Even Grounds Blog
In this blog, I will reflect on issues which effect the accessibility of technology. I would like to bring certain issues to my readers attention which are either interesting, directly effect our lives, or bring issues into our attention which we would have never thought of.
Tom Babinszki, Director of Even Grounds
The widely accepted definition of Braille is that it is a touch reading and writing system for the blind and visually impaired. This may be clear and straightforward enough. But looking past this definition, we will find that Braille offers so much more than just a way for blind people to read and write. We will also see that behind this system lies a story of hope, perseverance, and ingenuity.
In part 1, we followed Lisa, a blind woman and examined what kind of challenges she faces using everyday technologies, such as a coffee maker, an alarm clock or a microwave. In this part, we will follow Lisa to work and see how she uses her computer, her mobile phone, or how she orders from a restaurant.
After the Oracle's acquisition of Sun, one of the first decisions to make was to fire Willie Walker, the ORCA project lead. ORCA is a Linux based screen reader, which became very famous and popular among visually impaired people. Sun had a strong commitment to support ORCA in so many ways to offer screen reader users another option, a wider choice of operating systems.
While it is practically possible to use Linux with screen readers, in the past it had been very difficult, many people used a terminal solution and accessed their Linux machine through another computer. ORCA made it possible to directly use a Linux machine, and eventually got it to a point where visually impaired people could use it as their primary system.
According to recent legislation, companies that sell textbooks in California must make digital versions of the books available by 2020. Senator Elaine Alquist, the author of the law claims that it will significantly reduce costs for students.
I'm mostly scratching my head: what's the point here? And don't get me wrong, I appreciate the effort, but there's really nothing more to it.
Just recently I read an article about a call center in Moscow which employs 1000 blind and visually impaired people.
I am a proponent of fully integrating disabled people into regular environment, thus making them fully participate in society. However, this is not always an immediate possibility, so let's see what this story really has between the lines.
Let's look at an ordinary day with the eyes of a blind person. There is so much to take for granted which is not given to others, for example, because they can't see. What happens with people who are totally blind? All of a sudden, many things are done very differently. Sometimes, accessible technologies will solve the problem. This includes any technology which can be used equally well by those who can see and those who can't. In other cases, special technologies need to be used to achieve the same that others do just by using their sight. This is technology which is specifically developed for blind people.
Let's follow a blind person through a whole work day. For the sake of the example, we will call her Lisa.
We will examine how technology helps Lisa throughout her whole day. We will not discuss anything else, but instances, where information technology can help her. We won't look at any other issues she might be facing. There are many more challenges we could talk about, but in order to overcome those, information technology itself will not solve the problem. In this post, I will only demonstrate how much information technology can make a difference.
Right after the web accessibility workshop in Malaysia, we conducted another web accessibility seminar, this time in the Philippines. This event was a joint effort of Even Grounds and ATRIEV Computer School for the Blind.
Accessibility in the Philippines is gradually being recognized by more and more groups in the country. Through events such as this, we aim to further establish web accessibility as a standard and help present and future web developers create more accessible websites.
We have just finished conducting the first web accessibility workshop in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. This is the third web accessibility workshop Even Grounds has conducted in the country. It was a very good experience for us, and we are hoping that more individuals in Malaysia are now aware of the importance of web accessibility.
A couple of weeks ago I have explored the possibilities of making visual art accessible. Since then I put much more thought into it, and today I wanted to see how the National Gallery of Art does it. With the family we went to the Gallery, and looked at Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci. Following the link to the title you will find the painting, which opens in a new window.