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Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 October 2011 Issue  Volume 12  Number 10

Letters to the Editor

Responding to Paul Schroeder's Article, "Responding to Shifts in Technology: Accessibility in a Changing Environment"

Dear AccessWorld Editor,

My comments below are in response to Paul Schroeder's article, "Responding to Shifts in Technology: Accessibility in a Changing Environment," from the September 2011 issue.

I think his article paints a very accurate picture of the current state of information and communication technology (ICT), and the prospects, negative and positive, for accessibility.

I can see two important implications.

First, the speed of technological change requires earlier warning about accessibility jeopardy. By the time products reach the market it is too late to address their design barriers. An active "horizon scan" program that identified technologies that were a few years away from implementation, could both alert industry and prepare consumers. Such a program should have an explicit policymaker audience so that regulatory oversight can be more productive than confrontational.

Second, the profusion of new technologies and their inherent interconnectedness are new phenomena that challenge the traditional approach to accommodation. A word processor running on a single computer will have a predictable accessibility solution because the interacting elements are few.

But a Web-based word processor running on multiple operating systems, browsers, and devices, with real-time collaborative editing, poses an exponentially larger problem. One solution you point to is the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure, which offers a way to integrate accessibility across platforms and devices. Another solution is to focus on collecting and disseminating information about the accessibility of those multiple elements and combinations.

It's as if accessibility developed in a sparse, desert environment, where all you had to know was "Eat the dates; watch out for the scorpions," but it's now a jungle teeming with thousands of fruits, snakes, trees, and bugs that change every day. We need an evolving field guide to keep up.

With best regards,

Jim

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