Accessible Digital Information Technology (DIT) for Reading with Low Vision

Information accessibility has improved dramatically for everyone with disabilities

There are good standards that push publishers into developing books, high stakes test, and magazines we can read.

Low vision is an exception. The new standards actually make things worse.

What makes information accessible

Special Case for Reading: An accessible DIT document that includes textual information that is meant to be read by people, can always be read by assistive technology that recognizes every character of text with 100% accuracy

Images of text fail this test. No OCR program can recognize with 100% accuracy.

The key word is can. Accessible content can be modified to serve many different groups.

Making Accessible Information Happen

How Do You Know You Have Covered Everyone?

How do stakeholders communicate?

Accessible DIT Support Ecology

  1. Disability Triad
    • End User with Disability - you and me
    • Support System - American Council of the Blind, US Access Board, National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    • DIT Producers - Google, California State University, SoCal Edison
  2. End User
    • Functional Needs (Reading Support, Transportation)
    • Point of View
      • I have this diagnosis.
      • I cannot do certain essential functions.
      • How do I work and live?
  3. Support System
    • Standards and Law
    • Direct Service Accommodation
    • Assistive Technology
    • Education
    • Point of View
      • How do I map user needs to DIT requirements so that everyone gets served?
      • What direct services are needed when technology breaks down?
      • How do I ensure that assistive technology talks to DIT?
      • What must end users and producers know to reach harmony?
  4. Product Producer
    • Equally Effective Functionality
    • Barrier removal and prevention
    • Product Flexibility / Robustness
    • Consistency
    • Point of View
      • How is this done?
      • How much will it cost?
      • What must I do?
      • What should I do?

Functional Needs: The Basis of Communication for the Triad

Specific Functional Requirements for DIT Document Accessibility

  • Perceivable
    • Provide text alternatives for non-text content.
    • Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia.
    • Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning.
    • Make it easier for users to see and hear content.
  • Operable
    • Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
    • Give users enough time to read and use content.
    • Do not use content that causes seizures.
    • Help users navigate and find content.
  • Understandable
    • Make text readable and understandable.
    • Make content appear and operate in predictable ways.
    • Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
  • Robust
    • Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.

Note: The above rules are taken from: WCAG 2.0 At a Glance, verbatim.

And these are the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines. The functional requirements are partititined by 4 Principles: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust (POUR). Beneath the principles there are functional needs.

To complete the Guidelines we have Success Criteria. Each success criteria identifies a barrier that must be removed to allow the functionality of the guideline.

What Went Wrong for Low Vision?

The essential bottleneck was the interpretation of the flexible data guideline. In addition, the guidelines for making it easier to see were too specific and did not account for the range of experience for people with low vision.

The original drafters of the guidelines did not see the need for visual flexibility. The could not see the difference in reading a document where the words wrappe nicely compared to lines running off the page when test was resized enlarged.

The guideline authors could understand the need for data be flexible enough to be converted to text, but not to alternative customized text.

We are justified in asking for this because the technology to do it already exists for cell phones.

History of Policy and Law for DIT Accessibility

Time Line

  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 established rights for public entities and their contractors
  • Section 502 of the Rehabilitation act creates the US Access Board.
  • Section 504 establishes equal to the government for people with disabilities
  • Talking Books became available for all people with disabilities in 1974,
  • The ADA extended the Rehabilitation Act to the Private Sector
  • The World Wide Web is created.
  • The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) founded with the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) 1995
  • All of these events occurred in paralell in the 1998-2001 period.
    • Cynthia D Wadell developes the first municipal accessibility policy for DIT.
    • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0) establish guidelines for web content.
    • The first Section 508 gives federal rules all DIT.
  • The iPhone is released in 2007.
  • WCAG 2.0 was approved in 2008
  • Responsive Web Design makes mobile websites accessible to normal readers
  • The 508 Refresh is up for approval now.