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December 1, 2002
The Information Technology Technical Assistance & Training Center
ACCESS E and IT NEWS
***Promoting Accessible IT & Telecommunications***
December 1, 2002 (Vol 3, Issue, 2)
In This Issue:
- GSA to Conduct Trainings Nationwide in 2003
- FOSE Expo and GCN Management Conference @ FOSE
- Training: Creating Accessible Websites
- IDEAS 2002: Access to Speaker Presentations
- Accessibility Forum Announces Posting of Comments of Members on Interoperability and Objective Measures Project Teams
- FCC: New Appointments in Disability Rights Office
- California's Community Colleges Turn to Web Conferencing to Save Travel Money
- Israeli Software Enables Deaf to Use Cell Phones
- Trio of Talking ATMs
- Text Messaging for the Blind
- Federal Appeals Court: MPAA v FCC
- House Passes E-Government Bill
- Settlement Reached in UC Disability Lawsuit
FOR YOUR ACTION
- Extension of time for comments due on the Telephone Consumer
- CATEA Receives Grant to Promote Distance Learning Access for Students with Disabilities
- Book: Astronomers collaborate on a project that allows blind people to 'see' Hubble images
- Crunchy Technologies and IBM Partner to Deliver Accessible I/T Solutions
- Got a Gripe? Filing a complain with the FCC is easy
- Kids Use Robots to Open Doors to Careers
- Browsealoud Brings Internet Accessibility to any Website
1. GSA TO CONDUCT TRAININGS NATIONWIDE
(Specific information regarding the following GSA training events has not yet
been posted. ITTATC will keep you informed as information becomes available.)
- The General Services Administration (GSA) will conduct training sessions
across the U.S. in 2003. The training is for new GSA Associates, and will
include, among other things, GSA work on 508. The first four GSA regions that
will receive the training are: Atlanta, Denver, San Francisco and Chicago.
The trainings will take place in the first quarter of 2003--in February, 2003.
Brochures on Section 508 are included in the orientation packets for all new
GSA hires across the U.S.
- GSA to Promote AT through monthly presentations by AT Vendors
GSA will start monthly Vendor presentations, starting with those vendors on
the GSA schedule. The first training is scheduled for the week of December
9, 2002. The training will be held in the GSA Accessible Technology Center
[AT Center} at GSA main building on F street in downtown DC. Each month, one
vendor will give presentations on how their product(s)helps a particular disability.
The purpose of this training is to give the vendors a chance to showcase their
newest, hottest tech products. They will focus on a different disability every
month, and explain how the technology of that month's showcased vendor helps
or provides accommodation for that disability. These presentations are open
to interested parties, including members of the general public.
2. FOSE EXPO AND GCN MANAGEMENT
CONFERENCE @ FOSE
Date of Event: April 8-10, 2003
Location: New Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC
FOSE is the largest information technology exposition serving the government marketplace. Now in its 27th year, FOSE hosts over 400 exhibitors showcasing the newest and most exciting integrated IT products and services. FOSE draws thousands of high-level attendees from the military, civilian, state and local agencies, along with suppliers to government, corporate, education, and healthcare buyers.
Why you should ATTEND FOSE 2003:
- Interact with 400 top technology vendors such as Adobe, Apple, Dell, CDWG,
GTSI, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, MicroWarehouse, Research in Motion, Verizon
- Meet technology professionals who can answer all your technology questions
- Experience a hands-on opportunity to evaluate the best new IT products available
- Discover solutions to a specific mission-critical objective
- Learn about E-government, Homeland Security, Enterprise Architecture and
more from industry professionals and technology leaders
- Expand your knowledge by attending FREE Educational Seminars given by Adobe
- Find the products and services needed to meet your organizational goals-E-government,
Homeland Security, to Infrastructure, Enterprise Architecture, and CRM…
- Network with government peers and leaders from the public sector
3. TRAINING: CREATING ACCESSIBLE WEBSITES
Education Leadership Team - New Media Center training
Access the following URL to learn more about each of the offerings listed below, as well as how to register: http://www.newmedia.gatech.edu/schedule.htm.
- Web Accessibility: Policy and Practice (1 Day)
Next Offering: 1/15/03, 3/12, 6/4
Policy and Practice explores the fundamental issues of accessible Web design. We will examine the legal ramifications of non-compliance, Section 508 standards, validation of Web compliance, and much more. We will explore how to succeed (and fail) with Section 508.
Upon completion of this course the student should have a thorough understanding of:
- Legal Ramifications or non-compliance
- Disability Statistics
- Section 508 & W3C Web Standards
- Types of Assistive Technology
- Retrofitting an Existing site for 508 Compliance
- Accessibility Efforts - Content vs. Cost
- Validating Web Sites
- Meshing Form & Content for Success
- Web Accessibility: Basic Techniques (1 Day)
Next Offering: 1/16/03, 3/13, 6/5
Basic Techniques l applies essential processes for creating new accessible sites and retrofitting old ones. Hands on examples will reinforce learning of the primary techniques for accessible design.
Upon completion of this course the student should have a thorough understanding of:
- Accessibility considerations
- Retrofitting for 508 compliance
- Separating content from structure
- Dreamweaver's built-in accessibility tools
- Alternative content for graphics and media
- Color & contrast
- Image maps
- HTML markup specifics
- Cascading style sheets
- Library items in Dreamweaver
- Testing for accessibility
- Web Accessibility:
Advanced Techniques (1 Day)
Next Offering: 1/17/03, 3/14, 6/6
Advanced Techniques teaches a design repertoire using advanced markup, cascading style sheets, audio and multimedia and more.
Upon completion of this course the student should have a thorough understanding of:
- Advanced html markup for frames, tables & more
- Keyboard short cuts & hot keys
- Advanced design practices & guidelines
- Cascading Style Sheets - basic, positioning, grouping, custom classes, scripting interactivity
- Audio, Video & Multimedia (Including: Macromedia Flash, Scripts, Plug-Ins
& Applets, Adobe Acrobat 5.0 & more)
- Browser compliance & cross-compatibility
- Access board's 16 standards for web access
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1. IDEAS 2002: ACCESS TO SPEAKER PRESENTATIONS
The annual Interagency Disability Educational Awareness Showcase (IDEAS) Conference was held on November 5, 2002. Through the educational workshops, informed speakers and innovative exhibitors, attendees could find tools, resources and answers for their questions about disability legislation. Access the URL speaker presentations and transcripts from the conference.
2. ACCESSIBILITY FORUM ANNOUNCES POSTING OF COMMENTS OF MEMBERS ON INTEROPERABILITY AND OBJECTIVE MEASURES PROJECT TEAMS
November 25, 2002
The Accessibility Forum is a forum sponsored by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and composed of stakeholders affected by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, including industry, government and users. The purpose of the Forum is to ultimately benefit U.S. agency employees and members of the public with disabilities, in their use of, and access to, electronic and information technologies (E&IT), as well as products for people with disabilities. Two of the Project Teams of the Accessibility Forum are the Objective Measures and the Assistive Technology (AT)-E&IT Interoperability Project Teams. They recently conducted a review of their source documents and published their comments on the Accessibility Forum website. These comments may be viewed by stakeholders and members of the general public as well as members of the Forum for insight on how these documents may be interpreted and modified for clarity and improved usage.
[Interoperability is the ability of assistive technology and electronic and information technologies from multiple vendors and manufacturers to exchange and use information in a meaningful way, without adverse consequences to the system.]
[The Objective Measures Project is focused on the technical, performance and documentation provisions of the Standard for Section 508. The OM Project attempts, to the extent possible, to document and make operational standard and objective processes and mechanisms for assessing the accessibility of E&IT as based on the provisions of the Final Standard of Section 508. The standard for 508 has already been defined by the U.S. Access Board.]
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1. FCC: NEW APPOINTMENTS IN DISABILITY RIGHTS OFFICE
November 13, 2002
The Federal Communications Commission announced through
new appointments within their Disability Rights Office (DRO). DRO initiates
and implements policy, monitors the effects of telecom policy on the disability
community and makes recommendations based on its findings. At the time the Consumer
& Governmental Affairs Bureau was reorganized in March of this year, DRO's
policy-making function was significantly expanded.
- Thomas E. Chandler has been named Chief of the Consumer & Governmental
Affairs Bureau's Disability Rights Office (DRO). Chandler had been an attorney
in the Litigation Division of the FCC'S Office of General Counsel. Before
coming to the FCC, he was an attorney in the Appellate Section of the Civil
Rights Division at the Department of Justice. While at Justice, Chandler briefed
and argued civil rights cases on behalf of the United States in the United
States Courts of Appeals and also assisted in drafting briefs for the Supreme
Court. He was directly involved in a number of major cases involving the Americans
with Disabilities Act, including Martin v. PGA Tour, Inc. and Bragdon
- Cheryl J. King has been named to the new position of Deputy Chief of the Office.
King has been an attorney-advisor with the Commission since 1997, serving
in the former Cable Services Bureau on pole attachment rulemaking and enforcement.
She has been with DRO since July, 2002. Ms. King has extensive experience
working in Congress on disability, women's and social policy issues, as legislative
and political staff person for four United States Senators and, most recently,
as legislative director for a ranking member of the House Commerce Committee.
She has a long history of advocacy and dedication to disability issues. From
1992-1994, King was Assistant Secretary for the Office of Planning, Innovation
and Government Relations in the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration
(IFSSA), the state agency that administers Federal and state programs for
people with disabilities. She has been a speech, hearing and language therapist
in public schools and in private pediatric and geriatric therapy. She is the
mother of a special needs child.
- Former DRO Chief Pam Gregory will become a special advisor to the chief. Pam
Gregory, who has served as DRO chief since its inception in 1999, requested
to step down from her supervisory responsibilities but to continue working
in DRO in a different capacity. She will be a special advisor to the chief.
K. Dane Snowden, Chief of the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau,
said, "On behalf of the Commission, I thank Pam Gregory for her outstanding
leadership of DRO since the Office was created. During her tenure as chief,
the Disability Rights Office grew from a task force to a driving force. Given
her institutional knowledge and expertise, I am delighted that Pam will continue
to serve within DRO.
2. CALIFORNIA'S COMMUNITY COLLEGES TURN TO WEB CONFERENCING TO SAVE TRAVEL MONEY
October 25, 2002
From The Chronicle of Higher Education
by Florence Olsen
The California Community Colleges System will connect its 108 campuses with a Web-based teleconferencing service that meets accessibility guidelines for people with disabilities. The multimillion-dollar plan is expected to save money by cutting back on travel to meetings.
An $11.5-million grant to Palomar College from the system chancellor's office, colleges will pay for the service for five years. The server-based software is designed to meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, according to Palomar officials, who are overseeing the project.
"We spend a lot of time, as do our staff, traveling up and down the state," said Sherrill L. Amador, president of Palomar College. But the state's community colleges are experiencing severe budget cuts, more of which are anticipated next year. "We will not have the money to travel," Ms. Amador said, adding that the Web-conferencing service will handle accessibility in a way such that "everybody can participate."
This announcement reflects a growing interest among community colleges in making online content and activities accessible to people with limited mobility or other disabilities. "That's where community colleges really need now to pay attention," said Stella A. Perez, director of Web-based activities for the League for Innovation in the Community College, an association of 700 community colleges.
The Web-conferencing service that the California institutions will use, known as CCC Confer, was developed by HorizonLive, a New York company. It is designed to let people -- including those with sight or hearing disabilities -- participate in virtual meetings, provided they have access to a telephone, an Internet connection, and a Web browser. The service is compatible with most screen readers and other assistive devices in use today for sight and hearing impairments, said Sherilyn Hargraves, teleconferencing project director at Palomar.
The California community colleges expect to use the teleconferencing service initially for virtual meetings. But the service's capabilities could be used in the future for teaching online classes, holding virtual office hours, or providing reference-desk support, Ms. Hargraves said.
CCC Confer uses a variety of electronic-meeting technologies, including instant polling, instant messaging, and archiving.
Training on the conferencing system is beginning this month. The service is set to become available to all 108 colleges starting early next year.
3. Israeli Software Enables Deaf
to Use Cell Phones
November 26, 2002
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - In late November, Israel's largest mobile phone operator Cellcom and Israeli start-up SpeechView launched a worldwide patented software that will allow the deaf and hard of hearing to communicate through mobile phones. The product LipCcell is a software installed in the user's computer and connected with a cable to a cell phone. When the deaf user gets a call, the software translates the voice on the other side of the line into a three dimensional animated face on the computer, whose lips move in real time synch with the voice allowing the receiver to lip read. The software can be used initially only with a computer or laptop, said SpeechView chief executive Tzvika Nayman, though future developments will allow the software to be installed on personal digital assistants.
Under the agreement, Cellcom will be the sole distributor of the kits in Israel with its revenues deriving from the calls, Cellcom deputy chief executive Oren Most told Reuters. The kits, including a CD and cable, will cost $125. Some basic training, included in the instruction manual of the CD, is needed to better interpret the lip nuances of the animated figure, Neyman said, with the software also using color on the animated figure's nose or cheeks to differentiate between sounds that are confusingly similar. "The additional signs added to the animated figure raise the level of identification from 35 to 85 percent," he said. Nayman said he knows of no such technology in the world, and added that SpeechView was in touch with mobile phone operators in Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands to further distribute the product. "There is no language limitation," Nayman said, adding that all phonemic languages can be translated by the software.
The technology was created by Nachshon Margaliot, an information systems specialist, who stumbled upon the need for the product while working with a hard of hearing colleague. "I couldn't understand how the communication world had forgotten the hard of hearing and why there was no comprehensive solution," Margaliot said.
4. TRIO OF TALKING ATMS
September 4, 2002
(From " Time for New Flavors" in the September 2002 issue of Credit Union Management, p. 56)
by Lyman Cline
Brokaw, Wisconsin has a population of 280. It is in the center of the state near Wausau. The article shows that talking ATM's are affordable, even for very small financial institutions in rural communities.
Brokaw Credit Union (CU) serves Marathon and southern Lincoln counties in Wisconsin. During informal discussions, our members had indicated they would like us to offer ATMs. While we wanted to comply, we were concerned that we might not generate enough transaction volume to justify the machines' cost.
During a discussion with the sales agent for ATM distributor Cash Resources, Centennial, Colo., (Harington Group Inc.), Mary Zillman, senior vice president at Brokaw CU, discovered a low-cost retail ATM manufactured by Triton, Long Beach, Miss., that is designed to be installed inside convenience stores, gas stations, restaurants and the like. The dial-up ATM connects to the network only when customers want to use it, and is smaller than the kind of ATM typically installed outside a credit union. It also costs about a fifth as much as a larger ATM. An added bonus was the Triton ATM's ability to talk. We purchased three in May, installing two ATMs in convenience service stations and one in a sports bar mid-summer. After a month, we are confident the transaction volume will pay for our investment in the machines.
The talking ATMs will allow Brokaw CU to serve members (and non-members) we may not have reached-those who are visually impaired or who have difficulty reading due to dyslexia or illiteracy. To use the ATM, the member can plug in earphones (that they carry with them or pick up at the site) to listen to transaction options rather than having to see what is displayed on the screen. Using earphones ensures member privacy as transaction information is repeated audibly to the user along with receipt information, including the customer's account balance if available. Complete audio instruction for use of the ATM is also available. In addition, the keypad has a dot on the five for orientation.
In addition, the new ATMs comply with the proposed ADA regulations slated to be presented to the Department of Justice in the near future. The final regulations are expected to mandate that "machines shall provide visual and audible instructions for operation" and may require ATM operators to upgrade or retrofit many of the 325,000 existing ATMs in the United States.
5. TEXT MESSAGING FOR THE BLIND
November 5, 2002
(From the BBC News)
A research arm of British Telcomm has developed technology that enables sight-impaired users to receive text messages by having them read aloud through a computerized voice-recognition application. Text messaging is an increasingly popular form of communication in Europe, especially among young people. The new technology was inspired by a visit from a group of partially-sighted teenagers to BT's research lab last year who told researchers that they felt excluded by their inability to participate in text messaging with their peers. While the current implementation requires that the text message -- usually distributed via cell phones alone -- be transmitted to a PDA that contains voice-recognition software, there are plans underway to package the technology within the cell phone itself.
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|NOTABLE CASES / LEGISLATION
1. FEDERAL APPEALS COURT: MPAA V FCC
Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) v. Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Decided: November 8, 2008
Order online at: http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/common/opinions
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently overturned the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC's) regulations on video descriptions, ruling that the FCC had exceeded the statutory authority given to them by Congress under the Telecommunications Act. In addition, the Court held that the video description regulations promulgated by the FCC regulated program content, in that they required programmers to create a second script. The Court quoted from a dissent written by then Commissioner Michael Powell in 15 F.C.C.R. 15, 278 (2000) Implementation of Video Description of Video Programming, Report and Order, (Powell, dissenting) in stating that "video description is a creative work. It requires a producer to evaluate a program, write a script, select actors, decide what to describe, decide how to describe it and choose what style or what pace."
The effect of the Court's ruling is to immediately vacate the current FCC regulations on video descriptions. The regulations require commercial television broadcasters affiliated with the top four commercial networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) to provide 50 hours of video description every quarter, during either prime time or children's programming. [47 C.F.R. s 79.3(b)(1)]
It is unclear what affect this ruling may have, if any, on current accessibility requirements under Section 508.
2. HOUSE PASSES E-GOVERNMENT BILL
On November 14th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 2458) that creates a national e-government office and a federal e-government fund for interagency information technology projects ( The companion bill-S. 803-was passed by the U.S. Senate in June). The purpose as stated in the text of the legislation is to enhance the management and promotion of electronic Government services and processes by establishing a Federal Chief Information Officer within the Office of Management and Budget, and by establishing a broad framework of measures that require using Internet-based information technology to enhance citizen access to Government information and services, and for other purposes.
You can view the details of both the House and Senate bills by accessing Thomas--which provides links to legislative information on the Internet--and entering the "Bill number" in the "Search Bill Text" field found at the top of the screen: http://thomas.loc.gov/.
The legislation has been cleared for the White House.
3. SETTLEMENT REACHED IN UC DISABILITY LAWSUIT
November 13, 2002
by Amelia Heagerty
Contributing Writer for The Daily Californian
The University of California (UC) agreed to change the way it accommodates hearing disabilities after recently settling a class action lawsuit brought by students from its Berkeley and Davis campuses. Without admitting any wrongdoing, UC agreed to further fund and expand programs for hearing-impaired students and pay the named plaintiffs $10,000 each in damages, according to the Nov. 1 settlement. The UC Office of the President must cover an estimated $1 million in plaintiff legal fees.
Four former and current UC Berkeley and UC Davis students on behalf of other hearing-impaired students filed the 1999 lawsuit. It alleged that campuses failed to provide for the needs of hearing-impaired students, "effectively precluding an equal opportunity to learn." "These are very significant changes," said Guy Wallace, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers. "We think (the settlement) is a blueprint for the future for other campuses to follow."
The settlement abolished the policy under which a hearing-impaired student's notetaker would leave a class if the student did not show up within the first 10 minutes. Notetakers now must stay longer, and, if notified of anticipated tardiness, they are required to stay for the duration. In addition, notetakers can no longer stop coming to a class if a student is more than 10 minutes late on three occasions.
Under the settlement, UC Berkeley and UC Davis are required to provide "auxiliary aids and services at university expense" for hearing-impaired students who wish to take part in the Education Abroad Program. The settlement now allows hearing-impaired students to get assistance and services to participate in extracurricular activities from the Disabled Students' Program at their school. Students seeking services previously had to go through the activity coordinators, who were often unable to arrange for the appropriate services.
Along with the policy changes, a two-person panel is evaluating the campuses to determine whether further provisions need to be made to accommodate hearing-impaired students.
UC officials said the settlement is a good thing for hearing-impaired students, adding to a program that is already more than adequate. "The settlement will help to improve the services for (the) deaf and hard of hearing," said UC attorney Jeff Blair. "But I also believe that the services provided by both campuses before the settlement were ones that citizens of the state of California would be proud of."
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1. EXTENSION OF TIME FOR COMMENTS DUE ON THE TELEPHONE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT.
Comment Date: December 9, 2002
Reply Comment Date: January 8, 2003
Telephone Consumer Protection Act: This Act, known as TCPA, was enacted in 1991 to protect consumers from unrestricted and unsolicited telephone advertising. In this new notice of proposed rulemaking, the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) is seeking comment on whether to revise its rules that implement the TCPA. Among other things, the FCC is seeking comment on its rules concerning unwanted telephone solicitations, the use of automatic dialing systems, and company-specific do-not-call lists. When a company receives a request from a consumer to be put on its do-not-call list, it is no longer permitted to contact that consumer for many years. In paragraphs 14 and 17 of the NPRM, the Commission is specifically seeking comment on the extent to which people with disabilities have the opportunity to put their names on these lists and the extent to which people with hearing and speech disabilities are able to convey requests to telemarketers that they want to be on those lists. This item has not yet been published in the federal register; thus, comment and reply comment dates have not yet been set:
On September 18, 2002, the Commission released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (Notice) seeking comment on whether to revise or update its existing rules governing the use of the telephone network for unsolicited advertising via telephone and facsimile machines. These rules were adopted pursuant to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). In addition, the Commission sought comment on whether to revisit the option of establishing a national do-not-call list. The Notice was published in the Federal Register on October 8, 2002, establishing a comment date of November 22, 2002 and reply comment date of December 9, 2002. The FCC extends the comment and reply comment dates to December 9, 2002, and January 8, 2003, respectively. Comments should be filed pursuant to the instructions provided in the Notice.
TO SUBMIT COMMENTS:
ADDRESSES: Parties who choose to file comment by paper must file an original and four copies to the Commission's Secretary, Marlene H. Dortch, Office of the Secretary, Federal Communications Commission, 445 12th Street, SW., Room TW-A325, Washington, DC 20554. Comments may also be filed using the Commission's Electronic Filing System, which can be accessed via the Internet at www.fcc.gov/e-file/ecfs.html. In addition to filing comments with the Secretary, a copy of any comments on the information collections contained herein should be submitted to Les Smith, Federal Communications Commission, Room 1-A804, 445 12th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20554, or via the Internet to email@example.com and to Kim A. Johnson, OMB Desk Officer, Room 10236 NEOB, 725 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC, 20503 or via the Internet to Kim--A.-- Johnson@omb.eop.gov.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Erica H. McMahon or Richard D. Smith at 202-418-2512, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau.
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1. CATEA RECEIVES GRANT TO PROMOTE DISTANCE LEARNING ACCESS FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
For more information on this project, contact Robert Todd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Southeast Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC), a unit of the Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access (CATEA) at Georgia Tech recently received a grant from the Office of Post Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education for a demonstration project to enhance access for students with disabilities to distance learning courses.
"The exciting thing about this project is that we are not just going to 'make over' a few distance learning courses, our goal is to provide training and technical assistance that can improve distance education practices nationwide," says Robert Todd, Project Director for the grant.
Todd and his team will collaborate with two other centers at Georgia Tech: the Center for Distance Learning and the Center for Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. Georgia Tech faculty will receive training on accessible course design, and core faculty members will be funded to make existing and new distance education programs accessible to students with disabilities. Project staff will also work with the Georgia Tech Office for Students with Disabilities to raise awareness about the need for accessible distance education on the Georgia Tech campus for both faculty and students and to evaluate the accessibility of the courses identified. "While Georgia Tech will be used as an example of successful practices in accessible distance education, this information will be disseminated to other educational entities nationwide, giving them the tools they need to create their own accessible distance education courses, "says Todd.
The grant will also help fund a public-private partnership between CATEA and IDET Communications, Inc., a private company based in Atlanta, to develop a fully accessible ten-module online training course designed to increase awareness about disability and accessibility issues in distance learning.
Additionally, the project will work with the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) to develop voluntary standards and procedures for evaluating the accessibility of online courses and to include that information in the MERLOT database of online courses. MERLOT is a free and open resource designed primarily for faculty and students in higher education.
2. BOOK: ASTRONOMERS COLLABORATE ON A PROJECT THAT ALLOWS BLIND PEOPLE TO 'SEE' HUBBLE IMAGES
November 12, 2002
By Michael Stroh, Sun Staff
Copyright (c) 2002, The Baltimore Sun
Astronomer Kent Cullers has spent most of his life studying the cosmos. But>until recently the 53-year-old had never seen it. Cullers, who has been blind since birth and served as the model for a character in the Jodie Foster film Contact, knew all about nebulas, neutron stars and other heavenly objects through his work at the SETI Institute in California. But it wasn't until his fingertips swept across the pages of an innovative new book of Hubble Space Telescope photographs that he understood what other astronomers saw when they peered at the heavens.
Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy, which was unveiled in November at the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, is the first attempt to share with the blind the arresting images captured by the Hubble telescope. Written in English and Braille, the slim 64-page book contains 14 of Hubble's most famous shots of space, from the majestic gas pillars of the Eagle Nebula to the gaggle of galaxies in the Hubble Deep Field. The book's secret: an ingenious and barely visible array of bumps.
Touch the Universe was written by Noreen Grice, a 39-year- old sighted astronomer at the Charles Hayden Planetarium in Boston. The idea for the book, she says, goes back to 1984, when she was a student at Boston University working part time at the planetarium. One day a group from the nearby Perkins School for the Blind arrived in the darkened dome. "Afterwards, I said, 'How'd you like the show?' And they said, 'It stinks. Astronomy stinks,'" Grice recalls. "I couldn't stop thinking about it."
She went to the school and looked at the library. None of the science books - mostly Isaac Asimov titles translated into Braille - had illustrations or pictures, she noticed. That experience led to her first astronomy book for the blind. Touch the Stars was put together on her kitchen floor with string and acetate sheets. It was relatively primitive, she says today - mostly diagrams of the solar system. But there had never been anything like it. When the book was published in 1990, it became a hit. Now in its fourth edition, it is used as a text by schools.
Beck-Winchatz, a DePaul University astronomer who studies quasars with the Hubble telescope, spotted a copy of Grice's book in the gift shop of a Chicago planetarium and immediately saw the potential. He called Grice and suggested creating a book. Despite Grice's experience with the first book, translating the telescope's sublime visions of the universe for the fingertips turned out to be harder than she expected.
She devised a palette of textures. Squiggly lines are wisps of gas. A checkerboard signifies the Hubble's solar panel. Raised lines represent the color blue. Not everything worked. Grice stamped every star with a single raised dot. When she handed out early drafts to students at the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind, "People felt it and said, 'What are all these A's?'" She learned quickly: In Braille, a single raised dot represents the first letter of the alphabet.
She also realized that when it comes to tactile images, less is more. Sighted people who have brushed their fingertips across the pages can barely detect the subtle ridges, swirls and humps, feeling just a slight tickle. But blind students testing the book were sometimes overwhelmed. Feeling one early bump-studded image, they said, "We can't find the picture."
After revisions, it became clear that the magic of Hubble was coming across. When one blind student felt the photo of NGC 2392 - nicknamed the Eskimo Nebula because it resembles a face bundled in a furry hood - he said, "It looks like a poached egg," Grice recalls. She looked at the image again and realized he was right.
Terry Garrett, a ninth-grader at the Colorado school, said that dragging his fingers over the rough swirl of Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot was a revelation. "I didn't know how big it was compared with the rest of the planet." Benning Wentworth III, a science teacher at the school, hopes his students will be able to experience more images of the world. "A lot of people say blind people can't see," he said. "They see just as well as we see. They just don't have vision."
Developed by Sound Foresight Ltd. (http://www.soundforesight.co.uk/)
Access to view an example--you need Real Player to view:
The Batcane, as it is nicknamed has been designed to help blind and partially sighted people build a mind map of their environment and so aid independent mobility. It looks like a conventional white cane, but is much safer as it enables the user to detect obstacles in front of, around and - virtually - above or at the user's head height. The concept behind its development is based on the way a bat sees. Through a process known as Echolocation, the cane emits ultrasound pulses and then listens to the echo to determine the location of objects in the immediate vicinity. The Batcane requires no programming and runs on only a set of AA batteries. Further details of how the Batcane works remains confidential at this time.
Sound Foresight has been conducting a number of trials in the UK, US, Canada and Germany in conjunction with established bodies such as Guide Dogs for the Blind (UK), the American Council for the Blind (US) and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. Results of the tests are currently being analyzed and fed into product development.
Graham Cooper, Chairman of Sound Foresight, said The tireless efforts of Sound Foresight over the past eighteen months have produced something to which all involved with the project are justifiably proud. The potential to help the lives of so many visually impaired people has been the driving factor throughout the development period. We anticipate the Batcane could be available sometime towards the end of the year.
4. CRUNCHY TECHNOLOGIES AND IBM PARTNER TO DELIVER ACCESSIBLE I/T SOLUTIONS
On November 20th, Crunchy Technologies and IBM announced a business relationship that will create an impressive set of web technology solutions vital to persons with disabilities. In the agreement, Crunchy Technologies, a recognized leader in web and desktop accessibility technologies for the government sector, will provide IBM first right of refusal on most of its accessibility services engagements. It also will license IBM's Home Page reader technology, which helps visually impaired persons access and use the Web. IBM will license Crunchy's PageScreamerTM product suite for use within IBM.
Both Crunchy Technologies and IBM said the agreement was intended to broaden their relationship that would include joint development of future accessibility products and solutions to complement IBM's existing wide range of accessibility services. "This relationship is a reflection of information technology accessibility taking a positive step forward for government and mainstream business," said Alan Reich, president of the National Organization on Disability, based in Washington, D.C. "It establishes a platform of leadership for other companies to follow."
"Crunchy and IBM have broadened our relationship to one strategically focused on accessibility solutions," said Louis J. Hutchinson III, founder and CEO of Crunchy Technologies, Inc. "Our relationship educates organizations about accessibility, it helps organizations establish enterprise checklists for accessibility, and it provides the tools and processes that support the development and testing of accessible IT solutions worldwide."
"Our relationship with Crunchy Technologies provides the global marketplace with some of the most complete accessibility solutions for customers," said Shon Saliga, Director, IBM Accessibility Center.
Both Crunchy Technologies and IBM have a long history of working closely with the US Government. Many agencies within the US Government are focused on accessibility concerns, including the Department of Agriculture and the Defense Information Systems Agency, among others.
About Crunchy (http://www.crunchy.com):
Crunchy Technologies develops accessible-packaged software products and custom applications for business and government clients. Crunchy manufactures the PageScreamerTM and WinScreamerTM product suites, leading tools for making Web content and Desktop software accessible to users with disabilities and compliant with Section 508 of the 1998 Rehabilitation Act. Crunchy's professional-services team architects and builds accessible e-business and e-government applications and systems. Crunchy's expertise includes Internet, intranet, extranet and wireless application development, IT infrastructure design and implementation, security implementations and accessible web content, web application and product software development.
IBM Global Services (http://www.ibm.com/services):
IBM Global Services is the world's largest information technology services provider, with professionals serving customers in 160 countries and annual revenue of about $35 billion (2001). IBM Global Services integrates IBM's broad range of capabilities -- consulting, IT services, hardware, software and research -- to help companies of all sizes realize the full value of information technology.
5. GOT A GRIPE? FILING A COMPLAINT WITH THE FCC IS EASY
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) accepts complaints on various wireless and wireline telecommunications issues, media, and telecommunications accessibility issues. The following provides information on how to complain to the FCC.
What Good Will It Do?
Filing an informal complaint with the FCC may help resolve disputes consumers have with companies regulated by the FCC. It will not necessarily result in a fine or enforcement action against the company, but is a way for you, the consumer, to obtain a specific response from the company and, in most cases, a satisfactory resolution to your complaint. After receiving your complaint, FCC staff generally will forward it to the service provider and direct the company to respond to the FCC within 30 days. The FCC also directs the company to send a copy of its response to you (the complainant). If your complaint involves an interstate telephone matter and you do not like the company's response to your complaint, the FCC's rules give you the right to file a "formal" complaint. Consumers who wish to file formal complaints pay a $165.00 filing fee per complaint and must satisfy very specific procedural and evidentiary requirements. For these reasons formal complaints are usually filed by lawyers. For complete information on how to file formal complaints, see 47 CFR Section 1.720 through 1.735. Instructions are also available online at: wireless.fcc.gov/rules.html.
Types of Complaints the FCC Handles:
The FCC handles a variety of complaints, including but not limited to:
The FCC does not regulate information services (computers or the Internet). It also does not handle complaints relating to these types of services. It's Convenient - And It's Free!
- state-to-state (interstate) long distance telephone service;
- cellular service;
- telephone and equipment accessibility (for persons with disabilities);
- unwanted telemarketing calls;
- obscene and indecent material broadcast over the airwaves;
- technical matters like frequency, antenna registration, interference and
- closed captioning and access by hearing impaired to emergency information
on television in your home; and
- hearing aid compatibility of telephones, including payphones and wireless
The FCC accepts complaints in a number of ways:
What to Include:
- Phone: Call us with your complaint. Operators are available M - F, 8 am - 5 pm EST. 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice, 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) TTY
- E-Mail: E-mail your complaint to email@example.com
- Mail: Send your complaint to Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Complaints, 445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554
- Fax: Fax your complaint to (202) 418-0232
- Electronically: For complaints about wireless or wireline phone-related issues, file online through our Web site at www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html.
Your complaint should include the following information:
- your name, address and the telephone number or numbers involved with your complaint (if telephone-related);
- a telephone number where you can be reached during the business day;
- specific information about your complaint, including the names of all
- names and telephone numbers of any company representatives you contacted,
- dates you spoke with these representatives and any other information that
would help process your complaint;
- a copy of any bills which relate to the dispute; and,
- the type of resolution you are seeking, such as a credit or refund.
6. KIDS USE ROBOTS TO OPEN DOORS TO CAREERS
Education through fun activities is one of the best ways for students to learn, and kids with disabilities are no exception. A new approach, being piloted in the Pittsburgh area, is to teach children with and without disabilities how to program toy robots, while in the process encouraging them to think about careers in science or engineering. The program is featured in a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article, "Robotic Camp Opens Up Career Choices for Kids." Middle-school students from 15 area schools -- half with disabilities, half without -- spend a day building motorized robots and teaching them to run an obstacle course. The kids say "Cool!" The project leader comments: "In the future someone will say 'I was on a robot team with a kid with a disability...I don't see why we can't hire a person with a disability.'" The Robotic Camp was funded by MEAF and organized by Tech-Link, an affiliate of the national High School/High Tech program.
7. BROWSEALOUD BRINGS INTERNET ACCESSIBILITY TO ANY WEBSITE
>From Access Ingenuity News, Views and Product Updates
Santa Rosa, CA. Tuesday, November 26, 2002: Browsealoud is a brand new product to the market designed and developed by textHELP! Systems Ltd., a software house based in Northern Ireland who specialize in interface design and multimedia development. Access Ingenuity is pleased to have been asked to represent browsealoud here in the U.S.
With the browsealoud service, websites are instantly speech-enabled, reading the text that users require with the hover of a mouse. browsealoud is the easiest way to make websites more accessible to those with reading difficulties.
Approximately 44 million people*, in the U.S have a reading difficulty which mean they find it hard to fill out an application, read a food label or read a simple story to a child. This means that up to 21% of the US population cannot effectively use websites because they have difficulty reading.
What makes browsealoud unique to the market is that it widens the accessibility of the Internet to people with reading difficulties at no cost to themselves.
Free to download, easy to use with control over the voice, pitch and speed, browsealoud allows visitors to an enabled web site to have the option of having text read aloud rather than reading it themselves. When the individual is on a web site that has been speech enabled they are able to listen to text being spoken as their cursor moves over it.
The browsealoud service is one of the easiest ways to make a site more accessible. With the service's low entry cost, no ongoing management overhead, and merely the addition of a link to the browsealoud program download page required, the service is designed so that a website can be speech enabled in minutes.
Implementation to a website is straightforward, often requiring no technical changes to be made to the website. The process of making the site speech enabled is also seamless and handled remotely, there doesn't have to be any downtime on the website.
Are you a company involved in web hosting and development services? A charitable organization that has an interest in having an accessible website? An education provider or the administrator of an educational website? Or a company that has an interest in having a more accessible website?
Either way browsealoud is the easiest way to make websites more accessible to those with reading difficulties.
For additional information access the URL or contact Michael Parker, Access Ingenuity, LLC. 3635 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95405. Office Tel: 877 579 4380 Fax: 707 579 4273 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* according to the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) of 1992
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