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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: J.G. Wentworth class action alleges website inaccessible to blind, visually impaired users

November 8, 2022, Top Class Actions: legally blind man filed a class action lawsuit against the financial services company J.G. Wentworth, alleging the company does not make its website accessible to blind people using a screen reader. Plaintiff Frank Senior filed the class action lawsuit against The J.G. Wentworth Co. on Nov. 4 in a New York federal court, alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Senior is a visually impaired and legally blind person who requires screen-reading software to read website content using his computer. According to the lawsuit, J.G. Wentworth failed to design, construct, maintain and operate its website, jgwentworth.com, to be fully accessible to and independently usable by Senior and other blind or visually impaired people.

New window: Discrimination The Dark Side Of The Accessibility Debate, Says DFNZ

November 8, 2022, Scoop Politics: ougher accessibility legislation is needed to prevent discrimination against neurodiverse schoolchildren, says Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand (DFNZ). Submissions on the Government’s new Accessibility for New Zealanders Bill closed yesterday, with critics saying it lacks teeth. More than 35 organisations and 200 individuals made submissions seeking changes to the Bill via submission forms produced by Access Matters Aotearoa, representing a range of organisations and individuals from the disability and neurodiversity sectors. DFNZ agrees the Bill needs an overhaul. Guy Pope-Mayell, DFNZ Chair of Trustees, says neurodiverse children remain at risk for discrimination and exclusion from classroom activities.

New window: Accessibility at Sarah Lawrence

November 5, 2022, The Phoenix: Disabled students represent a large and potentially underserved group within our community. According to the Sarah Lawrence Office of Disability and Access, more than 300 students identify as disabled on campus, making up about 20% of the student body. In comparison, about 25% of students on campus are students of color (including Hispanic or Latinx, Black or African American, Asian, and Native American people). While students of color are supported by numerous organizations and offices, Daniel Chan, Dean of Disability and Access, is currently the only administrator supporting the Office of Disability and Access. Historically, there has been between one to three office staff members servicing the disabled student population each year at SLC in the past 6 years according to data from the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Sarah Lawrence offers a number of accommodations to disabled students such as specialized housing, extended time on testing, alternatives to reading materials and note taking assistance for those with “mobility and orthopedic impairments, sensory impairments, psychological disorders, chronic health impairments, and learning disabilities,” according to the MySLC website. However, despite these efforts, the individual experience of disabled students on campus has not always been positive.

New window: Elon Musk axes key Twitter teams including human rights, accessibility and curation

November 5, 2022, The News Minute: As part of a drastic job cut order by Elon Musk, Twitter shut down various departments including the global Human Rights department, Accessibility Experience team, and has also laid off more than 100 employees in India. Elon Musk, the new CEO of Twitter fired thousands of Twitter employees or around half of the 7,500-person workforce on Friday. Many of the former workers claim they were unceremoniously let go through email with no prior notice. Reuters reports that among those let go this week were employees whose duties included communication, machine learning ethics, and content curation.

New window: The ultimate guide to website accessibility for small businesses

November 4, 2022, The American Genius: Ensuring digital accessibility on your website should be of utmost importance as a business owner. Beyond the disabilities we can see, there are also hidden or ‘invisible’ disabilities that can make it downright difficult or overly distracting to visit a website if it is not up to par.

New window: St. Xavier University Deploys YuJa Panorama for Digital Accessibility to Drive Inclusivity Campuswide

November 4, 2022, Street Insider: Chicago-based St. Xavier University has deployed YuJa Panorama for Digital Accessibility to help drive inclusivity through providing accessible digital media and course content to its nearly 4,000 students. YuJa Panorama is one product in YuJa’s suite of high-impact media solutions that help institutions deliver accessible, engaging video and media content to users. It enhances accessibility with auto-generation of a number of Accessible Alternatives of course material in the background — from HTML, to electronic Braille, EPUB, audio (speech-to-text), high contrast, tagged PDF files and more and provides a Visual Gauge for a quick check of accessibility. Detailed reports at a course and institution level help measure and track accessibility.

New window: New York Teacher Surprised with Prestigious Milken Educator Award and $25,000

November 4, 2022, New York State Education Department: One upstate New York elementary teacher received the surprise of a lifetime today during a schoolwide assembly of cheering students, appreciative colleagues, local dignitaries and media. Caitlin Garvey, a special education teacher for first, second and third grades at Clyde-Savannah Elementary School, received the Milken Educator Award(link is external) from the Milken Family Foundation(link is external), which includes an unrestricted cash prize of $25,000. Garvey is the first recipient to receive the Award in the Clyde-Savannah Central School District. Hailed as the “Oscars of Teaching,” Milken Educator Awards inspire and uplift with the unique stories of educators making a profound difference for students, colleagues and communities. The specific states and schools on this year’s winners’ list remain a closely guarded secret until each Award is announced. The Award was presented by Milken Educator Awards Vice President Stephanie Bishop and New York State Department of Education Assistant Commissioner for the Office of Teacher and Leader Development Alex Trikalinos. “I am proud to welcome Caitlin Garvey to the Milken Educator Network and congratulate her on this well-deserved honor,” said Bishop, who is also a 2001 Virginia Milken Educator. “Caitlin engages students through innovative methods to reach their highest potential, adapts instruction to the needs of every child, and displays exceptional leadership in the classroom, school and district.”

New window: The Estee Lauder Companies Recognized as a 'Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion'

November 4, 2022, Market Screener: The Estee Lauder Companies (ELC) has received a top score on the Disability Equality Index and was named to Disability:IN's list of Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion. The Disability Equality Index was launched in 2015 by two of the world's foremost disability inclusion organizations, Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities. Its rigorous annual evaluation process provides a uniquely comprehensive assessment of disability inclusion, and each participating company receives a score on a scale of 0 to 100 based on evaluation categories that include Culture and Leadership, Enterprise-Wide Access, and Employment Practices. ELC received a score of 80 and a designation as a Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion for 2022, the first year that it has been evaluated. 'We are proud to receive this meaningful recognition and are deeply committed to continuing our work in inclusion and diversity to support a culture of belonging within our company and our communities. The strength of our company is rooted in the collective diversity of backgrounds and unique perspectives of our employees, and we look forward to taking further action to drive disability inclusion and ensure an accessible and equitable environment for all,' said Marilu Marshall, Senior Vice President, Executive Management and Global Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer.

New window: Govt builds capacity of PWDs in digital technology

November 4, 2022, Graphic Online: The government is advancing digital inclusion for Persons with Disability (PWDs) to enable them to take advantage of digital and financial technology services. So far, about 30 per cent of PWDs have been enrolled at the Ghana Digital Centre in Accra to acquire the requisite skills and knowledge to build their capacity for them to contribute to national development. The Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, who disclosed this at a workshop on digital accessibility for PWDs in Accra, said giving the right skills to PWDs and providing them with assistive technology could help them secure jobs.

New window: City of Kyle Agrees to Ensure Persons with Disabilities Equal Access to Its Reduced-Fare Transportation Program

November 4, 2022, United States Department of Justice: U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff of the Western District of Texas announced today that the City of Kyle (“Kyle” or the “City”) has entered into a settlement agreement with the United States to ensure that individuals with disabilities have equal access to the City’s reduced-fare transportation program. The “Uber Kyle $3.14 Program” allows Kyle residents and visitors to travel in an UberX vehicle to anywhere within Kyle’s city limits for as little as $3.14. After a rider pays the first $3.14 of an UberX fare for a qualifying trip, the City subsidizes the next $10. Individuals with disabilities may participate in the program by requesting wheelchair accessible vehicles through the UberWAV platform. Individuals who request UberWAV vehicles also pay the first $3.14 of a qualifying trip, while the City subsidizes the next $10 plus any additional charges specific to providing UberWAV services. In 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office opened an investigation to determine whether the Uber Kyle $3.14 Program complied with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). Under Title II, no qualified individual with a disability may be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity.

New window: Mix of old and new habits: SEA consumers’ spending and digital behaviour

November 4, 2022, IQVIA: The COVID-19 pandemic has re-shaped the consumers’ living, buying, and thinking in many ways. Healthcare companies are required to quickly comprehend and adapt to the consumer behaviour patterns – old, new, emerging, everlasting and temporary – to build customized marketing strategies. Consumer health products that were formerly considered to be essential during the lockdown are no longer so. The permanent changes brought on by the pandemic and the emerging trends in the new normal can be referred in IQVIA’s latest WellTrack 3 study in 2022. The report discusses the range of consumer health products that consumers believe to be essential and reveals how attitudes regarding digital health consultation have changed in the current times. Interestingly, across Southeast Asia (SEA), we can see a mix of habits – where consumers are engaging in new behaviours while at the same time reverting to old ones. On one hand, digital consultation and e-pharmacy continue to perform better than pre-pandemic, but there is also an increase in personal visits to the drug store and face-to-face consultations at the clinic/hospital. As the pandemic subsides, it is important to understand emerging trends in consumer behaviour in the post-COVID era.

New window: Colleges face ADA accessibility lawsuits over websites

November 3, 2022, Top Class Actions: Mercer University, Lafayette College and Loyola University of Chicago websites fail to offer full Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility to the blind or visually impaired, a trio of new class action lawsuits collectively allege. Plaintiff Joseph Ortiz claims Mercer, Lafayette, and Loyola University Chicago have failed to design, construct, maintain, and operate their respective websites so that they are fully accessible for individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Ortiz argues that the alleged denial of full and equal access to websites run by Mercer, Lafayette and Loyola University Chicago is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New window: When Technology Makes Music More Accessible

November 3, 2022, The New York Times: “Traditionally, music is just heard in an auditory sense,” Minamimura said, “but, of course, we can see someone playing a piano or playing a flute. For me, technology means incorporating a film, visuals, or a general feeling of something else; we’re adding more sensory experiences for an audience.”

New window: Few Indian websites are technically accessible to disabled people – despite the law requiring this

November 3, 2022, Scroll.in: In August, the court of the Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disabilities in a ruling against Practo asked the online healthcare service provider to make its website and application accessible to persons with disabilities. For a website or application to be accessible to persons with disabilities, especially for those with visual disabilities, it must allow them to obtain the same information and to engage in interactions as easily as individuals without disabilities can.

New window: 89pc of job search sites not accessible, Irish analysis finds

November 2, 2022, Silicon Republic: Up to 200,000 people in Ireland could be missing out on career opportunities due to inaccessible jobs websites, according to research from NCBI and IA Labs. New research commissioned by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) has suggested that 89pc of job search sites are not digitally accessible for people with a disability.

New window: This scientist is trying to create an accessible, unhackable voting machine

November 1, 2022, MIT Tech Review: n late 2020, a large box arrived at Juan Gilbert’s office at the University of Florida. The computer science professor had been looking for this kind of product for months. Previous orders had yielded poor results. This time, though, he was optimistic. Gilbert drove the package home. Inside was a transparent box, built by a French company and equipped with a 27-inch touch screen. Almost immediately, Gilbert began modifying it. He put a printer inside and connected the device to Prime III, the voting system he has been building since the first term of the George W. Bush administration. After 19 years of building, tinkering, and testing, he told Undark this spring, he had finally invented “the most secure voting technology ever created.”

New window: New interactive website launched to encourage tourism to Worcestershire

November 1, 2022, Worcestershire City Council: Accessibility is front and centre of the new site, there is a clear focus on user experience and accessible tourism attractions across the county.

New window: UPS class action alleges website not accessible to blind, visually impaired customers

October 31, 2022, Top Class Actions: UPS does not make its website accessible to blind and visually impaired people using a screen reader, in violation of the law, a new class action lawsuit alleges. Plaintiff Warren Zinnamon filed the class action lawsuit against United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) Oct. 24 in a New York federal court, alleging violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). Zinnamon is a visually impaired and legally blind person who requires screen-reading software to read websites using his computer. He alleges that UPS has failed to design, construct, maintain, and operate its website www.ups.com to be fully accessible to and independently usable by him and other blind and visually-impaired people.

New window: What is the UK’s approach to accessibility?

October 31, 2022, Lexology: Accessibility is a legal requirement for both private and public sector organisations in the UK. Given at least one in five people in the UK have a long-term illness, impairment or disability, it is important that organisations make their products and services accessible so that every person can use them equally. A disability is defined under UK legislation as a “physical or mental impairment that has a 'substantial' and 'long-term' negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.” This definition has recently been interpreted to include long COVID. While the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation by triggering an increased demand for online goods and services, it also highlighted digital barriers, putting accessibility under a spotlight. Some retailers also faced claims of failing to make reasonable adjustments for vulnerable customers who wanted to shop in-store, for example, by not having seats available while they were queuing to enter the store. If service providers do not make their websites, apps and premises accessible to everyone, not only are they potentially losing out on revenue, but they are also exposing their brand to a potential unlawful discrimination claim as well as reputational risk.

New window: The Constantly Evolving Nature of Accessible Design

October 31, 2022, Built in Chicago: Over the course of only a few years, the Chicago Digital Accessibility and Inclusive Design Meetup has hosted dozens of events and grown to nearly 3,000 members comprised of engineers, developers and designers. The group’s continued growth and presence is emblematic of a simple yet often overlooked truth: in an industry defined by evolving technologies that demands continuous learning, accessibility must not be left on the backburner. Alissa Bankowski, product design lead at Evive, has over a decade of experience designing for mobile and web applications. Over the years, Bankowski says a big misstep she’s noticed is when designers and developers focus too much on just one aspect of accessibility or another. “A common misconception about accessibility is that it mainly relates to colors, contrast and fonts. While those are a big piece of the puzzle, there’s so much more that goes into accessibility that isn’t as apparent,” Bankowski explained.