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Sounding out the web: web accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing

By David Swallow.

This is a condensed version of a two-part article originally published on the blog of The Paciello Group, an international accessibility agency. Links to the original posts can be found at the end of this article. David Swallow is an Accessibility Associate at The Paciello Group.
The largely visual nature of the web means that there’s a lot of focus on supporting people who are blind or partially sighted. But deaf and hard of hearing people are often overlooked. Ruth MacMullen, a copyright and licences officer at York St. John University, explains her experience of being deaf and how it affects her use of the web.

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Impaired users and mobile access prioritised in new web accessibility guidelines

The first public draft of an update to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) has been released, with an increased focus on mobile content, users with low vision, and users with cognitive and learning disabilities.

The current guidelines – WCAG 2.0 – are seen by many as a benchmark for web accessibility. WCAG 2.0 is widely used by authorities and organisations seeking to review websites, and to make and keep them accessible for users with disabilities. For example, the Society of IT Management (Socitm) uses WCAG 2.0 to test the accessibility of UK council websites in its annual Better Connected review.

The public working draft of the update, WCAG 2.1, seeks to build on the existing guidelines, adding in new recommendations for those creating and designing web content.

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Many US government sites not accessible for disabled users, claims new research

Various high-profile US government websites, including major service portals, are not accessible for users with disabilities, according to a new study.

The ‘Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites’ report found that 42% of US federal sites tested failed to meet the necessary accessibility criteria.

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Online shopping ‘not as inclusive as it should be,’ new research finds

The websites of six popular UK retailers would not achieve the basic standard of online content accessibility, according to new research by a usability consultancy.

After a series of ‘mini-accessibility audits,’ accessibility design consultancy User Vision found that some online shoppers with impairments would have difficulty purchasing items from each of the websites examined, due to a number of common barriers.

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Closure threat for digital inclusion charity seeking £20,000 to survive

A UK charity offering digital skills training to hundreds of people with disabilities will be forced to shut unless £20,000 of running costs are provided urgently.

Cambridge Online provides 4,000 one-to-one tutorials by ‘digital champions’ for over 300 disabled, disadvantaged and older people each year from around Cambridgeshire and beyond. The charity teaches learners a wide range of digital literacy skills, including beginners’ online courses, online shopping, services and job-hunting, Facebook and social media, and individual training requested by learners.

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Accessibility survey reveals PDF problems, technology types and satisfied users

The UK Government online services portal, GOV.UK, is aiming to cut down on PDFs after an accessibility survey revealed that many users encounter problems with them.

Launched in May, the GOV.UK 2016 assistive technology survey aimed to find out about the range of technologies that people are using to access and navigate the site. The survey received 712 responses from assistive technology users.

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New research reveals barriers and solutions to accessibility across government

Sifting through an “overwhelming” amount of information and difficulties in finding out who is tasked with accessibility are two of the challenges facing teams in UK Government departments when building accessible digital services, according to research carried out by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Speaking in London at an event titled ‘Accessibility in the digital space’, Alistair Duggin, Head of Accessibility at GDS, gave delegates (including e-Access Bulletin) a preview of the research results. The event was organised by the Business Disability Forum (BDF), inviting speakers to discuss digital accessibility challenges for organisations and end-users, and the solutions available. In keeping with the theme, Duggin highlighted key issues that government teams were facing in this area, but also explained solutions and ideas to help resolve these issues – both based on the GDS research.

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Government for all: opening up online services – Q&A with James Buller, Home Office Digital

James Buller is a user-researcher at Home Office Digital (HOD) leading on access needs, and has been contributing to the Government Digital Service (GDS) accessibility blog on GOV.UK, the UK government services portal.

Below is a republished, adapted version of the Q&A in James’ GOV.UK post (with some additional material), explaining how he works with service users to meet accessibility requirements, as well as his own use of assistive technology and the wider work of HOD.

James’ original post can be found in full on the GDS accessibility blog, linked to at the end of this article.

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Top travel websites still failing users with disabilities, report uncovers

Many of the most popular travel companies are still not making their websites accessible, new research has found.

The report (named ‘Are travel companies burying their heads in the sand when it comes to user experience and accessibility?’, compiled by digital user experience agency Sigma), tested ten of the most popular travel websites in the UK across three main categories: accessibility; usability; ease of use on different devices.

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Steering digital inclusion from the driving seat: Q&A with Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet

When he helped co-found UK technology access charity AbilityNet in 1998, Robin Christopherson was already on his way to helping drive forward digital accessibility, and since then his work has continued to change people’s lives. He is now AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion, after helping to grow the charity’s services. These services include website and mobile accessibility consultancy, which AbilityNet now delivers to companies including Microsoft, the BBC, HSBC and Sainsbury’s.

Christopherson has also led and worked on all manner of projects and campaigns to increase digital accessibility, particularly for blind and visually impaired people. This has included providing expert commentary for news sources such as The Guardian, and presenting on and testing new technology, whether that’s a driverless car or the latest smartwatch.

In recognition of his valuable contributions, he was surprised with a special award at the annual Tech4Good Awards earlier this month. e-Access Bulletin caught up with Christopherson to find out more about his work and get his thoughts on the evolution of accessibility.

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