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Technology News for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
From the American Foundation for the Blind
 February 2012 Issue  Volume 13  Number 2

AccessWorld News

AccessWorld News

Redbox Discriminates Against the Blind by Failing to Provide Accessible Self-Service Kiosks

Recent technological advances are sweeping the nation, changing the way people buy products and services. Self-service kiosks with automated, touch-screen interfaces now allow people to bank, shop, and conduct a wide range of transactions independently, without the assistance of a clerk. This technology is fast becoming an integral part of our every day lives.

Although these technologies can make our lives easier, Redbox, a video rental giant, has chosen to use self-service kiosks with touch-screen controls that exclude the blind from using its services. Blind Californians cannot use touch-screen kiosks that offer only visually-based controls. A class action lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California challenges Redbox's inaccessible kiosks. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the country.

The suit is brought by the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, as well as five blind individuals, on behalf of blind and visually impaired people throughout California. Plaintiffs are represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit disability rights legal center headquartered in Berkeley, California, that specializes in high-impact cases on behalf of people with disabilities. Plaintiffs are also represented by the Law Offices of Jay Koslofsky.

Redbox has a major share of the video rental market. Redbox DVD rentals account for approximately 34 percent of the DVD rental market nationwide. According to Redbox, almost 60 million videos are rented from its kiosks nationally each month. Redbox kiosks can be found at thousands of businesses throughout California including Save Mart, which is a business that is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

For generations, blind and visually impaired people have watched and enjoyed movies as an ordinary part of daily life. Blind people with some remaining vision may watch films on their own or with sighted friends and family who can describe the details and actions of a film. In addition, many blind people enjoy watching dialogue-driven films.

Redbox's inaccessible touch-screen kiosks shut out a large and growing community of blind Californians. It is estimated that 100,000 Californians are legally blind and as the population continues to age, the number of adults with vision loss will increase.

The technology exists to make self-service kiosks accessible to the blind. Accessible ATMs and iPhones make use of tactile controls and/or screen reading software that enables blind people to use these devices.

"A lack of accessibility in newly emerging forms of commerce is a symptom of the overall growing technological divide that blind people experience when companies fail to build in accessible features at the onset," said Bryan Bashin, Executive Director/CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

"Technology is a double-edged sword. It has the power to enable millions, but it can disable many Americans far more than it enables them if accessibility is not built into technology at the beginning," said Jay Koslofsky, Plaintiffs' attorney of the Law Offices of Jay Koslofsky.

"Redbox is shutting out thousands of Californians from its services because it refuses to make its technology accessible to blind consumers," said Michael Nunez, Plaintiffs' attorney of Disability Rights Advocates.

American Foundation for the Blind Scholarship Program 2012

American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) administers seven post-secondary education scholarships for up to 11 deserving students who are legally blind:

Delta Gamma Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000
    •Undergraduate or graduate study in the field(s) of rehabilitation and/or education of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Ferdinand Torres Scholarship—One scholarship of $3,500
    •Undergraduate or graduate study in any full-time program in any field.
    •Applicants need not be US citizens, but must reside in the US. Preference given to New York City metropolitan area residents, and new immigrants to the US.

Gladys C. Anderson Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000
    •Undergraduate or graduate study in classical or religious music.
    •Applicants must be female.

Karen D. Carsel Memorial Scholarship—One scholarship of $500
    •Graduate study in any full-time program in any field.
    •Applicants must submit evidence of economic need.

Paul W. Ruckes Scholarship—One scholarship of $1,000
    •Undergraduate or graduate study in engineering or in the computer, physical, or life sciences.

R. L. Gillette Scholarship—Two scholarships of $1,000 each
    •Undergraduate study in a four-year degree program in literature or music.
    •Applicants must be female.

Rudolph Dillman Memorial Scholarship—Four scholarships of $2,500 each
    •Undergraduate or graduate study in the field of rehabilitation and/or education of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Visit the AFB scholarships website for further information and to fill out the application.

Please direct questions and comments to: American Foundation for the Blind Information Center, (800) 232-5463, afbinfo@afb.net

The National Federation of the Blind Offers 30 National Scholarships

To recognize achievement by blind scholars, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) annually offers blind college students in the United States the opportunity to win one of 30 national scholarships worth from $3,000 to $12,000. See the NFB scholarship website for the rules on eligibility, requirements for documentation, and an online application form. Membership in the NFB is not required. The 2012 NFB Scholarship Program begins November 1, 2011. Application deadline: March 31, 2012.

The White House Disability Group Resumes Monthly Disability Calls

These monthly calls are hosted to update interested parties on various disability issues as well as to introduce people who work on disability issues in the Federal government.

These calls are open to everyone. If you would like to be added to the e-mail distribution list, please visit the White House Disability Group website and fill out the contact us form in the disabilities section. Alternatively you can send your full name, city, state, and organization via e-mail to disability@who.eop.gov.

Nokia Symbian Belle Accessibility News from Code Factory

When Nokia announced its latest version of Symbian operating system, Symbian Belle, with new UI updates and performance improvements, Code Factory aimed to make this operating system accessible for all its users. Symbian Belle is currently available in three phones, the Nokia 700, 701 and 603, with more supported phones to come.

Belle features resizable widgets and many enhancements to the UI. The new Belle devices are the first Symbian phones to feature a 1GHz processor which provides notable speed improvements. Comprehensive accessibility support, similar to what is provided on Symbian^3 and Symbian Anna devices, is given by Mobile Speak v5.7. This includes support for e-mail, Web browser, Ovi Maps v3.04, Nokia Internet Radio, Standby Screen shortcuts, and more. Current Symbian^3 and Symbian Anna devices (N8, E7, C7, C6-01, E6, X7 and Nokia 500) will receive a firmware update to Belle early in the 2012.

Note that since previous versions of Mobile Speak are not compatible with Symbian Belle, these users must first update to v5.7 of Mobile Speak prior to updating their phone's firmware to Belle.

Major features:

  • New gestures: In order to access the new left-center and right-center buttons present in many Belle applications, new triple-slide gestures have been introduced: slide left-right-left for the left-center button and slide right-left-right for the right-center button. These gestures are available in applications like Messaging, to allow quick access to some specific app features. Two new gestures have been introduced to organize the main menu elements: slide up-down-up (which is also available on the home screen) and slide down-up-down.
  • Improvements to Mobile Speak commands: Commands of Mobile Speak are now divided in four groups to make it more logical and less time consuming to use.
  • New Switch Commands setting.
  • Touch: New configurable vibration feedback when performing taps in Keypad mode for easier learning for beginners.
  • Braille: built-in support for HIMS Braille Sense devices.
  • New supported devices: Nokia C5 5MP (Symbian 9.3), Nokia 500 (Symbian Anna), Nokia 603, 700 and 701 (Symbian Belle).
  • Many bug fixes, including a fix to the issue where the Web browser was activating links unexpectedly on some devices.

To check the whole list of various improvements and bug fixes, please consult Sections 2.1 and 2.10 of the Code Factory Symbian user guide.

To read more about Mobile Speak visit the Code Factory Mobile Speak page.

You can download Mobile Speak 5.7 and try it free for 30 days. Note that only the Acapela German Julia and Catalan Laia TTS installation packages have changed since v5.6. No other TTS installation files have changed, so there is no need to reinstall them.

Free Eye Exams for Service Animals

Thousands of service animals across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico will receive free eye examinations in May 2012, thanks to the 5th Annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event. With the help of volunteer board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists, life-saving eye exams are performed so that these animals can continue to do their important jobs.

Since the program launched in 2008, more than 10,500 service animals have been examined. In addition to dogs, other service animals including horses and even a service donkey received free sight saving exams.

To qualify, animals must be "active working animals" that were certified by a formal training program or organization or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying organization could be national, regional, or local. Owners/agents for the animal(s) must FIRST register the animal via an online registration form beginning April 1, 2012; registration ends April 30th. Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and will be allowed access to a list of participating ophthalmologists in their area and may contact a specialist to schedule an appointment. Appointments will take place during the month of May. Times may vary depending on the facility, and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Accessibility Forum at CSUN 2012

Title: "Taking Accessibility Mainstream — Making the Case for an International Society of Accessibility Professionals"

Date: Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012

Length: One day

Time: 8:30 AM - 4:45 PM

Location: 2012 CSUN Conference, Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, San Diego, CA
Edward Room, 2nd floor
(Registration for this event is separate from the CSUN registration. See below for registration details.)

Hosted by: Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA) — the technical & engineering division of the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA)

Overview: This forum is intended to bring focus to the needs of the development community in achieving accessible technology.

As evidenced by the results of the Developer's Survey on Accessibility conducted in late 2010, respondents highlighted an industry and profession in the midst of a fragmented landscape of partial solutions and serious obstacles to the attainment of more uniform, universally accessible technology. These obstacles range from basic challenges, such as a lack of developer skills, little or no coverage in engineering courseware, and lack of testing/development tools, to more subtle issues that include a poorly understood business case and lack of a cohesive professional identity for accessibility developers.

The objective of this Forum is to allow for sharing of insights and best practices, discussion of critical issues facing the industry, and advancement of the concept of an International Accessibility Professional Society with an infrastructure to support it. The goal is for those within the business and development communities to be the driving force for change in the accessible technology environment.

Schedule and Session Details — For additional details including Schedule-at-a-Glance and session descriptions.

Pricing: Regular Registration — $295 per person — Registration Fee starting 2/1/2012

Registration for this event is a separate fee from the CSUN Conference and utilizes a separate registration form.

To Register: Online Registration Form Registration is now open!!

Request for More Information — Fill out this form to be added to the distribution list for the Accessibility Forum. You will be notified as additional details become available.

Who should attend?

All individuals worldwide currently focused on advancing accessibility within their organization or with a need to begin an accessibility implementation within their organizations. We encourage organizations to bring teams to this event. Attendees will include Accessibility Officers/ Program Managers and all those involved in the IT development lifecycle, including Product Managers, Programmers, Web Developers, Information Architects, Designers and Testers.

Organizations who could benefit from attending include those within electronic/information technology (E/IT), assistive technology (AT), higher education, and accessibility organizations plus all organizations who require accessible systems to support their employees and their customers such as financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and many others.

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Copyright © 2012 American Foundation for the Blind. All rights reserved. AccessWorld is a trademark of the American Foundation for the Blind.

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