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Web accessibility vital to elections

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Media Access Australia’s resident web accessibility expert, Dr Scott Hollier, has warned that a lack of accessible websites could lead to voters with disabilities potentially miscasting their votes at the next federal or state election.

Speaking ahead of his presentation on disability and digital divides, to be given at the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) conference in Melbourne, Dr Hollier said that a lack of web accessibility could have profound effects on society.

“If you look at the last federal election as a case study, a voter with a disability would have had a very difficult time in gaining information to guide their votes based on the lack of accessibility of the websites of the major parties,” he said.

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ACMA releases data on teens’ web use

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released statistics on how Australian teenagers use the internet, showing that almost all of them are connected, and demonstrating the importance of making web, applications and communications devices like smartphones and tablets accessible to people with a disability.

Aussie teens online is not only a great snapshot of the role the web plays in the lives of young Australians, but it is also valuable in helping web accessibility professionals as well as content authors, designers and developers think about how they need to make the web and devices accessible for the next generation of users.

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Accessibility of online services grows: UN

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The accessibility of online services around the world has dramatically increased in the last two years, according to United Nations (UN).

In its 2014 e-Government Survey, the UN stated that in the two years since its 2012 survey the percentage of government websites with information for “disadvantaged and vulnerable groups”, including people with disabilities, had grown from 28 per cent to 64 per cent.

This, the UN said, was due to the greater recognition by governments around the world of the enabling power of the internet and information and communications technology (ICT).

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FCC to promote social media accessibility

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The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is to facilitate an industry discussion on making social media tools and content accessible to people with disabilities.

The event, Accessibility & Innovation (A&I) Initiative, on July 17 will seek to heighten awareness among technology developers and media producers so that they are inspired to increase the level of social media accessibility.

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Association for the Blind of WA changes name to VisAbility and launches new website

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The Association for the Blind of WA, the state’s primary disability service provider for people who are blind and vision impaired, has changed its name to VisAbility and launched a new accessible website.

According to VisAbility’s press release, the change comes after extensive independent research and consumer consultation, and will allow the organisation to better welcome and represent people with low vision who want to access its services.

With a little as five per cent of people with vision impairment experiencing total blindness, many Western Australians living with low vision – who may not identify themselves as ‘blind’ – are missing out on vital services.


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New York Times touts accessibility upgrades

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The New York Times has announced that it has made accessibility improvements to its new site following the introduction of inaccessible features in a major updating of NYTimes.com earlier this year.

In a blog post on the update, the Times stated that the January overhaul of the site had inadvertently removed an accessibility workaround on the site.

“Before the article redesign, most of our assistive technology users went to our print preview version, which contained only the article text, to avoid having their screen readers interrupted by content outside of the flow of the article,” the post reads.

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YouTube’s new DIY captioning tool

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YouTube has introduced a new feature which makes it easier to create closed captions and add them to your videos.

To create captions:

  1. Log in to your YouTube account, go to ‘Video Manager’ and click the ‘Edit’ button next to the video you want to caption.
  2. Select ‘Subtitles and CC’ at the top right of the screen. In the drop-down menu, select the language. You can select English, or choose from 160 other languages.
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Skype Translator offers real time voice translation

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Microsoft has demonstrated a new application, Skype Translator, which provides near real-time voice and caption translation of different languages.

The application was announced this week and demonstrated using a conversation between an English speaker and a German speaker. A video of the Skype Translator at work is available on Microsoft’s official blog.

In addition to helping break down language barriers between people of different nationalities, the application and its under-pinning technology also has the potential to break down barriers for people with disabilities.

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Now you can tweet accessible images

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Accessible Twitter service Easy Chirp used Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2014 to announce a new feature that allows users to tweet images with a description attached. This tool will make it radically easier to include screen reader users in social media.

Increasingly, exchanging images on social media is a fundamental way people interact online. The popularity of trends such as memes has meant that much of the information people share online is locked away in an image, beyond the reach of a screen reader.

Easy Chirp was developed by WebAxe founder Dennis Lembree as an accessible Twitter client. The service offers an alternative interface to Twitter that made up for Twitter’s inaccessibility.  As Twitter has become more accessible, Easy Chirp has continued to offer features specifically suited to blind users.

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day: 10 things everyone can do to improve access to media

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To celebrate the third Global Accessibility Day, we have compiled a list of tips that everyone can use to make someone’s experience of media a little better. Accessibility is for all of us – it benefits everyone, and everyone can do their part.

Tip 1: Describe the images you put on Facebook

Adding a description to your image posts means that blind and vision impaired people aren’t excluded. This is particularly important for memes and any other images that include text. All it has to be is a sentence.

Tip 2: Make links meaningful


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