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Here's what's happening in accessibility news. We provide these news briefs for your information and convenience, and we don't endorse or recommend any of these publications or products. Check back for updates every weekday.

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New window: Your AirPods Pro can act as hearing aids in a pinch

November 20, 2022, Popular Science: On top of listening to your favorite tunes on your AirPods Pro, you might not know that the earbuds can also act as a helpful hearing device. The tech on Apple’s wireless headphones has the potential to assist people who might struggle with hearing—and perform nearly as well as hearing aids.

New window: Seven unintended benefits of being an accessible hotel

November 19, 2022, Travel Weekly: t's been over four years since we started TravelAbility, and in that time, I've learned two things from our interactions with the hotel industry as it relates to persons with disabilities: They believe they are already accessible if they are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Those ADA regulations were written for the median, which means that even fully compliant rooms are only accessible 50% of the time. Here are seven positive developments that stem from hoteliers including granular accessibility info on their websites.

New window: FCC Broadband Label Information and Accessibility

November 18, 2022, Federal Communications Commission: On November 17, 2022, the FCC released a Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that will require broadband Internet access service providers to display easy-to-understand labels to assist consumers when comparison shopping for broadband services. More specifically regarding accessibility for individuals with disabilities: Labels must be accessible to people with disabilities at all points of sale. To ensure accessibility to printed and online broadband information, covered providers are strongly encouraged to comply with the well-established legal requirements included in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). When providing the labels, providers must give primary consideration to the individual’s choice of alternate format, including: “qualified readers, taped texts, audio recordings, braille materials, large print materials, or other effective methods of making visually delivered materials available to individuals with visual impairments.” Providers are required to display speed and latency information, recognizing that persons who utilize video conferencing—including persons with disabilities—may find latency metric information to be especially useful when selecting a broadband provider and plan.

New window: Online Only Retailers Have a New Defense Against Website Accessibility Claims in California

November 18, 2022, JD Supra: On August 1, 2022, the California Court of Appeals issued the decision in Martinez v. Cot’n Wash, Inc. (2022) 81 Cal.App.5th 1026 [297 Cal.Rptr.3d 712]. In Martinez, the plaintiff claimed that Cot’n Wash’s website (dropps.com) was inaccessible because it did not comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1. Cot’n Wash disputed Martinez’s claim, but also argued that California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act did not apply because there was no evidence of intentional discrimination, and Title III of the ADA did not apply to Cot’n Wash because it was an online only business selling cleaning products to customers who order online, but without any retail or physical locations. The Court of Appeals agreed with Cot’n Wash following existing precedent in the Ninth Circuit that Article III of the ADA applied only to businesses with a physical location or that had a nexus to a physical location. It should be noted that there is a split in the Circuits regarding this issue, with some Courts specifically finding that online only businesses are “places of public accommodation” within the meaning of Title III of the ADA. The Martinez court then went further and stated that the Plaintiff had failed to show that Cot’n Wash intended to discriminate against disabled individuals, and that a showing that Cot’n Wash’s website only had an adverse impact on disabled individuals was insufficient. After the Martinez case was decided Plaintiff’s counsel immediately appealed the matter to the California Supreme Court. However, on November 9, 2022, the Court declined to hear the matter, establishing Martinez as binding precedent in California.

New window: eSSENTIAL Accessibility (eA) Named a “Next Big Thing in Tech” by Fast Company

November 18, 2022, MarTech Series: eSSENTIAL Accessibility (eA), the leading digital Accessibility-as-a-Service platform, is proud to announce it has won the Enterprise category of Fast Company’s 2022 Next Big Things in Tech. This annual recognition honors technology breakthroughs that positively shape the future for the industries they serve. eA’s digital accessibility solution equips and empowers organizations in any industry to make their digital experiences accessible to people with disabilities. Worldwide, more than one billion people have a disability, which may impact their ability to use or even access online content and mobile apps. “It’s estimated that more than 250,000 websites are created every day, yet the overwhelming majority of them have accessibility barriers. This means that as we deepen our dependence on digital connection, more of the digital world contains accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. We believe we have a fundamental responsibility to close this gap,” said Mark Steele, Co-Founder and CEO of eSSENTIAL Accessibility.

New window: DOJ Promises To Resume Filing Federal Website Accessibility Reports

November 18, 2022, Yahoo! News: The Department of Justice plans to file its first report in a decade on the accessibility of federal government websites, following a bipartisan push in Congress. “The Department of Justice ... recognizes the critical importance of accessible technology to millions of Americans with disabilities,” the DOJ said in a letter received Monday by Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who had written to the department in June to demand that the government report on its compliance with accessibility standards. The DOJ added that it intends to submit the document “in the coming weeks.” Under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, federal agencies are required to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. The DOJ must also collect and report information to the president and Congress about federal agencies’ compliance with Section 508 every two years, and it must make the report publicly available. “It’s something that should have been done every other year, and now we’re more than 10 years down the road,” Glenda Sims, the chief information accessibility officer at digital accessibility company Deque Systems, told HuffPost. “But we have to do that. It’s monitoring the health of our important government websites that people need to use and have independent access to.”

New window: How Deque Helps Telcos Design for Digital Accessibility

November 18, 2022, SDX Central: In the hybrid work era, approaching task management remotely means embracing the internet’s distractions. One approach to unbuilding and rebuilding these digital walls is through universal design inspired by accessibility, according to Deque Systems’ Chief Information Accessibility Officer Glenda Sims. Simply put, the concept of universal design is ensuring that something can be “accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability,” according to the National Disability Authority. Deque Systems follows this method and works toward digital accessibility for a slew of clients across the tech and telecom sectors – partnering with operators like Verizon to ensure that the growing impact of 5G networks are able to be realized by all. Sims’ research Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities is all about approaching human needs from a digital design perspective, which has become even more prevalent post-COVID-19. Sims has been working in digital accessibility since the 90s. “It’s phenomenal how far things have come,” she told SDxCentral. I wouldn’t have thought that a mobile phone could be usable by a person that’s blind. Apple invented that, and now it’s just commonplace.” “It’s not just about leveling the playing field for people with disabilities, but it’s actually designing so thoughtfully that you can lose any one of your major senses and the design still holds true.”

New window: Senator Duckworth introduces Tech Accessibility bill

November 18, 2022, Central Illinois Proud: A bill meant to update the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) was introduced by Senator Tammy Duckworth. The amended legislation is meant to ensure people with disabilities have full access to advancing technological advances that are necessary to participate in an increasingly digital world. “Accessibility must be in the forefront of our minds As we continue to make advancements in our educational, recreational and civic devices and spaces,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bill, which will help align existing law with the technological realities of today and the developments of tomorrow so that everyone, including those of us with disabilities, can engage and participate with equal access.”

New window: Airbnb Using AI To Vet Accessible Rentals

November 17, 2022, Disability Scoop: Airbnb is turning to artificial intelligence to make it easier for people with disabilities to find rentals that meet their needs. The short-term rental platform is introducing a new “adapted” category on its website this week. The new section will feature more than 1,000 homes worldwide “offering features specifically modified or designed for guests with mobility needs,” the company said. “These wheelchair accessible homes with wheelchair accessible features have been reviewed to ensure they have step-free paths into and through the home and to one or more bedrooms and bathrooms, and also at least one accessible feature in the bedroom or bathroom.”

New window: Digital First best practice eBook for SMEs

November 17, 2022, Galway Advertiser: Contributors to the eBook range from top 5% Google Premier Partner in EMEA, Core Optimisation, to renowned review platform, Trustpilot plc, custodians of the national domain, .IE and digital accessibility innovators, Inclusion & Accessibility Labs – sponsors of the new ‘Excellence in Digital Accessibility’ Award at this year’s National Digital Awards. Topics explored in the eBook include: the principles of digital marketing, online accessibility, the power of customer reviews, and how an omnichannel approach can give businesses a competitive edge.

New window: How could future autonomous transportation be accessible to everyone?

November 17, 2022, Purdue University: Indiana innovation steers autonomous vehicle design toward inclusiveness for people with disabilities

New window: RTA of Northeastern Illinois launches new website that prioritizes accessibility and usability

November 17, 2022, Mass Transit: The RTA’s redeveloped website took shape based on analysis of how the old version of the site wasn’t serving users well. The analysis found that new visitors accounted for 85 percent of web traffic, demonstrating a need for intuitive navigation. Popular topics for site visitors included the RTA’s reduced fare/ride free programs and American Disabilities Act (ADA) paratransit certification, demonstrating there is a specific need for content as it relates to accessibility and using the transit system. However, the previous website was not ideal for screen readers used by people who are blind or have visual impairments or for mobile users. Another finding was that the old version of the website lacked photography and other opportunities for engagement. A priority for the redeveloped website is accessibility, both through intuitive design and compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Some of the ways the new website is more accessible and useful for riders include: The navigation was reorganized in a way that is intuitive for the average user, breaking up content based on whether it applies to the region as a whole, individual communities or transit riders. The website was developed specifically to work well with screen readers used by people who have visual impairments. As these users tab through a webpage, content will be read in the correct order and navigating to other pages on the website will be simple and intuitive. Brand new photos that focus on transit riders, transit’s relationship to land use, and regional collaboration are now featured throughout the site. Application forms, sign-ups, and other opportunities for engagement will be housed within the website rather than taking users to a fillable PDF or external Google Form, making these engagement opportunities easier to find and more customizable on the backend.

New window: Dems Debut Bill Updating Tech Accessibility Requirements for Streaming, AI, and Video Conferencing

November 17, 2022, Gizmodo: The bill, designed to improve tech access for people who are blind and deaf, has the full backing of the FCC's chairwoman and multiple accessibility groups.

New window: New Jersey Theatre Alliance Updates Their Website Design

November 16, 2022, New Jersey Stage: New Jersey Theatre Alliance (“The Alliance”), one of the nation’s largest arts service organizations, has announced they have updated their website at njtheatrealliance.org. The Alliance’s new website provides a one-stop-shop for the public to discover member theatres and their productions across the state and the region. The site is mobile friendly, displays a calendar of events, supplies industry services and lists job and career opportunities. As part of The Alliance’s long term commitment to cultural access, the calendar will also feature accessible events from a variety of arts disciplines as well as detailed accessibility information for the listed venue.

New window: Six In 10 Websites Are Inaccessible To People With Disabilities

November 16, 2022, Business Plus: More than six in 10 (61%) of the country's leading services websites are inaccessible to the 600,000 people in Ireland living with a disability, analysis from Inclusion & Accessibility (IA) Labs and the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) has found. Legislation mandates that public sector websites be digitally accessible, and requirements are set to be extended to private sector websites by 2025 under the European Accessibility Act. The report also found that three of the country's five most popular social media platforms are not digitally accessible, and the same is true for three of Ireland's five most popular news websites. Just two of the six most popular clothing websites are usable for a person living with a disability, and four out of the five food delivery apps audited in the report could not be used by a person with a disability.

New window: Overwhelming Data Shows Accessibility Matters

November 16, 2022, Newswires: This year, the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES), a training and certification organization focused on autism and cognitive differences, updated its widely referenced autism travel survey to learn more about the needs and habits of autistic individuals and their families. Results from this survey show that 78% are hesitant to travel or visit new locations because they or their child is autistic – this is down from 87% in prior survey years, but still shows a large portion of the population is not having their needs met or feel like they have options. 94% of respondents shared that they would take more vacations or visit more new places if they had access to autism-trained and certified options. In addition, research released earlier this year by Expedia Group Media Solutions shows seven out of 10 consumers would choose a destination, lodging, or transportation option that is more inclusive to all types of travelers, even if it’s more expensive. In the same survey, 92% of consumers think it’s important for travel providers to meet the accessibility needs of all travelers. Understanding this has been a need for quite some time, IBCCES offers training and certification programs specifically for travel and entertainment organizations such as theme parks, attractions, and hotels to help staff feel knowledgeable and empowered to serve these visitors better and to create a more standardized, credible, and long-term approach to efforts toward accessibility and providing accommodations for these guests.

New window: NEW PROJECT AIMS TO SHIFT PEOPLE’S MINDSET ABOUT DISABILITIES

November 16, 2022, Asian Pacific Post: A visually impaired man helped start a research project called Project D-52. It is raising awareness about how people view disability. This project will emphasize in-person and digital inclusiveness and accessibility in its policy development, research, and action plan. Using storytelling, written context, arts, audio, and/or an amalgamation of visuals, the project will provide a narrative aims to change people’s attitudes. Research analysts hope the research project will foster a forward-thinking mindset around those with a disability. “It is an opportunity to understand the ability to see one situation from multiple perspectives in order to gain a holistic understanding,” said executive founder Jasmine Sethi. “Project D-52 will recognize the commendable growth in the area but also highlight improvements with an emphasis on in-person and digital inclusiveness and accessibility.”

New window: WEBSITES THAT GO THE EXTRA MILE

November 15, 2022, Recruiter: Patterson also stresses the importance of digital inclusion when it comes to usability. “Our team of designers take into account the way that all users will interact with a website and in consultation with our clients strive to deliver more inclusive and accessible candidate experiences,” he says. “We are really passionate about building recruitment websites that consider the needs of a diverse population, removing as many barriers as possible that might impede their job search.” Eploy has had its candidate portal technology independently reviewed by the Digital Accessibility Centre to the WCAG 2.1 AA standard, which covers the entire candidate journey. As well as ensuring technical compliance with the standard, the review includes end-to-end testing by users with a wide range of disabilities, including blind, low vision, dyslexia, colour blindness, mobility impairments, learning difficulties, deaf, Asperger Syndrome and anxiety and panic disorder.

New window: Losing billions: Why are brands still not prioritising digital accessibility?

November 14, 2022, Campaign US: Inaccessible websites lose $6.9 billion a year to their accessible counterparts, yet digital inclusion remains under-addressed. We look at how brands can benefit from placing accessibility at the heart of their strategy.

New window: Retailers should take steps to avoid black marks for accessibility on Black Friday

November 14, 2022, The Scotsman: Black Friday falls on 25 November this year – eight days before the International Day of Persons with Disability. Retailers are aware their physical premises need to be accessible to all customers; but Covid has changed the way we shop. The Office of National Statistics notes that the percentage of online sales in the UK jumped from 18 per cent to 37 per cent during the pandemic. A recent survey found that in the UK, businesses lost more than £17 billion in sales in 2019 from disabled shoppers abandoning websites due to accessibility barriers.