Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Callas launches pdfGoHTML

callas logoCallas software, known for its quality control and document archival software, worked closely with its sister company axaio software when focusing its attention on tagged PDF. Last year, axaio software released the beta version of its MadeToTag product, an Adobe InDesign plug-in to streamline tagging of Adobe InDesign files and create tagged PDF files. Tagged PDF files are essential for screen reader devices helping visually impaired people or reading software for people with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. In addition, tagged PDF files enable substantially better indexing by search engines and a more reliable text extraction or conversion to other formats.

It is this last property of tagged PDFs that is used by pdfGoHTML to allow high quality conversion of tagged PDFs into HTML. When opening a PDF file, pdfGoHTML immediately indicates whether or not the file is tagged and allows a one-button conversion into HTML in the default browser. Users can easily switch how the HTML is displayed to adjust it to their specific needs: browser default, structure tags, easy reader, inverted, low vision, and dyslexia.

For those who need to evaluate the tagging quality of a PDF file, the ‘structure tags’ view in the exported HTML provides a very quick, intuitive quality analysis tool that shows where the tagging structure of a tagged PDF needs improvement. callas pdfGoHTML will substantially speed up the creation and evaluation of tagged PDFs, and ensures a much higher degree of usability of tagged PDF files.

callas pdfGoHTML is immediately available as a free tool. It works in Acrobat 9, 10 and 11 on both Mac and Windows. It can be downloaded at http://www.callassoftware.com/callas/doku.php/en:download  and tried out with the attached tagged PDF files. This short video explains why pdfGoHTML is important and how to works.

callas software is based in Berlin, Germany. For more information, visit the callas software website at: http://www.callassoftware.com.

Source: GAATES

Monday, November 12, 2012

Digital tablets improve reading for people with vision disabilities

CHICAGO: People who have eye diseases that damage their central vision can regain the ability to read quickly and comfortably by using digital tablets, according to a recent study.

The research found that people with moderate vision disabilities could increase their reading speed by 15 words-per-minute, on average. Using a tablet with a back-lit screen resulted in the fastest reading speeds for all study participants, no matter what their level of visual acuity. The research is being presented today at the 116th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology,jointly conducted this year with the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology.

Loss of central vision affects millions of people who have eye diseases such as macular degeneration  or diabetic retinopathy, which damage the light-sensitive cells of the eye’s retina. The retina relays images to the optic nerve, which transmits them to the brain. When treatments such as eyeglasses, medications, or surgery are no longer effective, ophthalmologists – eye medical doctors and surgeons – help patients maximize their remaining sight by using low-vision aids. Before digital tablets came along, reading aids were limited to lighted magnifiers, which are cumbersome and inconvenient by comparison.

In the study, which was conducted at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, researchers found that all of the 100 participants gained at least 42 words-per-minute (WPM) when using the iPad™ tablet on the 18-point font setting, compared with reading a print book or newspaper. A more modest gain of 12 WPM, on average, was achieved by all subjects when using the Kindle™ tablet set to 18-point font. Patients with the poorest vision – defined as 20/40 or worse in both eyes – showed the most improvement in speed when using an iPad or Kindle, compared with print.

The researchers believe the iPad’s back-illuminated screen is the key to the significantly improved reading speed achieved by patients with moderate vision disability. The vision factor involved is called contrast sensitivity, which means being able see an object as separate and distinct from its background and to discern shades of gray. Loss of contrast sensitivity is common in people with low vision. The high word/background contrast provided by a back-lit screen is a big plus for such patients. The original Kindle, which was used in this study, does not have a back-lit screen.

The study also assessed low vision patients’ comfort while reading and found that their preferred mode was linked to their degree of vision loss. People with the worst vision found the iPad most comfortable, while those with the best vision preferred print. This information will be useful to ophthalmologists in advising patients with various degrees of vision loss.

“Reading is a simple pleasure that we often take for granted until vision disability makes it difficult,” said Daniel Roth, M.D., an associate clinical professor at Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine who led of the study. “Our findings show that at a relatively low cost, digital tablets can improve the lives of people with vision disabilities and help them reconnect with the larger world.”

The 116 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology is in session November 10-13 at McCormick Place in Chicago. It is the world’s largest, most comprehensive ophthalmic education conference. More than 25,000 attendees and 500 companies gather each year to showcase the latest in ophthalmic education, research, clinical developments, technology, products and services. This year’s meeting is being held jointly with the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology.

For more information, visit www.aao.org or  www.geteyesmart.org

Source: GAATES

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Desire2Learn expands its platform with technologies from Cisco WebEx, ReadSpeaker, Ellucian and Automatic Sync Technologies

EDUCAUSE – KITCHENER-WATERLOO, ON AND DENVER, CO: Desire2Learn Incorporated (“Desire2Learn”) announces that its strengthening its leadership position in the education industry by incorporating technologies from Cisco WebEx, ReadSpeaker, Automatic Sync Technologies (AST) and Ellucian, to further promote lifelong learning.

Within the Desire2Learn platform, the Company is now empowering its customers with Cisco® WebEx® virtual conferencing capabilities to improve collaboration capabilities, ReadSpeaker’s cloud-based text-to-speech technology and AST’s technologies for increasing accessibility for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. In addition, Desire2Learn is working closely with Ellucian and their Partner Community Program to deepen the integration with its student information system.

“Desire2Learn’s products help learners learn, instructors teach and extend learning well beyond the classroom,” said Dennis Kavelman, COO of Desire2Learn. “By offering an open platform and enabling integrations with technology and education providers such as Cisco, Ellucian and ReadSpeaker, we’re delivering on our promise to advance education globally and continue to provide rich learning experiences.”

CISCO WEBEX: Together, Desire2Learn and Cisco WebEx now offer a virtual classroom environment that streamlines experiences for instructors and students. Seamless integration between WebEx Meetings and the Desire2Learn learning environment means users can utilize WebEx functionality within Desire2Learn online rooms, enabling instructors and students to collaborate more effectively.

READSPEAKER: A leader in cloud-based text-to-speech (TTS) technology, ReadSpeaker is now integrated within Desire2Learn’s platform to provide users of the learning environment with the ability to listen to text content. The TTS service helps all learners expand their comprehension and allows for bi-model learning as well as ease of use with model access. The seamlessly integrated TTS feature requires no downloads and works on all supported devices and operating systems, further enabling users that would otherwise have to download and install third party installed software.

AST: CaptionSync is now integrated within the production and administration features of Desire2Learn Learning Suite and Desire2Learn Capture solutions, to support accessibility in education for the deaf and hard of hearing across its customer base. The integration enables Desire2Learn products to further support multiple accessibility standards and regulations.

ELLUCIAN: Desire2Learn is a part of the Ellucian Partner Community, a formal network of companies with extensive higher education domain expertise. This community is comprised of product and service providers that furnish proven software applications, hardware, and services that complement and extend Ellucian’s software and service offerings, such as Student Information Systems.

Desire2Learn is in booth #1440, at EDUCAUSE 2012 in Denver, Colorado on November 7 – 8, 2012.

About Desire2Learn

Desire2Learn is helping to transform the way the world learns. Providing the next generation learning environment and solutions to engage and inspire lifelong learners, Desire2Learn helps clients break down barriers to access the highest quality learning experiences, and is recognized for its leadership in accessibility. Desire2Learn is a global leader in cloud (SaaS) based learning solutions and provides an open and extensible platform to over 700 clients and more than 8 million learners in higher education, K-12, healthcare, government and the corporate sector, including the Fortune 1000. Desire2Learn has personnel in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and Singapore. For more information or to contact us, visit: http://www.desire2learn.com.

Source: GAATES

Friday, October 26, 2012

Freedom Scientific Releases MAGic 12 Screen Magnifier

Freedom Scientific, the world leader in assistive technology for those that are low vision or blind, on October 24 announced the release of version 12 of its MAGic® screen magnification software.

Freedom Scientific logoMAGic makes it possible for computer users with macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and other causes of low vision to use a PC. It increases the size of what a user sees on the monitor, all the way up to 36 times magnification and can also speak out loud what’s on the screen.

“This MAGic release has a simple, attractive user interface delivering the enhancements most requested by our users,” says Dusty Voorhees, Senior Product Manager at Freedom Scientific. “The new HD Text feature smooths the letters no matter which font or magnification level you choose – no more looking at blocky, pixilated text as you increase magnification. The new HD mouse offers selectable styles and continuous mouse pointer sizing that remains sharp at all magnification levels. This new look and feel provides intuitive access to any feature while being easy on the eyes, so users enjoy longer computing sessions with more comfort and less fatigue.”

This release is replete with unique new features that enhance productivity for low vision users:
  • Take full control of what MAGic says, and when it says it, with Speech On Demand. Using speech can reduce eye fatigue and improve efficiency, but sometimes too much speech can be overwhelming. MAGic 12 goes far beyond a simple on/off toggle for speech, allowing you to eliminate extra chatter. No other screen magnification product provides this level of control over the speech you hear.
  • All new mouse, cursor, and color schemes make it easier for low vision users to work in today’s modern applications. Enhancements offer high-contrast, low-glare screens and a customizable, easy-to–track mouse and cursor.
  • Application-specific voice profiles make it very easy to select, create, change, and save default voice settings
  • Research It gives you quick and easy access to a wide range of information available on the Internet, and it’s available at the touch of a button if you’re using the MAGic Large Print Keyboard
  • Navigation Quick Keys make surfing the Web and working with PDF files more efficient. Get to where you want to be with just a key press.
  • The Skim Reading tool gets you quickly to just the information you want
For a downloadable demonstration copy of MAGic 12, or to find out how to upgrade, visit the MAGic What’s New page.

Competitive Upgrade Promotion
“We’re sure that many longtime screen magnification users will want to upgrade to MAGic 12 once they see its features,” says Voorhees. “We want to give them that opportunity, even if they are not currently using MAGic. Through January 31, 2013, ZoomText users can upgrade to MAGic 12 for just $199. They’ll get MAGic 12 with Speech, a MAGic Large Print Keyboard, and an SMA. A five-seat license can be upgraded for $995, including five keyboards and the SMA.”

For more information on this upgrade promotion, call 1-800-444-4443.

About Freedom Scientific
Freedom Scientific is the leading worldwide provider of assistive technology products for those with vision impairments. The Company sells its products worldwide and has offices in Florida and Switzerland. The Company’s products have been translated into 24 languages and are available in 55 countries. Freedom also has a line of software products for those with learning disabilities.

Freedom Scientific®, MAGic®, and Speech On Demand™ are either trademarks or registered trademarks in the United States and/or other countries. The names of actual companies and products mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

For more information, visit www.FreedomScientific.com or contact Brad Davis 800-444-4443 or 727-803-8000,info@FreedomScientific.com

Source: GAATES

Sochi 2014 Puts Accessibility on the Map to Mark 500 Days Until the Paralympic Games

Russia marked 500 days to go until country’s first Paralympic Winter Games, which will be hosted in Sochi and begin on 7th March 2014.

Sochi 2014 logoTo celebrate this milestone date Sochi 2014 volunteers have already located and placed 500 accessible venues from dozens of Russian cities on the Accessibility Map; Sochi became the heart of the celebrations with the opening of an Equal Opportunities Park and with an outstanding “Class Mira” theater musical, and Paralympic lessons across the entire country marked the launch of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Education School Program.

Accessibility Map
In the build up to 500 days to go the Accessibility Map (www.kartadostupnosti.ru) – the unique interactive internet project has been launched by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee with the support of the International Paralympic Committee.

Sochi 2014 Puts Accessibility on the Map to Mark 500 Days to Go to Paralympic Games 24 October 2012. (Photo credit: Sochi 2014)
Sochi 2014 Puts Accessibility on the Map to Mark 500 Days to Go to Paralympic Games 24 October 2012. (Photo credit: Sochi 2014)
The new Accessibility Map website was presented and demonstrated by the President of Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee Dmitry Chernyshenko, the General Secretary of the RPC Mikhail Terentiev and Sochi 2014 volunteers to the guests gathered at the Park via a big screen. The volunteers together with the internet users will create on this website the complete list of barrier-free venues and infrastructure to make it easier for people with a disability to find places to play sport near to their home, sometimes for the very first time. The Sochi 2014 volunteers from 26 volunteer centers all over the country have already found and put on the map the data on 500 barrier-free venues in their cities.

The website has been expressly developed to take accessibility requirements into account, allowing a user to switch to an alternative version for visually impaired users with just one click of a mouse.
After the Paralympic Games, the project will be further developed, with the internet allowing the program to reach thousands of people online.

Equal Opportunities Park
In the center of Sochi the Equal Opportunities Park was the heart of the celebration. All visitors could speak with prominent Paralympic sportsmen and were able to try their hand at several Paralympic sports including sledge hockey, wheelchair curling, biathlon and basketball and had the chance to attempt to cross an obstacle course blindfolded. The guests of the Park also got into the spirit of the Winter Games by ice skating, playing table hockey and taking photographs with the Paralympic Champions and mascots of the Paralympic Games, the Ray of Light and the Snowflake.

The Park’s guests of honor included the President of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, General Secretary of the Russian Paralympic Committee, Mikhail Terentiev and the Mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov.

Class Mira
The guests of the Equal Opportunities Park also watched a scene from the outstanding “Class Mira” theater musical, which actively includes children with a disability and provides them with an opportunity to participate in leading theatrical performances. The full premiere will take place in the Sochi Winter Theater on 27th October as part of the Sochi 2014 Cultural Olympiad. The star roles in this unique performance will be played by leading talents including Andrei Merzlikin, Artur Smolyaninov, Maria Golubkina and Ekaterina Volkova.

Paralympic Lessons
A Paralympic lesson took place for schoolchildren in the Equal Opportunities Park. The lesson was held by RPC General Secretary, Mikhail Terentiev, “Sochi 2014 Our Champion”, Ivan Goncharov and Sochi 2014 Ambassador, Sergei Shilov. To further celebrate 500 days to go, Paralympic lessons took place across the entire country, with the support of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation, and marked the launch of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Education School Program.

The Paralympic lessons throughout Russia were not only held by teachers, but also by Sochi 2014 volunteers who organized 500 lessons in different cities. Sochi 2014’s Official Supplier English First (EF) introduced all those taking lessons to their online language school, Englishtown, and gave out gift cards towards the study of English language.

A video version of the “London 2012 – Sochi 2014″ lesson was also uploaded today on the official Sochi 2014 website, http://www.sochi2014.com/games/education/education_program/. The video was shot at the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee’s Moscow office on 1st September 2012, the first days of the Paralympic Games in London, and included Russia’s Paralympic athletes.

Sir Philip Craven, IPC President said:

“I am delighted that to mark 500 days to go until the Winter Games, Sochi 2014 is launching its innovative accessibility map. This project will help generate awareness across Russia of accessible facilities and is a project that, with the help and support of the IPC, could act as a blueprint for other countries to follow. Planning for the launch of this project started some time ago under the supervision of the IPC and I am pleased to see it come to fruition to mark 500 days to go.”

Dmitry Chernyshenko, the President of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, marked:
“In 2014 Sochi will host the first Paralympic Games in the history of Russia. I am sure that the high accessibility standards that will have been set in the Olympic region by 2014 will be needed in other cities across the whole country, and our efforts in passionately promoting the Paralympic values will help to remove the “barriers” in society towards people with a disability forever”.

Mikhail Terentiev, the General Secretary of the RPC, noted:

“The Accessibility Map is a completely unique project for Russia. Its uniqueness lies not only in it being the first interactive map of the sports venues for people with a disability, but also in the fact that it is created from and will be added by the data received from the residents of Russian cities. Every resident of Russia can contribute to the creation of a barrier-free Russia which will make it possible for people with disabilities to lead an independent lifestyle and to actively participate in the development of our society.”

Sergei Shilov, Sochi 2014 Ambassador, underlined:

“I am delighted that the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee has undertaken such a significant and groundbreaking project. Thanks to the Accessibility Map, so many people will be able to engage in sport who previously did not have the opportunity, helping them to enjoy all the benefits that playing sport can bring and be fully included in society”.

Source: GAATES

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Finnish Organization Publishes Open-Source Software for Talking Publications

Kolibre, a Finnish non-profit association founded in the spring of 2012, has published the first components for a system that makes it possible to produce, distribute and consume digital publications using the Internet in an effective manner. More software will be published in the future and the open model makes it possible to use the software components for any purpose, also internationally.

Kolibre logo
Previous software versions have been developed under the auspices of the Pratsam project since 2003, primarily through the financial support of Finland’s Slot Machine Association (RAY). Thanks to the Pratsam system, over 2000 Finns with print disabilities can easily access talking publications, also with an easy-to-use mobile player. The project has developed support for speech synthesis, which enables cost-effective production of greater numbers of talking publications with natural and human speech. The software being published supports Daisy, the international standard for talking publications and Daisy Online, the international standard for the transmission of talking publications using the Internet.

Kolibre was established by the Pratsam project partners – Norra Österbottens svenska synskadade rf (NÖSS), the Federation of Swedish Speaking Visually Impaired in Finland (FSVIF) and Pratsam Ab – with the purpose to publish the results of the project openly to all and to coordinate future cooperation. The vision for the Kolibre ecosystem is that all individuals should have access to talking publications with a natural voice, regardless of their location, through a customized receiver: whether a smartphone, computer, e-reader or customized player for people who are blind or low vision.

The Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired (FFVI), the Finnish state-owned special library Celia and the Finnish Centre for Open Systems and Solutions – COSS are part of Kolibre’s cooperative network. The software is published under an open source license and allows all interested parties to use and develop the system for their own needs. Publication occurs in accordance with best practices within open source code publication.
For more information contact: Martin von Willebrand, Kolibre Chairman, tel. +358 40 770 1818

Daniel Ainasoja, Acting Director, tel. +358 50 527 4174, www.kolibre.org

Source: GAATES

CAP Releases New Smartphone App

Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) has released a free iPhone app.  The CAP Mobile app allows Smartphone users to learn more about Assistive Technology, accommodation solutions and disability events.

CAP Mobile App iPhone Screenshot.
For persons with disabilities, this is a great resource to find out about solutions that may make your Smartphone more helpful.
The CAP mobile app provides the following features:
  • News and tips on the latest and greatest assistive technology.
  • Information about events in the disability community.
  • Downloads of CAP event presentations and materials right to your Smartphone.
  • Export events to your Calendar so you don’t miss anything.
  • Videos to learn about assistive technology and how it can help users.
  • Videos to hear how CAP has helped others.
  • Contact CAP with questions.
An Android version is coming soon.

CAP works to make the Federal Government a model employer of persons with disabilities by providing job accommodations and equal access to electronic and information technology.

The CAP Mobile App is now available in the iTunes App Store.

Source: GAATES

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Qualcomm and Project RAY Unveil Eye-Free Mobile Device

Sometimes, technology is more than just a boost in processing power or an increase in capacity. Sometimes, it's about the people. Qualcomm has just unveiled some pretty radical stuff through its Wireless Reach initiative, and in cooperation with Project RAY. Project RAY designs accessibility tools for blind and visually impaired people, and the company jointly announced this week that they have developed the RAY mobile device, an always-on, easy-to-use, multi-function, smartphone that is synchronized with Israel's Central Library for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Handicapped audio books content.

Today, the majority of blind and visually impaired people use simple 2G mobile phones for voice telephony only. In addition, they depend on an array of specialty devices, such as audio book-readers, color readers, navigation tools, raised Braille labels, special bar-code scanners, and large-buttoned, voice-enabled MP3 players which are prohibitively expensive. Based on an off-the-shelf Android OS smartphone powered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.'s Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the Project RAY device integrates the capabilities of smartphone technology and the capabilities of these multiple specialty devices into a single, cost-effective handset with 24/7 mobile broadband connectivity and a UI designed for eye-free interaction. A trial project is currently underway that is testing the new system with 100 participants throughout Israel.

It's pretty great that these kinds of projects are ongoing, and we're certainly hopeful that more companies follow suit. To close, here's a bit about the background from those involved:

"Audio-books, magazines and periodicals are an important method for accessing information for blind and visually impaired people, but the current system requires renting items by mail, which is not timely. Subscribers can now use RAY devices to easily access and download audio assets from the library over an advanced mobile broadband network, rather than waiting to receive CD copies," said Amos Beer, chief executive officer of the Central Library for the Blind, Visually Impaired and Handicapped. "Our library is delighted to be working with Qualcomm and Project RAY to build a system enabling people with vision impairments to remotely access and download audio assets from the library. Also, the system is being designed specifically for Project RAY devices and specific user identities to ensure digital rights management protection for copyrighted material."
"We believe the Project RAY device will enhance the ability of blind and visually impaired people to access resources and information independently," said Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm. "This project, which is part of our Wireless Reach initiative, demonstrates one of the many ways Qualcomm technology can improve people's lives and we are proud to support this important program."
Source: HotHardware.com

Monday, October 22, 2012

Texas Department of Information Resources Launches Website Accessibility Scanning Program

The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) has announced a new program to assist state agencies, local government entities, and institutions of higher education in improving the accessibility of their public websites for people with disabilities. DIR will utilize web accessibility scanning services from Virginia-based Deque through a DIR cooperative contract with Knowbility, Inc., an Austin-based accessibility services vendor.

DIR logo
This new program will help agencies ensure that their websites are accessible to all Texas citizens, regardless of ability, by improving accessibility levels of public facing web pages. The service scans and analyzes key portions of agency public websites and provides precise information on accessibility errors found.

“The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) understands that full inclusion and accessibility allows Texans with disabilities to participate fully in state government and its programs and services,” said Angi English, Executive Director of GCPD. “This new DIR program will assist Texas government public websites achieve this imperative.”

“This accessibility program is the first of its kind as it encompasses a large cross section of state agencies,” said Karen Robinson, State CIO and DIR Executive Director. “It is a cost-effective approach to improve and monitor key elements of website accessibility for the state, and we believe that it can serve as a model for other states to follow.”

“We are delighted to support DIR’s goal of providing an accessible online experience for government sites in the state of Texas,” said Preety Kumar, CEO of Deque Systems. “Deque’s tools will help to support the important efforts that are underway to ensure that online users with disabilities will be able to access the important information and services that appear throughout the network of sites that the state administers.”

“The program will use a graduated approach, ramping up to bring agencies into the scanned environment over a number of months;” according to Jeff Kline, Statewide Electronic and Information Resources Accessibility Coordinator at DIR. “We selected a scanning model that provides high benefit at a very low cost on a per agency basis. We elected to scan the top 150 pages per agency, which are typically the most frequently visited or most important pages.” Once fully deployed, the accessibility scanning services will include nearly every state agency and state-funded institution of higher education.

For more information, contact statewideaccessibilitycoodinator@dir.texas.gov.

Source: GAATES

Winnipeg Announces 2012 Accessibility Awards

 On October 16, Mayor Sam Katz presented five deserving organizations with the City of Winnipeg’s 2012 Accessibility Awards. The awards demonstrate the diversity of spaces in Winnipeg that are accessible for all citizens.

The following organizations received accessibility awards:
  • Parks Canada and Variety the Children’s Charity for the Adventure Playground at the Forks
  • The University of Winnipeg for the Richardson Environment and Science Complex
  • Manitoba Centennial Centre for the Steinkopf Gardens
  • The Province of Manitoba for the Province of Manitoba Birthing Centre
  • The Winnipeg Airport Authority for the James Richardson International Airport (Honourable Mention)
In addition, University of Manitoba Professor Kelly Beaverford and the City of Winnipeg Public Works Department received special recognition awards.

“The accessibility awards are an excellent way for us to take note of the real progress our city is making in terms of accessibility and inclusive design,” said Mayor Katz. “As Mayor, I am proud to see organizations and individuals ensuring that Winnipeg is a city of opportunity for people of all abilities.”
The City of Winnipeg Access Advisory Committee makes the selections for the annual awards.
“Today, we will reflect on ‘Universal Design’ from an international perspective,” said committee chair Councillor Ross Eadie.

“The committee conducted site tours and came away impressed,” said committee coordinator, Chris Sobkowicz. “The Richardson Environment and Science Complex, for example, used colour to identify different floor levels, placed tactile indicator strips at all stair locations, and provided colour identifiable and fully accessible washrooms on each floor and other features. University of Winnipeg planners and Number Ten Architectural Group should be very proud of a job well done.”

Source: GAATES

Report on the Accessibility of Communications Technology Released

Interesting news on the accessibility front this month with the release of the first biennial report to Congress on the Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA). After all, nothing says “interesting” like “biennial report to Congress."

The CVAA, which was passed in October, 2010, is an extension of the Communications Act of 1934 and, in a nutshell, is meant to ensure that communications and media services, content, and equipment are accessible to users with disabilities. It will require that things like smartphones are accessible, as well as video programming on television and the Internet.

Under the CVAA the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) of the FCC must report to Congress every two years on how it’s going. This month’s report is the first of those and, while the full implementation of the many facets of the CVAA is still underway (and full compliance of some aspects won’t be mandatory until next year or beyond), the report provides a few interesting nuggets on the current state of accessibility for communications technologies.

These biennial reports (among other things) must provide assessments of the current state of accessibility compliance with the following of sections of the law:

1. Section 255: Telecommunications equipment and services - Including wired, cordless, and wireless telephones, fax machines, answering machines, voicemail and voice over IP (VoIP).

2. Section 716: Advanced communications services - Including e-mail, short message service (SMS) text messaging, and instant messaging, as well as video conferencing services.
3. Section 718: Mobile phone Internet browsers

To assess compliance, the CGB solicited feedback from users, consumer groups, manufacturers and industry groups. Feedback for this round was sparse, again given that compliance with all provisions is not yet mandatory. However, given the feedback received, the CGB came to the following conclusions about initial efforts to comply with the CVAA:
  • Users who are blind or low vision have consistent problems using new telecommunications devices (those covered by section 255), with the big exception of the iPhone. The feedback in the report from the American Federation for the Blind (AFB) said “Apple’s iPhone continues to be the only smart phone providing truly equal access at no extra cost to users with vision loss.”The situation is better for hearing impaired users, with the CGB concluding that telecommunications services and equipment “generally are meeting the hearing aid compatibility needs of people with hearing disabilities.” However, in the report, the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) said that some mainstream phones have still have issues with speakerphone or Bluetooth features providing good enough sound quality for users with hearing disabilities.
  • The CGB couldn’t properly assess the accessibility of advanced communications services, due to inadequate feedback. Although, they do say that the industry is currently taking steps to ensure that communications technology and services will soon have a wide range of accessible functionality.
  • The Commission did not assess the accessibility of mobile phone browsers, since they have not yet issued rules for implementing the provisions of the law.
The big take-aways? Well, mainly that the implementation of the CVAA is still in its infancy; we should know much more by the time of the next binennial report in 2014. What we do know now is that, for smartphones, the problems are more significant for visually impaired users and, for them, the only real choice currently is the iPhone. Also, manufacturers and content providers are currently working towards meeting full compliance with the law by the required due dates.

Source: it world, GAATES

Thursday, October 18, 2012

W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Approved as ISO/IEC International Standard

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the Joint Technical Committee JTC 1, Information Technology of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), announced approval of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 as an ISO/IEC International Standard (ISO/IEC 40500:2012).

“This important accessibility standard, which is already widely deployed internationally, can now benefit from additional formal recognition from ISO/IEC national bodies,” noted Jeff Jaffe, W3C CEO. “Such recognition is expected to increase internationally harmonized uptake of WCAG 2.0 by governments, business, and the broader Web community.”

“ISO/IEC JTC 1 is very pleased to bring on board this most important of W3C accessibility standards, given the increased interest in accessibility among JTC 1 National Bodies in recent years,” said Karen Higginbottom, Chair of ISO/IEC JTC 1. “We also expect that ISO/IEC recognition will encourage greater convergence around WCAG 2.0, further driving development of supporting tools and software.”

International Harmonization of Accessibility standards benefits all

WCAG 2.0 has been adopted or referenced by many governments and organizations. Following the passage of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an increasing number of countries have been seeking solutions to address their treaty commitments for information technology accessibility for people with disabilities.

“The ISO/IEC imprimatur increases the avenues for adoption of W3C technology and guidelines,” noted Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative at W3C. “In some countries, policies require that nationally adopted technical standards must be ISO/IEC. Formal approval by JTC 1 of WCAG 2.0 will increase deployment, reduce fragmentation, and provide all users with greater interoperability on the web.”

WCAG 2.0 was first submitted to the ISO/IEC JTC 1 process for Publicly Available Specifications (PAS) in October 2011. W3C has been an approved JTC 1 PAS Submitter since November 2010, and is one of nine organizations that are currently approved. To learn more about W3C and the ISO/IEC JTC1 PAS Submission process, see the W3C PAS FAQ and the JTC 1 website.

WCAG 2.0 is a stable standard with extensive supporting resources

As an ISO/IEC JTC 1 Standard, WCAG 2.0 is now also available from ISO/IEC, while it remains a stable international W3C standard with extensive supporting resources. JTC 1 recognition neither changes nor supercedes the existing standard, which remains freely available from the W3C website along with multiple W3C authorized translations of WCAG 2.0.

W3C provides a number of supporting resources for managers, developers and policy-makers, in addition to the WCAG 2.0 standard, including WCAG 2.0 Overview,WCAG 2.0 at a GlanceHow to Meet WCAG 2.0: A Customizable Quick ReferenceTechniques for WCAG 2.0, and Understanding WCAG 2.0.

For more information, visit www.w3c.org, GAATES

Optelec Drives Low-Vision Innovation with the Compact 7 HD.

Optelec U.S. Inc., a world leader in innovative and life-changing assistive technology for people who are blind and low vision, on October 10 announced the launch of the much-anticipated Optelec Compact 7 HD electronic video magnifier.

Designed for users with low vision, the Compact 7 HD offers a truly portable, large seven-inch widescreen with high definition image quality, extreme simplicity and an attractive style. Watch the video below:

The Compact 7 HD makes the every day struggle of reading the newspaper or viewing photos easier for people with vision loss due to retinal eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy.

“We speak with thousands of users every month and we continuously hear that those who need a higher magnification enjoy portability but also require a larger screen for every day reading,” said Ivar Illing, Optelec International Product Manager. “The Compact 7 HD fills the gap for this solution with a larger field of view, continuous magnification from two up to 24 times and customizable settings. It’s unlike anything else on the market.”

Weighing less than 1.4 lbs, the Compact 7 HD is easy to take anywhere. For an effortless user experience, the Compact 7 HD features clearly visible and simple to operate controls with powerful functionality.
“Our customers are searching for ways to cope with their low vision and Optelec’s products can have a profound impact on their lives by optimizing the remaining vision,” said President of Optelec U.S. Inc., Stephan Terwolbeck. “The new Compact 7 HD provides high image quality and has a simple design that won’t leave our users frustrated and discouraged.”

The 8-megapixel high definition and auto-focus camera keeps the display text, photos and objects sharp and clear. With only “one-touch” to open, the Compact 7 HD tilts to a raised position for a comfortable and ergonomic viewing angle. The Compact 7 HD also incorporates dual-viewing modes. First, while opened it moves smoothly over reading materials. Secondly, the design allows for distance viewing up to three feet away—perfect for viewing a wall temperature display, daily calendar and more.

Key Features of the Optelec Compact 7 HD:
•Continuous magnification of 2X – 24X
•7-inch high definition full color TFT widescreen display
•Immediate reading with “one-touch” to open and power on
•4-hour continuous use rechargeable battery; large icon battery status
•Patented indirect LED lighting system for even, glare-free illumination
•8-megapixel high definition and auto-focus camera
•Large icon settings and information menu to save user settings
•Adjustable brightness with 19 high contrast and photo viewing modes
•Two reading positions
•Snapshot function with audio indication sounds
•Carrying case, wrist strap and a microfiber screen cleaning cloth
•Portable and lightweight at only 1.4lbs (22.6 oz.)
•Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.1 x 1.1 inches
•2-year standard warranty
An estimated 21.5 million adult Americans have reported they either “have trouble” seeing, even when wearing glasses or contact lenses, or that they are blind or unable to see at all, according to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. With the right tools, assistive technology like the Compact 7 HD can improve their quality of life, independence and mobility.

The Optelec Compact 7 HD is now available through the Authorized Optelec Dealer Network. For more information about Optelec and our range of simple and effective low vision solutions, contact us at 800.826.4200 or visithttp://www.Optelec.com or http://www.ShopLowVision.com.

Source: GAATES

New Version of Nokia Screenreader Now Available on the Nokia Store

The highly popular Nokia Screen Reader application, which was released late in 2011 for a limited range of devices and languages, has now been extended to include support for virtually all Nokia Symbian devices released in the last few years. In addition, it now supports a much wider range of languages. And the best part for users: it keeps being a free application!

Nokia Screen Reader
“We’ve received fantastic feedback since the launch of Nokia Screen Reader 10 months ago,” explains Eduard Sánchez, CEO at Code Factory. “It’s been a great leap forward for affordable accessibility, and Nokia is to be credited for supporting the project. However, many users were disappointed that their phone or language was not supported. With the release of Nokia Screen Reader 1.3, we are delighted to be able to greatly extend the availability of Nokia Screen Reader both in terms of devices and supported languages, to once again break down the barriers of accessibility.”

Major features of v1.3:
• Support for a much wider range of languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish, Italian, Danish, Dutch, Greek, Hindi, Norwegian, Simplified Chinese, Turkish, Arabic, Croatian, Lithuanian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Hungarian, Malaysian, Serbian, Slovak, Tagalog, Ukrainian, Vietnamese and Icelandic. Note that some of these languages do not have a corresponding Nokia HQ voice, so it is recommended to use the Nokia standard quality voice for these languages.
• Added the “Voice” option to the UI, which allows users to choose between the Nokia HQ and the Nokia (standard quality) voices. Nokia HQ will still be loaded by default when Nokia Screen Reader is first installed.
• Support for a large number of new devices. The full set of supported devices is now: Nokia 500, 603, 700, 701, 808 PureView, 5320, 5530, 5630, 5730, 6120, 6121, 6210, 6220, 6700 Slide, 6710, 6720, 6790, C5-00, C5 5MP, C6-00, C6-01, C7, E5, E52, E55, E6-00, E63, E66, E7, E71, E71x, E72, E73, E75, N78, N79, N8, N85, N86, N96, N97, N97 Mini, X6 and X7.

• Support for devices running Symbian Belle Refresh and Symbian Belle Feature Pack 2 (FP2) firmware.
• Support for latest version of WhatsApp v2.8.14, the world’s most popular mobile messaging application.
 To find out more information about Nokia Screen Reader visit, http://codefactory.es/en/products.asp?id=425
To access the Nokia Screen Reader user manual, visit, 

You can download Nokia Screen Reader v1.3 from the Nokia Store (either on your phone via the Store app or by connecting the phone to a computer with the Nokia Suite application installed). Search for “Nokia Screen Reader” to download and install this new version. The direct link to Nokia Screen Reader on the Store is http://store.ovi.com/content/224364. Note that sighted assistance may be needed to download the application from the Nokia Store. The installation process however is completely accessible if you leave Nokia Screen Reader running to guide you through the process.

Source: GAATES

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Netflix and NAD Reach Historic Agreement to Provide 100% Closed Captions in On-Demand

Netflix Inc. and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a non-profit organization, have submitted a joint Consent Decree to a federal court in Springfield, Mass., ensuring closed captions in 100% of Netflix streaming content within two years.

NAD, along with the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (WMAD/HI) and Lee Nettles, a deaf Massachusetts resident, brought suit against Netflix seeking that commitment in 2010.
The agreement indicates the parties’ mutual intent to increase access for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to movies and television streamed on the Internet. Netflix began its closed-captioning program in 2010. Netflix has increased captioning for 90% of the hours viewed but is now committed to focusing on covering all titles by captioning 100% of all content by 2014.  Captions can be displayed on a majority of the more than 1,000 devices on which the service is available.

Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of NAD, the lead plaintiff in this case, said, “The National Association of the Deaf congratulates Netflix for committing to 100% captioning, and is thrilled to announce that 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people will be able to fully access Netflix’s Watch Instantly services.”
“We have worked consistently to make the broadest possible selection of titles available to Netflix members who are deaf or hard of hearing and are far and away the industry leader in doing so,” said Neil Hunt, Netflix Chief Product Officer. “We are pleased to have reached this agreement and hope it serves as a benchmark for other providers of streaming video entertainment.”

Netflix will also improve its interface so that subscribers will be better able to identify content that has been captioned in the period until 100% captioning is achieved.  The parties have asked the court to maintain jurisdiction of the case for four years to assure compliance with the terms of the Decree, and plaintiffs will monitor Netflix’s progress.

“We’re so pleased that Netflix worked jointly with plaintiffs to devise a reasonable and workable way to achieve 100% captioning. The Decree is a model for the streaming entertainment industry,” said Arlene Mayerson, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund’s Directing Attorney. “DREDF hopes that this is the beginning of opening the internet for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in streamed entertainment, education, government benefits, and more.”

The Consent Decree is available here: http://dredf.org/captioning/netflix-consent-decree-10-10-12.pdf regarding National Association of the Deaf, et al. v. Netflix, Case No. 3:11-cv-30168.
The plaintiffs are represented by the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund in Berkeley, CA, the Oakland, CA law firm Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson P.C., and the Boston, MA law firm Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.

Netflix is represented by David F. McDowell and Jacob M. Harper of Morrison & Foerster LLP.


ReadEasy Move for People with Vision Disabilities

GW Micro announces the ReadEasy Move, the first in a new generation of stand-alone digital capture reading systems specifically designed for people who are blind or low vision.
ReadEasy Move
ReadEasy Move
The ReadEasy Move is compact, stylish, lightweight, and easy-to-use.  The ReadEasy Move has an intuitive user interface consisting of only 6 buttons making it the ideal reading solution for people of all ages, whether they are 4 or 104.

“This system is the new generation in the ReadEasy product line,” said Dan Weirich, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for GW Micro. “It’s unique, compact design makes it one of the smallest reading machines available on the market.”

According to Weirich, a person who is blind or low vision can read any printed text by simply placing the text under the ReadEasy Move’s camera and pressing a button.  The system takes a picture and then begins reading the text in a clear, human-sounding voice within a matter of seconds.  The buttons located on the ReadEasy Move are tactile, making it easy to use regardless of your level of vision.

ReadEasy Move customers can add a Keypad Feature Pack to enable more advanced functionality to the ReadEasy Move, such as the ability to save and open files to and from a USB flash drive.  Individuals with low vision can obtain additional benefits from using the ReadEasy Move Low Vision Pack, which allows you to connect the device to a computer monitor to magnify text in addition to reading it.  Add the optional Low Vision Touch Pack (touchscreen monitor sold separately) and instantly turn the ReadEasy Move into a reading system that supports multi-touch gestures much like those used on the iPhone and iPad!  Low vision users can quickly move around a document, adjust magnification and start reading using intuitive touch gestures!

For customers who need access to documents in foreign languages, such as Spanish, French, German, Italian, and others; additional languages can be easily added to the ReadEasy Move.  The ReadEasy Move is the first stand-alone reading machine that can recognize and switch between multiple languages automatically (additional languages sold separately).

The ReadEasy Move is now shipping so place your order today! Customers within the U.S. can contact GW Micro or your local GW Micro dealer to order or for more information.  You can reach GW Micro by phone at (260) 489-3671 or via email at sales@gwmicro.com, or learn more about the ReadEasy Move on the web at 

Source: GAATES

User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG v2.0) Drafts Published

The User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (UAWG) on October 4 published updated Working Drafts of User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 2.0 and Implementing UAAG 2.0. UAAG defines how browsers, media players, and other “user agents” should support accessibility for people with disabilities and work with assistive technologies.

UAAG 2.0 is updated to better address mobile devices and input by speech, touch, and gesture. See the call for review e-mail for a summary of changes. Comments are welcome through 9 November 2012. Learn more about the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

Source: W3C, GAATES

AbleGamers Foundation to Open First Accessible Arcade for Gamers with Disabilities

The AbleGamers Foundation will be opening its first permanent arcade for gamers with disabilities on Wednesday, October 10 in Washington D.C. public library’s main MLK branch.
 AbleGamers Foundation Logo
The Accessibility Arcade offers a hands-on showcase of accessible technology that can enable gamers with disabilities to play mainstream video game systems and titles.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming new and experienced gamers with disabilities of all ages to the library for a unique experience. When properly used, video games can be an important learning tool for literacy, spatial reasoning and curriculum support as well as a wonderful social experience.” said DC Public Library Adaptive Services Division chief Venetia Demson.
The AbleGamers Foundation  aims to make digital media and entertainment more accessible for gamers with disabilities in order to improve their lives.

Source: GAATES