[Greater-baltimore] FW: University working on web access for the blind [Towson University and NFB]

Melissa Ann Riccobono melissa at riccobono.us
Thu Oct 20 18:14:33 UTC 2011

Hello everyone,
This is a nice article about one of our friends.

-----Original Message-----
From: Rovig, Lorraine [mailto:LRovig at nfb.org] 
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 1:56 PM
To: Taylor, Anne; Van Gerven, Clara; Olivero, Tony; Jaquiss, Robert; Amy
Cc: Danielsen, Chris; Morman, Ed; Freeh, Jessica; Melissa Ann Riccobono
Subject: University working on web access for the blind [Towson University
and NFB]

Melissa - post on affiliate listserv? Here is the news article:




The Towerlight <http://www.thetowerlight.com/> 

Home <http://www.thetowerlight.com/>  > News

University working on web access for the blind

19 October 2011 By Jalisa Hill, Contributing Writer. No Comments

Towson University has begun making changes to its website to meet the needs
of the visually impaired.

Jonathan Lazar, professor of computer and information sciences and director
of the Universal Usability Laboratory in the Jess and Mildred Fisher College
of Science and Mathematics, spent a year studying the difficulties
encountered by blind users as they browsed the Web. Lazar said he has grown
to understand some of the technological needs of the blind.

"When websites are inaccessible [to blind people], it's not just an
inconvenience," Lazar said. "If you can't get the lowest fare on an airline
website, if you can't take advantage of Web-only specials on an e-commerce
site, it becomes pricing discrimination. If you cannot use the same
workplace software tools, communication tools and social-networking
software, it becomes social exclusion."

The National Federation of the Blind is working with several colleges and
universities to create blind-accessible technology and Internet use. When
schools haven't complied by making accessible means, the NFB has responded.
In a more recent case, the organization sued Arizona University for not
having blind-accessible e-reader technology. But the organization has
commended Towson University on the efforts made with the University website.

"We think and believe that all colleges and universities need to make sure
that their websites are accessible. Not only are they an important source of
info for students, but increasingly websites are where you get lots of other
things done," Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the NFB,
said. "Using a website is critical. We're always certainly glad that a
college or university is upgrading its website."

In the past six months, improvements to Towson's website have been released
as they are completed, according to Matthew Wynd, Towson University's
information technology support centers director. By July 2012, Wynd said
several scripting-level changes will made to improve readability when using
assistive software to view the website.

"The site navigation will allow for browsers that read Web pages to more
efficiently use the navigation or skip over it to the page's content," Wynd
said. "Each image on the page will include an alternative text description
of the image. PDF files will flow more logically when read out loud by text
to speech software. Video files will include Closed Captioning or will have
an associated link to a text file containing a script of the video. Content
linked on the site that requires functionality beyond what is built into the
browser will include a link to download the needed plugin on the same page."

Lazar said it's imperative to use what means are available to enhance the

"Technology should be a driving force for bringing people together, not
increasing existing barriers of discrimination," Lazar said. "We have the
technical capability, the existing knowledge, to design for accessibility,
for inclusion. Why don't we do it?"




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