Thank you very much. Good afternoon and welcome, everyone to the 2003 ADA Distance learning series. A collaborative effort of the ten regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance centers, DBTAC. You can contact your regional disability and business technical assistance center by calling 1-800-949-4232. Today''s session is being real-time text streamed on the Great Lakes website at www.adagreatlakes.org. And you can also find out information about upcoming information by contacting your regional disability and technical assistance center, such as the March 18th session, dealing with achieving and sustaining accessible programs, for state and local governments. And on April 15th, there will be a best practices and reasonable accommodations, back to the basics. And you can find out and register for those sessions by contacting your regional center at 1-800-949-4232. Today, we will be looking at access beyond the web. A lot of time and energy is spent at looking at how individuals with disabilities, primarily visual impairments, access web technology. But there is a whole host of electronic and information technology that individuals with disabilities should have access to. Today, we are pleased to have with us Jim Tobias. Jim is the president of Inclusive Technologies. He is also in education and work group leader with the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center, ITTATC, which is located out of Georgia Tech. Before I turn the session over to Jim for his presentation, I would like to remind everyone on the call that the information for today''s session is currently up on the Great Lakes website, www.adagreatlakes.org, where you can follow along with the outline that Jim has provided. And included in the outline are links to information contained within the presentation. For individuals working off of hard copy, information was sent out to you, print copies. And the links that are contained with the online information are contained as a appendices with the hard copy. And as Jim goes through his outline and goes to one of his links in his online outline he will make reference to the appendix that he is referring to. With that, I will turn the session over to Jim. Welcome, Jim.
Thanks a lot, Peter. I''d like to start off first by saying that I''m very happy and pleased to be able to present to you folks today. In the food chain of accessible information technology, I think the DBTAC''s are in the right place. That is, there are a lot of policy folks, and a lot of technology folks, but the DBTAC''s and other who are in the trenches have a crucial strategic role to play, in reaching out both to disability constituencies, including people with disables themselves, of course, but also a large-scale, public sector, purchasers of information technology. And companies that either manufacture or add value to information technology. And I hope that both through today''s presentation, other trainings that you are doing and other work of ITTATC, you will have a chance to acquire information that you will find useful in reaching out to those constituencies. So as Peter indicated in his introduction, I have kind of a jaundiced view of section 508. Just a little of my background first that somewhat explains that. I''ve been working in technology and disability for 30 years. I began at the center for independent living in Berkeley, California, where I walked around mostly with a toolbelt on and did home modifications, wheelchair repairs, van modifications, work site accommodations etc. I worked in that kind of environment for 15 years and then spent another 15 years in more or less the corporate environment in the bell system at bell labs in bel core, working with large phone companies, obviously, on how they could make their products more accessible. So I''ve seen from the consumer side and grass roots side and I''ve also seen from the industry side. And although I think we all look to web accessibility as not only as great and pressing need, but also a great model for how accessibility can be built in to rapidly evolving information technologies. There are so many other parts of the EIT picture, meaning electronic and information technology. I will use that as a shorthand. That are not on the web. And if I had to guess, let us say how many times a federal worker is confronted by an inaccessible website, versus how many times a federal worker is confronted by an inaccessible phone system inaccessible printer or copier. I would say that the latter pose more of a work barrier than to web technologies and whether or not that is going to change, we need to spread out the resources we have to cover all of the areas of ENIT. So to begin on the outline page, I just spend a little time describing where I think we are at. As I said, we''ve had a lot of work done on web access. And we have a great deal of detail on that and a pretty deep understanding spread throughout much of our community with a lot of training and consulting resources out there. It seems like almost every day, there is a new, online web accessibility course or new trainer setting up shop. And that is a very, very good thing. But for other product categories and other disabilities in visual impairment, we have a lot less available. The focus, as Peter said, has been largely on people with more severe vision loss, screen reader users, screen magnifier users, but a lot less to people who use alternate keyboards, who have trouble using a mouse, or people who have less of a vision loss; that is, to whose vision is somewhat better. People with hearing loss are sometimes excluded from discussion of web access even, as well as other EIT. And cognitive impairment remains a terrible vacuum for us. We hope this will be remediated as NIDRR appears to be preparing a request for proposal for rehab engineering and research center on cognitive impairment. And we have the Coleman Institute out in Colorado, but there is still something of a difficulty in grabbing hold of issues of cognitive impairment when it comes to information technology. So why do we have this situation? Well, I think everything on the good side, with respect to web access can be traced back to the web accessibility initiative of the worldwide web consortium. I''m sure I''m not the only person who is constantly impressed and even amazed with the clarity of their work and the comprehensiveness of it and the, just the very detailed and insightful way that they''ve delved into web technologies and access issues. And I think they created a huge amount of raw material for us to digest and have reflected in regulations, like section 508 and other regulatory guidelines. But, of course, their scope was web technologies. So that is where so much of the work has been done, and that is where the work tends to be still focused. Web technologies, obviously, you know, hot. It is exciting. There is still a lot of brand-new development every day. And in fact, compared to some other technologies, web is kind of this may seem counterintuitive, but it is kind of simple in scope. There are not that many web technologies. And there are not that many options within them. So that it does work well in a standards and guidelines environment. On the disabilities sections of why we are where we are at. There is an assumption, at least about people who use alternative input devices, that is kind of a solved problem and it works already for anyone and there is no additional problem. If someone can use a computer the way they are using it that web and other new software environments don''t pose any additional challenges to them, which is not exactly accurate. With respect to why there is less attention being given to people who is disabilities are more mild or moderate, there is, in some cases, law and in some cases, just a cultural tilt among us as service providers that people with the most severe disabilities are the most excluded, and therefore, they should get the most attention. And there are many situations where I would absolutely agree with that, but I think its unfortunate that sometimes we have left out people with milder or moderate disabilities who really don''t have access to easy ways of improving their information technology environment. And I mentioned with cognitive impairment, there is something of confusion about what is the framework of cognitive impairment, which is the disability category that stretches from people with very high functioning intelligence but, you know, a learning disability, for example, difficulty with reading all the way over to people who are severely developmentally disabled, and all kinds of cognitive gaps in between. And that lack of clarity on the framework of understanding cognitive impairment keeps us back a little bit, I think, from getting started with the field. Okay. So I''m going to dive in now to the content of where the barriers are and where some of the opportunities are, and I apologize in advance if I am skipping over items that are of more direct interest to you that you might have kind of more grass roots, I need to know this today, problem with. And hopefully I will be able to address those during the question and answer, or maybe I can refer to you some other resource. So I''m going to start by talking about software applications. And if you are on line, you can click to that link under the 508 product categories free aid. There is software application and operating systems that shows up as Appendix A on the hard copy. Now, those ever you who are familiar with applications as a user may not be aware that there has been a tremendous change in the way those applications are actually built and how they might appear to other users. And I''ve picked as my example, "outlook," which I think is maybe the most common-in windows anyway, the most common e-mail client. And I''ve inserted an image of what the regular outlook e-mail form looks like when you click, you know, send new message. And you get a window that looks very much like any other windows window, with a menu bar and various options and way to populate the subject fields and to and from and what have you. For most users, this is as deep as they go into something like outlook. But you should understand that underneath outlook, as part of the office suite, and I should say this is true of all of the suites, the kind of typical applications suites in all of the operating systems that most users will be dealing with, there is an underlying technology that allows for a tremendous customization at almost every level. So if you go down to the next image-and you may have been able to try this on your own. If you just go into, you know, just open an outlook e-mail form like this, and then go into design mode, you will see that the window changes dramatically. Now, you still have all of the fields and buttons and menu bar items, but have you a few more. And everything has kind of a more designy look to it. And this is the way that you can change, literally, everything about the form. You can add buttons. You can change the size of buttons, you can change the icons that are associated with buttons. Change the font in which button labels appear, the colors, the location of fields, the presence of fields. All kinds of things that you can change. And this is pretty much as an average user, not as a software engineer. Excuse me a second. There we go. Had a little interfering phone call here. Then one step out from there, or down from there, in level detail, someone can take hold of the underlying technologies in an office suite and add scripts or other adds in. I have an add-in in outlook that allows me to identify spam. And a program or company just put that together and it is an add-in that you can put in, and when you get spam, you can click on a button in your in-box, and it not only adds that message to spam, but sends a message to everyone who uses this add in saying this message is spam, and those people won''t even receive it. So it is a way of adding features, adding complete functionality in kind of an open programming environment. And then, of course, one level down from there is the basic infrastructure of, let us say in this case the internet and e-mail. Someone can take outlook the way it is and recode it, essentially, not just adding scripts or add-ins, but change the basic functionality of it so that it operates completely differently. So that is all nice, but what are the accessibility implications. More and more, organizations are receiving outlook, let us say, not as you would buy it as a single consumer at a computer store, but already highly customized for the purposes of that organization. So, for example, a simple change would be, you''d put the logo of the company somewhere on the inbox. Or you''d put, you know, access to the website, of the school district somewhere as a clickable button on the inbox or on one of these individual mail forms. That is kind of a simple one. But there are many more complicated ones that allow work groups to automatically message each other. We can automatically check the whether a person is logged in or not, whether that person is in the office that day by checking their calendar. If not, when you try to call that person, using outlook as your contact manager, it will call them on their cell phone automatically. Many ways in which those can be customized. Now, as with any new technology, there is kind of a two-edged sword characteristic to it. There are several ways of adding accessibility when you customize these applications for large organizations. And there are ways in which, inadvertently accessibility is reduced. For example, the choice of fonts, the choice of colors, the choice of background can all have negative or positive influence for people with low vision. The availability of text to speech, for example, it can be an add-in to outlook to-so that I can access my e-mail over the phone, let us say, calling into the company''s server. And instead of reading it on my screen or PDA, I can hear it over the speech synthesizer that is connected to the outlook database. So that is kind of technology side of it. The other side of it is that as advocates, we''ve tended to focus so much of our attention on the Microsoft''s of the world. And that was correct when they made products that were not altered on their way to the end user. But now that it is such a customizing environment, we need to reach towards companies that we''ve never really had much connection with, companies that are identified as either system integrators or value-added resellers or application service providers. And they are typically harder to find out about. You may not even know who they are. I know in some states, I think Arizona might be an example currently, or a year or so ago, they bought in about 100,000 CD''s of Microsoft Word or Microsoft Office. But they didn''t buy it from Microsoft. They bought it from a reseller who customized it for the k-12 users in the state of Arizona. And all of those customizations may have had some accessibility implications. If we go back to Microsoft and say, why does your product do this, that, and the other, the person at Microsoft may have to come back to us and say, well, we didn''t design it to do that. You had somebody, you know, messing around with it, adding features to it. And that is the person you need to talk to. So item number 2, under software, is a more familiar piece. And that is operating system accessibility. I think you are probably all familiar with the accessibility features in Mac-OS and Windows and Linux as well. The kinds of things you can set up in control panels about the way the keyboard operates or the contrast settings. In some cases, there is a magnifier built in or a kind of primitive screen reader built in. The question that we have to answer here is not whether those are technically functional because they all work pretty well. The question is, how much are they being used by the people they were intended to benefit. And I''m afraid here the news is not very good. Two studies recently done, one by my company indicated that only a small percentage, around 10% of the people, for example, with dexterity impairment, knew about the keyboard-altering features within windows. And part of it is knowing whether they exist. And part of it is feeling comfortable enough to explore them. And part of it is, obviously, as you well know, getting the kind of support to explain their use and to help you through the first difficult steps of making some new technology work for you. So we''ve got a kind of contrast between high-technical capability and yet a relatively low adoption rate. And-or acceptance rate by users. And the last item I have on this page is Linux. And Linux is a great opportunity for us because it is an operating system that is still under development that has a great openness to having new technologies, having customize features added to it. You know, it is very much like lego or, you know, building with blocks, how you can take things apart and put new things in there. And there are a lot of little gadgets and widgets for it specifically. Again, the technology is kind of-it is pretty much a good-news story. Because of the flexibility and the wide range of technologies that are available. But the useability and the friendliness are really quite low, unfortunately. And I pasted in a description of what it takes to install and run gnopernicus, which is the combination screen reader and magnifier for Linux. And I think it is pretty daunting for anyone who is not a system administrator Linux head. So it is not one of these, double click an installer and restart your machine and you have it. So there is still a lot of work that need the to be done, not in the basic useability technology, but in the useability, user experience. And it focuses on how users and in our case, how users and their support professionals can disseminate information and concentrate on demonstrating and training on these new technologies as well. Okay. I''m going to go back now to the outline, and we just covered 3-a. Software applications and operating systems. B is web-based information and applications. And we are skipping that because they already said there is more resources that-on this point than I could possibly even just list off in an hour and a half conference. Well, I will now go to telecommunications product, which show up as appendix d. In the print version. So there are a number of issues here. Hardware is an issue, and we will deal with buttons in the next element. But the first issue that people bump into in telecom accessibility is TTY compatibility. And this is really made of two different pieces. One is physical compatibility; that is, how do you connect the TTY to the phone? In some cases, that is a, you know, a handset into an acoustic coupler. In some cases, it is an rj-11 telephone jack. In some cases, it is an audio jack. But there needs to be some way of connecting them together. Then beyond the physical connectivity, you have to have physical compatibility. That means when the TTY emits tones, the receiving unit has to be able to decode it somehow. And whatever facility exists in between, has to be transmitting it. Accurately. And these are not automatic by any stretch of the imagination. So I''ve also pasted in a couple of images of some displays. And you don''t have to have much of a visual impairment to reading modern phones. They could be office phones or cell phones. They are very susceptible to glare. Very susceptible to lighting conditions. Some have very small characters, made up of very few pixels, making them very hard to read. It is relatively easy for us to demonstrate, as we do to almost every company we work with, that you don''t have to simulate much of a low vision simulation to lose all legibility in the displays. So if I were counseling someone on a procurement issue, I would love to be able to say that a such and such display, that is, with a back-lit LCD, with a character size of so and so and number of pixels of so and so is readable by someone with an equivalent of 20/100 vision. Unfortunately, no one has done that work and that is an area that I am trying to try to spark some interest in. Because I think it is feasible to do. What we''d like to do is convert the black-on-white reading tests into an LCD reading test. And see where people come out so that we could give some good guidance on LCD''s. You know, I think companies get a little sick of hearing us say, just make it bigger, put more characters on it, and improve the lighting and increase the number of pixels. They can''t do all of those and still maintain, certainly in a cell phone package, they certainly can''t do everything at once. Okay. So let us talk about pc-based phones. Now, this is an area where again, technically, many of the problems have been solved. That is what is happening in large-scale employment systems. The phone service has been integrated into the local area network. Most companies have a certain degree of integration here. Now, what this means is that the voice traffic is being digitized and sent on the same wires as the data traffic so your e-mail and voice calls come in over the same ethernet connection. Implications here for accessibility are fabulous. One possibility is that the phone can be made out of software, essentially. And there are many companies that sell LAN telephone systems that have a pc phone simulator, where what you get on your phone is something that looks like a keypad or a speaker phone or even an image of an actual phone that the same company sells. And when you click on the buttons, it dials the number, just as it would with a hardware phone. So that someone who is using an alternate keyboard device, or someone who is using a screen reader can have all the access that the phone system would carry normally, either on a display, or in its complicated set of keys or, you know, however the phone system works. The problem here is mostly finding the person in the organization, the-let us say the telecom manager, finding the person with that job responsibility in a, you know, school district or university or company, and saying, how do we get the simulator for the LAN telephony system that you use and how do we install it on this persons workstation. So it is kind of reaching out and groping at times to find the right person who can answer a specific question. Now, the next issue this we are going to bump up against, and this is already pretty much taken over in large scale companies is IP telephony. So the idea of IP telephony is that instead of using a regular phone network, your for your calls, you are using either the internet itself or just the internet protocols to send and receive voices. Now, large companies started adopting this four or five years ago, as they look for ways of reducing their telephone costs for far-flung operations. So now they have kind of a virtual private network and an office in Atlanta can call an office in Paris. And three-way with an office in Singapore. And they are all using the internet, so there is no long distance charges involved. There are some nice additional features there where you can have almost an intercom capability so you can press a button and instantly be connected to someone in one of those faraway offices. But there are some problems with internet protocol telephony. One of them is TTY compatibility. Because of the way the internet works, it is very often true that TTY signal cannot be reconstructed at the other end of the call. And there is really two reasons for this. One is that in the process of digitizing the signal, there is some distortion of the TTY. Now, the reason for that is these systems are built to optimize for a voice. So they do a very good job of compressing voice data, but they do a very poor job of compressing tones. And those of you who are familiar with TTY''s know that it is just a sequence of tones. Then the other part is that when you make a regular phone call, you are using what is called a circuit-switch the facility. That is, for the duration of the call, you own the wires between you and the person you are talking to. There is nothing else going on those wires. Well, that is not how the internet works. The internet shares everything. It sends packets of information, and it routes packets however it works best, at that milli second. A problem that occurs is that some packets get lost. And some packets arrive sooner than packets that should have arrived sooner than they. So you get packets out of order and you get missing packets. And that causes, for a voice user, chirps or clicks or pops or other kinds of things that because of the way voice is, it is not too hard to understand what actually was said. But it could cause missing characters or arrow characters if you are using a TTY. Now, IP telephony would be bad enough if it was a question of the end users choosing to use IP telephony. That is if I am a TTY user I may work in a office where they use IP telephony and I don''t have a choice but at least I know about it and I can predict the kinds of problems I will have. What is happening in today''s networks is that IP segments are being used in the middle of the call. That is, unbeknownst to the end users, the telephone companies are moving the traffic from circuit switch networks to packet-switch networks and you will never know when that happens. Because of economy, this is a rapidly expanding situation. So there are, in fact, more and more TTY conversations that are experiencing error conditions, lost characters and error characters than there were just a few months ago. So this is a continuing problem. And some standard bodies are looking into it. And it obviously has implication for section 205 of the telecommunications act, which says that telephone companies can''t reduce the accessibility of a product by inserting network elements that don''t allow TTY compatibility. Let us see. Got about 10 more minutes, and I''m really slow on the uptake here. So I''m going to be speeding it up and hopefully catch up with the schedule and get some more questions at the end. Network-based services offer a great opportunity for accessibility. Now, what do I mean by network-based services? We are accustomed to think of assistive technologies as a box that sits in front of the user. But more and more, information technology is about a network. And it is not just from one end of the network to the other. There are many parts in the network, all of which add particular value. So those of you who are familiar with relay, telecommunications relay service, that is a network, a service. The person who is making the call does not have a-hold on a second. I need to change phones here. The person who is making the call does not have a relay operator at their house or at their office. They are connecting up with the relay center in the very middle of the network. And that is the person who acts as the translator between voice and text. Well, computer telephony integration offers us many more opportunities for network based services. And you see in the last page of Appendix B there, what is computer telephony all about. It is a way of programming, essentially, so that a voice mail system or an interactive voice response system can process users'' input in any way that you want, and it can be based on what the user does, or the phone number that the user calls from, or almost any other possible variable. What this allows for is not only redundancy so that I can receive information, you know, over my TTY, or over e-mail or over, you know, by voice. But a high degree of customization so that it can automatically adjust to my settings. When I call in, this system can detect the number that I called from, and it says, oh, that is Jim. He wants to receive his e-mail messages in this order. And if there is an e-mail message from person x, he wants that one read first. And he wants the ability to respond by voice and have it transcribed and have that reply sent as email. So you can see this tool, it is kind of a project environment, where you can create the whole flow of how a call is handled. And again, the issue here is less a question of how to make the technology work than finding the right connections for how you get that technology installed in your system. Now, I''m going to just refer to the other appendices here that have to do with interactive voice response. I am the co-chair of the IVR accessibility form, which is housed at the industry solutions, which is a telecom industry, kind of not a trade association. It is a standards body or liaison body. And I hope that some of you had a chance to look at one of the problems that we have with IVRs, the flash animation that shows how you access an IVR through the TRS system and what some of those problems can be like. And how it is not, in any sense, equivalent service. The other appendices, e, f, g, and h, for IVR show some of the products that the IVR-accessibility form has put together. And these allow IVR-designers and IVR platform companies to understand what the accessibility implications are. I''d be very interested in hearing back from you about whether you think this is valuable information that you folks should have access to, and how we might make it easier for you to use. We are very interested in reaching out to people who were in the trenches, having to communicate with IVR users and by IVR users, I mean the banks, the movie theaters, the school districts that have IVR systems for, you know, for attendance purposes or for, you know, giving kids their homework assignment if they miss a day of school. We want to get the message out about IVR accessibility because as I say, I think it is probably more of a barrier to average workers than web accessibility is in many instances. So if you look at these appendices, you will see an application view, appendix E shows the application view of IVR accessibility. Appendix F shows the user interface view, that is every step of every application in an IVR requires a certain amount of ability that may challenge people who are TTY users or hard of hearing, who have vision loss, dexterity impairment, cognitive impairment. So we stepped through everyone of those and hopefully our guidance will be useful to designers of IVRs. We have appendix G which is IVR accessibility solutions. So for every one of the problems we identified in the other pages, here are some ways of solving those problems. We want to develop this a lot more so that instead of saying something like "volume control," we give a pointer here to the requirements for volume control, which you may know are different for section 255 and section 508. Appendix H is an IVR glossary, kind of a daunting long document of all the telecom and IVR acronyms. And you will probably feel better to know that there will not be a quiz on these after the conference call is over. Okay. Back to the outline view now. So we''ve walked through the 508 product categories and left at sea there, telecommunications product. And obviously it will not be talking about video and multimedia, self-contained products and desk tops and portable computers. Each one of those could obviously be an entire day just understanding the barriers, understanding the standards and understanding the solutions. There is another way to break ENIT down. And I think it is valuable when you are talking to product designers because it is very much the way that they think. And that is, byproduct feature. So there are things we''d like to say to manufacturers of products with small, grey scale lcds. And we could go into great detail about where their products can be more accessible, and where are where there are some easy improvements to be made and where they could go longer. I won''t go into detail there, but from a manufacturer or designer perspective, this is the way of thinking about products that makes a lot of sense. The one piece that I do want to go to as we close up here is what is shown as appendix I. Things with buttons. So that is the things with buttons or TWB link on the original web page. Those of you who know section 508 know that it is broken down into several standards and sub standards within that, and we are just going to look at one of these to give you an indication of how it is possible to explain not only the barriers, but the potential for improvement. So whether you are talking with a manufacturer or designer, or whether you are talking about a purchaser, either an individual consumer or a, you know, school district or university or state agency or what have you, it is possible to get very specific about each one of the standards. So this particular standard, 1194, 23-k-1 controls and keys shall be tactually discernible without activating the controls and keys. Obviously this has an accessibility benefit to people who are blind or have low vision. They need to be able to explore the keyboard without turning things on and off. But there is obviously a mass market or universal design benefit as well to someone working in a dark environment or someone driving a car or for any other reason. They might not be able to use their vision at that moment. So how can you make something tacitly discernible without activating it? There are so many ways looking at them individually. You have size, obviously. And one of the points we want to make is that it is a good way to protect against accidental activation by making a particular key small. You are not likely to brush against it. And, you know, you can indicate a number of different ways as well. The shape of the keys can be different. There can be a tactile label on the key. Although it is possible to overdo that, and we''ve had some prototypes sent to us for evaluation, where they tried to put braille on an entire keyboard. And because the braille wouldn''t fit the way-given the size of the key, they tried to reduce the braille down so that it was, you know, tactily discernible, but it would just feel like a different texture. It wouldn''t be possible to read it as braille. Keys can have different textures to make them feel differently. You can group keys. I think we are most familiar with the 3-by-4 keypad on a phone. When we see that or feel it, we instantly recognize what it is. Whether or not there is a boundary around it. You can recess keys. You can use the recess to indicate not only that particular key but also the relationship of other keys nearby. And we have a really excellent picture here developed by the ITTATC folks at Georgia Tech. On two remote controls. And remote controls are probably one of the worst items out there that have buttons. They all seem to have way too many buttons. And they don''t seem to locate them very well. And they don''t seem to design the entire holding and pressing experience from the point of view of usability. But at any rate, any two items you can look at, you can probably identify ways in which one is better than the other. In this case, the item, the remote control on the right is better than the one on the left. For a number of reasons. And these are the use of friction and release on the keys of just better. You can''t see it, of course, but that is how they felt. The directional buttons. The one on the left does have directional buttons. It is pretty hard to see that they are directional buttons. The left and right or east and west buttons are shaped to the right and pointed in the right directions. But the two, the north and south are really just two rectangles that happen to be located between the east and west buttons, whereas in the remote control on the right, north, south, east and west are quite clearly indicated. The use of different shapes. There are different shapes on the remote control on the left. But there are many more different shapes on the remote control on the right. And the labels. The left remote control has rather pale labels on a medium-brown background. The remote control on the right has almost white labels on a dark gray, or almost black. So that is it for the formal presentation. I hope that I''ve given you something of a flavor of the access issues and the access opportunities beyond the web content and web software. And I hope I''ve given you a sense that these are important and that they are feasible. That they are manageable. That there is information out there and that there are people who can be found to answer these accessibility problems and a lot of times the technology is already in place. It just kind of requires a clear vision of what accessibility barrier needs to be conquered next. And some way, some process of following through on it. Now, I''m happy to take any questions that you have.
Excellent. Jim, as we are waiting for the questions to come in, obviously people with significant impairments, visual impairments or hearing impairments, are going to need to use some type of assistive technology. But would you say that when accessibility is taken into design considerations for ENIT that individuals with less significant impairments, you know, would be able to use the technology as is without having to make that individual modification or bring in the AT?
You know, that is what we hope, of course. With universal design that products are more and more usable for people without disables and kind of automatically they are more accessible to people with mild or moderate disabilities. And in some cases, even more severe disabilities. One of the things that we found out in a survey that we did in IVRs is how much the blind community loves interactive voice response. As long as the information is just as current on the voice response system, as it is on the website, if its on the same server for example, as it happens more and more, it is their preferred method of interacting with it. So it has less to do with the severity of the disability than the kind of combination of what the technology offers. And requires from the user. All right? So it is really a case-by-case basis. But overall, I''d say you are absolutely right.
All right. Thank you. And good afternoon. Mr. Tobias, I''m curious. I know several people who have hearing aids. And the only way that they can use a cell phone is with an inductive loop set type of contraption, which is plugged into the cell phone, it is kind of cumbersome for them to use. Where are we in how far away are we from direct hearing aid compatibility with cell phones?
Well, there is an open proceeding at the FCC on hearing aid compatibility and digital wireless phones, which is connected to a number of other issues. This is kind of a hot topic. Basically, the most receipt situation is this: in exchange for dropping its analog wireless service, companies have been expected to make sure that digital service is compatible with hearing aids. There was no interference problem with analog wireless service. And that is why most people who use cell phones with hearing aids use analog service with cell phone. There are some after-market solutions, like the neck loop and the other inductive solutions. There are some phones that in most conditions and I realize that I am kind of weaseling through this, but it is in very much in interaction of the hearing aid and cell phone the protocol that the digital cell phone uses, you are familiar with TDMA, CDMA and GSM . And they all have different interference implications. And the location. How far you are from the cell site. You know, the further you are, the more amplification you have to go on, the higher the power level, and therefore the higher the chance of interference. There is definitely no perfect solution out there yet. You cannot, unfortunately, as a hearing aid user, expect to walk into any cell phone company''s store, buy any phone you want and have it work with the hearing aids that you already have. It is really going to be up to the FCC as to whether that situation improves dramatically in the next year or so.
Go ahead with your question.
Yes. Good afternoon. How are you?
Could you explain to us what you were talking about earlier when you were talking about all the different lines through the internet and stuff, please?
You mean the voiceover internet telephone?
Okay. Well, let us see. Sorry if I wasn''t clear. And I wish I had a good place to point you to that would explain it well. Basically, its like this, you may have seen these applications that you can get relatively inexpensively that can-as long as you have a microphone and speaker attached to your computer and an internet connection. The software converts your voice into internet data packets and sends them out to another pc that is similarly equipped or can actually call up a regular phone in another city or, you know, anywhere that you want and convert it back into analog. The advantage of that is that you are not paying for long-distance calling. You are still just using your internet provider and your local internet service. And then the long distance part of it is being carried on the internet, where there is no distance-sensitive billing. So that is why this technology is taking off so well. It is especially true in other countries where the long-distance charges and the international rates are so much higher than we pay in the U.S. The problem with it is that instead of having total ownership of the wire so that TTY signals can go back and forth easily without being translated, internet protocol digitizes everything and then breaks it up into packets. And then sends them the most efficient route. At the moment that it is-that that packet is transiting the internet. So when it gets to the other end, it may not be-it may have gotten lost. It may have been delayed so that it arrives out of order. And the artifacts of that are that the audio quality is not as good as a regular analog-oriented phone call. For voice purposes, it is usually tolerable, but for a TTY, it is not tolerable because those artifacts result in lost characters or confused characters to such an extent that the content may no longer be intelligible. Is that the part that you wanted to hear more on?
Okay. Thanks for the question. And Jim, there is something, you know, that technology, the emergence of that, nothing really comes into play, in terms of the telecommunications act, which we generally think of when we talk about, you know, communications over a line when you are dealing with the internet. The only standards-the only thing that really comes into play is when you have an employee who may need a reasonable accommodation.
Well, no. We think that section 255 does cover internet telephony. It is not a settled issue in the case where one or the other end users are actively selecting to use voiceover internet protocol. That may escape regulation. But the situation where a phone company just changes how it does business and inserts a new way of engineering its network that happens to reduce accessibility, that is clearly covered by section 255 and would not be permitted.
Do we have our next question?
Hi. My name is Nancy Detweiler. We are with the department of human services in Illinois. And we have a major IVR system that we have adapted with TTY to provide 24-hour access to TTY users. We have encountered the problem of the DTMF-tones that were required to access the menu options off of our system. I''m curious as to whether anybody is beginning to address this, if there is any technology on the horizon that is beginning to talk about this. This is the most comprehensive list that I''ve seen in your appendix here as to what the problems are. But we would like to know if anybody is doing anything about this?
Well, let me see first if I understand you problem. The system, although it allows TTYs to receive messages and leave messages, if anyone can leave messages, it still requires you to use the touch-tone to respond to the menu.
Okay. And the assumption is that the user will have touch-tone service and many times people with TTYs don''t have a touch-tone connected to the line. And some TTYs-actually, many TTYs, although they can dial the phone, once they are in the call, it can no longer emit touch tones, the way it did when it whe it was trying to dial. So we are working on this in actually three points. One is we are trying to work with the TTY manufacturers so that all of the phones, all of the TTYs, rather, can emit touch tones exactly for this purpose. So in the middle of the call, if you hit "control 1," instead of sending the TTY character for number 1, it will send the touch tone for number 1. So that is one area of solution. The other area of solution is to encourage more IVR manufacturers to support baudot detection on their own systems. Baudot is the protocol used by TTYs. So that instead of having to press a touch-tone number 1, the system can respond to a TTY character 1. That is technically quite difficult to do. And for reasons of economics, it is going to be hard to sell IVR companies on doing that. The third approach is to use another redundant input technology that is becoming common with IVRs. And that is speech recognition. So if you think of speech recognition as the matching of certain patterns, so that if it is-if my intended response is zero, I can say oh, 0, and say it in several accents, probably and still be recognized. Well, one of those accents could be the baudot character for zero. This is especially true if the IVR system has been designed so that it really branches from a voice-based system to a TTY system. So after a certain point in the service, the system is expecting TTY tones. And because it would only be expecting a very small number of TTY tones, it would be readily kind of easy to detect the difference, let us say, between the character for number one and the character for number two. So those are the three approaches that are being used the industry. And I guess I would say that from a vendor perspective, there is mixed progress. It is hard to motivate them. And we need as much grass roots advocacy as we can get. from this kind of audience.
Okay. Thank you very much
Jim, getting back to the beginning of the presentation, and you talked about Microsoft and the accessibility they have design the into their systems at this point, but there is not a great deal of use by individuals of those accessibilities. And what are the primary reasons why, you know, individuals aren''t taking advantage of those, the accessibility built into Microsoft?
Well, I can speculate, and you know, I think we all know. Those of us who have been in this field long enough and have worked with a large field of consumers, consumers with disabilities are no different from any other consumers. The average person is just not comfortable stepping very far out of the main path of software. So, you know, this is like the blinking 12:00 VCR problem. It is very much true with an operating system or with an application. Most people wind up using the basic functions, and they are not comfortable going far beyond that. In addition, I think you have-there is just-we are really expecting more of consumers with disabilities. We are expecting them to be better-informed and more exploratory and more confident than consumers without disabilities. When we are asking them to use utilities that are, you know, a little tricky. A little bit off the main stream. So, it is really a combination of those two. And there is probably a lot to be said also for a certain number of people feeling stigmatized by using some of those utilities or not really accepting the fact that they have a disability, if it is a mild or moderate one. That is all speculation. But we just know that the numbers are-we really need to do more-make friendlier ways of interfacing with those utilities so that more people are using them.
Right. And how-how have you approached the, you know, the issue where Microsoft is looking at accessibility, but then as you mentioned, states or entities are purchasing Microsoft products from a third party who are, you know, adding features that, when the software arrived to that third party, it was accessible and usable, with assistive technology and by individuals with disabilities. But when it comes to that third party, they''ve made change to it so that it becomes inaccessible?
Well, Microsoft, and I shouldn''t only talk about them. But really Adobe and Macromedia and Lotus and many of the larger companies are aware of this problem, this jeopardy. Because whether it is right or not, they are the ones who get yelled at. So they''ve taken, I think, a very enlightened view. And they said, well, look. We are not the end of the value chain. You know, companies use this term "value chain," that says from the first person who came up with the idea, down to the retailer who sells the box to the person, and to the user him or herself, everyone involved in that adds value to the product. So if Microsoft and Adobe and Macromedia are not the end of the value chain, then there are these developers. There is a whole developer community that needs to understand the accessibility implications. And those companies have done a pretty darn good job reaching out to those developer communities. You know, Sun, for example, has a very large-scale program working with Java developers on accessibility. Microsoft, if you look at-if you have access to any of the developer tools, you have access to something called MSDN, Microsoft developer network. And you will look under usability and accessibility, you will find some of the best-documented and most clear statements of accessibility barriers in software and how to overcome them. And so they''ve done a good job of preparing those materials and reaching out to the developers, and we need to do the same kind of job as well. So if you are a state-you are in charge of a state procurement process, you need to make it clear to the company that is developing your website or your software exactly what the accessibility requirements are going to be. You can''t let it sit with, it has got to be accessible. Or it has got to be section 508 compliant. Those developers won''t know what you mean. You need to take the next step out and say, you know, it needs to be compatible with this screen reader in this version. Or, you know, it needs to have an adjustable color contrast setting, like, you know, at least this much. Or you have to get more into the guts of it and the details.
Great. Great. Do we have any further questions?
Yes. My question is you didn''t really touch on this during the presentation. Are you aware of what kind of developments are you aware of, Mr. Tobias, that are happening to make other appliances more accessible, such as microwaves, stereos, and other products. And along with that, if the product is accessible, but the documentation is not, then as far as I''m concerned that product is not accessible. So what is happening in terms of making documentation more accessible as well as other appliances?
Yes. Those are great questions, and I''m glad you mentioned them, because I didn''t bring them up. I think there is a lot that is being done, but there is a lot more that could be done. For example, you mentioned microwaves. And there are-you know, there are some great accessible technologies in microwaves. But we are still stuck with a lot of the touch pads where it is very hard or impossible to detect what the numbers are and what the keys are. Some of the companies sell overlays, or actually, I think they give them away. They give away overlays that you can mount on to the touch pads so you can have some separation of the keys that I was talking about before. So you can feel your way around on the grid before pressing down on the button. I think we should have a campaign, you know, bring back the timer knob. On the microwave. You know? [ laughter ] it is like an endangered species. You know? I think people without disables prefer the timer knob as well. It is so easy. So intuitive. So logical. And I think people would be willing to, you know, go one store further out if they could get a knob on that. We really need to-we need to complain correctly. You know, one of the courses I''ve taught in the past is complaining 101. Which is for people with disabilities and how to communicate your dissatisfactions about products to companies. I''ll take this opportunity to make this a little longer answer. But if you study how companies operate, they-there is a direct linkage between the customer support number and the product managers. If I''m in charge. You know, a certain model of microwave, I get a copy of the report every week of all of the complaints that came in and all of the service calls that came in about that model. And if I see that three people this month complained that they couldn''t tell which was the start and which was the cancel key because the layout on the touch pad is unclear, I will factor that into my design team the next time we come around to a design and development cycle. So complaining or, you know, interacting with the company is really important. And we need to make sure that people are aware of which companies provide support and accessible support to their products. One company I can point to as being really exemplary in this issue is Panasonic, where they''ve added accessibility to a cordless phones, literally every few months they come up with either a cordless phone or a cell phone that has an accessibility feature that was never on it before. And they''ve done the same thing with some of their non information technology products as well like, rice cookers and televisions. They are the only company, for example, that has a closed captioning button on the remote control. So that instead of having to dive into the menu on screen, there is always a button on the remote control that will turn captioning on and off for you. Documentation is another very important issue. And there is a lot of inaccessible documentation. Not just for people who are blind or have low vision. But people who have difficulty fiddling around with the paper forms that those manuals come in. They are very often tightly bound, saddle stitched or edge-glued. Very hard to keep open. Very hard to turn the pages of. The print is small. There are many accessibility issues with the documentation. And one of the things that ITTATC is doing is reaching out to these little job descriptions within manufacturing companies that normally get missed. And we don''t have to turn a product documentation writer or technical writer into an expert on accessibility. All we have to do is say here are the three things you need to be doing differently. The font. The layout. The binding. And you all have solved accessible documentation problems. And then we have the pdf issue and all of that. But we need to be kind of percolating this issue away from just the designers and engineers and reaching out to the customer support representatives to the product documentation writers, to the market researchers, to all of the little team members in these big companies that they all work together to design and develop and support product. And we need to have a good message for each one of them on how to improve accessibility.
In access to documentations, manuals for products covered by section 255 of the telecommunications act is required, but there is obviously a whole host of other ENIT out there, where documentation access to that material is not available or not required.
Hi. This is Kevin Olano from the Oregon department of transportation in Oregon. Mr. Tobias, a follow-up to your comments regarding the low usage of disabled people with regards to operating system, and it is related to internet. Would you say that the same could be said as far as disable users using additional technology, trying to access internet sites?
I''m not sure-do you mean that-not many people have screen readers? Or-
Or just not being sure of how to use the screen reader tools or that.
Yeah, I think that is right. I mean, you know, there is this disconnect between what we know from, let us say the census about how many people are blind, legally blind, and would, you know, clearly have difficulty using the screen the way-a regular screen size, and the number of people who have screen readers that we know from the national health interview survey. You know, in the case of the population that is impacted, we know it is around 1.1 million people in the United States alone. And yet NHIS figures show that there are only about 50,000 screen reader users. And those figures are more or less confirmed by informal polls of-as you know, there is not many companies in the field. And they believe that that is an accurate figure for the U.S. So there is, you know, a tine-tiny percentage, you know, 5% of the potential users are out there. So what is happening with those other 95%? What are the barriers? And we know there is-funding is an issue. And information is and outreach is an issue. And you know, in the context of this, you know, a program like the DBTAC program like the , the A.T. Projects, you know, obviously very, very important resources. But yes, there is a huge underutilization, both of the universal design features and of assistive technology.
Right. In a situation of blindness, you know, age also becomes a factor. So you throw in the need to-one, learn the assistive technology and two, master that assistive technology on the ENIT that you are attempting to use.
Yes. We are expecting more users with disabilities than we are users without disabilities. My mother-in-law is not visually impaired, and it is difficult for her to master computer technologies. And if she were visually impaired, we''d be expecting her to master the sometimes confusing ins and outs of a screen reader or magnifying program. So it is a real challenge.
Absolutely. Do we have another question?
Mr. Tobias, I''m calling from the department of retail division in California.
Can you hear?
Yes. I said yea because this is how far back I go in the world. I installed an environmental control system at Ed Roberts'' house in Sacramento when he was head of your agency.
Well, he was before my time.
I''m sure you were in third grade at the time.
My question is are you aware of any activities by cable companies across the country to interface IVR systems with their on-screen menus?
I''m sorry. I missed your question.
The question dealt with cable companies and their IVR systems using some type of system to access their touch-screen menus.
No. That is incorrect.
Not touch screen?
You mean the cable guide?
Can she just repeat the question?
Okay. Are you aware of any activity by cable companies across the country to interface IVR systems with their on-screen menus?
Let us see. No, I''m not. Not specifically. I know that technology has been investigated. I know that there are other attempts to make sure that their on screen cable guys are accessible. I know there is another meeting that is called plug and play. And it is basically saying that, you should be able to buy a cable box the same way you buy a computer. And you should be able to plug your cable into it and use it. And not have to buy it from the cable company. That opens up a huge accessibility opportunity there. Because once that architecture is an open architecture, the assistant technologies company can come in and offer accessibility solutions, like screen readers for cable boxes. Infact, your cable box is a computer. It has a processor, it has memory, it has a hard drive. I have a video card, which gives me cable access as well. It gives me a tuner, it gives me closed captioning either in the video window or separate window. So it acts like a cable box. By having an open architecture standard through the FCC proceeding is going to open up an opportunity for that. My thinking right now, and you should talk with the folks at national center for accessible media, if you are not aware of them already. That is at WGBH in Boston. Larry Goldberg is the Director. They have been working with the cable industry on accessible set-top boxes. My understanding right now is that pending that proceeding, cable companies are kind of in a holding pattern because they don''t know what requirements they will have for their hardware overall, which is unfortunate, but kind of puts us behind the eight ball, waiting for a much larger issue to be resolved before our, quote/unquote issue gets dealt with. I know the technology you are referring to has been looked at. And there is certainly no technical reason why you couldn''t have access to everything that is on the on-screen guide. You could save, you know, your favorite shows. And you could record them and you could do everything via an IVR.
Thank you very much.
Great. Well, Jim, at this point, I''d like to throw it to you for any closing comments that you have.
No, I-I''ve been talking long enough. Again, I''m very happy to have had this opportunity. And if any of you have any follow-up questions, you can route them through the Great Lakes DBTAC. These folks, I''m really impressed with how well-organized this session was and how forthcoming and professional Great Lakes DBTAC has been. So really great resource, you guys. And you can funnel questions, follow up through them or directly through me. And my e-mail address is email@example.com. And I look forward to talking with you in person sometime.
Excellent. Well, thank you very much, Jim. We appreciate your time and presentation today. You can find links to Inclusive Technology as well as well as a link to the information technology, technical system and training center on the Great Lakes website. www.adagreatlakes.org. I would encourage you to contact your regional disability business and technical assistance center for upcoming sessions, including the March 18th session on achieving and sustaining accessible programs for state and local governments and the April 15th session, best practices and reasonable accommodations, back to the basics. A text archive of today''s session will be available on the great lakes website in a week or so. And there will also be an audio archive for the session, along with the materials that were used for today''s sessions. So I thank you all for participating in today''s sessions and look forward to having you here in upcoming sessions. Thank you very much.