Weekend Gazette – Link Collection for April 25

We present to you a menu of tidbits collected in recent days that are too short for blog posts and sometimes too long for a tweet (when we want to add clarifying comments). Headings provide a light grouping to help you skim the offerings. Bon appétit!

Sock it to 'em, John!

Technical communicators, please sit up and take notice of this section. It is important.

John Foliot has written an amazing letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. That Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing recently. The topic of that hearing was "Achieving the Promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act in the Digital Age – Current Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities". All fine and dandy. Transcripts are made because it's government by the people and for the people, as you know.

However, these documents were inaccessible, so it became "for some of the people". Ugh! What did John do? He made accessible versions of them. He demonstrated how the work should have been done in the first place! I'd lead a round of applause, but I am nursing my aching head from when I banged my head against the desk upon learning of this gaffe. Is there no one in the U.S. government offices who knows how to make accessible documents? I dare bet – unfortunately – that no government in the world can claim to be perfect. I will be very happy if someone can prove me wrong.

John, thank you for showing the folks in Washington how accessible documents are made. Maybe they need a workshop on that? There are skilled people in the Washington, D.C. area who can arrange that. The government staff can also attend the next unconference held by @AccessibilityDC, where they can learn a thing or two.

ADA Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities

If you are finished laughing and crying hysterically about the gaffe with inaccessible documents in the previous section, go back and read the information from that hearing. All the details of who spoke and where the transcripts are can be found in John's letter. This is U.S.-centric, but there is inspiration here for everyone. If you promise access for all in a digital age, you must constantly monitor what is happening in the world outside your office. The issues, challenges, and opportunities are dynamic, and governments should be in the frontlines, not sagging dreadfully behind everyone else.

So far, it looks like the website wranglers at whitehouse.gov are staying on their toes. Read this White House blog post about Whitehouse.gov releasing open source code. One of the three key features of that code is – you guessed it – accessibility. They're doing it right – working on accessibility, and not shoving it to the background for a rainy day.

PS ADA, in case you forgot, stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act, and yes, that is a site designed by a graduate from the Jakob Nielsen school of design (that is, accessible sites are inherently ugly).

Cool Tech

The Speaks4me system is the brainchild of a father whose young son, Callum, could not speak due to severe autism and learning difficulties. It has potential for stroke survivors, too. For more information, see the BBC report about Speaks4me Son's autism leads to innovation, by Geoff Adams-Spink, BBC Age & Disability correspondent.  Updated

The price tag looks high, but that is because it is a software and hardware package. A software-only version is being worked on now, and a mobile version lies in the future. Aside from the benefits for the users of this system, it must be downright cool to help develop such a system. Think of all the challenges in working out a great user interface, and its usability and accessibility.

Some of you are familiar with eye-tracking as a way of testing the usability of your website. Well, there might be a powerful assistive technology solution in eye-tracking. Think Stephen Hawking.

"Free" is a popular price tag, especially when it comes to technology. That's why this list of free screen readers appears in this section of this post. Don't skip this tip just because you have no vision problems. These are great for testing the accessibility of your material. The price tag should impress your boss! No excuses left for not testing!  Updated

Quotable Quotes

This was a nice quote from@whitneyq worth repeating here:

Failing to make voting systems accessible has the same effect as generating one that maliciously destroys votes for one subpopulation.

The Last Word

This story is too sweet to pass up. (The broken wing makes me think of the butterfly with a broken wing in our own logo.)

Storks, Malena and Rodan
Rodan and Malena, Storks reunited in Slavonski Brod, Croatia.
Malena, the stork, is grounded by a broken wing and can no longer migrate south for the winter. She survives the cold winter in Croatia thanks to human care – and her true love coming back every Spring. The exact chronology of events differs slightly in the English and Danish resources I read. Malena was shot in 1993. They say her mate, Rodan, has been returning to her for five years, yet they have managed to raise 32 chicks. Anyway, enjoy the story of true stork love  Updated.

Link Contributors

This post was glued together with links or inspiration from many people. They are listed with their Twitter names.

@DaveBanesAccess
@dboudreau
@ezufelt
@johnfoliot
@SandiWassmer
@webaxe

Assistive Technology

  • ABLEDATA provides objective information about assistive technology products and rehabilitation equipment.
  • Access Software Hal, Luna, LunaPlus, Super Nova, and Cicero screen readers and other access software that provides speech and Braille for Windows.
  • Active Living Alliance For Canadians with a Disability promotes, supports and enables Canadians with disabilities to lead active, healthy lives. We provide nationally coordinated leadership, support, encouragement, promotion and information that facilitates healthy, active living opportunities for Canadians of all abilities across all settings and environments.
  • ADA National Network provides information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • All Access Pass: enabling technologies offer business possibilities, by Dan Costa, Communications, Home Office Computing, April 2001. (156 K .pdf) Copyright 2001 Freedom Technology Media Group.
  • Apple® Accessibility Features built into all Macintosh computers provides adjustable keyboard, an ergonomic mouse, CloseView screen magnification software, Easy Access system software (StickyKeys, SlowKeys, MouseKeys), electronic documentation, key-repeat disable, text-to-speech synthesis and voice recognition (PlainTalk), sticky mouse, and visual alert cues. The VoiceOver spoken English interface for Mac OS X is a fully integrated, built-in screen reader technology providing access to the Macintosh through speech, audible cues, and keyboard navigation.
  • Apple Accessibility Resources Mac-compatible hardware and software products are designed for those with special needs.
  • Access for Everyone (.pdf) Apple® Universal Access
  • Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs (ATAP) is a national, member-based non-profit organization, comprised of state Assistive Technology Act Programs funded under the Assistive Technology Act (AT Act)
  • Assistivetech.net offers devices and aids which can help a person with a disability perform activities that might otherwise be difficult or not be possible.
  • Assistive Technology Centre assistive technology shareware and information/resource sites provided by Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre Technical Resource Centre. [Nova Scotia]
  • Assistive Tech for Students with Mild Disabilities – By Michael Behrmann, November 1994. Updated with Marci Kinas Jerome – Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), Division of Learning Disabilities (DLD), Update 2002
  • Assistive Technology Training Online Project (ATTO) proposes to develop, implement, evaluate and disseminate a model program to address the diverse needs for Assistive Technology training by exploring web-based instruction to create virtual workshops. The project provides information on AT applications that help elementary (K-5) students with disabilities learn in elementary classrooms.
  • Communication by Gaze Interaction (COGAIN) COGAIN Association is a network of excellence on Communication by Gaze Interaction. COGAIN integrates cutting-edge expertise on interface technologies for the benefit of users with disabilities. The network gathers Europe's leading expertise in eye tracking integration with computers in a research project on assistive technologies for citizens with motor impairments. [Europe]
    • COGAIN Wiki the Knowledge Base of the COGAIN Network. Here you can find information, photos, videos, guides, reports, links and more. You are also welcome to join our community and help us build knowledge about Gaze Interaction. [Europe]
  • Disability Systems & Software Development of TNET Services, Inc., which is located in the City of Mesa, Arizona. is a software development company that specializes in development of accessible technologies for the use by both the general public and the disABLED community.
  • Disabilities and The White House
  • Dragon Speech Recognition Solutions—Dragon for Everywhere
  • Freedom Scientific provides blind or vision-impaired computer users access to a wide variety of information, education and job-related applications. Freedom Scientific makes
    • JAWS® screen reading software
    • PAC Mate Omni™ accessible Pocket PC
    • MAGic® screen magnification software
    • SARA™ scanning and reading aloud appliance
    • OpenBook™ scanning and reading software
    • PAC Mate™ Portable Braille Displays
    • Focus Braille Displays
    • FSReader DAISY player
    • StreetTalk™ GPS solution
    • ScanTalker™ talking barcode reader solution
    • FSTTY deaf-blind telephone communications
    • FaceToFace™ deaf-blind personal communications
    • Accessories for blindness
    • TOPAZ™ desktop video magnifier
    • TOPAZ™ Connectivity Pack
    • ONYX™ multiple view magnification cameras
    • SARA™ scanning and reading aloud appliance
    • OPAL™ ultra-portable magnifier
    • ZoOmText with Speech screen magnification software and text reader
    • WYNN
    • TestTalker
  • CAL State University Northridge, Center on Disabilities (COD) is committed to the vision of an inclusive society where persons of all abilities have the chance to achieve their goals and experience success. Through excellent training and research, we nurture learning and innovation to improve the world for people with disabilities. Sponsors the Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.
  • Kurzweil optical recognition products for Macintosh and Windows platforms. Develops reading technology for people with learning difficulties and those who are blind or visually impaired.
  • Motor Assisted NARI Handicapped Rickshaw (MANHARA) Nimbkar Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) has developed a very low-priced motorized vehicle for physically handicapped persons. MANHARA is motor assisted handpowered vehicle. [India]
  • Mucopolysaccharide (MPS) Workshop Solutions is a place in space where engineers, technicians, inventors and workshop enthusiasts can display and share knowledge on the assistive devices they have built to better the lives of the disabled. [Canada]
  • National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) is dedicated to promoting high quality, principle-driven assisted living care and services with a steadfast commitment to excellence, innovation, and the advancement of person-centered care.
  • REMAP provides one-off technical aids which help disabled people of all ages to enjoy a better lifestyle. Every aid is given free of charge to the user. Remap operates through a network of 1,500 volunteers. The professional engineers, technicians, and craftspeople – along with medical and paramedical staff from community services and hospitals – all belong to approximately 100 panels (groups) linked to regions across the UK, with Scotland and the Isle of Man operating separately. [United Kingdom]
  • Interagency Committee on Disability Research (ICDR) was established to promote interagency disability research coordination and collaboration, and enhance communication and information sharing among federal agencies and stakeholders conducting rehabilitation research programs and activities.
  • Solve Disability Solutions (formerly TADVIC) is a not-for-profit organisation that makes and modifies equipment for people with disabilities whose needs cannot be met commercially. [Australia]
  • Tongue Display Unit (TDU)
  • Trace Research & Development Center Research to Make Everyday Technologies Accessible and Usable (University of Maryland)
  • USDA’s TARGET Center ensures that all USDA employees have safe and equal access to electronic and information technology by assessing, educating, and advocating for the integration of assistive technology and worksite accommodations.
  • VisionKey brings the latest in wearable eye-controlled communication technology to enable users with ALS, brainstem stroke, muscular dystrophy, CP, Locked-in-Syndrome, Quadriplegia, or traumatic brain injury to use eye movements for complete computer access and for augmentative communication. Available in English, French, and Spanish and runs on Macintosh and Windows platforms. Manufactured by H.K. EyeCan. [Canada]
  • WebbIE software programs that make it easier for blind and visually-impaired people, especially using screen readers, to browse the web, get the latest news, listen to podcasts and radio stations and other common tasks. They work with any screen reader, including JAWS, WindowEyes, Thunder, NVDA, and Narrator. They have been provided completely free since 2001 by Dr. Alasdair King. Available in several languages. [UK]
  • ZoomText® Screen magnification and combined screen reader/magnification software.