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Dr Scott Hollier - Digital Access Specialist Posts

Lego to develop Braille and audio building instructions

Lego has recently announced plans to create Braille and Audio Instructions to give people who are blind or vision impaired a chance to create Lego sets.

The idea began when Matthew Shifrin, a blind Lego fan since childhood, was given a Lego set from a family friend that came with a binder of Braille instructions, hand-written using a Braille typewriter. He realised that this wasn’t something he could keep to himself, and so he started up the Legofortheblind website. The website was where he and his family friend, made Braille and audio instructions for people who were blind or vision impaired.

The website was a success and almost immediately Matthew and his family friend Lilya were flooded with requests for different sets to be made accessible with their Braille system. Unfortunately, Matthew had to turn down many of these requests as he didn’t have the capabilities to be filling out hundreds of orders with just him and his friend. He turned to The Lego Foundation, who embraced the idea of Braille and Audio Based Lego Instructions with open arms.

Sharlini, a 13-year-old Lego Fanatic , shares her enthusiasm about the news:

“It’s a great chance for everyone, no matter your capabilities, to be able to enjoy a personal favourite pastime of mine. Building Lego is meant to bring people together, and this news is proof that nothing, not even being a person that’s blind or vision impaired, can stop that.”

The Pilot project has commenced with The Lego Foundation dubbing it as ‘Lego Braille & Audio Building Instructions: A pilot experience’. The timeline on the website shows they are planning to review feedback from September – November before announcing any future plans in January 2020.

While Lego may not be seen as a traditional access story, its growing relevance in teaching children how to interact with robotics and the Internet of Things makes this an exciting new development.

Special thanks to Sharlini for contributing to this article.

W3C WAI releases draft cognitive guidance for web content

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has released a draft document titled  Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and  Learning Disabilities – Working Draft to help provide guidance for cognitive disabilities not generally addressed in other W3C work.

In a formal announcement by the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Task Force (COGA TF), it was stated that:

“WAI has been working on additional accessibility guidance beyond Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), particularly for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, people with low vision, and people using mobile devices. This guidance will likely be available from a single main page and integrated in the WAI website.”

“In the meantime, the Cognitive and Learning Disabilities Task Force (COGA TF) has been working on additional guidance in the Working Draft

Document Making Content Usable for People with Cognitive and Learning Disabilities

We welcome your comments on this document. For example,

  • Is the presentation and organization of information clear?
  • Is it easy to find specific information you are looking for? What if “you” are a web page designer, or an app developer?
  • How does this approach for providing the information work?

To comment this document, please open a new issue in the W3C COGA GitHub repository:”

One of the main criticisms of the WCAG standard is that it lacks guidance for people with cognitive disability, and the little that is presented tends to be weighted towards the rarely implemented Level AAA compliance. As such it’s great to see formalised work in this area evolving.

W3C WAI Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA Note Published

It’s with great pleasure I can share with you that after several years of work, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Note that I’ve been involved in relating to the inaccessibility of CAPTCHA has been published. The purpose of this Note is to help developers understand the issues and implement accessible CAPTCHA solutions.

In a formal statement by Janina Sajka , the W3C WAI advised that:

Today the Accessible Platform Architectures (APA) Working Group, with the assistance of its Research Questions Task Force (RQTF), has published: “Inaccessibility of CAPTCHA,”  as a W3C Note:

http://www.w3.org/TR/turingtest

First published in 2005  today’s 2.0 publication extensively updates the earlier version to bring our analysis and recommendations up to date with CAPTCHA practice today.

CAPTCHA technologies covered in today’s publication include:

  • Traditional visual and audio CAPTCHA, including CAPTCHA games and logic puzzles as practiced today.
  • reCAPTCHA v2 and v3
  • Blinded verification tokens
  • Honeypots
  • Biometrics
  • Proof of WorkHeuristics, PKI certificates, and much more.

Today’s publication is the culmination of almost two years of extensive research, discussion, writing, and editing by APA’s Research Questions Task Force (RQTF). The document is extensively documented with references to research publications and numerous on line resources. Comments received in response to three separate wide public review draft publications aided our work immensely.”

As the lead editor for the Note, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank fellow editors Janina Sajka, Jason White and Michael Cooper for the opportunity to be involved with the update along with the many contributions provided by the general public during the feedback process.

For more information on CAPTCHA and its impact on people with disabilities, please refer to the excellent ABC article The internet thinks you’re a robot, and other ‘dark patterns’ people with disabilities face online.

Affordable Access resource receives a refresh

In my former role with Media Access Australia, I worked with VisAbility to project manage and write the contents of the Affordable Access resource. The resource was well received at the time and I was very excited when the Centre For Inclusive Design (CfID) invited me back to develop content for its recently launched refresh.

Affordable Access screenshot

The original resource was funded by an Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) grant, focused on providing guidance on consumer-based technologies that are both affordable and contain accessibility features. As explained on the homepage of the resource:

“The Affordable Access initiative is all about providing equal access to technology for people with hearing, sight or cognitive issues or disabilities, that is both affordable and easy to use.

There are lots of great products on the market that contain accessibility features, yet it’s often hard to work out which ones are well suited and which options are best on a limited budget.

This resource has been created to help you make educated choices on options priced up to $250. You’ll find useful information on the specific accessibility features that are in popular devices such as tablets, smartphones, desktop computers, TV media players and assistive technologies that provide the best deals for the average user on a budget.

The options presented on this website include commonly used everyday products plus additional options for those who are more tech savvy.”

At the beginning of the year the CfID contacted me regarding their interest in wanting to update the website which was now several years out of date, and it was a great privilege to be asked to return to the project to support CfID in the refresh. With new content and a design overhaul, the resource again provides up-to-date information across what’s accessible, what’s available, what’s suitable and what’s possible.

Many thanks to CfID for the opportunity to be involved in updating the Affordable Access resource. The resource is located at www.affordableaccess.com.au.

Google Android 10 changes naming convention and improves logo for vision impaired users

The new version of Google Android is dropping its dessert-base naming convention and has updated the Android logo to improve accessibility.

Traditionally Google Android has featured a naming convention based on desserts and in alphabetical order in addition to its numerical name. Recent examples of Android operating systems include 7.0 Nougat, 8.0 Oreo and 9.0 Pie. However, for the next version Google has announce did will simply be called Android 10.

In addition, Google has launched a new Android logo that has been specifically designed with accessibility in mind. In a video outlining the change, it is stated that the updated Android logo features a “…new colour palette and visual identity system.”

The video highlights the change by stating “The core of Android is for everyone…accessibility has already been at the heart of Android recognition…we wanted to stay in the family of green but unless we use a really dark green, its hard for some people to see.”

 “So we developed a more robust accessibility palette…we now have all our communication accessible to all.”  

The logo change significantly improves the colour contrast, making it compatible with the 4.5:1 colour contrast ratio required by the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA standard.

Android 10 is currently available as a public beta with its formal release, along with the new logo, expected in the coming months.