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Archive for the 'US' Category

Age doesn’t bridge the digital skills chasm, new research reveals

Americans with disabilities are using technology at a lower rate than those without a disability – including teenagers and younger citizens – research has found.

In the report, conducted by the United States-based Pew Research Center (which defines itself as a “nonpartisan fact tank”), those with disabilities in the two age groups measured (18-64 and over 65) showed similarly low levels of technology ownership, compared to those without disabilities.

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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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Interview: Sonya Huber, Disability March – impactful online activism

On January 21 2017, around half a million people took part in the Women’s March in Washington D. C. Symbolically scheduled for the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as 45th President of the United States, the aim of the Women’s March was to support and stand up for women’s rights and equality around the world, with millions more marching across the globe in related events. But what about those people who wanted to support the cause but couldn’t attend a march in person?

This was the dilemma facing many people with a disability or health issues. To address this widespread problem, an online virtual march was set up. The Disability March platform enabled anyone to show their support for the cause without having to physically march – a task that would have been dangerous for some and impossible for others.

Supporters signed-up to the online Disability March and shared their messages through the project’s blog and Twitter account. Thousands took part and others were able to see their stories unfold online.

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US Congress called on to create technology equality bill

The National Council on Disability (NCD) has made a series of recommendations to the United States Government on making technology more accessible, including a call to establish a ‘Technology Bill of Rights for People with Disabilities’.

Other recommendations called for by the NCD (which is tasked with advising key strands of the US Government on disability policy) include the following: action should be taken to clarify that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the internet, and; federal agencies in the US should take “aggressive steps” to comply with a law requiring that their ICT (information and communications technology) is accessible.

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Lack of skills and awareness fuel web inaccessibility, survey finds

Lack of skills or knowledge and lack of awareness of web accessibility are responsible for the great majority of website accessibility problems, according to a US survey of web accessibility practitioners.

Almost four in 10 respondents (36.6%) rated lack of skills and knowledge as the primary reason behind web site accessibility; and only slightly fewer (36.2%) lack of awareness. Other factors cited were Fear that accessibility will hinder the look, feel, or functionality of a website (13.2%); and lack of budget or resources to make it accessible (13.9%).

The research was conducted by WebAIM, a non-profit accessibility research, software and services body based at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University. The body surveyed 900 web accessibility practitioners from North and Central America (58%); Europe (28%) and worldwide, working in all sectors.

Most of the web accessibility practitioners responding only work in their roles part-time, the research found. While 51.3% indicate that web accessibility is their official role or a significant part of their job assignment, only 29.3% spend more than 30 hours per week in this area. Meanwhile just under a third of respondents (31%) said accessibility work represents “a small part of my work or assignments”; and nearly one in five (17.7%) carry out accessibility work on their own initiative, or as a volunteer.

Asked which was the main factor behind their organisation’s motivation for implementing accessibility, just under a third (31.4%) said Compliance with guidelines and/or best practices. About one quarter (25.7%) said Moral motivation (it’s the right thing to do); a similar number (25.6%) said Legal, contractual, or structured negotiation requirements; other factors included Fear of a lawsuit or complaint (10.9%).

Within an organisation, management support was cited as the most critical factor to ensuring a successful web accessibility effort (36.7%); followed by Staff that are proficient in accessibility (24.8%); A clearly defined policy and/or guidelines (22.3%); Sufficient budget or time support (13.9%); and Legal mandates and requirements (8.7%).

The survey also found that people working in the web accessibility field are generally older, better paid, and better educated than their peers in the wider field of web development, and that the accessibility field has a larger proportion of women and people with disabilities than other technology fields.

However, a significant pay disparity exists for people with disabilities, who earn an average of at least $12,400 less than those without disabilities despite having very similar education level and years of experience, it found.

Joysticks and 3-D printing among accessible election prototypes

Voting with joysticks and 3-D printed accessible cases for tablet computers housing voting systems are among innovations presented in a new report on making elections more accessible for people with disabilities published this month by the US Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

“Innovations for accessible elections” assesses several years of ITIF research and development projects.

US elections make use of a range of electronic voting systems including touch-screen devices and although US law requires accessible alternatives to be offered such as audio, and tactile keys, many voters with disabilities still experience problems using these systems and with voting in general, the report finds.

As many as 47 million US citizens (almost one in four of the voting age population) face barriers to voting in person due to inaccessible devices, it says. Problems include a lack of accessible information about polling place locations; poll workers who do not recognise the needs of people with disabilities; electronic voting systems not set up for audio ballots; and keypads with confusing or unusual layouts and keys that are hard to identify by feel.

Recent innovation projects by ITIF with partners including the US Election Assistance Commission and the social innovation collaboration platform OpenIDEO have led to a range of ideas and prototypes to try to solve these problems.

They include a ballot designed for use on any device, codenamed the “Anywhere Ballot”, presenting information in a clear reading order, at the place on the page or screen where the voter is already focused. Other work investigated use of a “smart joystick” as a universal voting control, after testing found the device can help individuals with a wide range of dexterity impairments.

Following these projects Los Angeles County, the most populous voting area in the US with almost 10 million residents, is using the Anywhere Ballot as the basis of its ballot redesign and is considering including a joystick as the tactile controller, the report says.

A voting system designed to be navigated using only two buttons with audio prompts, codenamed the “EZ Ballot”, was another winner in an OpenIDEO voting challenge; as was an iPad case with additional accessibility features designed to enhance voting applications, such as tactile switches and a built-in stand to adjust the angle of the screen. The design for the accessible iPad case is now available online (download here as compressed Zip file ) and can be built with a 3D printer, the report says.

Ideas such as these have shown promising results but with technology and election processes always changing, access work will always need to continue alongside, the report finds.

“While most elections are more accessible today than in years past, more progress is needed… [but] unfortunately, there is no simple solution”, it says. “Creating accessible elections will require sustained research and funding to continue designing new technologies and processes, evaluating them in the field, and training election officials to use them.”