Lack of intent doesn’t negate discrimination

A California state Supreme Court decision is being heralded as a victory by disability activists. The unanimous ruling changes past precedent and makes it possible for businesses to be sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act without proving the business did so intentionally.

Inland activist Ruthee Goldkorn said the ruling makes people with disabilities equal to other protected groups because no one else had to prove the discrimination was intentional.

“Let my people in is not a complex concept,” said Goldkorn, who runs No Barriers disability access consulting and serves on the executive board of Californians for Disability Rights.

via Disability activists hail state Supreme Court ruling

Subtitles + Common Craft = Awesome

I’m a big fan of the Common Craft Show. They take complicated concepts and translate them into “plain English”. I was perusing the Common Craft site yesterday when I noticed that they provide links to subtitled versions of their videos via dotSUB.

Here’s an entertaining and accessible (for people with auditory impairments) video called “Zombies in plain English”:

Another benefit of dotSUB is that they provide a transcript of the subtitled text in plain text. This plain text is extremely useful for users who want to access the Common Craft Show content using a screenreader like JAWS or Window-Eyes.

An accessible web

Target settles lawsuit with advocates for blind

Target Corp. will revamp its Web site to make it more accessible for the blind and pay $6 million in damages to plaintiffs who joined a class action lawsuit against the retailer, under a settlement announced yesterday with the National Federation of the Blind.

Virginia Tech Tries ‘Compliance Sheriff’ To Improve Web Site Accessibility

Virginia Tech has selected HiSoftware’s Compliance Sheriff to address management of its Web site accessibility. Compliance Sheriff is a browser-based service that crawls a Web site and compares pages against a user-defined set of criteria. The tool will compare the school’s site against world-wide accessibility guidelines such as the federally-defined Section 508, which addresses how technology should be designed to enable its use by people with physical impairments, and Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0/2.0, from the World Wide Web Consortium, which address Web content and mobile Web applications.

Multimedia/Flash Screenreader Tango

Screenreaders don’t like flash, and I’ve invested huge amounts of time to try and satisfy the requirements of a flash (SlideshowPro) feature spot being “cool” and compliant at the same time. It ain’t easy folks. And there are quite a few universities deploying homepage flash content that isn’t accessible. And you know who you are.

WebAnywhere

WebAnywhere provides access to the web from any machine with a modern web browser and some way to play audio. It is useful for web developers who would like to check their pages for accessibility and for blind web users using a computer where no other screen reader is available.

Screen Reader + Website Accessibility

I remember the first time I closed my eyes, put on a pair of headphones and browsed the web using a screen reader. It was extremely challenging. Images without ALT attributes, Flash objects, and poorly coded websites left me feeling extremely frustrated and gave me even more empathy for web users with visual impairments. I think all website designers/coders should experience what it’s like to browse the web using a screen reader. This video shows Aaron Cannon, blind since birth, browsing a website using a screen reader.

Technology and Student Affairs

iStudentAffairs.com: A social networking site for Student Affairs administrators. 661 people have already signed up. The site runs off of Ning. I’m not sure if I have the life space for another website, but the discussions on iStudentAffairs.com have been interesting.

Technology panel: I’ll be on a panel for Academic Advising + Web 2.0 at the regional NACADA conference in Vancouver in March. I guess I’ll be chiming in on anything to do with accessibility, blogging, wikis, web statistics, podcasting, rss, etc. I’m walking out if someone calls Facebook an “emerging technology.”

Academic Advising Wiki:
I have convinced my colleagues that an internal knowledge base a.k.a. a wiki, would be highly beneficial for our office. I demoed an installation of MediaWiki (similar to the Oregon State University wiki) and hope to get it up and running next month. For more information on higher education and wikis, check out these videos on “21 days of Wiki Adoption“:

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University of Michigan + Ableism

University of Michigan
The University of Michigan‘s Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor is apparently in violation of the American’s with Disabilities Act. A letter sent to the University of Michigan by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) (6MB PDF) informed the university that three complaints had been filed alleging that the stadium is “not accessible to or usable by individuals with mobility impairments.” The OCR determined that the University of Michigan was in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

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Accessibility + Google

via the Official Google Blog:

  • Web Search: Result pages include headers to delineate logical sections.
  • Accessible Search: Promotes results that are accessible.
  • Book Search: Full-text access to public-domain works.
  • Gmail: A simple yet functional HTML mode that works well with screenreaders.
  • Gmail Mobile: A lightweight user interface that is also speech-friendly.
  • Google Maps: Easy-to-use textual directions.
  • Calendar: A functional, yet speech-friendly user interface.
  • Audio Captchas: All services that use Google Accounts provide an audio alternative for the visual challenge-response tests that are used to distinguish humans from machines.
  • Mobile Transcoder: A mobile lens for viewing the web that produces accessible views.
  • Google Video: Allows uploaded videos to contain captions/subtitles in multiple languages for viewers who are hearing-impaired or unfamiliar with the original language.
  • Google Talk: IM clients inside a web browser can pose accessibility challenges, but the use of the open Jabber API means that Google users can choose from a variety of Jabber clients, many of which work well with adaptive technologies.
  • Web APIs: Many Google services offer high-level web APIs that aid in authoring mashups; this provides a means for creating highly customized accessible views.
  • 1-800-GOOG-411: Here’s an exception to the rule that we deliver most things through a web browser. Our experimental Voice Local Search service lets anyone who can speak into a phone search for a local business by name or category; get connected to the business free of charge; get the details by SMS if you’re using a mobile phone. (Just say “text message”.)

Blackboard Community System

Blackboard Community System

Blackboard had an amazing booth at the NASPA/ACPA Joint Meeting in Orlando. It was the size of small house and it looked like one too! Inside their mini-mansion, the folks from Blackboard were demoing their portal solution, the Blackboard Community System.

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bell hooks at Lewis & Clark College

bell hooks photo

Here is the audio recording from bell hooks‘ talk at Lewis & Clark College from February 1, 2006 [88 MB MP3].

The University of Tennessee Website

The University of Tennessee website redesign screenshot

The University of Tennessee recently re-designed their primary web pages. The new page design is very accessible, user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing and it’s optimized for search engines. Pages were coded using standards-based design techniques. Their use of cascading style sheets to “style” the homepage is gorgeous and accessible for users with visual impairments. Kudos to the University of Tennessee and the Office of Creative Services! They have truly created a “web 2.0” university website.

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