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W3C WAI launches Introduction to Web Accessibility MOOC

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has announced a free online Introduction to Web Accessibility Massive Open Online Course (MOOC).

The four-week free self-paced course is designed to provide a basic overview of broad web accessibility concepts designed for technical and non-technical audiences.

The course is based on the open curricula from the W3C WAI Education and Outreach Working Group (EOWG) which can freely be used by anyone wishing to create a course based on W3C web accessibility concepts.

The topics covered in the online course include:

  • The principles of accessibility: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust (POUR)
  • How you can check web pages for some basic accessibility issues and improve accessibility
  • Where to find the right resources for developers and designers to implement accessibility
  • Approaches for planning managing accessibility in your project and in your organisation
  • Where to find W3C resources for developers and designers to implement accessibility

Enrolments for the course are open now and will be available on 28 January 2020. The course itself is free but the completion certificate has an additional charge. While the course is offered worldwide, there are some access restrictions in select countries.

It’s great to see W3C WAI build a course from its own excellent curricula resources and to see some familiar names, including a PCWA Alumnus and one of my former staff from my Media Access Australia days involved in the project.

Microsoft adds high contrast to its new Edge web browser

Microsoft has been steadily working on the development of its new web browser to replace the version of Edge that is currently in Windows 10. While the new version is also called Edge, its underpinnings are closely related to the code used in Google Chrome and the great news is its screen reader and high contrast support are working well.

The new Edge browser has the potential to bridge the gap of current web browsers which generally either provide good screen reader support, or high contrast support, but not necessarily both. Hands-on tests of the Edge Beta indicate that it does indeed provide the benefit of lightning-fast rendering of web pages currently in Chrome, but providing compatibility with popular screen readers including NVDA, support for the built-in Narrator screen reader in Windows 10. along with high contrast themes in the operating system being applied by default to web pages once the feature is enabled.

Screenshot of 'force color profile' option in Edge Beta flag settings.

Due to the Edge browser currently being in Beta, adding the high contrast theme takes a little bit of tweaking. To try out the new Edge browser, follow these steps:

  1. Download the new Edge Browser ‘Canary channel’ version.
  2. Enter in the web address edge://flags/.
  3. A list of experimental settings will appear. In the search box on the web page, type in ‘force colour’ and press Enter.  
  4. The Force Colour Profile will appear. Change the drop-down box to say ‘Default’.
  5. Follow the prompts to restart the browser. Edge will now match the High Contrast setting enabled in Windows 10.

While there’s no date for an official release of the new Edge browser, the Beta works very well with both High Contrast theme and screen readers making it a potentially good choice for blind and low vision assistive technology users.

NOTE: At this time of writing the Edge browser is in Beta. As such, the instructions and quality of product may change.

Amazon adds Show and Tell feature to smart displays for blind users

Amazon has recently started the international rollout of its Show and Tell feature, designed to use the camera in an Echo Show smart display to help people who are blind identify everyday objects.

The feature works by using the built-in camera of the Echo Show to visually identify products. The information is then read out to the user. The feature was originally released in September to first and second-generation Echo Show devices in the USA, but anecdotal feedback suggests products in other countries can also be identified.  

To use Show and Tell, say to the Echo Show model that supports the feature  “Alexa, what am I holding?” or “Alexa, what’s in my hand?,” which will kick off verbal and audio cues that guide you to place the item you’d like to identify in front of the Echo Show’s camera.

It’s encouraging to see large companies such as Amazon continuing to find new and innovative ways to use their popular smart devices to add functionality that assists people with disability.

W3C Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules 1.0 standard released

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) has announced that the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AG WG) and the ACT Task Force have published the Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules Format 1.0 as a “W3C Recommendation” web standard.

As stated in the Recommendation Abstract, “The Accessibility Conformance Testing (ACT) Rules Format 1.0 defines a format for writing accessibility test rules. These test rules can be used for developing automated testing tools and manual testing methodologies. It provides a common format that allows any party involved in accessibility testing to document and share their testing procedures in a robust and understandable manner. This enables transparency and harmonization of testing methods, including methods implemented by accessibility test tools.”.

The ACT Rules 1.0 focus on a structure based on Atomic rules which describe how to test a specific type of solution, and Composite rules which describe how the outcomes of multiple Atomic rules can be combined into a single outcome for each test target.

It’s great to see this guidance made available to help provide consistency in the way online content is tested for accessibility.

Domino’s Pizza accessibility case stands despite Supreme Court appeal

The ability to order pizza in the USA remains at the forefront of accessibility discussion as its Supreme Court rejected Domino’s appeal to a case regarding the accessibility of its pizza ordering app.

As posted in January, the complaint was brought forward by Guillermo Robles, a blind Domino’s customer who said that the iOS based app on the iPhone did not work effectively with the VoiceOver screen reader. As a result, he was unable to change pizza toppings, complete the order or use coupons.

The case began in 2016 with an argument based on the belief that not being able to complete an order placed Domino’s in breach of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. Specifically, the Act states it is unlawful for businesses to deny individuals with disabilities access to their goods and services unless the effort involved places them under an “undue burden”.

Supreme pizza from Domino's

Supreme Pizza (Copyright © Domino’s Pizza)

While the case was initially lost, Robles was successful on appeal and Domino’s Pizza USA was required to fix its website and app. Domino’s appealed this ruling, but the Supreme Court rejected the appeal, paving the way for other claims by people with disabilities should online content not comply with accessibility standards. This ruling represents the first time a federal court of appeals has ever decided whether Title III of the ADA applies to a business’s website or mobile apps.

The accessibility issue featured in the case primarily revolves around the lack of alternative text for images, a common complaint faced by blind and vision impaired users of fast food apps due to the rapidly-changing nature of special products often resulting in alternative text being skipped over in the rush to promote items. As a result, a future Domino’s online store is now required to ensure that its website and app are compliant with web accessibility standards and compatible with VoiceOver on iOS devices.

While Domino’s Pizza USA is a separate trading entity to Domino’s Pizza Australia, the ruling is likely to spark other online food providers to take notice and update their content to more effectively support the needs of people with disabilities.