Posts Tagged ‘blindness’

Another interesting article, DOJ vs. UC Berkeley: Forcing Online Content to Be Accessible,  about accessibility, lawsuits, and more.

UC Berkeley is figuring out what to do next as the U.S. Department of Justice tells it to make its online audio and video content accessible.


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Ron McCallum was born blind. Regardless, he managed to fall in love with reading soon after. In this funny and heartfelt talk, he tours the history of reading gear for the blind and shows how each new design has impacted his life.

Professor Ron McCallum AO is one of Australia’s most respected industrial and discrimination lawyers and a prominent human rights advocate. With a long and successful career as a legal academic and teacher, in 1993 he became the first totally blind person appointed to a full professorship at any Australian university when he became Professor in Industrial Law at the University of Sydney.

He served as Dean of the University of Sydney Law School for 5 years and is now an Emeritus Professor. Ron is a leading light in the disabled community, working for equality among all Australians. He is also Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2011, Ron was named Senior Australian of the Year. His interests include reading, listening to music and meditation.

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Today I came across an article from the  Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind.  The article,  Making Online Courses Accessible for All by John Christie, was brief but included several key points which are of interest to those working to make online courses accessible.

One is that faculty members who teach online have to make their materials accessible to all.

Online courses should be accessible from the beginning. Professors should not wait until a disabled student self identifies.

There is a short paragraph about a recent suit at the University of Montana. For more details on the suit see the separate article  entitled Disabled UM students file complaint over inaccessible online courses (from the Montana paper Missoulian).

The specific allegations listed:

• Inaccessible class assignments and materials on the learning management system, Moodle.

• Inaccessible live chat and discussion board functions in the learning management system, Moodle.

• Inaccessible documents that are scanned images on webpages and websites.

• Inaccessible videos, and videos in Flash format, that are not captioned.

• Inaccessible library database materials.

• Inaccessible course registration through a website, Cyber Bear.

• Inaccessible classroom clickers.

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First, let’s define a screen reader.

Screen readers are software programs that allow blind or visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the computer screen with a speech synthesizer. A screen reader is the interface between the computer’s operating system, its applications, and the user. The user sends commands by pressing different combinations of keys on the computer keyboard to instruct the speech synthesizer what to say and to speak automatically when changes occur on the computer screen. A command can instruct the synthesizer to read or spell a word, read a line or full screen of text, find a string of text on the screen, announce the location of the computer’s cursor or focused item, and so on.

from American Federation for the Blind (opens in a new window)

Now, watch a video of a user with a screen reader.

I’d like to share a video of Neal Ewers  of the Trace Research Center at the University of Wisconsin. He shows how he uses a screen reader and talks a bit about what this means for designers.

Next, try to simulate using a screen reader yourself.

The directions for this simulation point out  that you may be frustrated trying to find the answers to the questions on this  website for a fake university.  The creators have tried to simulate what blind readers experience when using many web sites.

WebAIM Screen Reader Simulation (opens in a new window)

Now, download a screen reader to your own computer and use it with any website or document.

NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) software (opens in a new window) enables blind and vision impaired people to use a computer by communicating what is on the screen using a synthetic voice or braille. You can use this to see what your  web page will sound like in a screen reader. If you are trying to simulate blindness, just turn off the monitor and try to navigate a web page using only NVDA.

NVDA  is a screen reader for Microsoft Windows that is totally free, yet fully functional and portable. You can download it to your PC, or to portable media such as a USB stick which you can use with any computer at school, work – anywhere!

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I just received a timely article from Campus Technology (07/07/11)Web Accessibility for All.  Dian Schaffhauser has interviewed accessibility specialist Terrill Thompson about common pitfalls to avoid when creating accessible sites, especially portals.  Since our department is working on a new portal, these tips are useful for us.

Here are some things to consider:

  • People use different browsers.
  • People may use different devices – mobile, desktops, laptops.
  • People have different needs around screen resolution, font size, color.
  • People may have visual impairment, including blindness.
  • People can’t use a mouse.

The latest version of web accessibility guidelines are found at http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ . Thompson points out that most institutions of higher education do not meet these standards. I know our institution does not.

Blunders that are mentioned in this article include:

  • Lack of headings or incorrect use of headings.
  • Poor keyboard navigation, or none at all.
  • Use of rich media which may require a mouse to hover in order to cause a menu to pull down, fly out or some other thing.

Thomson ends with this advice:

… it is a lot more cost effective to build in accessibility from the beginning rather than to have to go back and make things accessible later.

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An article from The Chronicle of Higher Education — Wired Campus — June 23, 2011

California State U. Report Warns of Accessibility Issues in Google Services

an excerpt:

California State University’s Accessible Technology Initiative suggests in a report released this week that universities limit their campuswide use of Google’s free Web services based on what it calls a variety of inaccessibility issues for the blind and those with other disabilities.

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Excellent article about accessibility and online learning! from Let’s Give the Blind Better Access to Online Learning by Virginia A. Jacko in The Chronicle of Higher Education

It is ironic that in an age when technology could erase so many barriers for blind students, colleges and universities are not paying enough attention to accessibility in their online services.

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