The Revolution in Technology That is Helping Blind People See
Lex Arriola is your typical 15-year-old girl. She uses her smartphone a ton. She texts. She FaceTimes. Like most teens, she loves emoji and, of course, Taylor Swift. But unlike most of her peers, Arriola was born blind. When she gets texts with emojis, Siri translates them, so messages are punctuated by “face screaming in fear” and “puffing with angry face”. She has a Braille Sense, a small book-sized beige contraption with a tactile keyboard that she uses to read and write. Arriola, a petite curly-haired brunette with a warm smile, commands her always-dark iPhone screen with a flurry of taps, swipes and voice commands to Siri. Over the last 30 years, technologists have made huge strides in making the internet more accessible to the blind, with digitized Braille systems and text-to-speech software that reads the words on a webpage or app aloud. More recently, companies, including Facebook, have started translating images into read-aloud text. (Maybe that will actually nudge Arriola to start using the social network.)
From http://fusion.net/story/234818/tech-disabilities-artificial-intelligence/, January 15, 2016
Dubai Students Develop Sign Language App to Benefit Deaf Community
A team of university students have set out to help bridge the gap between the deaf and non-deaf communities of the UAE through a mobile application that teaches users the fundamentals of Emirati sign-language. The students from Canadian University Dubai, or CUD, came up with the idea for the app named Efhamni - Arabic for "understand me" - after research revealed that families with deaf children tend to adopt more informal methods of communication that could limit the child's potential to engage with wider society. The technology is being developed as part of the Ripples of Happiness Programme, a region-wide community initiative delivered by the Coca-Cola Foundation and Injaz UAE, which aims to encourage social responsibility.
From http://www.albawaba.com/business/dubai-students-develop-sign-language-app-benefit-deaf-community-786540, January 15, 2016
The Value of Web Accessibility
Visually impaired people navigate the web for the same reasons we all do, to find information, to shop and to perform a myriad of important tasks using web-based applications. But visually impaired people experience the web differently and we need to be sensitive to their needs when we design and build websites. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.N. and World Bank over 47 million Americans, and up to 650 million people worldwide, have some kind of disability.
From http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2015/12/the-value-of-accessibility/, January 13, 2016
Why You Should Care About Accessibility in Email Marketing
A couple of months ago I was attending a UX conference in London where I was inspired by the talk of Alastair Campbell from Nomensa. He explained how many different problems you should consider if you try to make your website truly accessible. And there was the problem again: accessibility. It’s not about any kind of human disability: it’s just the software, Siri who scans and tries to make sense out of it. And most of the time Siri can’t.
From https://medium.com/@silcucc/why-you-should-care-about-accessibility-in-email-marketing-2f7443acb422#.341lr6ocb, January 13, 2016
First Public Working Draft: Requirements for WCAG 2.0 Extensions
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group has published a First Public Working Draft of Requirements for WCAG 2.0 Extensions. This document describes the requirements that the WCAG WG is setting for the development of WCAG 2.0 extensions. Extensions are optional standards modules that build on the existing requirements for WCAG 2.0, and are designed to work in harmony with the WCAG 2.0 standard.
From http://globalaccessibilitynews.com/2016/01/06/first-public-working-draft-requirements-for-wcag-2-0-extensions/, January 12, 2016
USA: Bringing Braille Back with Better Display Technology
Today, blind people fluent in Braille can read computer screens through refreshable mechanical displays that convert the words to raised dots – but only one line at a time. For the sighted, imagine a Kindle that showed just 40 characters per page, says Sile O’Modhrain, an associate professor in the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance and the School of Information, who is blind. Forty characters amounts to about 10 words. Even though fluency in the nearly 200-year-old code is linked with higher employment and academic performance for the visually impaired, fewer blind people are learning and using it. Taking Braille’s place are text-to-speech programs that make it easier and faster to consume electronic information, but at the same time, hold back literacy.
From http://bit.ly/1PoH0Sk, January 12, 2016
The Future of Health Sensing May Get Under Your Skin
What if wearables like Fitbits and the Apple Watch represent the infancy of on-body health sensors, something we'll one day look back on the way we now look at the clunky, boxy mobile phones of the 1980s? A number of researchers are working on ultrathin, flexible sensors that could be applied to the skin like smart tattoos, or even applied to the surface of organs inside the body to continually monitor vital signs or to deliver time-released drugs. A recent in-depth piece in Nature Magazine looked at the promise, and the many challenges of this kind of technology.
From http://mobihealthnews.com/content/future-health-sensing-may-get-under-your-skin, January 12, 2016
UK Government Backs GBP 24 Million IoT Research Hub
Imperial College London is part of the new consortium of nine universities, which has received GBP9.8 million support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as part of a UK Government investment in IoT research. An additional GBP 9.7 million comes from partners including businesses, NGOs, and public bodies. With just over £4 million of additional support from the participating institutions, the total investment in the PETRAS IoT Hub comes to GBP 24 million over 3 years.
From http://www.machinetomachinemagazine.com/2016/01/07/uk-gov-backs-24-million-iot-research-hub, January 12, 2016
USA: Chicago Transit Authority Announces Next Step Making Rail System 100% Accessible
As part of Mayor Emanuel’s ongoing commitment to improve accessibility throughout the City of Chicago, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) announced on January 7, a new initiative that will establish a blueprint for making the nation’s second largest transit agency 100 percent accessible over the next 20 years. TA President Dorval Carter introduced plans for the creation of the new CTA Strategic Accessibility Program – a first-ever, comprehensive plan that will outline both short-term and long-term initiatives to make the CTA’s rail system fully ADA accessible over the next 20 years and plans to either repair and/or replace existing rail system elevators.
From http://globalaccessibilitynews.com/2016/01/08/chicago-transit-authority-announces-next-step-making-rail-system-100-accessible/, January 11, 2016
Monitoring and Evaluation of Disability-Inclusive Development: Data and Statistics
The lack of data and information on disability and the situation of persons with disabilities at the national level contributes to the invisibility of persons with disabilities in official statistics, presenting an obstacle to achieving development planning and implementation that is inclusive of persons with disabilities. The Washington Group on Disability Statistics, a group which operated under the aegis of the UN Statistical Commission, has developed an internationally comparable set of questions for census and surveys. Data collected with these questions will be useful to assist the monitoring of development goals for persons with disabilities.
From bit.ly/1mK1a22, January 08, 2016