As I sit here typing this story in San Francisco, I hear two voices playing in my head. The first, as the title might imply, is the voice of the late great Freddy Mercury singing his anthemic , “We Are The Champions.” While, by the late seventies, I had sold my soul to punk and CBGB became my cathedral, Queen remained one of my favorite rock acts and I took every opportunity I could to see them perform when they came to New York, my then home.
The second voice is that of Jerry Garcia singing the line, “Nothing shaking down on Shakedown Street.” While I enjoyed the party atmosphere at the many Grateful Dead shows I attended, I must admit to having never been much of a fan of their music. “Shakedown Street” wasn’t one of their more memorable records but, when I look at the sponsors list for the 2015 NFB convention, I hear Jerry singing that line loudly and repeatedly.
This article will simply list a number of the corporate sponsors of the two conventions that many blind people will attend this week and discuss their records on accessibility. I will also explore the terms used by NFB especially regarding one company with a terrible history of delivering accessible products to the market and, in general, will focus more on NFB than ACB as having read both sponsor lists, there’s only one ACB sponsor that I know to have a poor record on accessibility. I must also admit that there are companies on both the ACB and NFB sponsor lists about which I know absolutely nothing so will reserve comment on those organizations as I’m too lazy to look them all up.
The Definitions Of “Champion”
When I lost the last of my vision, nobody told me that screen readers existed so I made a really crappy one for myself on Macintosh and enrolled at Harvard University to study English with a focus on creative writing. Ted Henter called and offered me the top job on the software side of Henter-Joyce so I dropped out of the program and moved to Florida to take the lead on JAWS. I still have a passion for the English language and the words we use to describe different things in it. I’m a pretty hardcore word nerd and understand that the word “champion” has two definitions.
The first and by far the most common definition of the word tends to be a noun that means “winner.” The San Francisco Giants are the reigning champions of baseball because they won the 2014 World Series. Mohammad Ali became the world’s boxing champion when he defeated the reigning one. This is the definition about which Freddy was singing and is the definition we use in most common speaking and writing.
The second definition of “champion” means one who promotes a cause. I’ve a friend who is a member of the British Parliament whose primary cause is pedestrian safety. She is a “champion of traffic related accessibility” but neither she alone nor her party can get the entire UK to accept her proposals. So, my friend, using the verb form of this definition, “champions accessibility” and tries to be an agent for change but, as she would admit herself, she is not yet a “winner” on this cause.
If one googles on “NFB convention 2015 sponsors,” they will see that Google is listed on the NFB web site as “accessibility champions” and, for ACB, Google is a “Diamond Level” sponsor. I’ll accept that “diamond” can simply mean “expensive” which is an honest description of what Google does regarding accessibility, they pay a lot of money to be prominently featured at the ACB convention. Using the term “accessibility champion” to describe Google boggles the mind when we apply the first and more common definition of the word “champion” as, from my own testing and that of many others, Google has zero devices, applications or web properties that carry their brand name that are 100% accessible, a sharp contrast to Apple who, especially on iOS, has nearly zero accessibility defects in apps bearing its brand name. How then can NFB apply the word “champion” to Google?
This leads us to definition number two: even I, a noted critic of Google’s accessibility, will admit that Google does “champion” accessibility. They certainly spend a lot of time and money attending conferences like CSUN and the NFB and ACB summer conventions. They even announced a $30 million fund to promote accessibility research at non-profit centers. What they fail at doing, even using the less common definition of the word “champion,” is to actually produce anything that is accessible from end to end. They are very good at talking about accessibility and tossing around the bucks but, if they can’t make their own products accessible, do they have any credibility when they tell others to do so?
Money Talks, Accessibility Walks
ACB and NFB will be featuring Google prominently at their conventions while their membership are mostly using Apple devices, a company that NFB takes any opportunity to slam. If I had my way, Google would not spend a penny on coming to conferences and conventions only to toss a spectacular party and tell people what they may do in the future. I’d recommend that Google take the money they use to build a smoke screen of support for accessibility and instead spend it on programmers and quality assurance engineers in their accessibility department. When they’re mostly done with the job, then come to the conventions and show us something interesting and fully accessible that exists in the present instead of telling us more about an uncertain and, given their track record, improbable future.
That NFB allows Google to carry the title “Accessibility Champion” is profoundly misleading and, given the marketshare numbers, also entirely false. My challenge to my friends who remain members of NFB is to ask the following question of everyone they see at the convention, “What mobile devices do you use daily?” I will wager that more than 75% will be using an iOS device with the rest either still carrying an old Symbian phone running Talx and a handful of fanatics carrying an Android device. NFB has crowned Google “the champion” while the vast majority of their own membership ignores them and buys the truly accessible solutions instead. Ask the same question at ACB and I predict similar results.
Next, ask whether they have an AppleTV, a Macintosh, a Windows machine or even the impressively accessible FireFox OS phone. Ask if they use anything Google other than the search engine and, again, I’ll wager that you will be hard pressed to find anyone there who uses such. NFB and ACB are not just promoting poor accessibility, their leadership is entirely out of step with the hearts, minds and wallets of their membership. Apple stuff is expensive but it appears, based on published market numbers, to hold an enormous lead over all other operating environments on mobile devices. If anyone is the “accessibility champion,” using the more common definition of the word, it’s Apple, they are winning in the market and doing so by enormous margins.
The NFB Sponsors
After going to the NFB web site and reading the names of its sponsors, I identified a number who aren’t just bad actors on the accessibility stage but, rather, also seem antagonistic to the cause. I read the entire list of ACB convention sponsors as well and, with them, only Google stood out as an accessibility bad guy. At the same time, I’m very willing to bet that NFB raised much more money by sleeping with the enemy.
If you need more than I wrote above for why neither of the major advocacy organizations should allow Google to even present, let alone carry a title like “Diamond” or “Accessibility Champion,” all I ask is that you sit down with an iOS device and an Android one. Do something very simple, count the number of inaccessible things you find, count the number of accessible things you find, divide the latter by the former and you get a score. The Giants won the World Series by scoring more runs in four of the games than did the Kansas City Royals; let’s crown accessibility champions with an objective measure as well.
To be perfectly clear, I think Google may be on the right track regarding accessibility. Hiring Victor Tsaran on the engineering side of the effort spoke volumes to me as he’s a guy with a long history of actually making things accessible at big corporations. The $30 million fund to promote accessibility research is a wonderful thing and I’m very happy to see Google investing so much in this area.
Google isn’t as bad as it was a year ago and it deserves credit for its progress but, as it sits in third or fourth place in any quantitative analysis of accessibility of its actual products, it’s years from being a definition one champion.
I know a lot of blind people who enjoy Uber and I don’t fault them for using the service. But, for NFB to permit a company to enjoy the publicity that one can derive from sponsoring an NFB convention, they might first check if that company is trying to defend itself in an ADA lawsuit involving blind people. Uber, unlike Lyft (also an NFB convention sponsor that I’ll talk about later in this piece) refuses to have a zero tolerance policy regarding service animals, including guide dogs. As I’m a guide dog handler, I won’t even install the Uber app as I don’t know whether or not some asshole driver will simply ditch me and, as Uber has no process for filing complaints about this offense, they are agents of discrimination.. But, it’s NFB, where no one really cares much about we guide dog people.
If, as a blind individual who isn’t a guide dog handler, you make a personal decision to use their service, I’ve no problem with your choice. Uber is very convenient and I’m told it’s less expensive than Lyft, its primary competitor. For NFB, a nationally recognized organization, to allow a company with this black spot on their record who continues to refuse to simply change a policy to require their drivers to accept my dog and I to use their service is further evidence of the prostitution of the National Federation of the Blind. I don’t think that allowing such an endorsement is anything more than a cynical grab for cash and it makes NFB appear terribly inconsistent in a very public manner.
Many years ago, Peter Korn and Marney Beard together built what, to this day, I think was the strongest and most talented accessibility engineering team ever. They did this at Sun Microsystems, before Oracle acquired that company. Oracle’s first act involving accessibility was to give Peter a promotion while, simultaneously, either laying off or reassigning the rest of the team, leaving Peter with a nice title and nearly zero resources to do the actual work. Oracle has not recovered in accessibility in the time since.
At CSUN this year, an Oracle presentation suggested that a blind person in a job should not only know how to do their job properly but also be experts in using a screen reader and, on top of that, be able to report accessibility bugs in the software they’re trying to use to do their jobs. After the session, I asked the Oracle accessibility manager the question, “Are you really expecting a blind call center employee earning $8.25 per hour to be able to do jQuery accessibility call outs?” He said, “Yes.” I asked, “Where on Earth is someone earning eight and a quarter per hour with such skills?” He said, “We have them working of us at Oracle in our call centers.” I can’t recall what I said next as my brain was exploding. What I wish I had said was, “If you have blind people working for eight dollars and twenty five cents per hour who can do jQuery accessibility call outs, please ask them to call me as I’ll pay them no less than $40 per hour to do this kind of work for our clients.” In fact, if you’re a blind person out there with these skills and you’re only earning minimum wage doing something else, please send your resume to 3 Mouse Technology (3MT), Prime Access Consulting (PAC), SSB/Bart, Deque Systems, TPG, WebAIM or any of the other accessibility remediation contract services companies in the business and I promise that one of these groups will find you to be a compelling candidate for a much higher paying job with a promising future.
Blind people already need to work harder than their sighted peers. It’s more difficult for us to get to work in most parts of the world, we need to learn the screen reader commands on top of the applications we need to use to do our jobs and, even then, using a screen reader to access information remains far less efficient than using the same application visually. Now, Oracle is saying that, on top of the other hassles that come with being blind and holding a full time job that all of us should also be highly qualified accessibility quality assurance engineers.
My conversation with this gentleman continued. I said, “Oracle and its subsidiaries have a horrible record regarding publishing accessible software.” His response, “Products need to ship, we need to make money, we can’t slip the ship dates.” Which, in brief can be translated as, “Oracle says, ‘Money talks, accessibility walks.
Worse, though, suggesting that accessibility slows down product releases is entirely fallacious. Building accessibility is not a burden, it’s an alternative implementation strategy that actually benefits developers in a myriad of ways in the long run. Having such a strategy would benefit Oracle greatly but they have strange priorities I guess.’
Any Good Guys In The Mix?
Not all of the NFB sponsors are accessibility bad guys. In this section, I’ll highlight some of the good guys on the NFB sponsor list. Excepting the NVAccess Foundation, I don’t think any business or organization is a perfect example of how accessibility should be done but those I mention in this section do better than most and I’m happy to see them featured at the NFB convention.
As I wrote in my CSUN 2015 report, Target, after settling its lawsuit with NFB has taken accessibility research to a higher level than I’ve ever seen from a major company. In brief, Target is doing user experience (UX) and usability testing of their branded technologies to ensure an efficient experience for users with disabilities in the future. While the Target web site isn’t ideally accessible, it’s pretty darn good and I’m glad to see that they’re working in a solid way to affect these changes across their company.
I use Dropbox daily. Most of my blind friends do so as well. Unlike the peculiar interfaces for other cloud services, Dropbox acts like just another folder on your system and is entirely accessible on one’s local system. Dropbox has accessibility problems on their web site and I hope they get such fixed as soon as possible but, compared to anything from Google, the guys at Dropbox get things mostly right.
My friend and President of Prime Access consulting, Sina Bahram, has an insider perspective on accessibility at Dropbox and said, “in their most recent IOS app update, Dropbox dedicated 100% of the update and their changelog for it to accessibility. This is a super classy move by a prominent technology company. My kudos to the various Dropbox teams who work on improving accessibility on a daily basis.”
Any regular reader of this blog or my BlindConfidential one before it, knows that I’m a vocal critic of Freedom Scientific for many different reasons. For some blind people, though, JAWS remains the only screen reader they can use to access some things they need to do their job. There’s an enormous body of JAWS scripts written at job sites around the world to support oddball proprietary software used only at that single company. If JAWS were to disappear tomorrow, a lot of blind people would lose their livelihoods and, for this reason alone, I put FS into the good guys column in this discussion.
Like FS, Humanware makes technology that a lot of blind people enjoy using. Unlike FS, I haven’t a lot of perspective into how they do things but have a generally good opinion of them. I think blind ghetto products are vastly too expensive and wish that we could enjoy the mainstream economies of scale but, for some blind people, a proprietary notetaker provides a solution they enjoy more than off-the-shelf products and I’m happy that Humanware serves this sub-population well.
As I mention above, I have a big problem with Uber for its lack of a zero tolerance policy regarding refusing service animals. Lyft is exactly the opposite, if one driver refuses one blind person with one dog a ride once, he or she will be fired immediately. Lyft has similar policies regarding sexual harassment of its passengers by drivers and prides itself on being the “friendly ride sharing service.” As I’ve a dog, I won’t even install the Uber app as, having been ditched by taxi drivers who were ostensibly regulated by local ordinances, I will not subject myself to getting ditched by an unregulated system that seems to refuse to regulate itself. I like Lyft and don’t mind spending a few extra bucks where it is more expensive than Uber.
One friend of mine to whom I spoke before writing this piece said, “Think of Uber as Microsoft in the bad old days and Lyft as Apple. Uber only cares about growth and global domination while Lyft is willing to grow more slowly and focus on customer experience.
The Apple Strategy?
As I wrote in “The Hands That Feed” and in other articles since, NFB has a bizarre and pathological stance regarding Apple. Most recently, NFB published an article by a sighted employee of their’s who tried to use VoiceOver on iOS for 40 days. Her conclusions were that the experience for a blind person isn’t as nice as it is for a sighted person. On its own, this sentence is entirely true but, in the absence of context, it’s entirely fallacious. If the author spent 40 days with an iOS device, 40 days with an Android device, 40 days with FireFox OS, 40 days with Windows and so on and wrote up her conclusions in context, the sentence might have instead read, “There’s no system on any major platform in which a blind person enjoys as rich an experience as do sighted users of the same but iOS comes closer than any other.” So, while her first conclusions are true, out of context, they are simply meaningless. I’d love perfect accessibility on all platforms but, as of today, accessibility isn’t perfect anywhere but Apple, on iOS, comes closer than any other team has ever come to providing 100% accessibility out-of-the-box.
It’s clear to everyone watching that Apple can afford to buy the “accessibility champion” title from NFB as it’s obviously for sale and Apple isn’t wanting for cash. They could be a sponsor at any other level as well. Apple instead chooses to simply ignore NFB and they’ve won the marketshare battles among blind users. If Apple, the leader in out-of-the-box accessibility refuses to engage with NFB, is NFB relevant in any substantive manner on issues regarding technological accessibility? NFB continues to snipe at Apple but Apple, while refusing to bend over for the biggest advocacy organization representing our population, has demonstrated that NFB is little more than a straw dog.
One person highly placed in corporate accessibility, under conditions of anonymity, said, “NFB is like the North Korea of accessibility; they’re dangerous enough that you need to keep an eye on them but, on any global scale, they’re irrelevant.” This seems to be the Apple attitude as well, make the best accessibility you can, let the NFB piss and moan that you don’t pay them their patronage but, in the long run, win the hearts and minds of our community. One becomes “champion” by delivering excellent products with excellent accessibility, not by paying off the NFB.
This article pretty well summarizes itself, what can we conclude other than the NFB is a cynical and money hungry organization willing to sleep with the enemy. The NFB, by allowing organizations with horrific records on accessibility to even be present demonstrates that, once again, NFB is saying, “Money talks, accessibility walks.”
If I was going to crown an accessibility champion for 2015, I would be torn between a number of excellent choices. I might start with Christopher “Q” Toth and Tyler Spivey for delivering the free and open source NVDA Remote Access plug-in funded entirely by community donations. I would definitely include my good friend Sina Bahram for his work making MathPlayer accessible with NVDA. I would include Marco Zehe and the accessibility team at Mozilla Foundation for their excellent effort on FireFox OS. I’d include my friend Howard Kaplan for building a low vision oriented book reading app called SpotlightText based in the actual science of retina disorders rather than just picking the most popular features from those that already exist. I’d include the NVAccess Foundation for its continued commitment to free and open source accessibility. I’d include the Apple accessibility team for fixing a lot of the VoiceOver related bugs in more recent iOS updates. I might even include Freedom Scientific for its offering JAWS at a reasonable price during the NFB convention.
Perhaps we shouldn’t crown a champion at all, instead, let’s call it an all star team on which all of those I mention in the previous paragraph would be included. Please, add your favorite accessibility all-stars in the comments section. I’d love to hear some more stories about the good guys in this game.
I would not, however, include Google, Uber, Oracle or the other bad actors that NFB is willing to sleep with. Maybe I’m too much of a purist, maybe I ask for too much but, as the good guys are already delivering excellent solutions today, why celebrate companies like Google and Oracle who, while having enough money to do anything they choose, choose not to do accessibility properly?
Bruce Toews says
One question to ask, though. How long, since its inception, has it taken Google to get where it is in terms of accibility. Conversely, how long, in its almost forty-year history, did it take Apple to recognize accessibility needs? Accessibility in the Apple 2 was not to mainstream products, unless they were either very basic or written in BASIC. It took Apple roughly 30 years to start taking accessibility seriously.
Chris Hofstader says
Have you ever heard the same excuse for poor technology applied to any other issue? Following your logic, Tesla, the company that makes really cool electric automobiles should have started by trying to compete with a Ford Model T or some other ancient bit of automotive technology. That Ford has been in business for more than a century so, again using the logic you present, they *should* be the most high tech company in the automobile industry, which they are not.
In fact, that Google is a newer company selling newer software, it would have been much *easier* for them to be fully accessible from day one than it was for Apple or Microsoft (for instance) to retrofit it into existing systems. When Google set out to write Android, they had solid working examples like MSAA 2.0 and User Interface Automation (UIA) from Microsoft, the Apple accessibility API and the excellent and very thorough specification for the Gnome/GTK API. Microsoft had to invent MSAA from the ground up but Google had a pile of literature on which to base its design but messed it up badly.
On top of that, Google came into business long after ADA and not long before the CVAA discussion. Apple and MS got into the game before these regulations were on the books but the Google compliance and regulation specialists have chosen to follow some laws while ignoring others. Meanwhile, Apple and MS have been scrambling to fully comply.
So, you’re wrong on principle, on the law and the history. Please, if you can, find me another industry where it’s just fine to suck for years no matter the law or the consumer desires and I’ll buy you a beer. Dropbox is a new company and gets a11y right, so is Lyft, so is Spotify (they rock on iOS) and so on so Google has had much longer to do the work but choose not to.
Stomme poes says
Ooh ooh, buy me a beer!
“find me another industry where it’s just fine to suck for years no matter the law or the consumer desires”
Telecom! Shitty customer service, and earnings in the bazillions.
I think that, due mostly to being old, I might have a very different perspective on telecoms.
When I was 10 years old, my family co-located between our home in suburban New Jersey and Berkeley, California. While mom, me and my younger siblings were in New Jersey during the school year, my dad commuted back and forth to Berkeley where the entire family would spend the summers. We liked talking to my dad daily. On top of that, my mom’s parents lived in Jersey City, about a fifteen minute drive from our more suburban locale and every call we made to them cost us 35 cents or more. As my father also traveled internationally frequently, we had calls to Brazil, Argentina and other places far from New Jersey. Thus, with the calls to California, Jersey City and the occasional foreign nation, we were spending more than $200 per month to make about 30 toll calls. These are $200 in 1970 dollars and not adjusted of inflation.
Today, for just over $100 per month, we have two cell phones, one land line, cable television and the Internet. Yesterday alone, I had phone calls and voice chats with people in Florida, Massachusetts, New York, New Delhi, Colorado, South Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and perhaps elsewhere, I don’t remember every call I made. This alone would have cost more than a hundred dollars in 1970 and was only a single fairly typical day using communications technology for me.
So, while telecoms have poor customer service, tend to be terrible players regarding accessibility, IP law and other issues I hold dear. Telecoms basically suck but, the price/performance ratio has dropped profoundly in the past 45 years in virtually every corner of the globe.
I’ll buy you a beer anyway though :-).
Doug Cameron says
Chris:, I would love to say I completely agree with you, but truthfully I cannot. As a user of: windows, firefox OS, Mac OS X, android, Windows mobile, blackberry OS, Chrom OS(Chromebooks/chromebox), apple tv iOS, and the list does go on, I can tell you that by soul criticizing google for their horrific accessibility approach, you really need to consider absolutely everything. blackberry started with 0 accessibility for anybody. look where they are, not the best, but they still have a solid screen reader application called blackberry screen reader, that is on all new play books, and blackberry mobile devices. Google and talk back are much the same, but they are ahead of the game. if you sit and play with an android device, I have a samsung galaxy S5, you will see that for the most part there is not much of a difference in the level of access between IOS and blackberry. Yes, webfeilds were a pain in the ass until android 5.0, but its fixed. I find it easier honestly to use my android than my IOS devices, and honestly had more issues with my IOS devices and software stability than I do with the android. We all have personal preferances, but we need to look at the whole scene. Google is the furthest from the bad guy in accessability, though they are not the champion, I don’t feel anybody truly is, because there is not one access software or platform that is 100% perfect. they all have their ups and downs, and it all depends on what the individual prefers and needs. I have moved away from windows, because of their lack of accessibility, and gone only to mac. I moved to android, because IOS wasn’t as free and open access as I would prefer. And, just a fid bit, IOS is originally created by CISCO, and I believe all rights to IOS are to Cisco, as IOS is the operating system of their routers, and other basic networking equipment. SO apple was technically handed a platform that had the ability to add access to it, just didn’t have it implemented. Where as google had to start from the ground up.
Mubanga Chipalo says
What are the email addresses for free mouse technology and dro box? Secondly, Iam a blind person who is interested in writing books therefore I would like to know any company or blind person who can teach me how to format books and screenplays.
I included links to virtually all companies I mention in the article itself. But, because you asked, 3 Mouse Technology is: http://www.3MouseTech.com and Dropbox is http://www.dropbox.com.
Lori Lynn says
My biggest complaint about the NFB is their basic belief that if you are blind you “MUST” use Braille. I’m blind, use a dog not a cain, and read very little Braille. But I have always worked, am self-sufficient and independent. I have rarely agreed with anything that the NFB puts out.
I wonder how you can justify giving credit to Freedom Scientific for work place scripting solutions when they are created by 3rd party scripters. Aren’t you giving them credit for the hard work of others?
I had trepidations about including FS in the “good guys” list as well and I said that in the article’s text. While I’d be the first to admit that FS has a pile of problems, they do make the software that allows for others to write scripts in a manner that allows for really weird and entirely proprietary applications to be made accessible. When compared to any business on the “bad guys” list, FS looks really good. So, in the context of Google, Uber and Oracle, FS is quite definitely a “good guy” while, compared to NVAccess Foundation, they are bad actors. It’s all a spectrum and, in this context, FS looks pretty good to me.
hey you have to include google because without my android device I could not use nearby explorer. and I’d rather use eloquence or espeak on a mobile device. on IOS you have to use their vocalizer voices. Sometimes I don’t want the world hearing what I am doing and yet don’t want to use headphones. so I am sticking with my moto g android phone which I find just as accessible as an IOS device for what I need it for. and I am trying to get codeFactory to bring us keysoft and keynote gold for android so we can have even greater accessibility choices. imagine turning your droid into a braillenote for $100 or so? wouldn’t that be great? if so email ferran.gallego email@example.com
brandon armstrong says
so in other words the last person who has the android phone is saying all of us who have iPhones suck, because he says by not coming outright and saying it that it’s ok to have tech that is poorly executed and sucks for years to come. why did it take google five years or more just to get basic accessibility right/ and to the person who said it took apple forty years or more for accessibility, I think your forgetting about the apple 2 e back in the mid to late eighties. that had echo. to prove my point, go look at the original macintosh from 1984. it talked.
Tyler Kavanaugh says
There are two other groups/companies that I would include in the list of accessibility “good guys.” Those are WordPress and D2L Corporation.
WordPress is one of the most accessible content management systems I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve tried several: WP, Drupal, and Joomla. One of the things they have in their testing methodology is accessibility testing, and that is evident in the core distribution.
D2L Corporation creates the Desire2Learn/Brightspace learning management system, which is one of the most screen-reader friendly LMS’s I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I can’t speak for its instructor-facing backend, but the student-facing frontend is extremely accessible, meeting, at a minimum, the requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (I wouldn’t be surprised if it also met WCAG 1.0 or 2.0 standards).
Amanda Rush says
I was going to mention WordPress myself, but given my involvement with the project, I figured that would come off biased. Fortunately, I don’t think WordPress as a project will ever send anyone to any NFB event, even if WPa11y were rolling in dough.
Nancy irwin says
Hey Chris, Nancy from SC here – went to southeastern in ’06 together.
In regards to Uber, as a dog guide handler neither my husband nor myself have had Any issues. In-fact All of the drivers here seem appalled and adamant about the transport of service dogs.
I can’t speak for a corporate level, but Every time I have rated a driver I have gotten a response. The other drivers inquire about our dogs when we don’t bring them and I have contact info for several in the area.
So I’m just curious maybe it’s a regional issue?
Will Pearson says
I think that referring to any organisation as an accessibility “champion” can be misleading. Some definitions by their nature are subjective, and the definition of “champion” is certainly one of those subjective definitions. The definition doesn’t specify what level entities have to achieve in order to be considered a “champion”. So, Google may be a “champion” by the NFB’s standard. Whether this says more about Google or the NFB is something that I’ll leave up to individuals to consider for themselves. I suspect that financial support played a large part in the NFB’s decision to classify Google as a “champion”, and I’ll leave it to individuals as to what this implies about the NFB’s standards.
Google certainly could do more towards accessibility for a company their size. However, there are signs that they are doing something towards accessibility. Whilst they seem to have poor accessibility in terms of the basic applications that ship with stock Android their applications that make use of the Google Play Services API seem to have reasonably good accessibility. I think this is indicative of a general trend within Google towards applications that make use of Google Play Services. This is one route that Google makes money out of Android as they charge OEM’s a licence fee for distributing Google Play Services with their hardware.
Can organisations such as the NFB or ACB be considered accessibility champions themselves? If the world were to be entirely accessible then the need for these organisations would be greatly reduced if not eliminated entirely unless they were responsible for providing at least part of the solution. Are these organisations, and accessibility advocates in general, willing to take a path of self sacrifice or do they find their social standing and all that it brings too appealing?
My definition of an accessibility champion is of an entity that looks beyond what accessibility is and asks what accessibility could be. There are still a large number of tasks that remain inaccessible but that could be made accessible. These range from interacting with drawings and images through to tasks such as driving or pedestrian mobility without a guide dog or cane. All of these are possible but are only ideas that exist in academic research at present. There is also the question of how accessibility solutions interface with the rest of society and the effects that those solutions have on that society. This question is one of the key questions in the social adoption of accessiblity in my opinion. So, I would define accessibility champions as those who ask those big questions and wonder why there are not more accessibility champions out there.
Dan TeVelde says
Even though I don’t agree with all of your statements the article is very interesting and should promote a healthy discussion. I would like to share my own experiences. first of all, I completely agree with you about Oracle. I have to use their tools since that is our development environment. so far the only option which works is to use a command line interface with Windows. this works well but it’s not the approach my co-workers are using. Oracle claims that some of tehir development tools will work with JAWS if you have the Java Access Bridge. I couldn’t get this to work. When I contacted Oralce they to.ld me it was a Java issue and that I would need to contact Sun Microsystems. Sun told me that our license didn’t include personal tech support and that I shoudl get Oracle to help. So all of us went back and forth with no resulrts. oracle does have blind programmers but they are using a command line interface with Linux and Linux isn’t an option at my job. oracle’s accessibility page is a joke. It talks about modifying scripts for JAWS 3.0 or something like that. Their documentation and training are not accessible either they use YouTube videos. When i pointed this out to our training contact at Oracle he said that yes they don’t comply with the ADA but didn’t seem interested in helping.
My second point is about Freedom Scientific. You would think that given thhe price they charge for JAWS that they would be interested in resolving tech supprot issues. for the past three years I have had problems getting mainframe Attachmate terminal emulation to display text properly on my Braille display when there are spaces. this started happening when I upgraded to JAWS 13. I was using JAWS 12 on another laptop and didn’t have any issues. FS told me to upgrade Attachmate an try that which created thye problem I was having on my first comptuer. We ended up having to buy a new copy of Attachmate because we don’t have a site license. My employer ahd a conference with FS and FS stated that since the Attachmate scripts were written by a third party, they weren’t responsible. I find this hard to believe since the scripts install with JAWS. do other software vendors say they can’t help because part of their software was outsourced. Attachmate let FS use a demo version of their software in a demo mainframe environment and FS couldnt’ replicate they problem and didn’t seem interested in helping since they claim that nobody does mainframe programming anymore. I’m not the only person with problems with terminal emulation I have a freidn who works for a government angency. In addition, I had issues where Openbook stopped working when I got a new computer. FS couldnt’ figure out the problem. I have a Windows 7 machine at work. I tried using Windows 8 with my home computer and JAWS stopped working. FS couldn’t help me with that problem either so now I u8se NVDA and havent’ had any serious issues. It seems that no matter what I ask FS to help with they say either that I should check how much RAM memory I have (I’m usign 8 GB and that’s more than adequate), what processes are running in the background, and when I tell them that my memory is sufficient and that all of the processes in the bgackground are normal FS says ‘well I don’t know’. If it wasn’t for my need for mainframe terminal emulation at work, I would use NVDA and dump JAWS. I’m not sure if terminal emulation would work better with WindowEyes but may give it a try.
My final comment is that I disagree wtih you about Apple. I admit that my productivity with the iPhone is increasing while my productivity with Windows and JAWS is decreasing.l My one reservation with the iPhone is the poor Braille support. Braille is in demand by a significant number of blind peoploe and the Braille display drivers don’t offer much functionality. I use a notetaker because I have much more control over how I use Braille and navigate text. The extra cost is worth it.
Vivien Palcic says
When I tried contacting FS about JAWS’ handling of checkmarks in Word documents back in around 2006/2007, when JAWS was purchased for me as part of Workplace Modifications funding during a temporary job, all I ever got was the automated reply acknowledging my emails. Here in Australia, we are customarily sent back to the local dealers/distributors who, typically enough, as in my case, still have to turn to FS any way, as FS, after all, make the software. I only opted for JAWS reluctantly in the first place because, among other issues with WindowEyes at the time, the context-sensitive help was very poor. I am extremely glad to be using NVDA now, having dumped JAWS (and with it Freedom Scientific’s laughable service!). Great article, Chris, and no, you are not asking too much – the NFB should not be sleeping with the enemy, but sadly, I am not that surprised. This is, is it not, an organisation that slams audible traffic signals, tactile ground surface indicators (eg on train station platforms), and audio description?
Trenton Matthews says
As I use an Acer Chromebook 11 daily, the experience certainly ain’t perfect all the time, that’s why Google, the makers of Chromevox:
, brought the “Next” branch on over to Chrome OS and the Chrome browser, for testing:
The “Next” version of Chromevox, will be replacing the “Classic” one Chromies have now currently, in a few months time.
For more, please see:
I attempted to post a comment here earlier but it got eaten up or something. Anyway, I’d like to mention another accessibility good guy. That is, Dreamwidth Studios, LLC. I first read about this journaling platform about 2 years ago on http://www.audiogames.net . The forum poster had only good things to say about it, so I went and checked out the main site. I registered for a free account and set up a journal on there. This platform works great with VoiceOver, and in addition it is said to work well with at least some of the Windows-based screen readers. Their mobile site is also pretty good but it needs some work.
Robert Kingett says
I found dreamwidth by looking at your comment and I absolutely love it! It is much better than Live Journal. I think I may even start blogging on there. :)
Were you ever able to connect it to Microsoft word 2016 though? I may look at posting by email, too
Adam from Indy says
I would like to submit Salesforce.com to the list of accessibility conscious corporate players. Here is another company which NFB has called out for not playing nice in the accessibility space, without taking much time to research their claims. There are indeed issues that still need to be solved, but Salesforce’s accessibility mode puts Oracle’s Siebel to shame. What strikes me as being important in this fight, is working on the backend interface. Too often companies focus on the user facing side, while discounting blind admin/developers entirely. As a Salesforce developer I do face my share of struggles in dealing with some of the drag and drop interfaces, but as they continue to build on their lightning experience, tools such as process builder are opening doors to the blind admin/developer. As a fast moving player in the tech industry, here is one that at least needs some credit for work, not just on the user side, but that admin as well.