[Accessibility] For today's call--Sec1a

Janina Sajka janina at rednote.net
Wed Sep 10 10:46:24 PDT 2003

(a.) A general description of the current problem.

Far too often people with disabilities are excluded from participation in the benefits that technology provides in society today. Though it may be
unintentional, this exclusion remains far too common because the needs of users who are persons with disabilities are rarely factored appropriately (if
at all) in the design process. Consequently, many of today's technology products and services remain inaccessible to, or only marginally usable by
persons with disabilities. However, it has also been widely demonstrated that technology can enhance the lives of persons with disabilities profoundly.
A properly designed technology tool is often a disabled person's best choice for active participation in society--whether at home, at work or at play.

Adherence to some simple criteria in software design, such as provision of keyboard navigation of all features and adherence to user-specified system
appearance settings can reduce or eliminate these barriers for many users, including users who may not identify themselves as 'disabled'. It is
furthermore well known that properly designed assistive technologies (AT) are capable of delivering unparalleled benefits to users with more severe
disabilities who usually have no other viable alternative for performing many common tasks.

Assistive technologies can:

*    provide the means for individuals, who do not have the use
     of their arms and hands, to write and correspond. Often user
     interfaces programmatically prevent these users from
     performing important tasks simply by not providing mouse and
     keyboard alternatives.

*    enable individuals who are blind or visually impaired to
     read online text. Often user interfaces programmatically
     prevent or severely encumber the users ability to read and
     traverse the screen by supporting only iconic and mouse
     driven user interfaces.

*    support participation by individuals who can't speak or hear
     on today's telephony interfaces and tomorrow's multimodal
     computer interfaces.

Many needless barriers can be eliminated on the entry level by programmatically providing appropriate contextual information to both applications and
system services through well-defined standards of practice (and adherence to those standards). 

				Janina Sajka, Director
				Technology Research and Development
				Governmental Relations Group
				American Foundation for the Blind (AFB)

Email: janina at afb.net		Phone: (202) 408-8175

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