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Giving the Blind Better Web Access

samzenpus posted about 4 years ago | from the web-for-all dept.

The Internet 168

crimeandpunishment writes "Decades ago, the breakthrough for the disabled was making buildings wheelchair accessible. Today, it's making their world Web-accessible. Disabled groups are hailing new legislation Congress has sent to the President. Among other things, the measure will give the blind greater Internet access through smart phones, and require devices like iPhones and Blackberrys to be hearing-aid compatible. 'It breaks down barriers for all of us,' says Mark Richert of the American Foundation for the Blind."

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New blacktop for the road to hell (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | about 4 years ago | (#33738858)

These sorts of well-intentioned pieces of legislation are the kind of thing that ostensibly are for our betterment and they always look great on paper. But when you're actually have to design a website and you start running into the requirements of Section 508 [wikipedia.org] and other such well-meaning laws, the feel-good shine wears off fast. Inevitably they mean considerably more work in the best case scenario, and a "dumbing down" of a website in the worst case scenario (if you follow the "suggested" best-practices). You can look at the "cultural heritage" laws in Quebec as an example of where good intentions can go. It starts off with a noble goal of not excluding French-speakers from public life, and eventually leads to something like Bill 101 [wikipedia.org] , which all but outlawed English in the region, complete with a language gestapo.

I'm all for the blind being able to use the web. But wouldn't it be much better to approach the issue as a technological one on the viewer's end, and not a legislative one on the designer's end? I would much rather be asked to do something that TOLD to do it, under threat of law.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (4, Insightful)

Peach Rings (1782482) | about 4 years ago | (#33738964)

This used to be a really evil thing, but now it's a blessing in disguise. The right way of making a web page (nice clean <p>s and unordered lists, alts on all the images, styled with CSS) is extremely accessible. The more people do that, the better!

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (2, Interesting)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 4 years ago | (#33739166)

> and require devices like iPhones and Blackberrys to be hearing aid compatible.

Ummm, why not require hearing aids to be Bluetooth compatible?

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | about 4 years ago | (#33739412)

Many of them are. My grandfather's hearing aid is.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

Lanforod (1344011) | about 4 years ago | (#33739620)

There are go between devices making hearing aids bluetooth compatible (not currently feasible to make them directly BlueTooth compatible because of the power requirements of bluetooth). My own hearing aids have the ability to connect to my BlackBerry via Bluetooth (or headphone jack). http://www.phonak.com/com/b2c/en/products/hearing_instruments/naida/overview.html [phonak.com] Still, being profoundly hard of hearing, it only helps a little. I still have serious difficulty with hearing on the phone, or understanding web videos - captioning is what I need, and its certainly not standard anywhere outside of network television and Hollywood.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

GooberToo (74388) | about 4 years ago | (#33741022)

My father has hearing aids in both ears. Both are the invisible kind which fit completely inside the ear. Even phones with hear aid compatibility, he frequently has trouble hearing them so he usually resorts to using the speaker phone option and holding it in proximity to his ear/hearing aid. He wants to use bluetooth with his phone but all of the hearing aids he finds requires completely external hearing aids or the requirement of a bluetooth companion around the neck plus larger, non-invisible hearing aids.

So my question is, are you aware of any bluetooth earpieces which may sit outside the ear, which is also compatible with an inner ear hearing aid? If you do, please, please share. My father would be thrilled if I can point him toward a solution.

Thanks.

the "right" way (0)

jDeepbeep (913892) | about 4 years ago | (#33739212)

I see what you are trying to say, but the phrase "the right way to..." never sits well with me. The "right way" can be interpreted from many perspectives. Unfortunately the "right way" is typically the way your manager or boss thinks is the "right way" which often means the "fastest cheapest way"

Re:the "right" way (1)

quanticle (843097) | about 4 years ago | (#33739380)

%s/right/standards compliant/g

Does that sit better?

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (3, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 4 years ago | (#33739226)

Agreed: Handicapped accessible == machine readable. For too long has the Web been dominated by marketing people who care everything about controlling the "visual experience" and just don't get the concept of separating layout from semantics. If you grok HTML and CSS then I fail to see how an accessible design costs a whole lot more than a non-accessible one. Well, aside from the fact that CMS designers don't seem to give a damn about accessibility or standards compliance either.

Disclaimer: this comes from a guy who works at a company whose idea of putting information on the Intranet is to post a link to a Word document. *facepalm*

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

quanticle (843097) | about 4 years ago | (#33739420)

Disclaimer: this comes from a guy who works at a company whose idea of putting information on the Intranet is to post a link to a Word document. *facepalm*

You know, that might actually be *more* accessible than trying to have the user code up the information in HTML, since whatever HTML a user like that produces is probably going be unparseable in anything other than IE6.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

jd (1658) | about 4 years ago | (#33739468)

I wrote a "generic" metalanguage that could be compiled together with a template into any specific metalanguage with suitable formatting back in 1997. It was a bugger to write, but it was writable. In modern web languages, especially with server scripting languages (eg: PHP) and browser scripting (eg: AJAX), especially with the verifiers present in things like Firefox and the debugging tools like Selenium, it should be a cinch to write clean, elegant web pages that work well on any browser and which can adapt to any specific user's needs.

Ultimately, though, this comes back to Software Engineering 101: One should NEVER mix the processing with the presentation. It should always be possible to present the same information in any way, shape and form.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (2, Insightful)

captain_dope_pants (842414) | about 4 years ago | (#33739558)

Well said sir ! Just about every site I create is made as accessible as possible - especially those offering services / goods. If you're offering something, especially in a niche market, then if your site is the one that blind / visually impaired users can use then you'll be the one selling your stuff. Obviously some people want flashy (or flash :| ) sites but I try to dissuade them unless there's a good reason for it. Not saying there ain't a place for fanciness but lots of sites seem to be design led rather than action / results led. Dammit - that last bit looks like a bit of a rant, but sod it - it's staying in ;)

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33741114)

Is not that easy: For instance, simply run the TAW test (tawdis.net ) for this very same page - it finds 2 A-level errors, 34 (nothing else!) AA-level errors, and 4 AAA-level errors. Simply making a webpage HTML+CSS clean does not make it accessible. Or in other words, you have to clean the code far more than what 99% of webdesigners consider "very clean".

Other example is wikipedia, that is usually considered as a very accesible site, yet usually it also fails at the AA-level. And that TAW test is not the toughest one available...

Naturally, being standard-compliant from the beginning makes things easier - but, unfortunately, it is not enough.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 4 years ago | (#33738980)

D00d, if you have either technical or philosophical difficulties making or re-vamping websites to be standards compliant, please contact me via Cmdr Taco. I've got at least a dozen coders and designers with big hearts, open minds, and insane skills who are currently under-employed and would jump at the opportunity for the work.

Seriously.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739002)

Hear, hear! You say it very well my friend and who pays for all of this? Will we all be stuck with text only websites, which is what Section 508 virtually sets up as the ideal. Killing Smart Phone innovation while developers literally spend all their time trying to comply with regulations.

These problems are best solved by enabling technology vendors making their technologies easier to use and more powerful. I'd have less problem with the suggestion that vendors would with enabling technology vendors to help improve APIs for accessibility software, etc.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (4, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33739050)

Will we all be stuck with text only websites, which is what Section 508 virtually sets up as the ideal.

No. It's called graceful degradation [edginet.org] . You can have all the fancy shit you want but your webpage should be a coded in a way that if certain features aren't available that it gracefully degrades into a simpler form.

I am all for just (2, Informative)

Shivetya (243324) | about 4 years ago | (#33739594)

pumping plain text to anyone identified coming to my website as impaired.

It is the safest route to follow. Any attempt by me or other others to gracefully handle it only will invite lawyers whose occupation is find those who slip up while acting on good intentions. No, take it to the minimums required and forget it. This is a far different issue than handling weaker devices. You are not up against a finite thing, that is what a device is capable of, your up against a new infinite, what the impaired user thinks they can accept. You can't win except by going for zero.

Been there, done that, you won't believe the crap with ADA my cousins have been hit with at a bakery/cafe. There are people out there whose only business is to use laws like to make money, they could care less that you finally complied, they want money.

The flip side is, perhaps we will get back to deliver information instead of delivering effects. I am so tired of websites that make me work for the content

Re:I am all for just (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739894)

Cite for the "the crap with ADA", please. I hear a lot about these lawyers "whose only business is to use laws like [this] to make money", but I'm really curious to actually find documented examples.

Re:I am all for just (5, Interesting)

Zerth (26112) | about 4 years ago | (#33741038)

Here's one: Tom Mundy and his lawyer Morse Mehrban both make an estimated $300,000 a year suing small businesses [latimes.com]

Mundy says he has filed more than 150 lawsuits in 18 months demanding damages from small businesses in violation of the exacting requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
[...]
Mundy, a beefy ex-contractor with longish brown hair and a daily routine of dining out and enjoying the ocean, spies an 8-inch concrete platform on which a woman in a dark-green sari has set up a table of sunglasses under an awning.

"There's nothing in there that I'd want to buy but this might be of interest to a judge," 50-year-old Mundy, a paraplegic since a 1988 motorcycle accident in Maryland, observed with a knowing air.

[...]
"Confined to a wheelchair in California?" Mehrban asks potential clients on his website, www.mehrban.com. "You may be entitled to $1,000 each time you can't use something at a business because of your disability."

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739812)

Except graceful degradation requires work. And if you really follow the best practices of 508, you're not supposed to have alternate versions of your site. Right now that part is optional, but the next step could be making it mandatory.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

hsmith (818216) | about 4 years ago | (#33739028)

The biggest pita is that, following 508 to the letter, means you can't create separate views for the blind - your view for data must be the ONLY view.

good intentions, but as someone that has to work with it i hate it

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (5, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 4 years ago | (#33739036)

I'm at a conference about accessibility right now and I was just looking at the giant display of the history of disability, so I'm getting a kick out of your post.

Seriously, without legislative mandates pushing this kind of thing, the disabled will just continue to be overlooked by the big vendors and ripped off by small vendors. We are doing things with iOS 4 and iPad for $4-600 that a year ago we had to spend $5000-7500 on.

With a law forcing this, the tech will get cheaper and better.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739870)

Yes it will be getting much cheaper for the minority and slightly more expensive for the rest of us who now subsidize you.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

pherthyl (445706) | about 4 years ago | (#33740442)

Which conference are you at? I assume you're talking about apps like Proloquo2go?

We're currently working on allowing the iPad/iPhone be controlled with alternative input devices for people with disabilities. Would be interested to hear about what in that area was discussed at the conference.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 4 years ago | (#33740828)

I was at ACCESS in Anchorage

http://www.alaskachd.org/ [alaskachd.org]

We had alot of people stop by asking about iOS connectivity and disability.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

iamhigh (1252742) | about 4 years ago | (#33740450)

I am getting way OT, but I'm looking at the percentage of gays and the percentage of blind people, noticing they are the same and getting a kick out of it.

I don't have any thing against blind people, but for about 3% of the population, we spend a decent amount to make your life better. There are even special noise making (annoying) cross walks. Conversly, we spend a hell of a lot of money to put down gays. Laws against sodomy and gay marriage. Laws like "don't ask, don't tell" which is a logical ban on gays. And much more.

So while you moan about being forgotten, remember there are just as many people that are remembered and oppressed. While you complain about how the "private sector" can rip you off, remember there are just as many people that are denied basic human rights that the private sector can't suppliment.

Hurray for blind people. I am glad our society finally realized blindness wasn't a symptom of the Devil and has decided to help those with a disability; if only we can get half of that for gays.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about 4 years ago | (#33740934)

Roughly 0.3% of the population being legally blind, so the percentages are way off from the percentage of GLBT.

Unlike homosexuals, blind, deaf, deaf/blind, MD, TBI and other disabilities need accommodations and damn it if the US Congress, local, state and Federal Courts don't all agree.

If someone is gay can they get on Slashdot and read a story? Yep.
If someone is blind can they get on Slashdot and access the same information without technology or accommodation? Nope.

So what the hell does homosexuality have to do with being blind?

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739074)

But wouldn't it be much better to approach the issue as a technological one on the viewer's end, and not a legislative one on the designer's end?

Totally agree!

The viewer (so to speak) has to meet the designer half way, which is not what I have seen happening at all. Most screen reader type apps require the website to be of 1995 era design, with no significant javascript or dynamic content, and various "aids" added throughout. Most pretty much just read the text encountered in non-tag blocks in the ordered encountered.. with no concept of where the content is actually rendered.

A few years ago this was an irritation for those seeking to create accessible sites. Now with ajax pretty much the norm, it is becoming a larger and larger hurdle which in most cases basically comes down to creating two versions of your site, one you intend people to use, and one that just dumps the text and links.

Would be nice (though not trivial) to have a screen reader that was based on the rendered site layout, rather than the code.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (2, Interesting)

biryokumaru (822262) | about 4 years ago | (#33739200)

What if you did it with OCR on images pulled from the GPU? Then you can literally read everything, from the text that shows up in the HTML between tags, to text in images, to text in flash. Heck, it would read street signs in people's pics on Flickr. And no one would have to make anything on their webpages special for blind people.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about 4 years ago | (#33740716)

Yes, that makes perfect sense.

Except that it sucks, when you get a mix of layouts. Just look at Slashdot.

Would you want to read it on a line by line basis? In my particular layout (reply) I see

Main Reply to: Re:New blacktop for the road to hell
AskSlashdot
Book Reviews Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (Score:3, Interesting)
Developers by biryokumaru (822262) Alter Relationship on Wednesday September 29, @09:58PM (#33739200)
Games
Hardware What if you did it with OCR on images pulled from the GPU? Then you can literally read everything, from the text that shows up in the HTML between tags, to
IT text in images, to text in flash. Heck, it would read street signs in people's pics on Flickr. And no one would have to make anything on their webpages special
index for blind people.

Now, I don't know about you, but to me that'd be annoying as hell.

Now, since you and I can see, we can tell that these are from different blocks, and thus do not belong together, but your OCR solution can't.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (2, Interesting)

biryokumaru (822262) | about 4 years ago | (#33741084)

Believe it or not, most "blind" web users can, in fact, see. They can't see well enough to read, but definitely well enough to draw boxes around what they want to read. Seriously, check out what qualifies as "blind [wikipedia.org] ."

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (3, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 4 years ago | (#33739096)

I'm all for the blind being able to use the web. But wouldn't it be much better to approach the issue as a technological one on the viewer's end, and not a legislative one on the designer's end?

The technological problem on the viewer's end is largely solved, so long as existing web standards and best practices regarding separation of content and presentation are adhered to.

Aside from technology that essentially cures blindness, though, your never going to get a technological solution on the viewer's end that deals with the choice to use inaccessible presentation as the only way of getting at the content on the designer's end.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (3, Insightful)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33739162)

Exactly. The only people who are whining about stuff like this are the idiots making whole websites entirely in flash or who don't know how to follow best practices for web development. Making a website accessible to text readers, etc is extremely trivial if you follow web standards.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

amber_of_luxor (770360) | about 4 years ago | (#33739112)

If you design websites, then you need to have the following removed:
* both ears;
* both eyes;
* both arms;
* both legs;
* your nose;
* your tongue;

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

blueZ3 (744446) | about 4 years ago | (#33739208)

Yes.

Unfortunately, your average inhabitant of congress doesn't have enough brain power to decipher the words "unintended consequences" (too many syllables, I guess) let alone understand the concept.

But hey, since they've already solved all of the country's big problems, it's definitely time to move on to micromanaging web development. After all, they've been so successful with most of their technology laws and what could possibly go wrong?

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (2, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33739298)

Designing websites that are accessible to the blind, is not that difficult. Pretty much all of it is already covered in best practices. You know things like always giving your images an informative alt text, not using frames, avoiding flash for navigation, avoiding flash for presenting materials that don't need to be visual etc.

It's really not that big of a challenge, and really most of that ought to be already happening on the site anyways.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 4 years ago | (#33741210)

avoiding flash for presenting materials that don't need to be animated with a legacy piece of crap

FTFY.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

johnthorensen (539527) | about 4 years ago | (#33739232)

YES. If even a fraction of the money spent on constructing buildings for ADA compliance were spent on - say - researching mobility platforms that would enable the disabled to utilize buildings designed for able people, I believe that we would be waaaay ahead. As a developer/builder, I would much rather pay a fraction of what we spend on compliance into such a fund. So many of the regulations are completely overwrought and 'solve' problems that never existed to begin with.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739304)

Oh please, companies fork out cash to build "iPhone" shaped mobile apps for most of their major software. Did it ever occur to them that there is an almost totally untapped market segment of blind or legally blind users that can't use their services because they're incompatible with text to speech (etc)???

The dual language thing has very little to do with the real argument, French Canadian wheelchair bound people are just as trapped as the Anglos.

iPhone great for the blind (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739360)

This blind guy says the iPhone left his "life changed forever" and it's even allowed him to 'see' color again. His story is very moving and astonishing.

"The other night, however, a very amazing thing happened. I downloaded an app called Color Identifier. It uses the iPhone’s camera, and speaks names of colors. It must use a table, because each color has an identifier made up of 6 hexadecimal digits. This puts the total at 16777216 colors, and I believe it. Some of them have very surreal names, such as Atomic Orange, Cosmic, Hippie Green, Opium, and Black-White. These names in combination with what feels like a rise in serotonin levels makes for a very psychedelic experience."

Re:iPhone great for the blind LINK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739494)

link to the guy's blog:
http://behindthecurtain.us/2010/06/12/my-first-week-with-the-iphone/

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | about 4 years ago | (#33739422)

I wont support the bill 101, it is way too restrictive for my taste. However to avoid an armed rebellions something was needed in the 70's to insure that the French speaking majority of Quebec would gain some economic leverage. The bill 101 is a consequence of the October crisis. even tough it was created by the separatist, it had the side effect of making them unable to effectively use the language argument in a debate about the sovereignty.

Armed rebellion? By French speakers? LOL (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 years ago | (#33739856)

Granting I would like to pick up a few extra rifles that had 'Never fired, only been dropped once'.

Re:Armed rebellion? By French speakers? LOL (1)

compro01 (777531) | about 4 years ago | (#33740512)

Our French are different. The only real reason they lost the seven years war (Better known to Americans as the French and Indian war) was because France stopped sending troops and supplies, while the British stepped things up, and even then the British didn't achieve an unconditional surrender.

The FLQ liked bombs rather more than guns. During the 60s they were setting off roughly a bomb per month at locations such as the Montreal stock exchange, city hall, RCMP offices, military facilities, and railroad tracks, along with many bank robberies.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739550)

So what you are saying is that without laws like this, websites would never voluntarily comply with accessibility requirements? That is precisely why these laws need to be passed. It is good practice, but developers will never make the effort, nor will the higher-ups pay for it, if we don't make it clear, legally, that it is a social priority to stop excluding these people.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739956)

No, the viewer's end is too complex to tackle so far. Imagine a huge page with much text and many links. How does a blind person find the "navigation bar" if it is neither labeled nor located on the left-hand / top in a single frame, but somewhere in one of 10 frames. Or at the bottom. Or a few dozen actual lines of text (ads etc) below the top? Yes, they'll have to hear ALL the page first to find it, worst case.
 
With non-standard plugin (flash etc.-based navigation) or image-based navigation (without nice link names or blind-accesible text of other sorts), the whole affair becomes impossible, because at that point the browser does not even know anymore what goes on inside, if it is a hyperlink or not, keyboard control does not work anymore... its horrible.

So some measure of standardization and requirements needs to apply to the web page creator's side. This would not require terribly much work if you used some CMS or template engine - which I'm not necessarily against requiring. No one said it has to go the way of Bill 101. Blind people aren't terribly picky. If you let them navigate with properly text-labeled html links (images can be used but there's a blind-accessible name to be set) and don't use crazy formatting for text (such that it can be easily parsed top-to-bottom when you pretend to mark it with mouse click & drag), they'll be happy enough.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33740288)

In other words, your personal convenience one time (when you create) is more important than a million people's repeated inconvenience? Damn, that's cold.

I have never built a web page in my life that was not completely useable by the blind. To do otherwise is not only morally repugnant to me, it means voluntarily giving up readership. I don't write HTML for people to not use.

If you suck at web design, don't blame the blind people for it.

Sorry for the harshness, but you seemed to need a good slap with the cluebat.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (1)

jblakely (1312879) | about 4 years ago | (#33740582)

I am a systems administrator for a company that employs about 70% blind/low vision, about 25% of my users are blind/low vision. Trust me, I know what it takes to make a blind person productive. most webpages out there are a complete disaster when it comes to a blind person finding stuff. the main exceptions are places like cisco.com (we have a blind network guy) anything java = non accessable. most programs out there, with the exception of office are difficult for the blind to navigate, it takes a lot of training for them to be able to do what a sited user can do with no training. some programs, are just to hard to navigate. I welcome this, this gives the blind/low vision users a better chance to be able navigate items that I take for granted, maybe then we can do something about the 75% unemployment in the blind community.

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33740936)

I work daily with the Accessible Rich Internet Applications (W3C WAI-ARIA) standard (my current job is to write examples of accessible jQuery widgets that follow to best practices). Designing and implementing websites that are accessible to assistive web technologies is neither difficult nor does it cause page design to suffer. For most pages, there is little extra work required beyond what would be needed to meet current web coding standards. For highly interactive pages, there is more work required to ensure that the ARIA attributes for the page elements update appropriately, but it's not too bad really. I've created some highly dynamic and interactive pages without a lot of extra effort.

Current assistive technologies--and I argue no existing or near-future technology--cannot make sense of anything but the most simple web pages without some extra information in the markup, such as what role a page element plays. The reason for this is that we can visually intuit the meaning of page markup (for most websites), where technologies cannot. If designers are not choosing to create accessible sites, and current technology is simply not capable of meaningfully parsing the information available (and this is not through lack of effort to solve the problem), what is the alternative to passing laws to force a needed change in behavior?

Re:New blacktop for the road to hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33741294)

As someone who will eventually go blind (retintis pigmentosa), technological measures can only do so much.

Without those laws, there is nothing to stop government websites from having the code quality of your average Geocities account.
There is nothing technological you can do to help that.

Forcing the web dev to do a little extra work for a critical site that blind people must be able to access is a small price to pay.
For other sites, its nice to keep blind people in mind but generally they dont need to go to too much effort - good coding practises already do the trick.

Do whatever it takes... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33738868)


.... just stop them from putting their cane through the screen!

Breaking down barriers? (1, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | about 4 years ago | (#33738982)

No, this does not "break down barriers for us all". It breaks down barriers for certain people, while putting up barriers for anyone creating web content.

Re:Breaking down barriers? (0)

irving47 (73147) | about 4 years ago | (#33739016)

I'd love to see the numbers on that. I bet you have a good point, and that it will inconvenience more than it will help.

Re:Breaking down barriers? (3, Informative)

guruevi (827432) | about 4 years ago | (#33739510)

How would it put up barriers for anyone creating web content? All blind people need is for the webpage to be correctly coded according to the HTML specs and not have the important content in a fancy JavaScript that alters the DOM after the page has loaded (although web readers can usually put up with it). It would break down barriers not only for blind people but also for computers and browser makers as well as the general public, open source operating systems (no more IE-only websites) etc. etc.

As for devices, Apple's Mac OS X is compatible with most screen readers and braille keyboards, even the iPhone has some fancy accessibility built-in, Apple does a really good job at making it accessible from the get-go. Even Windows and most Linux distro's have accessibility built-in although a lot of applications could use some shining up in that area (hot keys being one of them and again, not putting main content in obscure places).

Re:Breaking down barriers? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 4 years ago | (#33741232)

ADA is a huge cash cow for lawyers today. They can walk into almost any business with a measuring tape and collect enough evidence for a lawsuit. No need to request voluntary compliance, file the suit and collect the paycheck [disabilityscoop.com] . It's automatic. I suspect the same will be coming soon to a website near you.

Good intentions (0)

slackoon (997078) | about 4 years ago | (#33738994)

I realize that there are good intentions behind this and that is truly admirable, however, it was though of from only one side. Those who would like this kind of access will certainly benefit but the companies will suffer. It will cost more to make websites and devices compatible and people will not be willing to pay more. Ask yourself, honestly, are you willing to pay more? Of course some people are but most are not. That means that the manufacturers will have to either eat the cost or force it back onto the consumers.

Re:Good intentions (1)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | about 4 years ago | (#33739092)

How do you have to pay more? If you are designing your webpages and using CSS2 correctly, you have no additional work. Your webpage should degrade gracefully [edginet.org] and there are no problems.

Re:Good intentions (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33739326)

Companies frequently justify discrimination on the basis of cost. But as more and more services move to online only or mainly online, there's a greater and greater need for this to be considered a human right. Even if it does mean that a few CEOs will have to settle for gold bathroom fixtures instead of platinum.

Re:Good intentions (0)

russotto (537200) | about 4 years ago | (#33739568)

Even if it does mean that a few CEOs will have to settle for gold bathroom fixtures instead of platinum.

Or a few small companies never get a start at all, because the barriers of entry have been raised so high.

Today: Put a site. If it works for most people, fine, and those that it doesn't you'll lose as customers and they'll complain.

Tomorrow: Make sure you can use your site blindfolded with your ears plugged. If anyone with a disability can't use it, they'll sue, and you'll lose everything.

Re:Good intentions (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 4 years ago | (#33740810)

it would be easier for small companies to open if they didn't have to put in handicapped ramps or dispose of toxic waste properly, so we should get rid of those requirements too right?

Contact Harrison Bergeron (0, Troll)

Cornwallis (1188489) | about 4 years ago | (#33739030)

I'm sure he will salute the new Handicapper General.

Can't we just delay for a bit? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739094)

Not to sound too heartless but the pain of making apps user friendly to someone who can't see is next to impossible for someone who can see. How about we wait and put our money into cybernetic eyes. They already exist they just need to get better.

Re:Can't we just delay for a bit? (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 4 years ago | (#33739342)

It's really not that hard, put a blind fold on and use a screen reader. Of all the disabilities out there, blindness is one of the easiest to simulate.

invisible unidentified 'terrorists' attack europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739102)

reminds us of 3rd Reich 'press releases'. even the unsighted could spot this want(ing) ad.

one of those pick your favorite 'enemy' stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739262)

that must be it? has to be muslim though? leaves out a few likelihoods? could be those darned cubans? southern baptists? tea partiers? aliens?

can the blind listen to 'hidden' comments? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739450)

OOOOOOOuch. whois the ones who decide for them, what is interesting/relevant/stuff that matters? what if it's those hired goons of jahbulon attacking europe? shouldn't everyone be able to read/see/hear about it, even if it's unpopular?

More than just the blind... (3, Informative)

codegen (103601) | about 4 years ago | (#33739122)

It also has provisions for CC or subtitles for the HOH/deaf. This has me hoping. Despite the fact that most of the players support CC, the online video/movies seem to ignore it. It strikes me as odd that every DVD has either CC or Subtitles (they have to by law), but only 18 movies in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy catetory at the itunes store have CC.

Re:More than just the blind... (2, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 4 years ago | (#33739202)

And those subtitles are not only useful for the HOH/deaf, they're useful for people trying to watch foreign language movies or just let us understand actors with a thick accent.

Re:More than just the blind... (1)

NevarMore (248971) | about 4 years ago | (#33739242)

Is one of them 2001: A Space Odyssey?

In Blind Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739130)

Web reads you!

It will be stick used to beat dissenters (0, Flamebait)

MikeRT (947531) | about 4 years ago | (#33739134)

This will be used for two things that will shock SHOCK many liberals when it happens:

1) Shut down dissenters by charging them with a civil rights violation or something similar when they, out of sheer ignorance, create a badly designed site.

2) Pummel small vendors of devices.

But again, they'll be shocked---SHOCKED--that it'll be used like that. Much like people were SHOCKED that RICO and the USA PATRIOT Act have been heavily abused.

Re:It will be stick used to beat dissenters (1)

johnthorensen (539527) | about 4 years ago | (#33739294)

Even worse: The way the ADA is currently 'enforced' is through your local building inspection office. If you want to build a building, you can't get a permit until they review your plans for, among other things, ADA compliance. Somewhere, someone is planning a 'web site permit' to enforce this crap.

Re:It will be stick used to beat dissenters (1)

MoriT (1747802) | about 4 years ago | (#33739672)

Except that the ADA covers far more than building design. That's actually a tiny portion of the accessibility allowed by the ADA. Most of the ADA is enforced by people suing after they are discriminated against, which is a pretty haphazard approach.

The building thing is easier because the planning permit system was already in place. No one issues website permits.

Not about the "web". (2, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 4 years ago | (#33739154)

This has nothing to do with the Web. It's about telephony in its VoIP form, broadcast content redistributed over the Internet, and mobile browsers. It doesn't affect web sites. See S.3304 [loc.gov] .

Kill Flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739172)

If people have to build alternate, blind-reader compatible web pages in addition to Flash crap, why not just skip Flash entirely?

good luck! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 4 years ago | (#33740588)

This guy [wikipedia.org] 's been trying to kill Flash since 1938 !

For one day (1)

drumcat (1659893) | about 4 years ago | (#33739234)

Just as an exercise, geeks, try running your computer without a monitor for no less than 4 hours. It is a lesson you won't soon forget.

Re:For one day (1)

Shompol (1690084) | about 4 years ago | (#33739390)

Done that: it's called lynx [wikipedia.org] + braille. Everything is there except flash ads and pr0n. Easily sustainable for no more than 4 hours.

Re:For one day (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 4 years ago | (#33739824)

Make the dots of a braille keyboard quite a bit bigger and lots of people will browse porn in braille. You would only need two dots on your keyboard too.

Re:For one day (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | about 4 years ago | (#33741182)

Just as an exercise, geeks, try running your computer without a monitor for no less than 4 hours. It is a lesson you won't soon forget.

You mean, as a server? ;)

No seriously, I agree. Most sites/software are inaccessible crap. They really shouldn't let graphic designers/animators build sites.

Some do support hearing impaired (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739312)

"... and require devices like iPhones and Blackberrys to be hearing aid compatible."

They are not compatible now? Out of the evils the distinguised Americans want to keep out of their country, Nokia, at least, sells wireless loopsets (Bluetooth "headset" for T-coil hearing aid users) and - surprise surprise - their Bluetooth-equipped phones support these accessories.

How is Apple helping people with disabilities? Why they would care - after all, there's not a mountain of easy money waiting in there.

Re:Some do support hearing impaired (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 4 years ago | (#33739838)

Re:Some do support hearing impaired (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33740236)

So, Apple doesn't provide hardware support for T-coil users, for instance. A hearing impaired user must find a third-party accessory that works, with luck, with Apple products... until Steve decides it hurts his user experience.
Everything on that page tell me that Apple takes accessibility in similarly serious fashion that Microsoft takes POSIX / open systems compliance. It's a bullet in their checklist, and they implement it minimally just to stay in government-style approved vendors lists...

Screw that, give them access... (2, Insightful)

MoldySpore (1280634) | about 4 years ago | (#33739336)

...by investing in tech and science that can make them see it with their EYES! [sciencenews.org]

While it is nice to see the gov't pass laws like this, it would be even nicer to see them put up the funding for developing the tech/science further behind studies like the one I linked to. Or lifting the ban on stem cell research so that we can really get on track with giving back the senses that have been robbed from so many people, among other things.

Re:Screw that, give them access... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33739872)

I understand your frustration with halting science, but the ban isn't on stem cells. It's on embryonic stem cells. It's an important distinction; for plain old stem cells, you can use your own, just like how your body makes more cells. You don't need any dead babies / pre-babies.

Analytics reporting blind users? (4, Interesting)

snsh (968808) | about 4 years ago | (#33739454)

Google Analytics tells me that I got 20k visitors yesterday. Four of them used NS4. 1500 of them used IE6. There are few NS4 users that I honestly don't care how my site renders in their browser. There are enough IE6 users that I do have to care how my site renders in their browser.

How can I get Google Analytics to tell me how many of my visitors are blind and using screen-readers?

Re:Analytics reporting blind users? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33740068)

The number is less than your Netscape 4 hits...

Re:Analytics reporting blind users? (1)

narcc (412956) | about 4 years ago | (#33740426)

How can I get Google Analytics to tell me how many of my visitors are blind and using screen-readers?

You can't. Screen readers do not work the way you think they do.

Re:Analytics reporting blind users? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33740878)

narcc is correct. Screen readers generally use the same browsers that everyone else does. You may have a blind user that is using IE 7, FireFox...etc. It's not a separate 'browser'.

why? (1)

loafula (1080631) | about 4 years ago | (#33739470)

why spend so much time and money making all of these devices hearing-aid compatible? why not just make the hearing-aids device compatible? install bluetooth receiver in hearing aid. problem solved.

Re:why? (1)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | about 4 years ago | (#33739714)

Because that's how laws like this work: they make everybody but those few who receive any benefit pay for the demands of the few.

Re:why? (1)

idontgno (624372) | about 4 years ago | (#33739972)

Isn't it terrible, how society coddles the weak, the sick, the old, the feeble, the lame, the blind? The whole-bodied majority are weighed down and forced to drag the defectives with us into the future.

Perhaps you're recommending a little racial hygiene? [wikipedia.org]

Re:why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33740822)

Actually he just seems to be saying that we all have our problems in life, and why don't you solve your own? Oh my god you're blind!!! How terrible! Wait...is that better or worse than having a lousy marriage? Or being an idiot? Or getting migraines all the time, or having constant back pain? I'm guessing it's a lot better than all of those things. I know I'd rather give up my eyesight than my good marriage, my intellect, or my pain-free life. So like everything else, if you can't convince people to *freely* help you solve your problems, solve them yourself.

Re:why? (1)

KillaGouge (973562) | about 4 years ago | (#33739762)

Do they make bluetooth receivers small enough to fit on a couple of pin heads? Most hearing aids are extremely small, and I don't think there is a lot of room to go adding things and not have the costs skyrocket.

I agree, there should be some way to use existing technology.

Re:why? (2, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | about 4 years ago | (#33740648)

One problem solved, at least two more created.

1. Size. Modern hearing aids are very small, they fit in your ear canal, rather than behind the ear. There's not much room to add a bluetooth transceiver and antenna.

2. Battery life. Bluetooth is not free in terms of power and given the above size constraint, you don't have a lot of headroom to put in more battery. You're looking at about 100mAh, 600mAh at the outside, and expected battery life of days to weeks of continuous use. Even with the brand new low energy bluetooth (which practically nothing supports yet), you're still looking at a considerable draw.

Impossible. (1)

daemonenwind (178848) | about 4 years ago | (#33739724)

The summary notes (and the article agrees) that:

Among other things, the measure will give the blind greater Internet access through smart phones

Laws provide nothing. They are demands a layer of government makes that are backed by a specified threat for not providing what is demanded.

Developers, researchers, and other technical people will provide this capability

And if you think this is nitpicking, consider the difference between having an idea and implementing an idea.
Government is, therefore, the original model for the patent troll. Claim that something should happen, wait until someone accomplishes it, then take all the credit.

The difference is that government gets to create pain before and until implementation rather than after.

Whatever (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33740668)

I just don't see the point.

Um... no... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33741306)

The next thing blind people are going to want is to drive.

They're BLIND.

Seeing is a HANDICAP, hence the restrictions.

If this was an "untapped market", you'd see more innovation.

Simply put - it's not. Roughly 3% of Americans are "legally blind".

And not all of them are bitching about "equal access"...

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