Thank you very much, and good morning and good afternoon to everyone based on where you might be connecting from today. I know everyone is very busy with the holidays season coming up quickly upon us and I really do appreciate your willingness and abilities to take some time out of your schedule to join us for this session today. As introduced the full title of this session is Accessible Web Based Communication Tools: Why Are They So Hard To Find? And we identified this as a session as, the second of our two part series on accessible information technology because of the fact that we often get questions through our work that we do, whether it is through educational institutions, individuals and state governments, or individuals just interested on their own, around the fact that why they have so much trouble finding a chat room that is accessible to someone who is blind and uses a screen reader or other kinds of assistive technology. Why is it that so many of the web conferencing programs are not accessible to people with a variety of different disabilities? And what are the issues and what are their concerns around that. And so we decided to focus on the sessions in this year of our audio conference series that would answer some of those questions and we are very fortunate today to have with us as a speaker, Steve Jacobs, who is with the IDEAL Group. He is within our region and the Great Lakes area of Hilliard, Ohio, and Steve has worked for a number of years in the computer industry. He is the President of IDEAL Group, which is a organization that is, has a mission to promote and support the use of mainstream market forces to drive the design of more accessible information and communications technology. He has been very actively involved also in a project located at the Georgia Institute of Technology which is called the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center which is a federally funded project. Steve mostly works with the industry outreach and activities related to that. He has been with the NCR previously and then retired and kind of moved in to different types of issues and things of that nature and if you are not familiar with NCR, it was previously part of American Telegraph and Telephone (AT&T) company. He has a long host of experience in this area. Steve has been really committed to the issue of accessible information technology and making information technology accessible. Before I turn the session over to Steve, I just want to say a few things. As we start today, just to remind everybody this is a joint program of the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers, also referred to as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Accessible Information Technology (IT) Centers. There are 10 of us across the country representing all the states and regions and territories of the United States. If you are not familiar with the ADA and Accessible IT Centers, otherwise also known as Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers, you can find out more information about us on the internet at www.adata.org and from there you will be able to link to the center that serves your area. As I said this is our second session in the information technology series, and next month beginning in January, we are going to have a four-month session, four-series session covering four different months on issues of employment. So if you are interested in participating in more of our program, please go to www.ada-audio.org to find more about the other sessions. Without further ado, oh, also to remind people that this program is available in a variety of different mediums and so depending on what medium you are using, your asking of questions at the time when it is appropriate will differ. For those on the telephones, you will be given instructions on how to queue in to ask questions. For those of you that are using streaming audio on the internet, you will see the box appear that will allow you to submit question and we will be monitoring those questions and I will be voicing those questions to the speaker. And those of you that are using the real-time captioning, you can insert your questions and the captioner will voice it for you when it comes to that time. So there are multi mode of opportunities. Just to let you know that our speaker Steve did update some of his hand-outs and he will be working off of those. And if you have access to the internet at this time, you may want to go back into the audio conference series and access the updated handouts otherwise people will be explaining what those changes are, and the updated handouts will be available after this session on the ada-audio.org website for you to be able to access if you didn''t have a chance before hand. So, without further ado, I am going to turn this over to Steve.
Thank you very much Robin. For those of you who know me, you won''t recognize my voice because I have a cold. So I ask for your forgiveness and hope that I am understandable. When Robin asked, if I would have an interest in speaking about the topic at hand today, "Why accessible communication tools are hard to find?", I got real excited about speaking because this is one of my passions. I have spent a great deal of my career focused on working with industry and working with other organizations to try to design products that are more accessible, usable and useful to people with disabilities, and it is not always an easy thing to do. So, when I saw the question being posed, how come there are not more accessible communication tools out there in the market, I figured I would speak to that topic. And hopefully, I suspect that there may be over a hundred people listening maybe even more than that. If I can only convert a few of you to become advocates for what I am going to describe and talk about, we can change the system. There is absolutely no good reason why there cannot be good accessible web based communication tools. It is technically feasible and economically possible to develop products like that. And it is merely dealing with a few barriers that I will mention, in fact I am going to cover four barriers. Robin mentioned that I updated my materials. You probably have not received as many materials from any other speaker in history than you have from me. I think I may have sent out over 200 pages and I certainly don''t expect anyone to read everything, however, if you have an interest in anything that I mention in particular, there is some more in-depth information in one of the several handouts that you either have currently, which may or may not be the latest version or after this session is complete, you can retrieve the latest copies. It is not really necessary that you have any documents in front of you. You can kind of kickback and relax and after the fact, if you heard something of interest, you can always go back to the PowerPoint presentation, which has active links if you actually view the presentation on a computer, to all of the detailed information that I will be talking about. There are really three handouts. The first is a paper that I wrote focused on this topic, the second is about a 100 page document that talks about international standards, when it comes to accessible information technology design. The third document is the actual PowerPoint presentation. It is the PowerPoint presentation that is going to ground us in our talk today and keep us on track so I am actually going to use the PowerPoint presentation as a guide to go through a fair amount of information that I hope you find interesting. So with no further comment, as an introduction, I would like to first talk about the barriers that have precluded a lot of very accessible communication products from making it into the market place. I think everyone is aware that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates telecommunication laws. And in one of your handouts I have a listing of a fairly wide variety of laws, technology focused laws, in order to understand this barrier, you really need to consider the effectiveness of laws in the past, for example The Telecommunications Act of 1996. There are several sections to the Telecom Act, one for example is, Section 251 and that requires telecommunication carriers to interconnect directly or indirectly with other carriers'' equipment, so you are not disenfranchised if you are using one carrier''s equipment and need to access someone through another carrier''s equipment, there needs to be compatibility there. Section 255 requires companies that manufacture and provide telecom products and services to address the needs of people with disabilities. And really the point I am trying to make with talking about all these different laws is that we have these laws to thank for the accessible technology that is on the market today. It is never enough, but there are some accessible products out there. We have the FCC to thank for that, and especially The Telecommunications Act of 1996, Section 255. However, the first barrier I talk about is that the FCC''s interpretation that internet based products and services is not within their jurisdiction. So the first barrier to companies being forced in some cases to design accessible products rests in the fact that the FCC does not regulate the internet or internet based products and services. And if you think about the latest state of the art and telephone, Vonage that is Voice Over IP. And there is no way to mandate that Voice Over IP, for example be accessible to people with disabilities, at least by the FCC in most instances, because everything having to do with the internet is considered an information service. It is a computer based information service and the FCC does not regulate computer data processing or information services because it has been their belief for many years that trying to regulate the internet or computer based services, their worry was that it would undermine the innovation that characterizes these highly competitive e-markets. So the FCC has a policy of hands-off. It will deal with things by exception, for example, E-911, some of you, I hope none of you found this out firsthand through experience, but the first out Voice Over IP telephones did not enable you to connect to 911. You would get a recording you would have to go to a standard telephone in order to dial 911. That was a big problem, and that was one example of where the FCC decided to make an exception. And become involved in trying to regulate or persuade a Voice Over IP telecom providers that they make sure that the users can connect to 911. So, I want to make sure that my point doesn''t get lost in all this detail. In the past, the FCC was a driver for accessibility but when it comes to internet-based communication products, it is no longer a driver. There is no mandate. And that is one area where some change is needed, at least in my opinion. So, the first barrier is simply that the internet and the applications that runs across the internet for communications between two people that simply is not regulated and probably will not be any time soon. The second barrier which I would suspect most of you or probably much more familiar with, is that there is still disagreement as to whether or not, the Americans with Disabilities Act covers the internet as a place of public accommodation. Now, if you look at legal means to try and encourage industry to design more accessible products, it becomes very difficult if the regulating bodies either have no jurisdiction over that technology as is the case with the FCC over the internet, or trying to get a judge to decide on your behalf that in fact the ADA does cover the internet, there is a good mix of case law, and I am sure many of you are probably more familiar with that than I am. But the bottom line is, there is still not really a decision, there is not enough case law to be able to say that, yes, you know, emphatically, yes, the internet, web pages are covered by the ADA. So if you provide a particular service or product that runs over the internet. You may or may not be able to use the ADA as leverage to get a company to design more accessible products. That is a second reason why products are not much more available than they have been in the past. Before we go on to the third barrier, let us take a look at the fabric of the IT industry in the United States. There are probably 30 or 40 top communication technology manufacturers and service providers that make up about 80% of the business in the United States for communications and telecommunications products. And the reason I mention that is that every single one of the top 50 companies are international companies. They not only sell products, in the United States, and need to comply with Section 508 and the ADA, and Section 255 of the Telecommunications Act and a myriad of other standards, but these companies also have to take into considerations standards that control the designs of products in other countries. So it becomes extremely complex, and in your handouts, the largest handout is simply a listing of different international standards by component, by disability. They are very, very useful tables, so if you are a developer of any type, or you have developers on staff or you are trying to design a product or a service that is accessible, I am hopeful that some of the tables that appear in the largest of the three handouts prove helpful. Once you start looking at international standards, it is no longer, well, let us just take an international information technology manufacture. When they design a product, they try to comply with 508, of course, because they want to sell product to the Federal Government but at the same time, they probably want to comply with a common look and feel regulation for Canada and UK regulations, depending on what the product is, if they want to sell their product in the UK. And it gets so complex that companies are really not motivated to try and design a product that complies with all the standards in all the countries they do business in, and it is virtually impossible. If you look at the lifecycle of products, most of the communication tools and products software applications that we use, have a much shorter useful life than they did 5 or 10 years ago. Products turn over every year on average some much more often than that. If you look at cell phones and other types of communication devices, you will see new devices on the market every 3 or 4 months from particular manufacturers, and it is the complexity of the environment that works against companies designing products that are accessible. They will focus on one particular type of access. Let us say that they wanted to sell something to the Federal Government, they will focus on Section 508, but not focus on another set of laws for another country. And without really taking a look at all these matrixes, what I am saying may not make a whole bunch of sense it really does, but it gets to be extremely complicated. I am going to move on to the third barrier. The third barrier describes what I have just been trying to describe with a whole bunch of words, the disharmonization of international laws, standards and guidelines, makes it difficult for manufacturers to achieve manufacturing economies of scale that are possible in environments of harmonized laws, standards and guidelines. Economies of scale are, is simply a term used to describe a manufacturing process that can capitalize on building in the wants, needs and preferences of a much larger body of people than focusing on one particular country. I think giving you an example of an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) probably would make sense, I think that most of you have probably used ATMs before. And the keypad on an ATM is laid out very similar to a telephone. But in Europe, the keypad is in the format of the calculator which is different than a telephone. So in order for a manufacturer to take advantage of economies of scale, that particular keypad would have to be standardized because what has to be done today is the manufacturer needs to crank out maybe a thousand or two thousand units of the exact same ATM with the keypad version of, I mean, with a calculator laid out version of a keypad, and then crank out, retool and actually crank out a whole other batch of ATMs with that little change. All of the standards and the differences between them are causing companies not to be able to take advantage of that cost savings, and for that reason, it is a bit more difficult to make a profit. So they focus more on mass markets and basically they will crank out a product that may be somewhat accessible but not completely, because it is just a little bit too expensive and a little bit too complex. One of the things I have noticed is that when we talked to engineers in industry, that many of them, while they may understand at a high level what accessibility is, they may not really know any of the techniques involved in actually achieving an accessibly designed product. And that brings us to the fourth and last barrier, that works against companies designing and distributing accessible communication products. The lack of college level accessible design curriculum is fairly prominent. If you go into an engineering as a major, for example, you will probably find some courses that focus on accessibility. However, if you are a business major, if you are a finance major, international business, very few of those curriculum actually have courses that talk about accessible design, but accessible design impacts all of those disciplines, and accessibly designed product can be used by more people, which means a larger market, which could mean more money. So a person who is majoring in finance that understands at least at the high level of business benefits of accessible design, has a competitive advantage. I had mentioned before the product lifecycles last months and not years, this is another change that has taken place over the last five-years, that forces companies to do whatever they need to do to get a product out as quickly as possible. Doing something either doing something quickly or not doing something at all can result in getting a product out more quickly. Stakeholder pressure focuses on getting new products out as soon as possible and increasing returns on investment. That certainly does not help accessibility. When you integrate accessibility into the design processes of a product, it sometimes takes a little more time, not a lot. But when you have stakeholders, pushing you to get a product out very quickly, it is sometimes makes integrating accessibility or testing your product with people with disabilities something that isn''t as desirable as just taking your product and going to market with it without doing that kind of testing. There really is no time or opportunity for professionals in college today to learn about or embrace accessible design practices. This is especially true when they are on the job. Now I had mentioned to Robin that I have a list of accessible open source communication technologies. And I think that this is something that we will spend a little bit more time on. You all have a link to this resource and for those of you who are not online, you won''t see it, but it will be in the printed material. If you look hard enough, you will find accessible communication products. They are not talked about a lot, because people do not make a lot of money with them. And most companies are in business to make money. And that is why it is difficult to gather information on accessibly designed communication products. Most of the products that I have listed in your handouts are open source applications. Open source is a relatively new phenomenon that has taken place over the last five to eight years where somebody will develop an application and then under what they call a new license, they will give other people permission to take the software and modify it. And not charge them anything. The model is totally different than designing applications with the thought of profit in mind from the beginning and charging people for these applications. And what has happened is companies have picked up these open source applications, enhanced them, they have added features, made the applications more rugged, they have enabled people to support these applications much more easily and then they take that code and turn it back in using the open source model and that enhanced code is then used to enhance the base application which is once again given away and it is a cycle of constant enhancement to applications that benefits a lot of companies. So a wide variety of the 70 applications that we have listed are actually in that category of being open source. Now, there are browsers, there are onscreen keyboards, text-to-speech synthesizers, screen readers, speech recognition application, content management systems, tools to do captioning and I can go on and on. We have used some of these applications, though there are 70 listed, we have not used all 70. And we have found that the applications are pretty rugged, they are just as good and in many cases as the applications that you would go out and pay a lot of money for. It is our hope that identifying assistive technology that has been developed under the open source philosophy will begin to enable students and adults alike to get assistive technology who may not be able to get it today because of affordability or the school system is just sitting on their hands and they are not they are telling you they can''t afford to purchase a certain type of a product. But we have found that many of these products are being used but not to the extent that we think they should be. Now, Robin would it help if I would give out a URL for those individuals who are sitting at a PC to connect to and look at the list?
Sure, go ahead, I don''t think it would hurt at all. We will be able to write it down those that are present but they will have it on the materials anyway.
Okay, the URL is http://onlineconferencingsystems.com/great_lakes/at.htm. That will take you to the page of what we call the 70. And I wanted to thank Robin for having pointed out some links on our old page that were no longer valid. We went through and we tested each link to make sure that the applications that were listing on this page are, that the links work. Now, what we would like to do and we would like to do this with your help, since there are a lot of useful applications out there that are available for free, we would like to take making, creating awareness about these applications to the next level. We are working with an organization in the UK to make these lists available to a very large number of organizations and actually create user communities. We are very interested in receiving feedback from people using open source assistive technology and finding out what works, what doesn''t work, how our people creatively using combinations of these applications to provide accommodations for students with disabilities, and I believe creating a resource like that would be much more complete and beneficial than just simply listing these open source applications on a website, which is all we are really able to do today. We are users of some of the assistive technology, for example, we are working on a project with Ohio State University, and there is a content management system called A Tutor, some of you may be familiar with it. And we are currently supporting the Ohio State School for the Blind and have curriculum actually course information contained in the content management system. This enables the students to go in, review materials, download them, take tests, it enables the teachers to actually grade the tests, send the grades to the students and all, and the whole infrastructure is accessible. And the infrastructure costs nothing, it is free. So A Tutor is one of the many products that are available. Another product is called The Accessible Pod Catcher. Many of you have probably heard of pod casting where you take a recording, or any type of multimedia object that you are delivering, be it a movie, or a recording of a sound or a picture and you kind of wrap it in something that actually delivers it to a community of users automatically. In order to view that particular object, you use a pod cast reader. And the iPod is an example of a device. The iPod that people use to listen to music where you can subscribe to pod casts, I-tunes is a very popular one. And actually, download music. You can do this with a very large variety of objects, and we have found that taking recordings, creating pod casts out of the recording and then enabling students who are blind, for example, to use an Accessible Pod Catcher, which is the accessible application that can grab and play that recording of the student, that is quite a useful tool. That is just another one of those products. The BBC in London has what they call Accessible Radio. And it is a way to listen to radio stations on the internet in a way that is very simple and easy to use with screen readers, that might be something else that you would take an interest in. Amaya is a complete web browsing and authoring environment that comes equipped with what they called a wizzi-wig style of interface. It is similar to most of the popular commercial browsers. It too is accessible. As I go down here, if you happen to be sitting at a PC, there is a relatively new search engine that was designed for people with low vision, and it is called big.com. And if you just do, if you enter www.big.com in your browser, it will return a search field that is much larger than normal. You will notice the screen is not cluttered and it was designed for people to use who have low vision, who have other types of cognitive print disabilities and for people who are blind. And this company is doing this, the search engine is available free of charge, and is pretty cool. There are some novel applications that we also have listed. For example, if a person has a mobility disability and just has the slightest movement of even one finger, the only methods of actually typing into a computer have even been with maybe a switch, pushing a switch, and using an onscreen keyboard that scans, and there are a few other ways that you can convert just a small movement of a finger into a character. But imagine just having a slight movement of your finger, being able to word processor 30 or 40 or 50 words a minute. This is another open source application called Dasher. Dasher uses a novel interface that has all the letters in the alphabets passing in front of you and gives you the ability to select the letter you want just by moving your finger slightly on a touch pad or moving a mouse slightly, it is really difficult to describe. But I think it is one of the most unique interfaces that I think I have ever seen. Dasher either can be used with a mouse, you can also use it with speech recognition that comes bundled with it, and it is free, all of the things that I have mentioned are available free of charge. Dasher also takes advantage of very low cost head tracking devices for computer games. You will notice advertised on Television (TV) some of the most advanced computer games that have ever been on the market, and the manufactures feel that the more physical parts of a person''s body they engaged in playing the game, the more the person will get hooked on the game. So low and behold, they designed a head tracking device and an eye gaze device for Dasher. It is available for about $128 dollars. Taking this little piece of inexpensive hardware and combining it with a Dasher can actually provide a system that can be used to enable somebody who is completely paralyzed with the exception of their head or their eyes to actually type. And you can compare this to systems that cost many thousands of times more than Dasher, because it is for free. Just another example, there are magnification programs, one that comes into mind in particular is IZoom. And it is spelled IZOOM. An engineer from IBM decided that assistive technology while, the best magnification programs are costly if you look at IZoom, I am sorry, if you look at Zoom Text Extra or Magic, those are two of the most popular screen magnification programs on the market and screen reading programs. They are wonderful, the government has standardized on purchasing these products. But unfortunately, there are a lot of school systems and a lot of other organizations that simply cannot afford to purchase those applications. So this IBM engineer designed a screen magnification program very similar to zoom text and is giving it away for free. To upgrade it to a version that works on the internet, costs about $60 dollars, but that is a fraction of the cost of other commercially available assistive technology. Now, one thing I need to make very clear, I have absolutely nothing against AT manufacturers, and, in fact, just the opposite, I have a lot of respect and admiration for them, and without AT manufacturers there are a lot of people with disabilities that would not be able to access and use the many things that they do today. So there is absolutely a place for AT manufacturers, but I believe at the same time, there is a place for low cost and free assistive technology, especially since there are so many kids going without. So IZoom is another product you can look up and use, there is 70 of these folks. Google Desktop is another very popular application that has found its way into the blind community. Google Desktop is an application that PC users can download to their PC and Google Desktop will index every file on your desktop or laptop PC in the same manner that Google indexes web pages. So if, for example, you are a blind user and you want to find a file, it is sometimes very difficult to have to go through all the applications you need to go through to identify what file was it that had a list of 60 low cost software applications or open source software applications, but with Google Desktop, all you need to do is search for words that are contained in a particular document. And within less than a second, after indexing, Google Desktop will show you which applications residing on your desktop actually contain certain word search strings, it is very useful, it is also useful for people who are sighted, it is useful for everybody, but there are many people who are unaware of it. So I would encourage you to take a look at that. I am just going through the list, there is a product that was designed for people who are deaf to communicate. It is a whole infrastructure, it is called NEXTALK. And it is a really a state of the art text-based communication system, that multiple people can use at the same time. They have live streaming of text, real-time text. So that if I were communicating with three people over the internet, if I wanted to communicate with 3 or 4 or 5 people at the same time over the internet, I could do that. If I happen to be a person who was deaf, as I type text into the application, the application will have 5 windows in it, in this case, with five people. If there were three people that have three windows, but as each person types their text appears in their own window, it is not like a messaging system where you have to press enter after you type text. It is real-time, live stream text, so character by character as you press a K on your keyboard, a K appears in the window that the person you are communicating with is looking at. So it is live communications. We have actually made use of this at the Ohio State School for the Blind to enable a lady who is a Braille instructor in Canada, to observe how a student who is blind learning to use a Braille display is doing in Ohio. The instructor simply types text into NEXTALK. And the student simply has their refreshable Braille display refresh with whatever the student is seeing and talks to the instructor over the internet using Voice Over IP, which is another application I will mention to you. But it is really amazing what is available out there. The Opera browser if you have not really taken a close look at Opera, contains a lot of tools that make it easier for people with a wide range of disabilities to access and surf the internet. I am scrolling down a little bit and there are a couple Voice Over IP applications, I think some of you have probably used Skype. We have found that Skype is accessible, usable and useful to people who use screen reading technology. If you are not familiar with Skype, it is a little program for making free calls over the internet to anyone else who also has the Skype application. It is free, it is easy to download and use, and it works cross platforms, it should work on most all computers. It is a wonderful application to host conference calls and since Skype came on the market, there have been a couple other applications developed that are open source applications, one is called SIPCON-1. And SIPCON is simply a standards compliance soft phone, it is a telephone that is based in software that runs on your PC and rather than using the telephone handset, you use a headset of your PC and have your ear pieces and you have your microphone. You can talk to people anywhere else in the world and it is a totally accessible infrastructure, it is compatible with assistive technology. All of the controls of the application can be selected through keyboard commands. And the good thing about it is, it also uses real streaming live streamed text. So that if I were communicating with a person who is deaf, I could type on my keyboard and they would see exactly what I am typing, not in a messaging format, but as I press a key down, they would see it appear on their screen. So I could type a message to somebody, that individual could type back to me or use a voice over and they can talk back to me and it is quite unique. At any rate, let it suffice to say that if you look at all 70 of these applications, I feel fairly comfortable that you will find some or may be many that could be of great use in the type of work you do, especially if you accommodate the needs of students or adults with disabilities. There is one more application that I wanted to just talk about over the phone. And it is tough talking about applications over the phone. But if I am not doing anything else today, I hope I am wetting your whistle to take a look at these applications and learn more about them. There is a product called the Web Access Gateway, and the best way to find out more about this is either to look at our list or to do a search on Web Access Gateway. It is what the name suggests it is, it is a gateway, a doorway through which all the web pages on the internet can be pulled through and reformatted to make the pages more accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities. So if I go through this Web Access Gateway and go out to the internet and search using Google, I can define that any page that is returned to me whether or not it was designed in an accessible manner, what the foreground color, the background color, the point size, whether it has graphic images, whether it lets me know I have hit the bottom of the page, the last time the page was updated and on and on and on. It is a very, very powerful tool that we use in a lot of our projects just to make the web more accessible to students who need assistive technology who may not have it available to them when operating in a local library or a college library of some type. So Robin with that, I am going to pause, we have about 35 minutes left, and maybe we should see if there are any questions or comments or interests in partnering with us or whatever?
Sure, that is great. You provided a huge amount of information, and we do recognize that it is very difficult to do a session like this, strictly over the phone, because it does have and it would obviously benefit from the visual experience and opportunity, the limitations of using telephone as your only means of having a session. And I think that as we get more accessible internet based communication tools that the feasibility and practicality of having programs like this, that would be internet based which would allow more of that interactive visual experience with viewing websites, viewing materials and images and things of that nature will be more and more valuable for people. So I think as many of us in the realm of the work that we do, often talk about the internet is really the ramp of 1990, that, you know, as we look at trying to get into buildings and facilities as our main concern back in 1990, while that still continue to be an area we have not achieved 100% or even close to ideal, the internet has now become our vehicle for much of our communication, our shopping, our education and other methods and means of doing commerce and interacting. So the accessibility of it is key to ensure that people have as much opportunity as possible. So it continues to be something that we look to. Why don''t we have the Operator come on and give us some instructions, again those of you using streaming audio, you can submit your questions through the text box that appears on the website where you access the streaming audio. And those of you using real-time captioning can submit your questions in the text box provided on the interface for the real-time captioning. So Operator, why don''t you go ahead and give our telephone callers some instructions.
Thank you. Steve, all of the materials and things you would talk about, the issue of freeware and such, this is changing constantly, is that not correct? I mean there is more and more becoming available on a regular basis? And how does one keep most current on some of those things?
That is the hard part, you are right, Robin. New products are coming, becoming available every day, more and more people are learning about the open source phenomenon, learning that they can take, you know, their work and combine it with others to come up with a product that is better than both organizations could have developed on their own. The problem is trying to find a central repository for these types of products. There is no project in the United States that focuses on trying to gather all these applications open source and free assistive technology applications together under one website. And further, asking people to submit their opinions of the applications or their user experience or to rank them or rate them and hopefully we will be able to do that on a voluntary basis, especially if we have other hands reaching out to join ours, which I am hoping maybe we will hear something today. We are just looking for anyone interested in possibly working with us to think through how best to make a resource like this available.
Great. Great, thank you. Before we go, and type into our telephone, I do have a request, question from someone online. The question is that, do you have any suggestions for a web application that is accessible for a news type website at a college? For a college?
Okay. When you say news, several things come to mind but I am going to have to assume that you mean RSS news feeds and, yes, there is an accessible RSS news feed application listed in the list of applications that I have provided for you. I am looking for it now, and I can tell you just a bit about it. Bear with me one minute I am going to do a search for it. It is called Accessible RSS News Feeds and I will read what it states about this, and this certainly lends itself to using in a college environment if you look at our home page, we use an accessible RSS news feed to list the latest news on accessibility and disabilities, but RSS is widely used by the web log community to share the latest entry headlines or their full text and even attached multimedia files. In mid-2000, use of RSS spread to many major news organizations including Reuters, CNN and the BBC. Until under various usage agreements, providers allow other websites to incorporate their syndicated headlines. So there is a way and an application to deliver accessible RSS news feeds, if the individual asking that question would send me an e-mail, I could send them even more information on that than is listed in this list of 70 applications.
Your contact information was on the PowerPoint slides that you submitted, right?
Are you kidding? That means I would have been organized.
No, but I will give you my contact information. It is email@example.com and I am sorry I didn''t put that on my PowerPoint presentation. I should have done that.
It is okay, I think it is on your updated one.
Operator, do we have any questions from the telephone?
Great, and go ahead.
Thank you. I am visually handicapped and I wear hearing aids. One of my questions is when you try to take an online web course or conference a lot of times they only give you 10 minutes prior to find your way and get into the conference and do all these things and the time limit is very frustrating. If you could comment on that and you were also going to talk about chat rooms and something else you mentioned that I have never tried because I am afraid I can''t see to do it fast enough. Thank you.
Good question. You are pointing out a process that is faulty, assuming that the content is fully accessible, one of the tenets of accessible design is providing the user enough time to do whatever it is they need to do, and some people it takes more time to do things than others, for a wide variety of reasons. I don''t have a solution for that unfortunately. But as far as accessible online conferencing, there is a lot of work being done in the area of accessible online conferencing. Robin can probably tell you about an environment that she has been working in a little bit, and I can also tell you that we are involved with a couple other organizations in developing an even later state of the art online conferencing system that is fully accessible which means that, you can meet with people over the internet and it makes no difference whether a person is hard of hearing or deaf or person has low vision or happens to be blind or possibly has a mobility disability or a cognitive disability or a speech disability. There are actually systems available to accommodate all of those different access needs in the same system. Unfortunately, those are not, those applications are not being marketed by the major players in the market. And are therefore, not well known about, but Robin, if you could generically describe your experience. I don''t know if it is been complete, but I know that you have used accessible online conferencing before. Maybe you could shed a little bit of light on that?
Well, sure, I mean, I think this is one of the biggest things that one of the most frequent calls or requests that comes in to our office as well as the other ADA and Accessible IT Centers is related to getting access to online meeting software, which is used in courses. Online courses is used in training events, similar to what we are doing today, but with a different medium and such. So we have been looking and working at how can we model and begin to use some programs that are fully accessible, there are programs that have features of accessibility in them, but they become problematic when you are trying to integrate all different potential disability groups and limitations that they might have to accessing that information. So our experience in using that the system that we are piloting and working with now to try to do more of our business, is really a system where individuals have access because of the type that the technology that is being used and so that if someone is using a screen reader, they are able to access all of the text that is on the page, as well as all of the various functions of the online software, and then it has a compatibility with real-time captioning that is internet based to be used or accessed and overlaid. So the person with a learning disability who needs the visual as well as the auditory input, the person who might be deaf who can''t benefit from the auditory input solely, or the individual who is blind who needs to access the text and manipulate the screen in the various functions are able to do that using this program, and it is been very successful for us in just the limited piloting that we are doing in that like with anything, people have to learn how to use it. But once someone uses learns how to use that software, it does allow us to bring a multitude of people together and the disability becomes invisible because people are using a multitude of methods to input, but all of those methods of input are accessible to everybody. And that is a huge benefit because it really levels the playing field for everyone who is participating in that context.
Thank you. Are there any additional questions?
I am with social services and I am in on this conference, but there is a couple questions and one of them is when starting a website, is there anyway of making it accessible?
Yes, there is certainly is. And I would recommend that you take a look at the Web Accessibility Initiative website. If you look at www.w3.org, that is the World Wide Web Consortium, they have a project called the Web Accessibility Initiative that focuses on designing standards and actually guidelines, that people can use when designing websites to make sure that they are accessible and there are also a large number of applications available to help you audit a website and determine what was done right, what was done wrong, so, yes, there are a lot of tools out there for you.
Thank you. I appreciate that.
With that, you have another question?
Yes. Also websites that you have mentioned today, which one do you believe to be the most user friendly for someone with a brain injury?
Wow, a brain injury is such an individual thing and affects each person differently it would be so difficult to say. Actually, it would be impossible to try and decide, but what I would recommend is that you try and find an accessibly designed website if you are looking to see if that individual can really use the web, and find out what they are able to do with it, and what they are not able to do. It is really just a very individual thing. Robin, you might have more input on that than I do.
Well, I think one of the most difficult things and we all recognize it when we talk about information that is available on the internet, is that the complexity of that information in regards to how it is organized on the page and navigation is a key factor or key issue on any website. Even someone without a disability often will go to a website and become overwhelmed with the amount of information that is there or the complexity of how I navigate from one page to the next or one feature to the next features. So it is a very individualized thing as Steve said. I would recommend that, you know, for the resources that were provided here, because they are all so different, there is not one single resource that we are talking about, the technologies that Steve has been talking about are all different, that it would probably be best for the person to, you know, utilize the hyperlinks that we have provided in the handout, and visit those various pages and, you know, decide for themselves what is going to be useful, that is probably one of the most difficult things we have even under the standards for accessibility is that issue of how to make the information readable and understandable to that broadest audience of individuals, that would be universally designed so that whether a person has a brain injury or a learning disability or a visual impairment or whatever, that that information would be equally as accessible to them from both the complexity as well as the use of the interface with the assistive technologies. Thank you very much for your question.
Operator, next question please?
Go ahead, please.
Yes, go ahead.
Well, hello. How are you?
I had a question for you, one of the things you really did a good job, I think really at the beginning talking about the four barriers, that keeps us back in this area. I like how you really put those together concisely. Do you see any movement or do you know of any, people contact us sometimes wanting to know how they can cut down barriers or what areas we can get involved with, to cut down these types of barriers. Do you see any of the areas which are really ripe to fall down or things that people can get involved with more, the barriers you talked about at the beginning of your presentation?
Well, as part of the handouts, I have recommendations. And actually, a lot of the writings that I sent to you have been included in a report that is targeted to members of Congress to help them understand the issues and actually understand what some of the solutions are. For example, the fact that accessible design methodologies are not covered in across the board in college courses that can be positively impacted by the change in the in accreditation. If industry went to the accreditation organizations for college engineering and information technology curriculum and they basically explained that they need core competencies in the area of accessible design and that people will find jobs more readily if they have had courses that cover this, the chances are, that the accreditation boards will look favorably upon that and recommend or possibly in order to give credit for a course, they may mandate that those types of, that type of content be integrated into business courses, finance courses, economics, engineering information technology and so on. As far as the FCC, we feel it is very important that Congress clarify that the Telecommunication Act Amendments of 1996 that require accessibility were readily achievable. We need to point out that the Protections of Section 255 were never understood or intended by Congress to be limited to outmoded analog communication technology. It is not the technology that is the spirit of the law, it is accessibility. And you can''t really say, okay, this technology is included in this one and this one isn''t. So I would ask that you just read through some of the material that I have sent which gives some good background information and references, and take a look at the recommendations and call your Congress man. That is how I would respond.
Thank you. Next question, please.
Okay, this is a question coming from one of our participants who is using the real-time captioning. Go ahead.
Any comments about the emergence of AJAX web applications such as GMail, Google Reader, etc. Do you see AJAX with the attempt to simulate the software web applications as a set back for accessibility?
I am not familiar with AJAX. However, with Google, if you are referring to the online libraries of books that are going to be made available in graphic images, and if I could clarify and ask that question and you could respond, Google is looking at having all types of books available over the internet but unfortunately, they are looking at providing the content in graphic images. So that a screen reader user will not be able to acquire that information. That is certainly a negative impact on accessibility and there are people working against that from happening. If, in fact, that is what you are talking about, I am sorry I am not familiar with AJAX.
But it is still the issue of the fact that there are these new technologies emerging like what we are talking about here, that are potentially being developed without necessarily accessibility in mind?
Yes. That is an issue. And there is little we can do to stop it, unless the FCC is given the jurisdiction to regulate what is developed that is used over the internet, in other words, information services. So that is an ongoing problem, I wish I had a solution for it. But understanding the root causes of those types of problems can go at least a short way in helping to try to avoid them.
Short of the legal aspect, the going for the FCC or getting Congress to change things, from an advocacy perspective, and again many of us across our regions that are working in this area are constantly looking or trying to encourage many of the groups whether it be colleges, universities, state governments, local governments and such, as they go out and do procurement or they go out and do contracts with various entities to either develop software for them or purchase particular products that they may be using as part of their activities to look at language in their procurement process that would address accessibility so that, I guess, the idea bottom line being that if an entity with a large enough potential purchasing power let us say as an example would say, we are not going to purchase from you, we are not going to use this product unless it is accessible to everyone. How effective or what is your view on those kinds of approach from an advocacy and trying to use other methods that means recognizing that is not always possible to get what you might want from a congressional or regulatory end of things or the consumer pressure.
Well, we use the term compels to describe the forces that cause companies to design for access, and it is the social, moral, ethical, legal organizational type of market forces that do not lead to substantial change because none of those things from legal ethical, moral, social and so on, none of them are self sustaining because they don''t focus on business necessarily. If you look at the demand poll market forces that cause companies to design for access, there are many of them and it is just they are not visible to many companies because many companies don''t spend a lot of time doing research. But one small example, when you design a product or an application to be accessible usable and useful to a person who is blind, at the same time, you are making that application much more accessible, usable and useful to a person who never learned to read. While one can argue, there is just not a large enough number of people who are blind to justify designing in that manner, one can easily argue that the top emerging markets have over a billion consumers who never learned to read. If you look at just China and India alone, there are about 800 million people who never learned to read. They are going to be part of our future economy for e-commerce, you know, shopping over the internet, all the things that we do to conduct business today in the U.S., they will be doing in China and India. However, if people can''t read, they can''t spend their money using the internet. So why not design something that does not require somebody to have to read. It is when you embrace that type of philosophy on a much grander scale and you look at the access needs of a majority of people who we are going to be selling product to over the next 5 to 10 years, there are some wonderful cost justifications for designing for access and that is really a whole other session. But Robin, if you ever are interested.
Obviously, that is one that we do get a lot of questions, and it is a hot topic, definitely for sure, and I appreciate your thoughts and your wisdom on that. Let us keep going here, we have a few more minutes left to take some questions if we have some. Operator, are there any more questions, please.
Okay. The one thing that I know that one of the callers asked about, and I am not sure if their question was answered, I think they alluded to the thought you were going to address it more. One of the ways people are communicating out there on the web, and it is used in applications, in universities as part of course wear, it is used just as a general medium, the issue of chat rooms, as a communication mode and method. I know that that technology is often difficult for people who have visual impairments or are blind because of the refreshing issues and just some of the technologies that are commonly built into some of the applications that are out there commercially available. Can you comment about that at all?
Gee. Well, yes, I agree that there are many applications that are not accessible. However, if one looks carefully, you will find communication products that permit people to engage in text chats, voice conversations, to display PowerPoint presentations to multiple people all in accessible ways. So while 90% of the products out there are inaccessible, there are 5 to 10% that are. And I think that the list of applications we provided just might contain a couple of solutions to what it is you are looking to try to do.
So my point being, if I am out there looking for it, you know, and what are the key things that I am if I didn''t have your resource, I was out there looking, what are the key things that I if I was not doing it myself, but I was coordinating something, and wanted to make sure my program was accessible. What are the key things I should look at as I am looking at various options for hosting or the software, the technology I might use?
Well, one of the key ingredients of an accessible application is being able to access any function or do anything in that application through the use of the keyboard, not needing a mouse, whatsoever. That would be the first thing I would look for. The second thing I would probably look for is ease of navigation and ease of use, the level of understanding to use the application needs to be kept fairly basic. That doesn''t mean that you can''t have a fully featured application, but it means that it needs to be easy to understand how to use the applications. For each type of disability one would need to look at different things, so it is not an easy question to answer. For example, someone with a mobility disability would want to make sure that all of the functions are accessible through the use of a keyboard so that speech recognition would work. Somebody who is deaf would want a visual substitute for anything that happens auditorally. So for example, we had a question from Caption Colorado actually having an easy way to integrate closed captions into an application to accommodate a person who is deaf is mandatory or a person who is deaf will not be able to use it. There also needs to be the ability to communicate without using one''s voice, so there needs to be text chat in the area, in the application. And it gets pretty complex. So don''t know if I could really answer that question, it just, it is determined by the requirements of the user, I mean, who is going to be using it and what types of disabilities are we needing to accommodate?
So as a summary, some are going to be more accessible to some people than others in the general among the 90%. And there are some that there is going to be that much smaller percentile that are going to be accessible to them just because of the nature of what that limitation might be for that person.
Okay. All right, we are concluding the time period today, and it seems always to go by so quickly, and I know that sometimes I think we probably leave more questions than we are able to answer, and that is one of the maybe disadvantages of this kind of format, but if nothing else, I think it does sparks people to think about these issues and acts as a teaser for people to seek more information or maybe raises some awareness that people didn''t have before, because they really have not thought about it in the past. So hopefully this session has given you some food for thought and again some wonderful resources being provided here. Buyers, I want to thank you for your time and energy and efforts as part of this program today. And hopefully as you can have given out your contact information you won''t be too inundated. If people do have some questions, I also don''t want to leave anything hanging here today. Make sure you are aware of the fact that your ADA and Accessible IT Centers are also available to respond to your questions on these issues, we work with these things every day. If we don''t have the immediate answer, we know where we can get some answers for you and assist you, we provide training, technical assistance, we disseminate materials on these particular issues, and so I do encourage you to contact your center. Again, this program has been sponsored by the 10 Regional Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers, also known as ADA and Accessible IT Centers. You can contact us at our 800 number, 800-949-4232 both voice and TTY. And again, if you are not clear as to which center serves your area, you can go to the national website which is www.adata.org. I just want to remind people that we have a series of four sessions starting in January, focusing on the employment issues. And we will be offering a certificate of completion for anyone who attends all four sessions. Specific to that program as well as we have credits available for CRC credits as well as SHRM Society of Human Resource Management credits for those that may be applicable to. You can get information about our upcoming programs on the website at www.ada-audio.org. This program that you have been listening to today will be posted on the archives of this program and it will you can link to that through the www.ada-audio.org website. We will have the edited transcript as well as an audio recording of this session posted within the next 10 business days. The audio portion is up sooner than the edited transcript is, but can you continue to monitor that and either refer others to it or go back and review it yourself. All of the archives of all of the sessions are available and they are often found very valuable by people, as well as all the handouts will be there with the archives as well. So if you feel you have missed something in the handouts that you have received at this point they will be with the archives as well. So again, we want to extend our thank you to Steve for his time today and we want to thank everyone who participated and we hope to have you join us again in future months. Thank you very much, everyone, and have a nice holiday season. Take care.
Thank you, Robin.