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Advocacy Group For the Blind Slams Google Apps

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the we're-not-going-to-take-it dept.

Google 287

angry tapir writes "The National Federation of the Blind claims that Google Apps lacks required features for blind people and wants the US government to investigate whether schools that adopt the e-mail and collaboration suite run afoul of civil rights laws. The NFB is asking the US Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division to probe whether New York University and Northwestern University are discriminating against blind employees and students through their use of Google Apps' Education edition."

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Disabled people (4, Interesting)

viablos (2018696) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509404)

This is also problem with so many open source projects. They all forget about disabilities and blind people. I've tried to get them to support them, but no one is interested adding such features. That's what proprietary software has done a lot better - they actually do account for disabled and blind people too. It's a major obstacle with open source software, but for example Microsoft and other big companies have generally supported such features.

Re:Disabled people (2, Interesting)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509454)

well it says it's Gmail etc... are they saying that sighted people are not allowed to use a superior product even though, last time I checked, you can use a pop or imap client with Gmail as I do.
I've been told their are even free ones and text only ones like elm or cat /var/spool/mail/myemail > /dev/espeak
or what-have you.. (I seem to remember festival or espeak or something along those lines producing a device for the job)

festival /var/spool/mail/myemail (with some args) may also work!

Re:Disabled people (2)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509498)

I also think that Google does voice to text and TTS, well I've heard it's on voice and TTS on my mandroid, if only I could see where I've put it down.

Re:Disabled people (2, Insightful)

viablos (2018696) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509528)

It's also collaboration suite and other products. Now I'm not saying Google is required to add such support, but those schools should think if these tools really fit them. If their collaboration software is completely non-working and unusable for the blind students, then the school is obviously choosing wrong software.

Re:Disabled people (4, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509542)

Or maybe your an astroturfer, since these are you only two comments.

Gmail supports imap, and their other products support many other standards. All of these standards are inter-operable with normal software the disabled use.

Re:Disabled people (3, Informative)

WaywardGeek (1480513) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509838)

I have a bit of a vision impairment, and I can tell you, it's hard for even partially sighted people to use Google tools. It pisses me off every time there's non-speaking text, and what the heck is up with gmail? Android still has major problems, too, with the web browser and e-mail not talking. It's not illegal to make tools that don't work well with screen readers, but no public institution should require people to use these tools.

Re:Disabled people (2)

metrometro (1092237) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509514)

Google Docs, calendar, and several other products. Can't IMAP a Google Doc.

Re:Disabled people (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509574)

Google docs can surely be used with a browser designed for the blind. Calendar uses caldav, that again surely has client software that is blind friendly.

Re:Disabled people (3, Insightful)

Digicrat (973598) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509852)

Exactly my first though. The second thought would be is Google taking the basic steps necessary to ensure that their sites are compatible with standard screen-reader browsers for the blind.

I attended a lecture a while back on how to make applications and websites accessible to the blind. The text to speech requirements are on the client side, but they do require adherence to certain standards to work. That includes simple things such as naming all divider (div) tags, providing alt text for all images. There was some mention about certain JS/AJAX techniques being incompatible if not done correctly, though I don't recall the details.

The question then, which TFA does not address, is does Google take these necessary steps? Or is the problem that the current crop of screen readers are unable to process elements created using the JS methods Google employs?

I also wonder whether they actually brought the issue up with Google privately to address these concerns, or if they just jumped straight into the press release.

Re:Disabled people (2)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510006)

The issue is not specifically with Google, even if TFHeadline is somewhat ambiguous.

They are suing workplaces/institutions that are not adapted to blind users. These entities are the ones that must chose the tools useful for such people. The only implication of Google in this would be if they (implicitly or explicitly) said that their app was compliant with those standards and it happens that it is not. And even in the app is compliant, it does not mean that there is a good setup for using the accessibility aspects (v.g., a computer lab without speakers/headphones for the PC because "the students would only use them to listen to music").

Of course, I am talking only about the "legal" (through lawayers, lawsuits, etc.) way. Anybody can have asked Google to follow that standards, but it has the same legal weight that any request you or me can make to them, and Google can decide then to do so or not.

Re:Disabled people (2)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509732)

Not only that but some schools use a single sign on for their gmail service, and you don't actually have a password to use should you want to use IMAP or POP. Stuck with the web interface, which brings in the ADA compliance stuff.

Re:Disabled people (2)

cynyr (703126) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509866)

that sounds like the schools problem, not google's google has ways/methods in place to handle these use cases. What percent of users need them? Not that i would like being left out, but sometimes these people seem to want some way for blind people to be able to become competitive shooters, or race car drivers, or fighter pilots, all of which really need you to use your vision and i start lumping them in with the crazies over at peta and greenpeace.

Re:Disabled people (4, Informative)

codegen (103601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510082)

that sounds like the schools problem, not google's

Hence the reason NFB has asked the DOJ to investigate New York University and Northwestern University.

Re:Disabled people (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509496)

Wasn't the National Federation of the Blind one of Microsoft's astroturf groups when they spiked Open Document Formats?

Looks like they're being recycled for another FUD campaign.

Re:Disabled people (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509594)

Exactly what I was thinking (can't find the old link to the /. article in a quick search). The group objected to the ODF *format* (using the weak reason the screen readers don't work with it). I am all for making the blind to read, but did they talk to Google first about implementing the feature they desire, before going to the government asking for an investigation?

Re:Disabled people (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509756)

These guys have been around since 1940, so I don't think they are an astroturf group.

http://www.nfb.org/nfb/Who_We_Are.asp?SnID=96896245 [nfb.org]

Re:Disabled people (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510212)

You're quite right. Instead they're a corrupt group of bastards taking money from Microsoft in return for attacking Microsoft's competition. Not astroturfers at all, but collaborators.

Re:Disabled people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509500)

> They all forget about ... people.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Disabled people (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509504)

This proprietary software is free, or do you pay for it?

Have you considered offering the same amount of money to the open source people to add these features?

Re:Disabled people (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509688)

This proprietary software is free, or do you pay for it?

Have you considered offering the same amount of money to the open source people to add these features?

I don't know about you but I don't think the cost of a license is going to cover a developer's time to implement such features.

Re:Disabled people (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509930)

I would imagine if this advocacy group bought licenses for all its members that would cover it.

Re:Disabled people (2)

aristotle-dude (626586) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509704)

This proprietary software is free, or do you pay for it?

Have you considered offering the same amount of money to the open source people to add these features?

Have you considered that open source coders are not mainly motivated by money but rather "scratching their itch"? If an issue does not occur to the developer then they are likely to not tackle it.

Open source software known for creating good backend software but not front end UIs as usability is a specialized skill that few developers possess be they open source or not.

Re:Disabled people (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509890)

Most larger projects would probably be happy to work with you to add something if you pay them for it, and allow them to be the unconditional owners of said product when it was done(so they can release and update the open source software in the future).

As for the UI usability, hire a consultant to work with the project. I'm betting most would be open to that as well.

Re:Disabled people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509546)

Open source projects offer a discount to disabled users too.

100% off.

Re:Disabled people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509584)

I've tried to get them to support them

The beauty of it being open source is that if someone feels strongly about this feature (like you), they can make the change themselves and offer the project a patch, or fork it.

Re:Disabled people (1)

exomondo (1725132) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509706)

I've tried to get them to support them

The beauty of it being open source is that if someone feels strongly about this feature (like you), they can make the change themselves and offer the project a patch, or fork it.

Unless of course you aren't a developer and/or just want to use software, in that case you're boned.

Re:Disabled people (3, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509956)

Nope, you can pay someone to work on it in that case.

Re:Disabled people (4, Informative)

silanea (1241518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509602)

Accessibility is a top priority for GNOME [gnome.org] , KDE [kde.org] , Mozilla [mozilla.org] , OpenOffice [openoffice.org] and LibreOffice [libreoffice.org] and many other major projects. Smaller projects often lack the resources to properly implement full accessibility. But then, so does the vast majority of smaller proprietary software.

Re:Disabled people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509738)

I blame Web 2.0 in general.

It's a stroke of luck if Slashdot's wacky new comment system is in a usable state for those with no disabilities.

Re:Disabled people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509752)

If a school needs such features in an open source product they plan to use they need to cough up the cash and get it added. This isn't like a proprietary product where you are limited by the products features. My company has purchased feature additions before for products which didn't have everything we needed. It costs us less and developers are better off. Not to mention that many open source projects are inconsequential. To say commercial projects tend to have this neglects the many no money, commercial, and proprietary projects which also lack support or are simply non-major players in the market. This is mostly propaganda by those who fail to understand the problems. They think no options exist for blind users, far sighted and so on users when in fact they do. They are just upset about having to change. What is sad is in many situations these users do not have to change. It is the sighted users who do. The non-sighted users can continue using what they've been using.

Re:Disabled people (1)

indiechild (541156) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509772)

Apple is also one of the big notable companies which has support for the disabled at the forefront of its products.

Re:Disabled people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510038)

Give a blind man an ipod touch and ask him to pause a currently playing track, or rewind it, or even jump to the next one. No chance!

Re:Disabled people (1)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510128)

Apple is also one of the big notable companies which has support for the disabled at the forefront of its products.

Unless you have limited vision, and require a very sharp contrast on the screen - like my father-in-law. He's been an Apple fan for as long as I've known him, but complains bitterly about MacOSX and dropshadows everywhere. You can't turn off dropshadows in MacOSX, apparently. He says it makes things very hard to see. Even to do basic thinks like locate the mouse pointer, because it's too "blobby".

Re:Disabled people (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509774)

Open source produces the best command line oriented applications. There are several open source screen readers available. There's even a Braille terminal. What more do you want?

Re:Disabled people (1)

Trufagus (1803250) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509808)

"...but no one is interested adding such features."

The weakness of open-source is not that the developers have any less desire to support accessibility (I would guess that they have more), but rather that the nature of open-source sometimes means that the applications are less closely tied to a framework or OS that can easily provide those features.

After all, individual apps don't usually provide their own accessibility support, whether open-source or not - they must gain support for accessibility through the framework or OS that they are based on.

Biggest weakness of OSS .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510106)

... is the horrendous UIs and the stupid names given the tools.

The best example, GIMP ... a very powerful image editor. The UI is horrendous and hard to use. New user are FORCED to search for info on the web where support is mostly limited to user groups full of jerks that talk a lot of crap while not answering the questions. And the name, although it has meaning ... it is just plain ugly ... not something you want to call a brand.

Re:Disabled people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509824)

Microsoft? If you would've said Apple or so but MS generally has the worst support especially in 3rd party applications. Some major open source components like Gnome do have decent support though.

Re:Disabled people (1)

Archwyrm (670653) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510036)

It would make much more sense to design and write software for blind and disabled people. Even maintaining forks of existing projects that have customizations would make sense. But from a software engineering perspective, such features are just bloat for everyone who is not disabled, which is indeed the majority of users. So, the blind can't use GMail? Instead of say.. recommending an IMAP client designed specifically for the blind, let's jump straight to the lawsuits..

Re:Disabled people (1)

Nyder (754090) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510296)

This is also problem with so many open source projects. They all forget about disabilities and blind people. I've tried to get them to support them, but no one is interested adding such features. That's what proprietary software has done a lot better - they actually do account for disabled and blind people too. It's a major obstacle with open source software, but for example Microsoft and other big companies have generally supported such features.

So what if google doesn't want to put in disablilty crap in their software. They shouldn't have to. Of course, they competitors do, so they will get the business, but then, thats what capitilism is all about?

I'm disabled, but i don't want to company doing shit for me because it has to. I want them to do it because they support the disabled, not because they are forced to.

If they want my business, they'd be smart to. If they don't, I go else where. It's simple and easy, and yet we have laws to force people into doing something that isn't needed at every place.

Is blind people able to go on to slashdot? (1)

FunkyRider (1128099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509410)

If not, then who are you to judge?

Re:Is blind people able to go on to slashdot? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509430)

Blind people designed Slashdot's look you insensitive clod.

Re:Is blind people able to go on to slashdot? (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509806)

Blind people designed Slashdot's look you insensitive clod.

OMG! Ponies!

Sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509440)

Just because a service offered by a company is popular doesn't mean that you can whine that they are violating your "rights" should they fail to make accommodations for your demographic. That isn't discrimination, that's business. If you dislike it, spend your money elsewhere.

I'm a liberal person, but I find it pretty ridiculous that minority groups act like they have a right to any convenient piece of technology that comes down the pipes being tailored to their particular needs.

Re:Sigh (2)

Velex (120469) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509628)

What I think would be interesting is if a blind person were to put forth the effort to create applications friendly to blind people.

I'm trans, you know, the minority of people who are so small and misunderstood that we're not even allowed to have sob stories the way most minorities have, much less sob stories that high school kids are indoctrinated with (not saying it's a good thing, just stating a fact). Somehow trans people find ways of navigating a cis gendered world, often at great expense to themselves. I'd give up my sight any day to be cis gendered (better be careful what I wish for lol), so I guess I really have no sympathy for blind people despite their enormous hardships.

When you're in my minority, the world looks at you and says, "Figure it out on your own damned time at your own damned expense." When you're blind, the world looks at you and says, "Damn, that sucks. (And it does, having interacted with blind people on the bus, again, not saying it's a cake-walk just stating facts.) Here, have a government check every month. Here, have free care. Here, ride the bus for free. Here, have a free education. And if you don't get a job, don't worry, we'll keep sending you a check so you can eat."

To be fair, blindness is a much more obvious handicap than being trans. In a perfect world, being trans wouldn't be a handicap at all, but I don't see that perfect world happening any time soon.

I guess what I'm trying to say is there's a difference between being handicapped and handi-capable, no matter how cheesy that sounds. We each have our own deficiencies to overcome, so I have a difficult time understand why I should bend over backwards for someone else's deficiency. If health insurance covered any of my expenses related to being trans, I might have a different attitude, but this is a harsh world populated by harsh people. I don't see why the blind or any other group should escape that harshness.

Re:Sigh (0)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509998)

Protip: You might find it easier to navigate the world if you did not use so many acronyms and so much shorthand that many folks have never heard of.

Re:Sigh (2)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510000)

> I don't see why the blind or any other group should escape that harshness.

They don't escape it.

That society and current law have some compassion for some groups could mean we're on our way to having compassion for more groups. The LG part of the LGBT world seems to be slowly gaining some acceptance, perhaps the T part will also increasingly benefit from societal attitude shifts.

And blind programmers do put forth effort to create applications, for sighted and not.

Re:Sigh (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510056)

I want to ask the following seemingly silly question, and you seem to be well informed about this;
Why is it LGBT? Is it coincidence that they are ordered from most to least societally acceptable? Why not alphabetical?

Also why L and G? Seems to me they are the same thing. The attraction to the same sex as opposed to the attraction to the opposite.

As old people die off I believe all of the above will gain more acceptance.

Re:Sigh (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510284)

I guess that for "trans" you meant transexual. My excuses if it means something else.

I'm trans, you know, the minority of people who are so small and misunderstood that we're not even allowed to have sob stories the way most minorities have, much less sob stories that high school kids are indoctrinated with (not saying it's a good thing, just stating a fact). Somehow trans people find ways of navigating a cis gendered world, often at great expense to themselves. I'd give up my sight any day to be cis gendered (better be careful what I wish for lol), so I guess I really have no sympathy for blind people despite their enormous hardships.

When you're in my minority, the world looks at you and says, "Figure it out on your own damned time at your own damned expense." When you're blind, the world looks at you and says, "Damn, that sucks. (And it does, having interacted with blind people on the bus, again, not saying it's a cake-walk just stating facts.) Here, have a government check every month. Here, have free care. Here, ride the bus for free. Here, have a free education. And if you don't get a job, don't worry, we'll keep sending you a check so you can eat."

Bullshit. You may be a trans, but that does not mean:

  • That you can only moved be in a chair, even for moving.
  • That you can't notice people, threats (moving cars, a hole in the street, etc.), whatever, until they make some sound or you touch it with the tip of your stick.
  • That you cannot use a phone (at least to talk), or hear what people are saying to you unless you get to see their face.
  • That you have intelligence enough to make sound judgements (when you want to).
  • And the list goes on...

So, there is discrimination about transexuals... cry me a river. Look a little beyond and you'll see people discriminated (and worse) by their sexual orientation, race, gender, politicals beliefs, religion, place of birth. And yes, against the handicapped. I am not saying it is just, I am not saying it shouldn't be easier for you. I am saying that I feel that "as I am being discriminated against I do not like it when other people get some relief" is a very miserable thought to have, let alone to write in a post.

And please note that these helps that you think are so big things are just a way of leveraging their disabilities a little. It is neither a consolation prize, nor a way to compensate for the discrimination against them. It is a way to leverage their disabilities so they can get into a more equal "playing field". Other than the discrimination issues... is there anything that I can do that you can't?

Re:Sigh (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509670)

Actually, according to the Americans with Disabilites Act [wikipedia.org] , they are "violating your 'rights' should they fail to make accommodations for your demographic," if it's a place of public accomodation, educational facilities included.

I find it pretty ridiculous that minority groups act like they have a right to any convenient piece of technology that comes down the pipes being tailored to their particular needs.

Well, it's your right to think that way, but I'm sure you'd feel differently if you were blind, and your computer's screen-reader program was unable to parse important emails from your professor.

Re:Sigh (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509724)

if it's a place of public accomodation

Huh?

Well, it's your right to think that way, but I'm sure you'd feel differently if you were blind, and your computer's screen-reader program was unable to parse important emails from your professor.

Yes. The people affected do tend to have biased opinions (far more so than usual) on the matter more than not. What's your point?

Re:Sigh (1)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509802)

if it's a place of public accomodation

Huh?

I'm sorry, I guess I made a typo. I meant "accommodation".

What's your point?

I was providing an example for AC so that he may empathize with people dissimilar from him.

Re:Sigh (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509916)

I'm sorry, I guess I made a typo. I meant "accommodation".

Well, I meant to ask what that has to do with Google Apps.

Re:Sigh (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510270)

The universities in question switched their systems over to google apps, which does not provide suitable access for the blind, therefore, the universities are being sued over it under the Americans with Disabilites Act.

Re:Sigh (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510368)

if it's a place of public accomodation

Huh?

Well, it's your right to think that way, but I'm sure you'd feel differently if you were blind, and your computer's screen-reader program was unable to parse important emails from your professor.

Yes. The people affected do tend to have biased opinions (far more so than usual) on the matter more than not. What's your point?

I don't follow your reasoning... blind people is biased and non-blind people not?

Unless you can point me to an objective statement that you and me know to be truth (i.e. "God says blind people are so by His design and you must not help them to overcome their disabilities"), then there is no "fixed point" to claim that some opinion (the one you are against) is biased while your opinion is not biased.

To me, your post translates into: "I am not blind so I do not share the opinion most blind people have, so my bias is different to theirs".

You miss the point. (1)

pavon (30274) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509766)

If the government (in the form of publicly funded schools) requires you to use specific software then you can't just go and "spend your money elsewhere". You have to use that software, even though it is physically impossible for you to do so, and despite the fact that there are alternatives you could use if allowed. That is what the accusations of violating civil rights are about.

Re:You miss the point. (1)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510396)

If the government (in the form of publicly funded schools) requires you to use specific software then you can't just go and "spend your money elsewhere". You have to use that software, even though it is physically impossible for you to do so, and despite the fact that there are alternatives you could use if allowed. That is what the accusations of violating civil rights are about.

The government does not require specific software. They require the software to meet certain criteria. That is a very different meaning.

Re:Sigh (2)

david duncan scott (206421) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510372)

You're talking to the wrong end of the horse. The NFB is suggesting that Google Apps was a bad choice for these (incidentally federally-funded) institutions.

Let's say you came to work one day and all the stairs and elevators had been replaced with climbing ropes. You'd still be a perfectly competent WHATEVER_YOU_DO_FOR_A_LIVING, but you'd never be able to reach your third-floor office, and all because you can't climb thirty-foot ropes--boo hoo, you whiner!

Give me a break (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509456)

It's not like they can see the apps anyways! Why do we have to cater everything for disabled people. It makes no sense to me.

fuck the P.C. shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509464)

they can go be blind somewhere else..

GMail HTML version (1)

RockoW (883785) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509472)

At least gmail have an HTML mode. But I think the problem is that we need better screenreaders more suitable to modern Internet.

Re:GMail HTML version (3, Interesting)

isorox (205688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509848)

At least gmail have an HTML mode. But I think the problem is that we need better screenreaders more suitable to modern Internet.

Yes, we use Jaws at work. The accessability team came round last week to see how our video editing system was progressing with accessibility. We got critisised for a variety of reasons, the chief ones being:

1) it didn't work with IE7
2) The screen reader software (Jaws), presented hidden divs to the user

If I have a div with "style=display: hidden;", a display device should not display it.

What about tablets and touchscreen smart phones? (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509484)

From the title I was initially thinking of Android apps since that's more in the news, but that made me think how it's going to be almost impossible for the blind or partially sighted to move to current touch screen technology.

Anyone know of any research in that field?

Re:What about tablets and touchscreen smart phones (2)

Col Bat Guano (633857) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509568)

iOS has many features for blind people - apparently it's one of the best machines out there to use.

Re:What about tablets and touchscreen smart phones (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509858)

iOS has many features for blind people - apparently it's one of the best machines out there to use.

Yup. From the first "enable" to the last "write", although "show run" gets a bit boring through a text-to-speech device.

Re:What about tablets and touchscreen smart phones (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509604)

The touchscreen interface seems particular unsuited for blind users.
How about an arbitrary braille surface: addressable pins under a thin silicone (or similar) membrane? The user interface would of course have to handle finger movements differently since the user would read by fingers.
Actually that would make a pretty badass smartphone/pda for the ubernerd. You could read text messages with your hand in your coat on your screen. Typing would suck less now with tactile feedback. That's the only thing I miss after moving from a mechanical keypad to a touchscreen.

Exception (1)

Gary Perkins (1518751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509490)

I have a fairly simple solution. Allow the disabled users to use other software. The law requires businesses to make "reasonable accommodations", not change the entire way of doing business. Other apps will integrate nicely with Google Apps.

Blind "plug-in support" OSS project? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509620)

umm... wouldn't it be better to get them to fund an open source project that would provide a "plug-in way"(generic term) for (F)OSS to provide support for the blind?

I would think that this would be a good way to get a lot of pro-OSS advocacy out there, by showing that we care for the less capable. And this could even simplify the (non-G)UI if there were a standard way of presenting information.

The open standard will NEVER happen with *PAA,etc They do not want standards like this, it might coincidently give back "fair use" to consumers. Just look at how hard the EU said it would be to do. but *CTA was fine...

Re:Blind "plug-in support" OSS project? (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509666)

are you kidding me? FOSS can't even come up with decent UIs for the sighted...

I have a question... (0)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509668)

I just heard a news report about this story (they may be blind, but they've got really good press agents) and I don't understand one part of the story. CNN reported that the universities mentioned in the story are "outsourcing their mail and certain applications" to Google.

Is that true? When you use Google Apps are you using a Google product on your own servers or are you actually paying Google to provide mail, apps, etc? I don't know how Google Apps works, so I'm asking you guys. Is Northwestern University (who was mentioned in the story has "outsourcing it's mail to Google") really "outsourcing"?

Re:I have a question... (2)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509764)

Here at the college I work at, yes it is outsourced.

Students access it via a single sign on link from within our home grown SIS, and are redirected to gmail.

Students only have their password to the SIS - the pw for the actual gmail account (on a subdomain of my.educationalinstitution.edu) is not known, so even if the students knew they could use POP or IMAP to access it, they don't have a working password to access it with.

Re:I have a question... (2)

Tacvek (948259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509978)

Here at the college I work at, yes it is outsourced.

Students access it via a single sign on link from within our home grown SIS, and are redirected to gmail.

Students only have their password to the SIS - the pw for the actual gmail account (on a subdomain of my.educationalinstitution.edu) is not known, so even if the students knew they could use POP or IMAP to access it, they don't have a working password to access it with.

That is the fault of the college of course. There is nothing preventing the school from enabling POP access, and providing some password for login (either the SIS password, or some random password that can be seen in the SIS, and perhaps changes when the SIS password changes).

If the college does not want to put in the effort to do that then it can and should be sued for violating the ADA and/or equivalent state/local laws. Simple as that.

Re:I have a question... (0)

yakatz (1176317) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509778)

When you use Google Apps are you using a Google product on your own servers or are you actually paying Google to provide mail, apps, etc? I don't know how Google Apps works, so I'm asking you guys. Is Northwestern University (who was mentioned in the story has "outsourcing it's mail to Google") really "outsourcing"?

100% outsourcing. Google will not allow you to run their software on your own servers.

Second point, Northwestern is not paying anyone. Google Apps for Education is FREE.

Back to the first point, even if you buy a Google Search Appliance (several thousand dollars) you still can not get root access to the device because that might allow you to see the code for the search engine.

Re:I have a question... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509836)

Yes, it's really outsourcing mail, cloud computing, calendaring, etc to Google.

Everything is on their servers, just like how gmail is.

The admins at the agency that has a Google account can manage everything, add users, manage users, etc, but it's all on Google's cloud

http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/business/cloud.html [google.com]

They have it for students, K-12s (my old workplace went to Google Apps in 2006), higher ed, ed agencies and government.

http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/ [google.com]
http://www.google.com/educators/p_apps.html [google.com]
http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/k12.html [google.com]
http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/university.html [google.com]
http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/government/index.html [google.com]

Too bad (0)

DoktorSeven (628331) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509678)

If I went blind, I wouldn't expect to be able to use computers and the internet, a primarily VISUAL medium. Why limit what can be done to half-ass a method for blind people to stumble around on?

I know this sounds very un-PC but damn, when you have a disability, deal with it, there are going to be some things closed off to you. You'll just have to do what you can.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509782)

More to the point, adding accessibility to every app is perpetually reinventing the wheel. It makes much more sense to have NFB or someone else create a standard interface for converting text/images to speech and have most smaller apps just use that.

Re:Too bad (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509786)

Bonk!

Americans With Disabilities Act and ADA Amendments Act of 2008 says you are wrong.

The ADA is a wide-ranging civil rights law that prohibits, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on disability. Disability is defined by the ADA as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity."

I work in educational support for the rural disabled in Alaska.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510030)

Bonk yourself!

If these laws state that everyone with a disability should not expect to have any limitations in day to day life and they should be able to do everything that a person without a disability can, then the law is wrong. The plain and simple fact is that they can't. A blind person cannot see. Are you saying that they should have no expectation that their condition limits many things that they can do?

I wonder if any blind person at these universities have even complained? Genuine discrimination should never be tolerated, but this seems more like politically correct bleeding hearts trying to make headlines.

Re:Too bad (1)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510188)

so genuine discrimination is the kind that you yourself personally notice, or what? isn't being required to use a form of service which depends on a faculty one does not have, but is not intrinsic to the service itself, a form of discrimination?

it seems sort of like a continuum to me, and since you're not making a pure libertarian argument that private parties should be free to discriminate, i'm just wondering where you draw the line.

Re:Too bad (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509792)

when you have a disability, deal with it

This is a sig. Deal with it

Is that your motto or something?

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509828)

The Internet isn't visual, unless you're conflating "Internet" with "World Wide Web"

Re:Too bad (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509960)

Unless you're only into games and Photoshop, for most people computers are primarily a textual medium. The visual bits around it are just there to make the text more accessible, but you can can generally use computers without the eye candy. Most normal software can be easily navigated using only the keyboard, and there's software that reads the captions of windows and the text in controls.
But the web has been a great step backwards for blind people, and for no good reason other than that most of the people behind the web technologies weren't blind. But there is no particular reason why websites should be so terrible to navigate by keyboard - it's still mostly text with a few input fields here and there. But in practice a lot of websites are terrible and Google Apps is one of the worst offenders.
Because I don't want to end on a negative note, I would like to point out that computers haven't made life worse for the blind, quite the contrary. Cheap text-based communication has ruled out a lot of social disconnect. And it is much easier to get an e-book or internet article and have your computer read it to you or present it using a Braille device, then it is to hope that the local library has a heavy clumsy Braille book that happens to interest you.
Maybe one day you will befriend someone who is blind and maybe that will give you new perspective.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510032)

I work with someone who has gone blind gradually. He's a very clever programmer/dba. Why should a lack of sight bar him from working? He manages surprisingly well with TTS & does a better job at earning a living some plenty of sighted people.

Re:Too bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510042)

The same people in in America who pay MORE for blind user's software, tweaking & support costs than they would pay a whole other employee and a half. ADA is a crock of crap. Not discriminating is one thing, but giving tax breaks BECAUSE you hire people with such disabilities when they heavily detract from their ability to work is a crock. I work for a large 500 company, and the only place we have blind people is at our callcenters with seriously antiquated software that is NOT friendly to any kind of screen reader software. My job regularly gets set back because we have to "respect" our blind users. The blind employees aren't gagged by any metric, but if they show up for work in the morning while the other drones I see when I goto the callcenter are hard pressed to be within limits. This is the kind of reason why USA is going to get left behind.

That's unfair (2)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509696)

Its not their fault. Google is still in beta!

They've got it backwards (3, Funny)

Oidhche (1244906) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509742)

Blind people lack required features for Google Apps.

Re:They've got it backwards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510340)

Both funny and insightful. Maybe I'm just in a cranky mood tonight, but can't someone, at some point, just put their hands up and say: it's tragic that you're blind, but you'll just have to live without this?

That's new (1)

marco.antonio.costa (937534) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509780)

I suppose the NFB's going rate is lower than your average anti-trust congressman's office.

Great savings for Microsoft. ;-)

Er... IMAP perhaps? (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509818)

Google provides an IMAP gateway for all of its mail, including Google Apps.

These people can use any email client under the sun to access their mail, including the vaunted Outlook.

This whole thing seems like a money grab to me.

Re:Er... IMAP perhaps? (1)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#35509844)

Also before anyone comments the above also applies to Google Docs and Calendar. Google provides open access to *ALL* of it's apps.

Re:Er... IMAP perhaps? (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510324)

Yeah, the university does not allow access through those. It can only be accessed through the university's single sign in system, thus the reason why the universities are being sued, not google.

At what point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35509900)

At what point do you tell the disabled, "You have a disability. You are not going to have the same access as those that aren't disabled."?

Honest question.

NFB doesn't speak for all (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510004)

I have a visually impaired child. We are blessed to be part of a community that helps us significantly with our special needs. But that assistance isn't something that we are entitled to receive. It is a kindness and generosity. The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) doesn't speak for all blind people, and I think that their attempt to leverage the US government and civil rights laws to go after open project software is both ignorant and counterproductive. There are much better ways to handle this issue.

The NFB could try asking nicely. They could try asking someone else to code the functionality, and share it with everyone. They could pay for it to be coded.
But they are in no way entitled to force any third-party to spend additional time and effort coding in added functionality for something they coded.

My son actually coded up a timekeeping application for the iPhone. He is 17, has a blind sibling, and didn't think about making it "ADA compliant". That doesn't make him evil. It doesn't mean that Apple has a right to force him to make his application ADA compliant. This isn't just a Google Apps issue. It is an issue for all open software projects.

The better way to handle this issue is to speak politely with the major open source projects and companies regarding embedding ADA features into the software development kits. Suing Google over Google Apps, that's just ignorant and stupid.

I can't have it! (1)

Mirey (1324435) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510018)

So no one can!

I really don't understand this mentality. Because a small minority of the population can't use someone, we should restrict it from everyone. I'm not saying that people shouldn't make the effort, but sometimes it's just not required, or its too much extra effort. If I had to make a free app blind-friendly, that could be a lot of extra work, so it might end up not being created.

Screw it, we shouldn't even be allowed sight! Everyone should wear blindfolds, else its just unfair!

Slams Google Apps (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510076)

It was funny watching them take a few swings at it first..

accesibility standard: no javascript (3, Interesting)

PJ6 (1151747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510104)

I'm currently working on a couple of government projects that must adhere to the latest accessibility standards, and they include this little doozy: no javascript.

Think about that. No javascript.

HTML was never designed for applications. We have javascript to get around this. No matter how sophisticated the "toolkit" or "framework", it's all still a stupid, ugly hack. But it works.

HTML alone though? Someone needs to pull these people aside and tell them that they've gone batshit insane.

Been there, done that ... (5, Informative)

quietwalker (969769) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510122)

I have worked with the NFB on projects before, and prior to that when I was contracting at IBM, I was the section 508 guy for my group. I have a decent bit of insight into accessible software development, and push for it's inclusion at my current workplace.

However, realize that the NFB is an advocacy group. They do not care about business needs, or the cost of adding support for screen readers to your application. They could care less that you need to spend 40% of the project costs retooling, or increase the work effort by 20%, in order to support approximately .3% of the population. They simply want it to work for them - as it should be, and the rest is your problem.

So, what's is that problem?

Well, businesses have roadblocks in realizing that providing accessibility standards for your software is a losing proposition - the NBT actively attempts to cloud this viewpoint or strike it down as morally objectionable. However, it is unlikely that the level of effort that goes into producing an accessible application or website will ever show any reasonable return. Additionally, as with all software, the later in the game is is added, the more expensive it is - so retooling an app is worse than the cost of folding it in from the beginning. So we're looking at a big expense with no return - low ROI.

Beyond all this, non-sighted or otherwise impaired individuals are already coping with non-accessible interfaces on a daily basis. They have specialty software that helps them cope with this, and in other cases, there are learned workarounds. Just like a Microsoft product user, they are conditioned to accept the failures, and while aggravating, they can usually accomplish their goals regardless.

So, what are my points?

1) Never agree to retool an existing app (though you can accept submissions)
2) While in the planning stages decide what level of accessibility support you're going to aim for. It's increasingly expensive, especially the QA side where there's a severe demand for accessibility testers. Make a rational cost-based analysis. Some things you get for free just by adhering to strict HTML standards (like providing alt text for your images AND LINKS, or properly labeling your tables with a summary attribute, and column descriptions) for webapps.
3) Don't ever sweat the compliance if it's hard to do at any one point - it's simply not financially worth it. Go for as much as you can. All the rich "web 2.0" features which make the difference between a sale or a miss don't translate well in the accessibility world. It won't help your product if it's accessible if no one is going to use it. Remember - unless the laws change, compliance is usually a 'good to have feature' - not a 'must have'. Prioritize it well.
4) Harsh though it may seem, you can rely on your disabled users to provide their own solutions. Your software is unlikely to be a required resource - worse comes to worse, they can always use something else willing to lose money by supporting specialty groups.

Issue is with Google Docs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35510246)

The issue here isn't GMail itself since yes, POP/IMAP access works just fine. The issue here is Google Docs which, by their very nature, have no alternative means of accessing them. Sure, there's the half-assed plugin for Word, but for universities that are so anti-Microsoft, the solution is not acceptable. And seriously, in the 21st century, why should the blind have to still be fighting such stupid battles to just be able to edit a friggin document? As a blind person myself who works in the adaptive technology field, I have no love for Google Docs and will recommend Microsoft Office to anyone I know who uses Windows, relies on screen access technology, and actually wants to get work done. Google has been asked time and again to make their products more accessible, and they have ignored such requests. It's sad when it has to come to these types of suits and investigations, but if that's what it takes to get Google to pay attention, then so be it.

oops! (1)

Voltaris (1916080) | more than 3 years ago | (#35510280)

They tried to slam them... but missed!
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