Posts in Category "Uncategorized"

June 28, 2012

Ruling on Accessibility and the ADA

The United States District Court in Massachusetts ruled June 19 on a motion to dismiss a suit brought against Netflix by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and others. The suit is about Netflix not providing enough captions for videos delivered via the “Watch Instantly” site, but the ruling addresses the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for electronic accessibility in general, not just limited to access issues for users who are deaf or hard of hearing. The dispute on the applicability of the ADA to the internet and electronic media has been brewing for several years, with cases against the Metropolitan Atlanta Transportation Authority, Southwest Airlines, and Target all part of the long-term debate. While the charge of judicial activism has been leveled against this decision, supporting precedents seem to exist which support the judge’s ruling, and the Department of Justice’s statement of interest provides a clear view of the DOJ’s position in support of this decision. The implications of this ruling are significant, but also fit well within the context of additional policy work in the US and abroad.

A key issue which is core to the debate is whether a web site or any other internet-delivered service can be regarded as “a place of public accommodation”. In the Netflix case, the judge ruled that the website delivering movies to the customer qualifies as a public accommodation. Specifically, the judge indicated:

Netflix, which operates its website and Watch Instantly service through computer servers and the Internet, is a public accommodation subject to title III of the ADA, even if it has no physical structure where customers come to access its services.

Establishing electronic resources as a place of public accommodation means more than a requirement for captioning, it also means that other users with disabilities need to have access to the information and services provided. Electronic content can readily be made accessible to users with disabilities, whether the user is deaf, blind, unable to use their hands, or has a variety of other disabilities or combinations thereof.

A growing policy emphasis on accessibility

This ruling comes at a time when there is greater evidence of expanding support for accessibility globally as well as within the United States.

The court made reference to a Department of Justice effort to release policy guidance to clarify that the ADA does apply to electronic services such as the web – the DOJ issued an advance notice of a ruling on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the ADA. This update to the ADA proposed to apply the W3C WCAG 2.0 specification as the standard for accessibility, which includes requirements for video accessibility such as captioning. The court writes:

Contrary to Defendant’s unsupported assertions, the Department’s ongoing regulatory developments support that Netflix is a public accommodation subject to title III of the ADA. The Department is currently developing regulations specifically addressing the accessibility of goods and services offered via the web by entities covered by the ADA. The fact that the regulatory process is not yet complete in no way indicates that web services are not already covered by title III.

In addition to the DOJ effort, President Obama signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and last month sent the Convention to the Senate to be ratified. In doing so, the US would be committing to “take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems” (UNCRPD, Article 9). Separate from the UNCRPD, the United States Access Board is preparing to release updated standards for section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act which will likely also align with WCAG 2.0 criteria, and the FCC recently published regulations for access to broadcast video (not including non-broadcast video, user-generated video, or theatrical movies), including regulations which address access to the video when delivered via the internet after or concurrent with the broadcast delivery.

Outside of the United States, 152 other countries have signed (and 115 have ratified) the UNCRPD, and efforts to expand existing and develop new policies are well underway.

Why do we care about accessibility?

It isn’t hard to find opposition to this ruling (1, 2), but the most important point remains – that people with disabilities deserve equal access to information and services, whether provided via the internet or in a physical location. Access equals opportunity and self-reliance, whether for a person seeking accessible educational materials to help prepare for employment, accessible video for entertainment and social connections with others, or access to necessary goods and services without needing to depend on the help of others to arrange or obtain them. Access leads to employment, and active participation in society. Accessibility has costs, although less when considered early in any process and less at scale, but whatever the costs of providing access, the cost of not providing it is in the long run greater for society.

No major web sites, applications, or mobile apps are perfectly accessible, including Adobe’s. But Adobe and many others are making continual improvements and pushing toward greater access. We’ve worked on not only our own products but on accessibility standards and policies in the United States and around the world, and continue to seek ways to enable our customers to support accessibility with greater ease and effectiveness on their part. There is more work to do, but we know why we’re doing it and are committed to continue working for equal access for all

Note: I am not a lawyer, so anything in this post that sounds like a legal interpretation should not be construed as actual legal advice, just as the considered opinion of an interested party.

4:16 PM Permalink
January 27, 2012

Adobe at CSUN 2012

Thursday, March 1 is Adobe Day at the CSUN Conference. We’ve got five sessions lined up, all in Elizabeth C (2nd floor):

There’s more to come. (Probably involving hors d’oeuvres.) But for now, mark your calendars, and we’ll see you in San Diego.

1:22 PM Permalink
January 25, 2012

Adobe Accessibility at ATIA 2012

The Assistive Technology Industry Association’s annual conference, ATIA 2012, will be in full swing tomorrow, and our own Greg Pisocky will be appearing in three sessions:

  • “Implementing ISO 14289 (PDF/UA)”, Thursday, January 26 8:00 am to 9:00 am Caribbean 6
  • “eBook Accessibility with Adobe Digital Editions and EPUB”, Thursday, January 26 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm Curacao 3 – 4
  • “Creating Accessible Documents More Efficiently with Adobe InDesign CS5.5”, Friday January 27 9:20 am to 10:20 am, Caribbean 3 and 4

That’s just the first outing of the year. In February, Adobe will be presenting at Techshare India, the 6th European eAccessibility Forum, and the CSUN Conference. We’ll keep you updated with sessions and times.

5:41 PM Permalink
January 16, 2012

Acrobat X action for InDesign CS5.5 files

Adobe InDesign CS5.5 added a number of new features to make the accessible production of complex documents easier. Now the InDesign team has added an Action for use with Adobe Acrobat X. Once you install it, the Action will walk you through the most common steps for polishing up InDesign documents, including setting a document language, running Acrobat’s accessibility checker, and outputting an optimized, tagged PDF. The InDesign site has all the info, and the InDesign Action for Acrobat X can be found here.

2:40 AM Permalink
January 5, 2012

Window-Eyes App Now Available For Digital Editions 1.8.1

Support for Digital Editions with assistive technologies continues to improve and this update is a tip for users of the Window-Eyes screen reader.

GW Micro has published an app designed to provide support for Digital Editions 1.8.1 that’s comparable to the support provided by other screen readers including JAWS, VoiceOver and NVDA. From the Window-Eyes Control Panel, Press ALT-A to get to the App Menu, and select AppGet. When the list of available apps is displayed, You’ll find Digital Editions in the “Program Enhancements” group.

Digital Editions 1.8.1 can be found at:

http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/digitaleditions1-8/

Comments are welcome as always.

4:03 PM Permalink
January 19, 2011

Matt May EASI Seminar on Flash Accessibility

Matt May gave a talk on Flash accessibility for EASI January 18 – the slides for his talk are now available: Building Accessible Flash slides.

9:25 AM Permalink
December 6, 2010

New British Standard: Web Accessibility Code of Practice, BS 8878:2010

BS 8878:2010 is a new code of practice developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI) which describes a process to ensure that websites and online services provided by an organization are accessible to all web users including persons with disabilities. BS 8878:2010 will formally be launched on Tuesday, 7th December 2010.

BS 8878 is not intended to be a technical specification. Instead, it sets out a process and brings together and summarizes the information needed by organizations providing web services to understand how to embed accessibility requirements into their production processes at all stages. Additionally, BS 8878 also provides information on why accessibility should be an integral part of the planning and design process by listing out legislative, commercial and ethical reasons.

It also states that the ideal situation for assuring accessible experiences is that organizations produce web products that confirm to W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and associated standards.

We welcome this new code of practice and hope that this will provide a better understanding of the importance of accessibility to an organization providing web products. Most web accessibility standards are inherently technical in nature and are difficult to understand by non-technical members of an organization. BS 8878 fills this information gap.

We at Adobe are always striving to provide the best experiences for our users irrespective of their disability. At the same time, we are also trying to make it easier for web developers, designers and content authors to create accessible content and applications on the web using various Adobe tools.

  • Adobe is an active participant in W3C’s Web Accessibility initiative (W3C-WAI) and made contributions to the development of the WCAG 2.0 standard.
  • The Techniques for WCAG 2.0 document published by W3C now includes techniques for Flash content and helps define a way for authors to comply with WCAG 2.0.
  • We are also working on a collection of PDF techniques, which we aim to have available in the next round of the techniques document update.
  • The Adobe Accessibility web site contains several useful resources for authors, end users, and those getting started learning about accessibility.
8:29 PM Permalink
October 8, 2010

President Obama Signs Accessibility Act

Today I am thrilled to attend an event at the White House where President Obama signs into law the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This act includes a number of provisions intended to increase access to video programming on television and the internet, require as access to the user interfaces used to access information online via smart phones, and require access to on-screen menus for DVD players and set-top boxes.

Specifically, the bill establishes that:

  1. Within one year of passage of the Act that the FCC will define regulations to make Advanced Communications Services accessible to and usable by people with disabilities (Section 716)
  2. Effective three years after passage of the Act, internet browsers built into mobile phones will need to support accessibility in the browser’s features and functions (Section 718)
  3. Within 60 days the FCC will establish a committee to advise on video programming and emergency access, and that group will develop reports (Section 201)
    • a report within 6 months which includes deadlines for the delivery of closed captioning services
    • a report within 18 months recommending the schedule for the delivery of video description
  4. Within 6 months, the FCC will set a schedule for requiring closed captions on video displayed online, for video that was delivered with captions on broadcast television. (Section 202)
  5. The FCC will commence an evaluation within one year of the passage of the Act to investigate the technical challenges, benefits, and technical challenges around video description for online video. (Section 202)
  6. The FCC will define regulations within 18-36 months which require access to the controls that accompany video programming (e.g. play, pause, closed captioning, volume controls) to enable access for people who are blind or visually impaired. (section 204)
  7. The FCC will define regulations within 18-36 months which require on-screen menus and program guides to be accessible to people who are blind or low-vision. (Section 205)

Adobe supports the provisions of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act as great advances to ensure equal access for people with disabilities. The most immediate impact of this legislation on developers using Adobe tools will be the delivery of closed captions for video online, followed by the provision of accessible controls for video and video description to aid comprehension of content by users who are blind or visually-impaired. Adobe tools already provide direct support for some of these requirements:

  • Adobe introduced support for closed captioning in Flash video and provided a closed captioning component in Flash CS3 in April 2007, and has continued to improve and provide this in Flash CS4 and CS5. This component greatly simplifies the process of adding captions to video in FLV or H.264 formats.
  • Adobe provides video controls in the FLVPlayback component, initially delivered in October 2008, which are accessible by default for assistive technology users. Offering controls that keyboard or assistive technology users can use is easily accomplished with Flash CS4 and CS5.
  • For the past few years, video providers including MTV, Hulu, CNET, YouTube, and others have used Flash to display video with closed captioning, taking advantage of features in the Flash Player to accomplish this.

Despite the support that exists currently, there is more to do to make supporting this Act easier. Possible areas of work for Adobe include simplifying the process for content providers to transcode Line 21 or 608/708 captions to TTML or another format for display online, expanding support in the Flash Player to support upcoming accessibility APIs for mobile devices, and providing additional templates for accessible video player control sets to offer authors a greater selection of ready-to-use and accessible interfaces.

Congratulations to all who pushed to make this Act a reality, we look forward to working together to define the next steps as defined in the bill and working to continue to improve Adobe solutions for authors and content providers who need to deliver high-quality access for end users.

12:30 PM Permalink
October 6, 2010

Adobe Accessibility’s New Team Member – Kiran Kaja

I’m pleased to announce that Kiran Kaja is joining the accessibility team at Adobe, based out of Adobe’s office in London, England. Kiran will be working internally with product teams and sales engineers and as a key figure in Adobe’s efforts to support accessibility policy and standards in Europe.

Kiran has worked in the Accessibility field for more than 6 years. Among other roles, Kiran made major contributions to the development of the first screen reader for Windows Mobile based devices at Code Factory. At SAP Labs, Kiran worked in the Accessibility Test Lab ensuring that a number of SAP applications meet accessibility standards. More recently, in his role as a Digital Accessibility Development Officer at RNIB, he worked on the AEGIS open source project as well as contributing to RNIB’s initiatives in enhancing mobile device accessibility to blind and partially sighted people.

You will likely see Kiran at various accessibility events in Europe, or you can follow Kiran on twitter.

Welcome Kiran!

6:11 PM Permalink
October 1, 2010

Shaping the Flex roadmap

The Flash Platform tooling team is requesting feedback via a survey. If you are interested in Flash and/or Flex and accessibility, you’ll find questions in the survey that provide an opportunity to voice that interest. We know that accessibility is important to many of you, please take a few minutes to cast your vote!

7:42 PM Permalink