Issue 16 June 24 2021

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BILL WOULD EXPAND ANTI-DISCRIMINATION PROTECTIONS TO DIGITAL SPHERE

In the 1960s and ’70s, equal rights protesters fought for public accommodations laws — anti-discrimination statutes that now protect individuals from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, gender identity or gender expression in public spaces, including most businesses. But in Nevada and many other states, those protections do not explicitly extend to the digital realm. During a Senate Commerce and Labor Committee meeting, Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) said he is looking to change that with AB207, a bill clarifying that Nevada’s public accommodations law also applies to e-commerce…

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Opinion: Access Ready Seeks Justice Across Information Technology

By Douglas George Towne

It is said that Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Those words
spoken by Martin Luther King in 1963 are as true today as they were then.
Doctor Kings world was one free of the Internet, and information technology. Could he
have imagined reaching millions with a single Tweet, uncensored by anything other than
our own views and prejudices. There is that word, prejudices Yes, this information age includes sweeping prejudices.
Anyone can use the avalanche of information based digital technology as long as they
do not require accessibility.
Millions of people with a vast range of disabilities are being left out of this information
revolution.
In President Bidens most recent address to the American people through Congress we
listened to his vision of an all-encompassing infrastructure that included the traditional
concrete and steel, but also the digital and human necessities of a modern society.
Sadly, there was no mention of the need for accessibility across the digital infrastructure
he was speaking about.
Yes, disability was mentioned in reference to increased human infrastructure spending
through Medicaid, but this is hand out thinking not a hand up view of needs.
While more funding through Medicaid is certainly needed and welcome, and the
requirements for physically accessible concrete and steel construction is in place, we
see no evidence that accessibility in the digital infrastructure is even being thought
about.
Digital information technology is the life blood of the twenty first century across all
aspects of civic, economic and social life. That is a twenty first century fact of life.
Digital civil rights are just as vital as the traditional rights protected and grown through
the work of millions since the founding of the American nation.
It is about self-determination, a fair chance and equal access to opportunity.
We are still working to eliminate the prejudices that have restricted these things across
physical concrete and steel, and attitudinal barriers through laws and understanding.

Those who oppose providing access in the digital world claim cost as an issue and are
bolstered by legal minds who say that current laws do not apply to the accessibility of
the digital information technology world of cyber space.
Cost is not an argument for denying a person’s civil rights. That is that. Besides once
required and built in the cost of accessible technology will be as marginal as curb cuts.
Another accessibility requirement that was also too costly and is now a matter of fact
used and appreciated by many with and without disabilities.
The opponents of access across cyber space have pointed the way. Their claim that
current civil rights laws do not apply is a call for clarity.
It is a call for an entirely new body of civil rights law that applies to the digital
infrastructure, cyber space and the software and devices flowing from the genius of
information technology.
A body of new legislation not tied to current law but drawing its inspiration from Doctor
Kings warning that Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
The American Digital Accessibility Act can become the civil rights law of Americas
information technology civic, economic and social infrastructure.
Injustice across cyber space must not be allowed to threaten the justice of the future.

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Government Spotlight

LAWMAKERS SAY IT’S PAST TIME OMB ISSUED IDEA ACT GUIDANCE

More than two years after Congress passed a law requiring federal programs to meet minimum usability standards for their websites and digital services, lawmakers are asking the Biden administration to give agencies real implementation guidance. The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act, or IDEA Act, passed in 2018 during the Trump administration, has seen little implementation across government. Deadlines outlined in the text of the law came and went without agencies receiving guidance from OMB, preventing any formal metrics or uniform implementation plans…

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Accessible Elections

VIRGINIA TO NOW PROVIDE ACCESSIBLE ABSENTEE VOTING OPTION FOR VOTERS WITH PRINT DISABILITIES

Sponsored by VOTEC

Virginia will now permanently make its elections accessible and safe for voters with print disabilities. Starting with the June 2021 primaries, those who cannot mark a paper ballot privately and independently due to disabilities such as blindness can now cast their ballot more accessibly with a secure remote absentee voting option. In August 2020, Virginia agreed to provide an absentee ballot option that is accessible and can be marked electronically so that voters with disabilities could safely vote in the November 2020 general election…

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VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES SPEAK OUT AGAINST STATE VOTING BILLS

Two Wisconsin voting bills are a source of concern for disability rights advocates, including a local Hudson man. Ramsey Lee joined other advocates for those with disabilities in speaking out against the voting bill being considered by the Wisconsin Legislature during a press conference on Wednesday, May 12, held by the Wisconsin Disability Vote Coalition. Bill 203 would require that an absentee ballot be returned by mail or turned in by the voter, a member of the voter’s immediate family or the voter’s legal guardian…

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MICROSOFT’S ACCESSIBILITY CHIEF ON THE BENEFITS OF CLOSING THE ‘DISABILITY DIVIDE’

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MICROSOFT’S FIVE-YEAR ACCESSIBILITY PLEDGE BEGINS WITH AI IMPROVEMENTS FOR OFFICE AND MORE

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DOUBLING DOWN ON ACCESSIBILITY: MICROSOFT’S NEXT STEPS TO EXPAND ACCESSIBILITY IN TECHNOLOGY, THE WORKFORCE AND WORKPLACE

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MICROSOFT ANNOUNCES ‘DOUBLING DOWN’ ON PRIORITIZING ACCESSIBILITY AND NARROWING THE DISABILITY GAP

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Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer Jenny Lay-Flurrie is thinking about disabilities in ways that many others are not. Or at least, aren’t yet. The Redmond-based software and cloud company on Wednesday is launching a five-year initiative to help close the “disability divide” — or the gap between the resources and opportunities available to those with disabilities and those without. That includes creating technology software and hardware that is accessible to people with wide-ranging physical and neurological abilities, increasing the percentage of the Microsoft workforce that has disabilities…

 

 

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Current Legal Actions

FEDERAL WEBSITE ACCESSIBILITY LAWSUITS INCREASED IN 2020 DESPITE MID-YEAR PANDEMIC LULL

The numbers are in for total website accessibility lawsuit filings in federal courts in 2020, and to our surprise they show a significant increase from 2019. The total number of lawsuits filed in federal courts alleging that plaintiffs with a disability could not use websites because they were not coded to work with assistive technologies like screen readers, or otherwise accessible to them, in 2020 was 2,523-almost 300 more than in 2019.  While certainly not akin to the explosive 177% increase in these suits from 2017 to 2018, it is a meaningful increase over the relatively level 2018 and 2019 filing counts…

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Business Accessibility

MAKING TECHNOLOGY ACCESSIBLE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES WILL END UP MAKING LIFE EASIER FOR EVERYONE

Have you ever noticed the ramps at a street corner? These are called curb cuts. The initial purpose was to allow wheelchairs to cross the street. The curb cut ended up helping a lot more people: parents pushing strollers, travelers pulling luggage, skateboarders flying, bikers riding and workers carrying heavy loads. Making websites, digital products and content accessible to those with disabilities has a curb cut effect. Captioning is the best example of this. Many people think captioned videos are for the deaf and hard of hearing…

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NO ONE LEFT BEHIND: WHY BRANDS SHOULD PRIORITIZE ACCESSIBILITY

Most people take social media for granted as a part of their everyday lives. But for people with disabilities, participating in the online conversation isn’t always easy. Despite making up 15% of the global population and having a disposable income of more than $8 trillion, accessibility remains an issue for people with disabilities. Current Global, Magna and the IPG Media Lab released a study on Wednesday, Digital Accessibility: The Necessity of Inclusion, which surveyed more than 800 people living with visual, hearing, cognitive or speech disabilities across the U.S. and the U.K…

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ACCESSIBILITY OVERLAYS MAY NOT MAKE YOUR SITE MORE ACCESSIBLE

For a long time, accessibility has been pretty far down on most web developers’ priority lists. But that negligence is starting to haunt website owners as the number of lawsuits over web accessibility grows. There were 57 digital accessibility lawsuits in 2015, but in 2020 that number had risen to 3,550. The trend has led to mixed results for users. On one hand, it’s focused some welcome attention on web accessibility, forcing companies to think about the consequences of ignoring accessibility concerns. But an unfortunate side effect is companies turning to third-party products called “overlays” as quick fixes to avoid being sued…

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Healthcare Accessibility

DISABILITIES ADVOCATES CITE UNEQUAL ACCESS TO COVID-19 VACCINE, PONDER REMEDIES

Alex Hanson, 20, has cerebral palsy, a breathing tube, two feeding tubes and round-the-clock nursing care. More than a month into her home state of Minnesota’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, Hanson’s able-bodied mom was alerted that, as one of her child’s official caregivers, she was in a class of essential workers eligible to get that shot. But her daughter still wasn’t eligible. “She gets pneumonia easily and she’s on the ventilator at night …  We were terrified,” said Kyle Hanson, Alex’s father, referring to the coronavirus. “Alex was, basically, the prime candidate of somebody who would die if they got it.”…

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Accessible Technology

TECHNOLOGY IS FOR PEOPLE

If you think the Internet and digital technology have opened the world to everyone who can connect to it, you’d only be partly right. Of course, connectivity remains an issue in many parts of the world, but a universal challenge is how to make an online experience fully accessible for people with disabilities, who are often marginalized when it comes to digital access. Rather than being considered a right, far too often accessibility is considered an added feature instead of a necessity…

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BLIND PEOPLE, ADVOCATES SLAM ACCESSIBE FOR CLAIMING TO MAKE WEBSITES ADA COMPLIANT

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AVOID ACCESSIBE & OTHER COMPANIES CLAIMING QUICK & EASY AI ACCESSIBILITY

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ACCESSIBILITY ADVOCATES SIGN OPEN LETTER URGING PEOPLE NOT TO USE ACCESIBE AND OTHER OVERLAY PRODUCTS

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Throughout the pandemic, as blind people, like everyone else, became increasingly dependent on websites to purchase goods, one of the fastest-growing companies that works with clients like Oreo cookies and Energizer batteries to make their websites more accessible has been engulfed in an increasingly contentious relationship with blind people. Many blind people say its product is making it harder for them to navigate the web. In recent months, blind people and disability advocates have been speaking out on social media and suing companies that use AccessiBe…

 

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