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We write about Digital Accessibility. This includes topics related accessibility news, accessibility events, accessibility techniques, reviews of websites and applications, tips related to accessibility and in simple words all possible things about digital accessibility.

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Accessibility News

WCAG 2.1 is now a candid recommendation

Accessibility Guidelines Working Group of W3C has published WCAG 2.1 as a candid recommendation (CR). Purpose of CR is to ensure that standard can be implemented. Results of this exercise will be made available on WCAG 2.1 Implementation report once it’s completed. Working group plans to complete this by June 2018.

What’s new in WCAG 2.1

Addresses more accessibility requirements of people with cognitive disabilities, people with low vision and improves accessibility of mobile. Features of WCAG 2.1 are:

WCAG 2.1 extends WCAG 2.0 by adding new success criteria, definitions to support them, guidelines to organize the additions, and a couple of additions to the conformance section. This additive approach helps to make it clear that sites which conform to WCAG 2.1 also conform to WCAG 2.0, thereby meeting conformance obligations that are specific to WCAG 2.0. The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group recommends that sites adopt WCAG 2.1 as their new conformance target, even if formal obligations mention WCAG 2.0, to provide improved accessibility and to anticipate future policy changes.

The following Success Criteria are new in WCAG 2.1:

Many of these success criteria reference new terms that have also been added to the glossary and form part of the normative requirements of the success criteria.

In the Conformance section, a third note about page variants has been added to Full Pages, and an option for machine-readable metadata added to Optional Components of a Conformance Claim.

What we should do

Apply WCAG 2.1 to our day-to-day work and report when a success criterion cannot be implemented. Do file an issue on Github or write to Chairs of Accessibility Guidelines Working Group.

Let’s do some exiting work! Sincere thanks to everyone involved in building accessibility standards.

I-STEM hackathon, Blind World Cricket Cup, Ola App, First women… a historic weekend!

January 20 & 21st 2018 remains historic. Series of amazing things took place in India. To begin with, Inclusive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) – a forum of a few individuals with disabilities who are graduated / studying at IITs, IIITs etc., have organised an unique hackathon where participants consist of coders of both mainstream and visually impaired. It was hosted by International Institute of Information Technology, co-organized by VisionEmpower, Vision Aid, XRCVC. There were 12 teams who have worked on fantastic ideas including detecting and narrating objects around you, Currency identifier cum cash management wallet, game similar to snake and ladder (which can be played by mainstream and visually impaired people together) etc.,

Indian defeated Pakistan in the Blind Cricket World Cup. Celebration took placer all over social media and it was amazing to see appreciation from almost everyone in the country including the Prime Minister, BCCI, etc., Now there is no reason for BCCI not to recognize and support Cricket Association of the Blind in India and Blind Cricket as a sport.

A friend of us have reported Ola cabs app has now became more accessihble and a visually impaired user could be able to use it independently.

There was a recognition for women who have happened to be first in their field. Glad to see Rajani Gopalakrishna from Bangalore, who happened to be first blind women to become Chartered accountant.

In the other news, it is noticed, Government of India is taking initiative to make their websites more accessible.

Way to go!

Judges panel at I-STEM Hackathon consist of George, Srinivasu and Prof. Srikanth
Judges panel at I-STEM Hackathon consist of George, Srinivasu and Prof. Srikanth

Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA) Working Group of W3C has finalized several documents.

The Accessible Rich Internet Applications Working Group of W3C has finalized following documents:

Below is an excerpt of the announcement from ARIA working group:

The Digital Publishing WAI-ARIA specifications were co-developed with the Digital Publishing Interest Group, which has since become the Publishing Working Group.

WAI-ARIA 1.1 adds a variety of new features that were identified as needs since WAI-ARIA 1.0 was completed. These include a static table model to complement the dynamic grid model provided in WAI-ARIA 1.0, supporting news feeds and modal dialog boxes, better supporting labeling and extended descriptions, allowing authors to indicate keyboard shortcuts and custom role types, and refining the owned roles model and set of properties for many ARIA features. Digital Publishing WAI-ARIA Roles takes this further to provide roles for types of content that often appears in digital publications. Accessibility API Mappings describe how these features should be mapped to the features of Accessibility APIs specific to various platforms that user use to access web content.

WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices 1.1 has undergone major enhancements to reflect this work and provide web content authors with practical guidance about how to use WAI-ARIA in web content, including steps they need to take beyond WAI-ARIA itself to provide full accessibility support. A major part of the document is a set of design patterns for various types of widgets that explain how to create the widget using ARIA features and recommended keyboard interaction to achieve a familiar and predictable user experience; these design patterns are complemented by a comprehensive set of examples with working code that demonstrate the design pattern in action and provide authors a starting point for coding their own versions. The document provides comprehensive guidance about how to make content accessible to keyboard users, and also provides information about when *not* to use WAI-ARIA in preference to native features. Further information about this is available in the blog post:

WAI-ARIA Authoring Practices 1.1 Note helps authors make content accessible

Following the completion of WAI-ARIA 1.1, the Working Group will begin work on WAI-ARIA 1.2, which will focus on defining features that correspond to existing HTML 5 features. This reflects convergence of an accessibility taxonomy for the web across various technologies and will support future scripting and automation of accessibility features. More information about the Accessible Rich Internet Applications Working Group is available from its home page:
https://www.w3.org/WAI/ARIA/

There has been great developments in th4e accessibility space during 2017. Way to go!

Last chance to comment: WCAG 2.1 last public working draft is now available

The Accessibility Guidelines Working Group of W3C has published last public working draft of WCAG 2.1 and one can send in comments no later than 12th January, 2018. This is a fantastic opportunity for those who are not full time into accessibility but want to spend their holiday / festive session in getting acquitted with something new. A quick note from Editors of WCAG 2.1

WCAG 2.1 adds new success crtiteria to expand coverage users of mobile devices, people with cognitive or learning disabilities, and people with low vision. Most success criteria are complete, but some are still under discussion. The success criteria under discussion are marked with editorial notes and pointers to the ongoing discussion. As these success criteria are finalized, they will be updated in the Editors’ Draft

Because this is the final Working Draft, we encourage you to comment on all success criteria as soon as possible, and please comment no later than 12 January 2018. If you have comments on this draft or on continuing work on open issues, we prefer that you file input as new issues in GitHub

Alternatively, you can send email to:

public-agwg-comments@w3.org

The Working Group plans to publish the Candidate Recommendation in late January 2018. The Candidate Recommendation will include the final form of success criteria currently still under discussion, though they will be marked as “at risk” due to the lack of review opportunity from this current draft.

Additional background on WCAG 2.1 is available from previous announcements:

More information about the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group is available from its home page

So here is a final chance to have your say in building standards to create inclusive web experiences!

International Day of Persons with Disabilities 3rd December

3rd December of every year is observed as International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Objective of observing this day is to raise awareness about people with disabilities and bring them to the mainstream. As we are gearing up to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I would like to spend a few minutes and pen my thoughts how lives of people with disabilities have changed over a few years.

Before technology came into existence, people with disabilities has to depend on support for almost everything. May it be a blind person who would like to read a printed material, may it be a person loco-motor disability who wish to go for shopping, person with hearing impairment, who wish to communicate etc.,

Technology has addressed a lot of problems and brought independence to lives of people with disabilities. Today person with blindness can have access to digital books, convert any printed material to digital format and read independently, there are libraries like Bookshare and Sugamya Pusthakalaya, who brings together efforts of accessible books, access the wealth of information around the world, communicate to their friends and relatives using digital channels. Through the advancement in technology, opportunities for employment in the mainstream have been increased.

Again, with the advancement of technology and evolving e-commerce industry, it has become lives of people with loco motor disabilities more independent. Most of the shopping malls are inaccessible to wheel chair users; though a few brands have recently introduced Shopping Assist programs, it is still not as joyful as shopping independently. Online shopping has made this possible whereby users can shop from their location and things get delivered. Most importantly, online marketplaces may have more options than those available in the physical stores.

But what is lacking is that though there are advancement in assistive technologies that enable people with disabilities to access the technology, most of the technologies remains inaccessible; this is because due to lack of awareness about accessibility. There are enough resources available but what is important is that introduce those resources to developers at the stage when they actually learn to code! Accessibility and standards should be incorporated in the mainstream technological courses at school, college or whoever offer technological courses.

There is also a part that has to be played by users with disabilities. When user finds something unusable, write a detailed note to the app developer and keep following up until there is a response. While reporting, ensure to include some resources that helps them in resolving the issue. Another advantage of providing resources is that adds encouragement for developers to investigate the issue.

To conclude, here is an idea – starting this month, let’s meet one developer a month and educate them about accessibility and let’s see how many people we could impact by International Day of Persons with Disabiolities in 2018.

Accessibility Collection – week of 6th November, 2017

Uber India launches UberAccess and UberAssist in partnership with MphasiS

October seem to be a month for service providers to think of making their services accessible to people with disabilities. Earlier this week, we have witnessed launch of Shopping Assist program by Big Bazar and today, Uber India has launched UberAccess and UberAssist initiatives at Bengaluru, India in partnership with MphasiS. Some details:

Mphasis Corporate Social Responsibility and Uber initiative aims to provide convenient, reliable and
affordable rides for senior citizens and people with accessibility needs
• uberACCESS, an Asia-first launch for Uber in Bengaluru offers 50 retrofitted vehicles, sponsored by
Mphasis, with heightened roof and hydraulic wheelchair lift on-demand
• uberASSIST, a fleet of 500 vehicles are designed to provide additional assistance to senior citizens and
people with accessibility needs
• All uberACCESS and uberASSIST driver partners have been trained and certified by Diversity and Equal
Opportunity Centre (DEOC)

This would surely be helpful and make travel more convenient to people with disabilities and others who need a bit of assistance. We hope eventually UberAssist becomes a natural and default component of all partner drivers.

Read more details about this initiative (PDF)

It’s worth mentioning that MphasiS has been an organization that support and promoted several inclusion projects such as this. In fact, MphasiS has promoted KickStart Cabs that happened to be first accessible taxi service in India a few years ago.

Way to go!

JAWS 2018 has been released by Freedom Scientific

Authors note: Please note that this is a republished post due to some unavoidable technical issue.

Freedom Scientific has just released its popular screen reader software JAWS (Job Access With Speech) version 2018. Here is a quick summary of what’s new in this version.

  • Change in version numbering. Until now, JAWS used to have numbering with single and then two digits kile JAWS 7, 8, 10, 11 and so on… With this version, JAWS has adopted version numbering based on year. But I’m not sure why this is named as “2018” and not “2017”; perhaps the reason could be its immediate past version is JAWS 18
  • JAWS 2018 now supports Microsoft Edge browser. While there are still several JAWS features that are not available in Edge such as selecting and copying using the Virtual Cursor, PlaceMarkers, Smart Navigation, Flexible Web, and domain-specific settings, they have made the overall experience of navigating pages in Edge using both speech and braille as similar as possible to working in Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox.As you begin using Edge, one important item to note is that Edge is a Modern app with no menu bar that can be accessed using the ALT key. To access Edge specific features, press TAB from the bottom of a page or SHIFT+TAB from the top. Continue using TAB or SHIFT+TAB to move through the various controls until you cycle back around to the content area. Alternatively, Edge offers many of the same shortcut keys found in other browsers such as CTRL+T to open a new tab, CTRL+H for History, CTRL+I for Favorites, CTRL+J for Downloads, and so on.
  • The Convenient OCR (Optical Character Recognition) feature, which enables you to recognize the text of inaccessible PDF documents opened in Adobe Reader or the text of images on the screen, has been expanded to support the recognition of image files as well as images captured by Freedom Scientific’s PEARL® reading camera or a flatbed scanner.
  • All new installer – The JAWS installation process has been completely redesigned to take advantage of the latest technology. The setup process has been streamlined with fewer dialogs and offers faster download and installation of various components. The installer is now also self-voicing, no longer using a run-time version of JAWS. If you happen to be running an older version of JAWS while installing 2018, the self-voicing of the install will remain silent, allowing you to use your previous version of JAWS to speak during setup.
  • New verbosity options for the virtual cursor
  • Support for Microsoft Mobile Voices in Windows 10
  • Updated Liblouis Braille Translator
  • Option for Moving to Any Link Added to Navigation Quick Key Manager
  • “Document and Web Pages Automatically Read when Loaded” Option Added to Settings Center
  • User can now press CTRL+APOSTROPHE or CTRL+SEMICOLON in Google Docs to move to the next or previous misspelled word in a document.
  • Acronym Expansion Included When Spelling a Word
  • Improvements to JAWS Language Switching

If you purchased JAWS 18 after September 1, 2017, you can download the JAWS 2018 release for free from the Freedom Scientific website. To verify if you are entitled to the current version, visit the SMA and Upgrade Pricing page and enter your serial number.

It’s good to see some major feature upgrade to the JAWS after a while.

Big Bazar launches comfortable shopping experiences to people with disabilities: My experience

Big Bazar has launched an initiative to provide wonderful shopping experience to people with disabilities and we have just visited to its store in Koramangala, Bangalore. It was an awesome experience and definitely a good beginning to their journey of inclusive shopping experience. Here is our experience.

Their assistance program web page has a form where customer needs to fill in  a form choosing city, location, date and time slot of choice. On submission, we have received a text message and email confirming our request to visit the store. Email was also stated that an Accessibility Champion will get in touch with us shortly, but in our case it did not happen.

We have called up the store; operator said she did not have complete information about the initiative but she was aware something special is happening in the store; she has provided me with the hand phone number of store Manager. He was indeed aware of the initiative and keen to have us at their store.

When we have visited the store, we have called the Manager and he has received us and introduced to two of his team members. They have asked us to choose from a couple of options. One is to just give them our shopping list and they will shop for us and another is they would take us around the store and we can pick the products that we needed. We have opted for the later. They have immediately picked a cart for us and we started walking. They have called out each and every product to us and given us a choice to select. As we select a product, they were adding it to the card. They were even willing to carry our child too (though he declined!).

They have taken us to all the departments; even told us about available freebies such as a sample drink etc., and helped us having the same. It took about an hour for shopping and their personnel were always with us. At the end of the shopping, we were attended by a priority cash counter. There were seats available for us to sit incase if we want. Then we got dropped at our cab. Even our shopping bags were kept inside the cab by their personnel. It was absolutely a wonderful experience.

The store that we have visited is one of the very old stores hence store did not have escalator or elevator but staff were indeed helpful. Our advice to customers with wheel chair or anyone who cannot use stairs is that it would be good to with your desired shopping list. Alternatively, store personnel can give you a store catalogue and you can choose products that you need.

Thank you, Big Bazar for this initiative. Sure, this would add mutual benefit to you and your customers.

Accessibility Update 13th June, 2017

Lot has been happening in the recent past. Here is a quick update: