Latest Accessibility News on Accessify

First preview of speech enabled Opera

Download the snapshot of Opera 7.60 Preview 1 and take the speech capabilities of this beta version for a spin.

This release comes with a set of voice libraries that enable the user to control Opera by speaking commands to it. Opera now supports XHTML+Voice 1.2 and the CSS3 speech module properties new to CSS3 are prefixed by -xv-). With the default setup, you can navigate pages, have selected text read to you, and control parts of the browser.

Personally I had little success with getting the voice recognition to work reliably - despite my efforts to put on a passable american accent - but it’s certainly an intriguing new feature, and I can see XHTML+Voice becoming a valuable addition to any accessibility minded developer’s set of tools.

Discuss your experiences with Opera’s new speech features on our forum.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Monday, August 30, 2004

Ramada.com and Priceline.com to implement accessibility standards

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer today announced settlements with two major travel web sites that will make the sites far more accessible to blind and visually impaired users.

“Accessible web sites are the wave of the future and the right thing to do. We applaud these companies for taking responsible and proper steps to make their web sites accessible to the blind and visually impaired,” Spitzer said. “We urge all companies who have not done so to follow their lead.”

Spitzer Agreement To Make Web Sites Accessible To The Blind And Visually Impaired

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Accessify on Friday, August 20, 2004

Overhaul for email newsletter standard TEN

And another one from the Headstar E-Access Bulletin:

The latest version of the Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard, drawn up by the publishers of E-Access Bulletin as a blueprint for creating email newsletter layouts that are easy to navigate by people using special access technology such as screen readers, has been released.

The revised standard (http://www.headstar.com/ten) draws on the most recent feedback from a range of leading organisations which have signed up to endorse its principles and apply the standard to their own communications.

Signatories now include the UK government’s Department of Work and Pensions; two local authorities, The London Borough of Brent (http://www.brent.gov.uk) and Tunbridge Wells (http://www.tunbridgewells.gov.uk); and overseas groups including the library of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (http://www.cnib.ca/library) and The European Design for All e-Accessibility Network (http://www.e-accessibility.org).

Version 1.1 of the TEN guidelines includes new suggestions on font styles, the best use of upper and lower case text, and the most accessible ways of embedding web links into text. There is new guidance on how to structure a newsletter to enable easy navigation, with suggestions on where to place contents listings and background information, and how to begin and end sections of an email newsletter.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Online web browser adaptor hits UK

Spotted in the recent Headstar E-Access Bulletin:

A new system developed by IBM allowing people to set preferences for their web browser such as large text sizes, which can then be accessed from any computer, is to be supported in the UK by the charity Abilitynet.

The system works by combining a small piece of software or ‘plug-in’downloaded to the user’s computer - which must be running the Internet Explorer web browser version 5.5 or higher - with preferences and settings stored on a remote web server by each user with a unique password. When the user logs in to any computer at work or home
which has the browser plug-in, and enters their username and password, their preferences and settings will be restored.

Web Adaptation Technology (WAT) can adjust settings such as page magnification, text size and spacing, colour balance, graphics display, and audio output.

Individuals and non-profit groups can use the technology for free, while other organisations must negotiate licence fees with IBM. The technology has already been undergoing trials in the US, in association with several charities and research bodies.

Although some owners of web site are very rigorous when it comes to accessibility, it will probably be years before most web sites are accessible. In the meantime, this kind of service will be of some value, said Mark Wakefield, Community Relations Manager at IBM
UK.

According to Wakefield, it is likely that many vision-impaired people will need assistance to download and use the software. AbilityNet is to provide information and help-desk support for individual users, and training for organisations that sign up
for the WAT service.

Personally, I feel this is a high tech stop gap solution. The requirement of downloading and installing the plug-in makes it far from universal, and a lot of functionality can be achieved by using any browser other than Internet Explorer. With regards to having access to your own preferences, no matter what machine you’re on, there’s a solution I’ve been using for a while: install Mozilla Firefox on a USB keychain harddrive, configure it to your needs — including setting up user stylesheets — and take your browser and settings with you.

Agree? Disagree? Why not discuss this article on our forum!

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Usability & Accessibility Working Group announces launch of new web site

The Usability & Accessibility Working Group (UA-WG) launched its new web site, http://www.ua-wg.org, on the 5th August.

From the press release:

Visitors to the new web site will soon be able to access a comprehensive glossary, as well as news stories and articles covering the usability and accessibility of web sites. The web site will also contain information about the accessibility accreditation scheme that the UA-WG will be launching in the near future.

UA-WG is an initiative of the British Web Design and Marketing Association (BWDMA).

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Wednesday, August 11, 2004

New Working Draft of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

A new Working Draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) as well as three supporting documents were published 30 July 2004 and are available for review.

With this draft, the WCAG WG provides a first glimpse of the connections between design principles, testable criteria, and technology-specific examples and techniques.

See the complete request for review, with details on how to submit comments, on the WAI IG mailing list archive.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Patrick H. Lauke on Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Apple accessibility API

Apple has released new documentation on its accessibility APIs in an effort to get independent software vendors on board. In an article on their developer site titled Universal Access: Computers That Everyone Can Use, Apple makes a pitch to third-party developers, with the basic arguments for integrating accessibility into software apps (including greatest hits like “Because you want to make more money” and “Because the law requires it”). There’s a quick pass over some accessibility-related API calls, but this is mostly intended as a wake-up call outlining what Apple expects of Mac OS X developers before version 10.4 hits the streets.

Apple will need software vendors to support its VoiceOver screen reading technology, along with things like keyboard support (recently championed by Ian Lloyd in a recent Accessify article), in order to make next year’s Tiger release truly usable and useful to users with disabilities. The success or failure of Tiger’s accessibility will rest with all of the applications Apple doesn’t control. And to that end, this article, and updated technical documentation which should be forthcoming, will be required reading for Mac developers between now and Tiger’s release.

(Hat tip: MacCentral)

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Accessify on Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Update on Web Accessibility Toolbar

Accessible Information Solutions recently released the latest version of their Web Accessibility Toolbar: Version EN 1.1. New features include:

  • one step access to enable/disable IE settings
  • keyboard access to all menu items, hotkeys on major functions
  • removed reliance on javascript for many functions

Also released is a French [beta] version in association with braillenet.org and an Italian version in association with webaccessibile.org.

Filed under: Accessibility
Comments Off Posted by Accessify on Wednesday, August 4, 2004