramatically increased, with the full complement of languages supported by the Vocalizer Expressive voices from Nuance Communications, including the often-requested voices for Scottish English. This has been a feature of JAWS for years, and has also been available as an add-on for NVDA. VoiceOver also now includes the old ETI Eloquence voices familiar from JAWS, which many prefer due to their predictable nature and quick responsiveness. Other changes include fewer “actions available” announcements if desired, sound and haptic feedback in Apple Maps, improved detection capabilities for Magnifier, new live captions (beta), and better and customizable sound detection for deaf-blind users. A mainstream feature called automatic verification may soon allow iOS users to bypass captchas. Users with low vision, however, should be aware of one serious in this first release, where the use of inverted colors with VoiceOver causes the app switcher to malfunction. Other minor bugs in this initial software will likely be ironed out in later builds. You can find much more information in the three articles linked above.
Last week’s Bulletin covered some of the presentations from The WebAIM Web Accessibility In Mind Conference, held on September 7 and 8, 2022 to help attendees advance in their use of digital accessibility. Following are highlights from a few more of the presentations. As noted previously, recordings of sessions from this virtual conference, presented in partnership with Pope Tech, will be available soon.
Making Advertisements More Accessible
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
The opening presentation of the WebAIM Conference on September 8, 2022 was a panel discussion titled “The Intended Consequence of Inaccessible Digital Ads.” Moderated by WebAble CEO Mike Paciello, it also featured Jonathan Day of Centrus Digital, Joe Dolson of Accessible Web Design, and Gerard Cohen of Twitter. The panel explored how, even though no one likes ads, people with disabilities are missing out on opportunities to gain greater access to better ads that will result in more clicks and more revenue for advertisers, platforms, and content creators. Some ads are inaccessible by design, employing, for example, flashing animations that are both distracting and disturbing for certain users, or layouts that are inaccessible or bothersome for screen reader users to navigate. Additionally, the largest advertising platforms, such as Google AdSense, have no stipulations regarding the accessibility of their ads. This is despite the fact that a plethora of other mandates exist concerning types of content that can appear in ads. As a result, content creators cannot really make websites which are both free and completely accessible; they must either charge for use, itself an accessibility barrier, or they must sacrifice the accessibility of at least part of their websites by using ads. This is borne out by the most recent WebAIM Million Report, which found that pages using Google AdSense had an average of 23.9 more accessibility errors than other pages. Creators also cannot tell Google that they want only accessible ads on their sites. Dolson particularly stressed these latter points, saying that if Google were to create policies demanding only accessible ads on their platform, the ad market would change overnight due to their enormous influence.
Creating an Accessible Extended Reality (XR) Experience
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Professor Reginé Gilbert of New York University gave a presentation on accessibility developments and challenges in the extended reality (XR) space. This umbrella term includes both augmented reality (AR) as found in games like Pokémon Go, and virtual reality (VR), an all-encompassing experience that replaces actual reality with a completely virtual environment. She became involved in XR accessibility because of an experience with Pokémon Go and her realization that a blind colleague of hers wished to play, too. Gilbert noted that XR has potential for people with disabilities, including wayfinding, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Pitfalls could include existing systemic biases against people with disabilities, the perception that AI systems are “authoritative” or “superior,” and the cost of XR headsets, among others. Gilbert and her team have also experimented in creating accessible Instagram filters, such as one detailing the next solar and lunar eclipse dates. They are even trying to come with a way to represent the eclipse through sound. However, although one can add sound to an Instagram filter, the difficulty in making and updating accessible filters means this program is still in the early stages. You can find out more about Gilbert’s work on and on .
Making Accessible Data Visualizations
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
In this presentation, Thomas Watkins, User Experience (UX) Architect at 3Leaf, LLC, addressed the importance and correct protocols for creating accessible data visualizations such as infographics. He first provided examples of a parallel process called “sonification,” in which data trends are represented in an audible form. The two examples were of a line whose points alternately got exponentially higher and lower, and a graph of seismic activity over time due to fracking, where the increase in pings over time represented an increasing number of tremors. Watkins believes, however, that sonification is not yet a workable solution, and tactile representations even less so, thus providing a need for accessible visualization captions. His formula for an accessible caption to a visualization centers on giving the following information in order: graph type, key objective, orientation for display, and finally, orientation to data read or summary, depending on the graphic. A paraphrased example from his presentation is: “‘Rising College Costs’ is a time-series line graph measuring showing the increases in college costs over time. It compares three types of college from 1970–2020.” Now individual data points can be given, which he calls a “data read”, or trends can be noted as a data summary. You can find out more about Watkins and his projects on 3Leaf’s website, and on his LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter profiles. You can also find an interview with him here.
To make its offerings more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision, Google TV will begin to feature content that has audio descriptions available. “Audio Descriptions on Google TV narrate live visual information as it happens so you never miss that crucial cliffhanger,” according to the company.” At this point the main way to access their library of curated films is through the Google Assistant, although it is possible that eventually the content could be available through a homescreen. It also “appears only to show content available for purchase through Google, not content with audio descriptions available on streaming services.” In order to activate the descriptions and check what’s available, press the Google Assistant button and say, “’Search audio description movies.” Learn more about how Google TV will curate movies with audio descriptions in accessibility push.
As National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), celebrated in October, approaches, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is providing a range of resource materials that can be used by organizations in planning and implementing their activities. The latest resource to be issued, a poster, highlights the NDEAM theme: “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.” As reported in a recent Bulletin, NDEAM recognizes the important role of people with disabilities in contributing to a “diverse and inclusive American workforce” and salutes workers with disabilities, past and present, and “showcases supportive, inclusive employment policies and practices.” Additional materials are available, including a social media kit, drop-in articles, sample proclamation, year-round strategies for employers to advance disability inclusion, and more. To access the poster and other offerings, visit the DOL Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Resource webpage on Disability: Part of the Equity Equation. In the coming weeks, additional information and updates about NDEAM will appear in the Bulletin.
World Sight Day, a global recognition that focuses attention on the importance of eye care, takes place on October 13, 2022. In preparing for this commemoration, The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) calls upon organizations and the public to join together to urge governments, businesses, institutions and individuals to prioritize eye health and ensure that eye care is “accessible, inclusive and affordable to everyone, everywhere.” IAPB coordinates World Sight Day as a reminder “to love your eyes.” IAPB, along with their Global Partners, Patrons and nearly 200 Member organizations, invites people to keep the importance of eye health in mind and think about “how you can protect it and keep it healthy now and long into the future.” IAPB provides a variety of resources to increase awareness and advance the goals of this recognition. The 2022 World Sight Day Photo Competitiion, for example, provides an opportunity for photographers, including amateurs and professionals, to display their talents and share with the world what they see and to convey what it means to #LoveYourEyes, the key message being conveyed. Toolkits and Resources, with posters, logos, and social media offerings, can be downloaded as well. To underscore the theme of #LoveYourEyes and to advance the goals of World Sight Day, the IAPB is also asking members and individuals to hold sight screenings in parliaments and other decision-making bodies worldwide. A number of screenings have been planned, including at the United Nations in New York, the UK Parliament in London, the Nepal parliament in Kathmandu, and the Australian Parliament in Canberra. Global Partners will be supporting and holding activities around the world to commemorate the event. Read more from the IAPB about World Sight Day and about some of the plans for World Sight Day 2022 to take sight screenings to National Parliaments.
Russian émigré painter Serge Hollerbach began to experience severe vision loss in 1994, which marked the beginning of a new period of his work. His experience is recounted in a short, award-winning documentary, “Serge Hollerbach: A Russian Painter in New York,” where he creates two paintings over a four-year span. During this time, he has aged and experiences declining vision. While he is painting, he talks about art, “his displacement during World War II,” how he built a new life in New York City, and the effect of vision loss on his works. In his “post-macular” period, he turned to what he considered his “’inner vision,’” depending on “muscle memory.” Using streetscapes from his neighborhood, the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, he painted “increasingly abstract iterations of shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrians, with their canes, shopping bags, rolling luggage, and dogs.” A film from The Vision and Art Project, part of the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), an organization whose mission is to help people learn about and live with macular degeneration. The film can be streamed free-of-charge with Audio Description at Vimeo. For more information, check out The Vision and Art Project webpage inviting visitors to Watch Our Newest Film: "Serge Hollerbach: A Russian in New York.
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