What’s New in iOS 16 Accessibility For Blind and DeafBlind users

By Scott Davert: For Complete Post, Click Here…

 Just like in years past, September brings us a new major release of iOS. This latest edition includes many mainstream changes such as a revamped Lock screen; enhancements to privacy and safety features; Focus Mode enhancements; new functionality in Messages and Mail; along with many other improvements. For Apple’s official list of iOS 16 features and changes, see this webpage which Highlights many. A lot of articles will cover these changes in detail, but far fewer will cover the accessibility enhancements and features for individuals who are blind or DeafBlind.

Hello Automatic Verification, Goodbye Captcha!

CAPTCHAs may soon become a thing of the past thanks to a new feature in iOS 16 called Automatic Verification. By allowing iCloud to automatically and privately verify your device and account, it may soon be possible for users to bypass CAPTCHAs. For more detailed information on how Automatic Verification works, please see this TechCrunch article.

Siri

Each time I cover what’s new in iOS, Siri gets a mention. This article is no exception. This time around, Siri gains the option to carry out new tasks. You can shut down your phone, restart it, hang up a call, and other actions. With “Hey Siri” enabled, simply tell it to carry out any of these tasks.

If you are someone who prefers to collect their thoughts before dictating, you now also have the ability to control the amount of time Siri will wait for a response. You can adjust this by going to Settings > Accessibility > Siri and choosing among the 3 options. The default setting is what we have always had, but there are now options for “Longer” and “longest”.

Finally, there are new sounds for when Siri is listening and when it stops. These new sounds are much lower pitched and may be easier for someone with a high frequency hearing loss to detect.

Dictation.

With iOS 16, it is mostly no longer necessary to speak the punctuation needed to formulate a proper sentence. Even when I spoke with no inflection in my voice, the dictation was still able to correctly insert punctuation marks in many instances. That said, I’ve also had random times where no punctuation shows up at all, so it is always best to verify what you are sending before doing so.

VoiceOver

There Are More Voices Inside My Phone! Explore these and other new options by going to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Speech > Voice.

Read Eloquently With Reed

You can listen to your iOS device with any other variant of Eloquence you would like as well. In English, this includes both the U.S. and U.K. variants. Many prefer this speech synthesizer to others, as it is the default with JAWS and is very responsive. Its comparatively robotic and more predictable nature can also help those who are hard of hearing, as it can sometimes be difficult to understand the more modern concatenative synthesizers at faster rates.

The Americans With Disabilities Act and Elections: Disabled Voters Are Still Disenfranchised

BY JILL KESSLER: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Disability (In)Justice is a package exploring where the fight for disability justice stands.

The midterm elections are fast approaching. As people research their preferred candidates and mark key dates in the election cycle on the calendar, there is a group of people who often need to do extra research and due diligence to ensure their votes are received: the disabled. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 61 million adults in the United States have disabilities, including conditions that limit mobility or impair cognition. Others live with deafness or are hard of hearing, are blind or have limited or low vision. Many conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and various neuromuscular conditions, can be multiply disabling. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), disabled Americans are supposed to have equal access to the ballot box. But it wasn’t always this way.

But more than three decades after the passage of the ADA, too many disabled people remain disenfranchised. My informal survey of fellow members of the disabled community and disability rights advocates has turned up many disappointing stories. I’ve heard about inaccessible venues, improperly trained staff, and other undue barriers. I’ve spoken with multiple people whose polling places have stairs and no ramps.

Lydia Nunez, a disability rights activist who lives in Texas, reports that she had to go to multiple locations to vote in recent elections. At the second location, she recalls being dismayed to find there was no privacy partition at the accessible voting booth. She felt the attendant at the machine did not give her adequate time to make her selections, asking repeatedly if she needed help when Nunez was just taking her time to read the amendment questions; the hovering attendant also made it so she didn’t have the same privacy afforded to other voters, she says. 

Registration: Assistive Technology for Trauma – Michigan Alliance for Families

This webinar meets 2 times.

October
Wed,Oct 12, 2022 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM EDT
Wed,Oct 12, 2022 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM EDT

Show in My Time Zone

Join Michigan Alliance for Families at either 12:00pm or 6:30pm for Assistive Technology (AT) for Trauma with Ajaune Thomas and Aimee Sterk, MI Disability Rights Coalition.

Join us for a virtual presentation about the possibilities of assistive technology to support people affected by trauma.

This training, presented by staff from Michigan Disability Right Coalition’s Assistive Technology Program, covers topics including:

• Assistive Technology (AT) and Trauma

• Disability Pride

• AT Devices for Daily Living and Safety

• AT in IEP

• Post Trauma Resources and Transitioning

We will explore AT that youth can use at home, work, and school for safety, sensory, self-regulation, building connections, structure and routine, social and emotional development, and self-advocacy.

Who should attend? Students with a disability who have experienced trauma and those that support someone that has experienced trauma.

In Wake of Philips Recall, Patients Still Waiting for Sleep Apnea Devices

by Jennifer Henderson: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Effects of recall reverberate through sleep medicine community.

More than a year after the start of a recall now involving more than 5 million breathing devices, doctors and patients are still feeling the effects as manufacturer Philips continues to remediate machines and weathers scrutiny from federal agencies.

The recall by subsidiary Philips Respironics has affected certain continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP) machines and mechanical ventilators mainly due to potential health risks from polyester-based polyurethane (PE-PUR) sound abatement foam that was used in the machines.

Philips said at the time of the recall that the foam could degrade into particles that could enter the device’s air pathway and be ingested by the user, and that it could off-gas certain chemicals.

The issues, the company said at the time, could result in serious injury that could be life-threatening, cause permanent impairment, and/or require medical intervention. Potential health risks of particulate or chemical exposure range from irritation to toxic and carcinogenic effects, the company said.

Though the recall initially applied to between 3 and 4 million machines, that number has since grown to 5.5 million, according to the company.

Recalling such a mass of critical devices has posed several challenges. Philips still has work to do on a sprawling repair and replacement program, and federal agencies have continued to monitor the company’s progress and communications. On top of that, Philips has agreed to pay $24 million to settle kickback allegations that were being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). Those allegations were unrelated to the recall and were originally brought by a whistleblower employee. (See this related story on Philips’ run-ins with the DOJ.)

Proposed Bills Would Address Long-Term Elevator Outages in Apartment Buildings

From Galloway and Collins: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Sens. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) are announcing legislation to address elevator outages at apartment buildings in Michigan to help ensure building safety and accessibility for tenants.

As many of Michigan’s large residential buildings age, elevators fall into disrepair and become nonfunctional. There are times when elevators are not working for days, weeks, or even months at a time, and tenants are not receiving notification or updates from property managers.

In response, the senators introduced two bills, Senate Bills 1144 and 1145 that would require building owners to develop a written plan about how they will provide tenants with accommodations in the event of long-term elevator outages. Building owners would choose which accommodations work best for their needs, be required to share these written plans with tenants, and then submit them to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for their review.

NTA Blog: Improving Services to Taxpayers With Visual Disabilities

From The NTA Blog: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Millions of U.S. taxpayers are visually impaired and unable to read print material in a standard font size. As a result of a settlement agreement between the IRS and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) on July 10, 2020, the IRS agreed to develop a process for taxpayers to request post-filing tax notices in a variety of acceptable formats, including Braille and large print. (See IRS statement, July 15, 2020.) This settlement resolved a case brought forth by several blind taxpayers and NFB who alleged the IRS was in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits individuals with a disability from being excluded from the participation in, being denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under any executive agency.

Visually Impaired Taxpayers Now Have More Accessibility Options

In January 2022, the IRS implemented a new alternative media process where visually impaired taxpayers can elect to receive certain types of written correspondence in:

  • Large Print,
  • Braille,
  • Audio (MP3),
  • Plain Text File (TXT), or
  • Braille Ready File (BRF).

Taxpayers can make this election either by calling the IRS and making an oral statement, by attaching Form 9000, Alternative Media Preference, to their tax return when filing their taxes, or by mailing a separate signed Form 9000 to the IRS.  Once the taxpayer makes the election, the IRS will place an indicator on the taxpayer’s account so it will provide certain written correspondence in the selected format going forward.

Penalty Relief

If the IRS sends a standard print notice despite the taxpayer’s election to receive such notices in an accessible format, and this results in the taxpayer not taking a required action (for example, making a payment), relief from certain penalties may be available. To obtain the relief, the taxpayer would still need to establish reasonable cause, including providing the following information:

  • Did the taxpayer provide a description of the impairment that prevented him or her from reading the standard print notice?
  • What was the taxpayer’s degree of knowledge about the tax, interest, or penalty owed before receiving the standard print notice?
  • When did the IRS receive the taxpayer’s request to receive notices in an accessible format?
  • If a notice was later sent in an accessible format, did the taxpayer promptly respond to it?

Taxpayers can request reasonable cause relief by calling the toll-free number on their IRS notice or writing a letter to request “penalty relief due to reasonable cause.”

Subtitle the world

ByAmanda Florian: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Sirens blare and the roar of impatient drivers echoes in the background. Jake Giovanni, who is deaf, sits across from me in his apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina, to test out XRAI Glass—new tech that produces captions in real time for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Giovanni, 24, is one of the first in the US to see the tech in action. A compatible smartphone running XRAI Glass software captures audio while a pair of augmented reality glasses—in this case, the Nreal Air AR glasses created by Beijing-based Nreal—display captions on Giovanni’s lenses. After selecting “start captions,” the app begins captioning our interview as if we were watching a TV show or film with subtitles.

“I’m really thankful that somebody’s doing this,” he said. “You have to start somewhere. And the impact that this could make on someone’s life is incredible.”

On the top left of Giovanni’s lens is a small icon that shows network strength, and in the middle is me. The sleek glasses, tinted—with space for prescription lenses—allow a person to view what’s in front of them as captions appear on the bottom left side. London-based tech startup XRAI Glass provided Morning Brew with a compatible device from Nreal in order to test the software with interviewees.

Giovanni, a consulting analyst, explained his profound hearing loss was caused by a mutation in a particular gene on his X chromosome.

Federal Courts Deliver Victories for Voters With Disabilities

By Matt Vasilogambros: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Paralyzed from the neck down, downtown Milwaukee resident Martha Chambers has difficulty voting.

She can use a mouth stick to mark her ballot and sign her name on an absentee ballot, but she has no way of folding the ballot, slipping it back in the envelope or returning it to the mailbox.

Driven by its conservative majority, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in July outlawed assistance in the absentee voting process. After that decision, Chambers worried that her caregiver — who also gets her out of bed in the morning, brushes her teeth and puts her clothes on for her — could become a criminal for ensuring she can participate in the democratic process. Chambers said she was effectively disenfranchised.

The ruling in Wisconsin was one of two big legal victories in federal court for voters with disabilities this summer. In June, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman struck down parts of a Texas law that forbid certain assistance for voters with disabilities and voters with limited English proficiency.

The cases are part of the larger, ongoing battle over voting access. More than 20 Republican-led states enacted a wave of barriers to the ballot process in the past two years, making voting — especially by mail — more difficult in the name of preventing voter fraud, which is rare in the United States and did not affect the results of the 2020 presidential election. Voting rights advocates have challenged many of the laws. Protecting voting rights for people with disabilities is one of the few areas in which they’ve had success — and even found some consensus.

After many difficult months of voters with disabilities trying to navigate restrictive new voting laws, these legal victories are welcomed, said Rebecca Cokley, program officer for U.S. disability rights at the Ford Foundation, a New York-based philanthropy that provides grants to organizations that lead voting efforts for people with disabilities.

The unexpected star of NASA’s Webb images — the alt text descriptions

by Theresa Vargas: For Complete Post, Click Here…

A team in Baltimore was responsible for the words that made the stunning photos accessible to everyone.

In the days since NASA publicly shared stunning images captured by the James Webb Space Telescope, people have oohed and aahed. They have marveled at the breathtaking beauty of those photos and the significant lessons about the universe that might exist in those crisp cosmic details.

But it’s not only the photos that have wowed people.

Many have also been struck by the thoughtful descriptions that have accompanied them.

“If anyone ever tells you alt text isn’t important, show them @NASA’s alt text for the #WebbSpaceTelescope images,” Kate Meyers Emery tweeted. “They are able to convey the wonders and beauty of these in words, making these breathtaking views accessible.”

“This isn’t just a stunning picture from @NASA, it’s a brilliant example of how to use alt text,” the Royal National Institute of Blind People tweeted. “Do you agree?”

Fable introduces Pathways platform to help advance careers of people with disabilities

From PRWEB: For Complete Post, Click Here…

To mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day, leading accessibility start-up Fable is launching Pathways. Fable Pathways is a skill development program created by people with disabilities, for people with disabilities. Courses are free to take and boast a Masterclass quality of video production.

The purpose is to empower and excite people with disabilities to pursue a career in the technology sector. In 2021, according to the US Department of Labour, 19.1% of PWD in the US were employed, compared to 63.7% of people without a disability. Similarly in Canada, according to Stats Can, 59% of people with disabilities were employed, compared to 80% of those without disabilities (while the rate of employment for persons with more severe disabilities was even lower).

Today Fable Pathways is launching with two courses. The first is “Getting started in web development” in partnership with Microsoft, which introduces VS Code and GitHub to screen reader users. Course instructors are specialists in their fields, and offer their expertise with the nuance of having built that knowledge as someone with a disability:

“Working with Fable to create my course was an enjoyable and rewarding experience. My hope is that the course provides the skills and coaching needed for learners to advance to their next level. Knowledge and my experiences are rewarding for me to share and Fable Pathways allowed me to do just that.” – Kelly Ford, Senior Accessibility Program Manager at Microsoft and Instructor, Fable Pathways

The second course released today is “Becoming a manager”:

“One of the most critical components of management is communication, and I’ve had a unique journey of building that skill as someone who’s hearing impaired and have relied on assistive devices since I was six years old. I’m thrilled to share what I’ve learned, and truly hope to see more people with disabilities in leadership roles in the tech sector.” — Kate Kalcevich, Head of Accessibility Innovation at Fable and Instructor, Fable Pathways