Thursday, February 21, 2008

Develop a Web site accessible by visually impaired users and comply with the law

Joe Goss at Tech Republic has a good post today on why you should make sure your web sites are accessible to people with disabilities.

At a large public university, I recently assisted a project team in testing a Web-based application we made available to several hundred thousand alumni. Application usability was a key success criterion for the project. Recognizing that numerous alumni might be blind, or color blind, or have some other visual impairment, we worked to make the application comply with the Federal standard for accessibility, Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. This law “requires that Federal agencies’ electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.”


If you do not work for a Federal agency, the law probably does not apply to your organization. That being said, I firmly believe that equal access to Internet resources is a moral issue that we developers should strive to address. In the U.S. alone, countless people are affected by visual impairment.

The American Foundation for the Blind estimates there are approximately 10 million visually impaired people in the U.S., of which approximately 1.3 million are legally blind. Citing statistics from a 1999 U.S. Bureau of the Census report, the Foundation indicates just over 1.5 million visually impaired people in the U.S. have access to the Internet.

Projecting from a report on the Internet World Stats Website, which states the usage of the Internet in the U.S. has doubled since 1999, we can reasonably conclude that approximately three million visually impaired people in the U.S. have access to the Internet.

Globally, that number is probably many times higher, based at least upon projections from the All About Market Research organization. They indicate Internet usage worldwide has quintupled since 1999. It is easy to see that by making your Website accessible, you may open doors for many more visitors.

Take a test

Would a blind person find your organization’s Website easy to use? Take a simple test. Go to your organization’s home page, close your eyes and try to navigate the Website. Since you no longer can see the visual cues that simplify navigation, your interaction with the Website becomes a frustrating experience. You may wonder how someone with a visual impairment explores your Website. Happily, there many simple accommodations you can make to improve accessibility.

Joe has a lot of great resources listed, and he also wants you to take a poll.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Nonprofit Launched to Bring Free Accessibility Worldwide

The AIR Foundation committed to ‘accessibility is a right’

Orlando, Florida – January 31, 2008 – The AIR Foundation, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn. was announced today at a press conference held during the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) 2008 National Conference at the Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando, Florida. The mission of the foundation is to promote universal accessibility so that every blind and low-vision person in the world has access to digital information over the Internet and Worldwide Web.

            The foundation’s executive director, Art Schreiber, also announced that the organization’s first offering will be free usage of a Web 2.0 accessible screen reader. The product is provided through an exclusive license in perpetuity granted to The AIR Foundation from Serotek Corporation, the leading provider of Internet and digital information accessibility software and services. The screen reader is called SA To Go and is powered by Serotek’s award-winning System Access software which provides immediate text to speech, magnified visual, and Braille access to digital information presented through the Web or other means, while the user is directly connected to the Internet.  The software does not remain resident on the user’s computer when the connection to the Internet is interrupted or terminated. Users can obtain access to the free software by calling 877-369-0101 or visiting

“The basic tenet of The AIR Foundation is that accessibility is a fundamental human right, regardless of financial or geographic constraints” said Art Schreiber, executive director of The AIR Foundation, “by allowing the blind and visually impaired to have equal access to computer and Internet information through the free use of an advanced screen reader like SA To Go, we have already taken great strides toward our mission.”

The AIR Foundation will solicit funds and contract development of product enhancements including availability in other languages.  The organization’s first priority is to make SA To Go available in Mandarin Chinese. 

“SA To Go is highly intuitive and requires minimal training to use,” said Serotek CEO, Mike Calvo, “the user not only has access to information displayed on Web pages, but to Web-based applications such as Internet telephone service, and to applications resident on the host computer. The user can also access PDF files, fill out forms, and otherwise interact with information with the same facility as a sighted person.”

The AIR Foundation will operate through the generosity of organizations donating their time, expertise, and funds. It invites other nonprofits, assistive technology vendors, mainstream hardware and software companies and anyone interested in promoting accessibility as every person’s right, to align with the AIR team.

The AIR Foundation

The AIR Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advocate, teach, and deliver information accessibility tools. We focus on the accessibility needs of blind and low-vision people. Our mantra is “accessibility is a right” and we work with corporations and agencies worldwide to deliver free accessibility to all. For more information, call 877-369-0101 or visit