Updates

Rights of persons with disabilities

2018

Uber has partnered with paratransit provider MV Transportation to improve service and response times to wheelchair users in some areas of the USA and Canada. Uber does not own the vehicles its services provide, and not enough wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAV) have been available. This step comes after feasibility studies and lawsuits alleging discrimination against wheelchair users. Acknowledging the situation, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote: 'We know there is still a long way to go—and that we’re at the beginning, not the end, of this journey'.

Microsoft President Brad Smith announced the launch of AI for Accessibility, in his words, 'a new $25 million, five-year program to put AI tools in the hands of developers to accelerate the development of accessible and intelligent AI solutions to benefit the 1 billion-plus people with disabilities around the world'. Smith said that Microsoft seeks to remedy the current situation that only one in 10 people with disabilities has access to needed assistive technologies. Commenting on the launch, c/net's Ian Sherr used the examples of 'apps that describe what people see, better text-to-speech technology and predictive text so people don't have to type as much as technologies that are needed, as features for persons with disabilities come into the mainstream.

According to Ace Ratcliff at the Huffington Post, Disabled People (Might) Finally Get Emojis That Represent Us, changing a scenario that currently has only one of 2,666 emojis representing persons with disabilities. Apple recently unveiled a proposal to the Unicode Consortium, suggesting 13 new emoji developed in consultation with community organisations like the American Council of the Blind, the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, and the National Association of the Deaf.

                                                                                       13 new emoji proposed by Apple

                                                                                         13 new emoji proposed by Apple
                                                                                          Isabella Carapella/HuffPost/Apple

The author notes that the lack of emojis is just one way in which persons with disabilities are underrepresented in society, stating that 'Apple’s 13 proposed emojis may be what society needs to recognise that disability representation is sorely needed and long overdue'.

Francis Ryan explains in The Guardian how social media is The missing link: why disabled people can’t afford to #DeleteFacebookRyan shows that in spite of the dangers, even negligence, of social media companies, online networks offer 'a vital lifeline' to people with disabilities. She cites Phillip Green, who suffers from multiple health problems, and difficulties to go out to socialise: “Without social media, life would be so much harder”.

Ryan explains the importance of balancing the need for social media and its risks while emphasising the need to urgently address the problems illustrated by the Facebook example, since leaving social media networks is a privilege not available to everyone. 

She notes that improvements in safety and access are important for everyone, but especially minority and marginalised groups. Her quote from Astra Taylor, author of  The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age explains this point: 'We assume the Internet is open to all when it’s not,' says Taylor. Taylor further notes that more than 20% of persons with disabilities in the UK, had never used the Internet, compared with only 10% of the adult population overall lacking that experience. She also pointed out that poor and rural areas often lack access to high-speed broadband.

Website accessibility for persons with disabilities continues to be important. Recent news shows renewed focus in India and the USA. The Indian Government is working towards making 917 State Government websites accessible for the disabled and 100 accessible websites have already been launched as part of India's Web Accessibility Project for state government and union territories, as part of its Accessible India Campaign. It is important to note that these sites are compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines published by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium.

Todd Paton gives an overview of the existing problem and suggests possible approaches to website accessibility, exhorting Companies, give people with disabilities access to the superhighway.

Does Your Company Website Comply with Title III of the ADA?  from Lexology, explains the topic from the viewpoint of US companies' concerns with lawsuits, the state of the law in the USA, and achieving compliance with the US Americans with Disabilities Act.

Some good news is that Vision's Top 9 Digital Trends in Local Government includes as its 9th trend: 'Web Accessibility is Here to Stay: Government websites have often ignored users with vision loss, hearing impairments and other disabilities. Web accessibility will continue to get the attention it deserves. Not only are local government agencies recognizing that greater accessibility for web visitors is the right thing to do, it's the law. Local agencies should appoint an accessibility coordinator and adopt a formal accessibility statement that outlines key standards and provides a contact for reporting issues.'

 

 

Microsoft has published as updated version of its A Cloud for Global Good policy roadmap, originally released in October 2016. The 2018 edition reflects recent developments in areas such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, and contains several policy recommendations for 'governments, industry and civil society to consider as they realise the opportunities and address the challenges presented by the Fourth Industrial Revolution'. These recommendations are clustered in three broad categories. The 'Trusted cloud' category contains recommendations about protecting personal privacy, government access to data, promoting the free-flow of data, ensuring secure and reliable infrastructure, creating a Digital Geneva Convention, and preventing cybercrime. Under 'Responsible cloud' are recommendations focused on protecting both human rights and public safety, reducing technology fraud and online exploitation, promoting environmental sustainability, and amplifying human ingenuity through AI. The third cluster 'Inclusive cloud' outlines recommendations targeted at providing affordable connectivity everywhere, preparing people for the new world of work, and including people with disabilities.

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