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Study shows that the “Internet is unavailable” to visually impaired users

A study published by Deque Systems - a digital accessibility company and conducted by Nucleus Research shows that 70% of Internet websites in certain industries such as e-commerce, e-government, news and information, etc. are unavailable to visually impaired users. According to the report, 7 out of 10 blind persons cannot access e-government services whereas 8 out of 10 users experience difficulty accessing news websites.The research therefore highlights the existing digital divide despite measures taken to make the Internet more accessible to visually-impaired users, and emphasises a missed market opportunity for the concerned websites given that they lose roughly USD 6.9 billion to accessible e-commerce competitors annually. 

The report found that well-known e-commerce actors including Amazon, Target and Best Buy lead the way in addressing accessibility issues in the e-commerce space. 

Google works on improving speech recognition for people with impaired speech

Earlier this year, Google announced it was working on Project Euphonia, an initiative aimed to use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve computers' abilities to understand diverse speech patterns, such as the speech of people with speech impairments. In a recent blog post, the company has provided details about its work on Project Euphonia, outlining a two-phase approach designed to improve automatic speech recognition (ASR) for people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that can negatively affect a person's speech. Google's team has created a high-quality ASR model which was initially trained on thousands of hours of standard speech. The training was then fine-tuned with a personalised non-standards speech dataset. Google notes that the new approach resulted in 'significant improvements' in speech recognition for speakers with atypical speech over current models.

Lawsuit filed with US Supreme Court to overturn web accessibility decision

Domino's Pizza has petitioned the US Supreme court to overrule a federal appeals court ruling which decided that 'accessibility standards apply to online services just as they apply to businesses covered by the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]' in what is called 'a model example of the fight between businesses and people with disabilities over the enforcement of accessible online services, even in the absence of set federal guidelines'. A main point of contention is that the US government has failed to establish set regulations regarding online accessibility measures, although the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium have been widely accepted since1999. The decision has wide implications for web accessibility due to the thousands of pending cases in lower courts, and the topic of online accessibility for a service that is widely known for its online delivery options.

Comcast interface for changing channels with your eyes

Telecomms corporation Comcast has launched a remote digital set-top box interface that allows anyone to change the channel using an eye tracker. The digital remote was designed primarily for people with disabilities, like ALS or muscular dystrophy, who have difficulty using physical remote controls although anyone can use it by just gazing at a specific button or spelling out a word.

                   

                   Image source: Comcast

Report shows increase in online hate crime against persons with disabilities

The charitable organisation Leonard Cheshire has reported a 33% increase in reports of online hate crime against persons with disabilities between 2017 and 2018 in the UK. The report also shows that 75% of respondents perceived this type of crimes to be increasingly common. While acknowledging that this may show an increase in reports and follow-up, it also indicates it may be just 'the tip of the iceberg'. A quote from victim Janine Howard vividly illustrates the abuse: 

‘People I don’t know take my photograph when I am out and about, they post it on social media for others to comment on. ... The comments are nasty, hurtful and leave me feeling frightened and angry. There is no escaping this online abuse if I want to use social media. It’s horrible to know that my family might see this abuse online.’

In Online abuse of disabled people is getting worse – when will it be taken seriously? The Guardian expands on what it calls 'this depressing trend' in its commentary on the report.

EU Parliament approves the European Accessibility Act

The European Union (EU) Parliament has approved the enactment of the European Disabilities Act. This is considered as an important first step that will pave the way for EU legislation to that will ensure that products and services become accessible for persons with disabilities. 

More importantly the Act will ensure that people living with disabilities within the EU have access to information Communication Technology (ICT)s services and devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets, TV sets, banking ATM and services, payment terminals, e-books and e-readers, e-commerce websites and mobile apps and ticketing machines.

Wireless RERC Publishes Mobile Phone Accessibility Review

Wireless RERC has published a Mobile Phone Accessibility Review as input to the US Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) biennial evaluation of the impact of the commission's regulations that implement the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) and measure compliance. The report provides 'input on the state of accessibility of “mobile” or wireless services, including basic phones and feature phones (collectively referred to herein as non-smartphones), as well as smartphones'. The report contains comparative analyses and graphs showing different accessibility features on a variety of different devices, addressing different types of disabilities including vision, hearing, cognition, and mobility/dexterity.

Misleading or aggressive sales practices affect the vulnerable

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) published a report on the use of misleading or aggressive retail sales practices by Canada’s large telecommunications carriers. The report identified aggressive tactics and noted that these tactics present difficulties for individuals who may be more vulnerable due to their age, disability, or language barrier, and who already face obstacles to making informed choices. Consumer and disability advocacy groups explained how these sales practices can have a disproportionately negative impact on Canadians with disabilities, who already face challenges in obtaining accessible products, services, and information.

SH Feb 6: Google launches two Android apps for the deaf

Google has launched two new apps that will cater to the deaf and  the hearing impaired. In a recent blog post, the company mentioned the apps Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, designed mainly for the Android OS. The apps which come pre-installed on Pixel 3 phones in accessibility settings will also be available in the Google Play Store. According to the post, Live Transcript is an app that automatically transcribes speech in near-real time allowing people to communicate in peculiar situations where communications would be difficult. Sound Amplifier on the other hand is an app designed for people with hearing loss, allowing such users to tweak sound settings to improve the quality of their hearing.

Google launches two Android apps for the deaf

Google has launched two new apps that will cater to the deaf and  the hearing impaired. In a recent blog post, the company mentioned the apps Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier, designed mainly for the Android OS. The apps which come pre-installed on Pixel 3 phones in accessibility settings will also be available in the Google Play Store. According to the post, Live Transcript is an app that automatically transcribes speech in near-real time allowing people to communicate in peculiar situations where communications would be difficult. Sound Amplifier on the other hand is an app designed for people with hearing loss, allowing such users to tweak sound settings to improve the quality of their hearing.

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