The Center for Accessible Technology and the California Emerging Technology Fund celebrated another year of increasingly accessible web sites at the Ed Roberts Campus on January 26, 2011. The event honored several organizations that had made significant enhancements to their existing web site’s accessibility or built new features with enhanced accessibility. The night also featured keynote short speeches by some of the leaders of the accessibility movement.
Advocates and Champions working together
Lainey Feingold, a disability rights legal advocate, has worked with dozens of top American companies to make their web sites more accessible. Her law firm uses Structured Negotiations to help corporations understand what needs to be accomplished.
Along with co-counsel, she has developed “Structured Negotiations,” an alternative to litigation emphasizing collaboration and focusing on solution. Using this method, she has negotiated more than 35 settlement agreements without filing a single lawsuit with some of the largest institutions in the United States, including American Express, Bank of America, Wal-Mart, and Wells Fargo Bank.
About Lainey Feingold
Feingold explained these changes require the work of advocates and champions.
Advocates, she explained, are people with disabilities that are not satisfied with having to work around barriers to entry. They demand equal access, whether that is an accessible web form, ATMs with audio feedback, or tactile point of sale devices that allow a visually impaired shopper to use a credit card at a store’s cash register.
Champions are people within organizations that understand the problems and are devoted to implementing the changes. Some people are both advocates and champions.
This concept of advocates and champions led to a discussion I had with William Leddy, whose architecture firm Leddy Maytum Stacy designed the Ed Roberts Campus. Disabled architects and engineers have a unique ability to bridge the user and developer worlds.
Ralph Hotchkiss, who was awarded the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1989, is a mechanical engineer who has invented a series of wheelchairs for developing nations. His goal is not only to provide wheelchairs to underserved populations but also to teach them how to construct the chairs for maximum independence. This project was the focus of the short film Zimbabwe Wheel.
Chris Downey is an architect who has become an advocate and champion after recently losing his vision. “Today, he is dedicated to creating more helpful and enriching environments for the blind and visually impaired.” Downey worked with Leddy to test the surface contrasts within the Ed Roberts Campus. Subtle changes in concrete, tile, and carpet surfaces give blind users feedback about the areas they are entering and upcoming obstacles, steps, etc.
California Digital Inclusion Celebration Honorees for 2010
Four organizations were honored for their work in 2010 to increase the accessibility of their products.
Awarded for PDF Accessibility
The Santa Barbara School District’s web site has embraced the challenge of meeting the WCAG 2.0 AA requirements. While they were congratulated for their efforts in web accessibility, it was their work towards making accessible pdf documents that garnered the recognition.
Awarded for Video Captioning
The Center for Accessible Technology challenged Clif Bar to make their Clif TV videos more accessible. They were awarded for their integration of Closed Captioning. Here is an example video:
Awarded for Accessible Forms
S.I.S. provides a centralized resource for people to apply for assistance. Their online forms allow families and individuals to identify, access, and enroll in public and private health and social services. They were recognized for significantly increasing the accessibility of their site by introducing proper form elements and image alt text.
Cognitive Disability Accessibility
Last, but certainly not the least impressive honoree was Parlerai. This organization has created a personal network for people with cognitive disabilities. It allows people to share medical documentation, keep daily activity journals, communicate via picture icons, and send emails. This is similar to the network developed by Dawn Gregg: Cognitive Accessibility Online. This video tells you more about Parlerai:
- Berkeley’s Ed Roberts Campus has access for all (sfgate.com)
- Clif Bar HQ to Get Largest Smart Solar Array in North America (inhabitat.com)
- Benetech Announces New Accessible e-Book Reader for Apple iOS devices iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch Users Can Read Bookshare Books with Read2Go (prweb.com)