Information management

Braille and Braille Publishing

Braille is a system for publishing text for blind readers.  It uses patterns of raised dots to represent letters, which are read by touch.

This article covers the major sources of printed braille in the US.

Although not all print materials are converted into braille, there is a wide variety made available.  There are 3 major sources of Braille publications in the U.S.

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Assistive Technology on USB Drives

Many assistive technology software programs are available on USB drives (also known as "flash" or "thumb" drives). These drives allow the programs to be run without being installed on the computer, which may be ideal for public computers with security settings that prevent software installation. A library patron, for example, may show up with his or her preferred AT, requiring little additional effort or expense from the library. This article covers how your library or other public access point can take advantage of these accessibility solutions.

Public computing locations should have IT management policies and procedures in place that let users show up with their own AT, while protecting the security of the computers and network. A staffer may have to work with the user to get the software to run effectively on your machines.

Here are some things to watch out for:

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Simple Language Makes Reading Easier

Clearly written information benefits any website visitor. However, it is particularly important to the many people who generally have trouble understanding written text. This includes:

•    people with cognitive disabilities
•    new readers (children and adults)
•    beginning English students

This article discusses a common method of measuring website readability, via several free tools. It also provides suggestions for improving your site's score.

Flesch Reading Ease

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Audio Information Resources

People with visual or cognitive impairments can access materials in alternate formats such as large-print, braille and audio. Audio is a popular medium because it works with so many portable devices such as mp3 players, e-book readers, smartphones, and laptops. It's really a mainstream way of distributing content that people with disabilities are using, rather than a specialized channel.

Almost all types of content are available, although publishers may restrict access to some materials.

RoboBraille is a free web-based or email service that will convert digital text documents into mp3 audio files. Your file can be a .doc, .docx, .pdf, .txt, .xml, .html, .htm, .rtf, .epub, .mobi, etc..

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Large Computer Pointers/Cursors

Current computer operating systems use a small icon called a pointer or cursor that moves on the screen when the mouse is moved. The most common pointers are an arrow, a vertical bar that appears in word processing document (sometimes called the I-Beam), and a hand that appears on web pages when the pointer is on top of a link. These pointers can be quite small or may blend in with the background, making them difficult to see, especially for people with low vision.

This article discusses several ways to make the pointer more visible. Utilities built into the operating system can make the pointer easier to see by making it larger, providing higher contrast, or providing supplemental visual cues. If these are not sufficient, some third-party programs have additional capabilities.

Try It Yourself:

Pointer modification: Provides themes that change the color and size of the standard pointers. One Windows option has an option for animating the pointers, which may help in catching users' attention.

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Accessible Mice

Standard mice may be hard for some people to move or click. There are mainstream alternatives like trackballs, joysticks, and track pads.  There are also specialized mice specifically designed for people with disabilities. Other solutions require little or no hand and arm movement. This article describes a range of alternatives to using the standard mouse.

Try It Yourself:

Several built-in utilities help with moving the pointer and clicking:

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Making Your Organization's Website More Accessible and Usable

Making Your Organization's Website More Accessible and Usable

Website accessibility is less complex than many people believe. It primarily involves adherence to a small number of basic rules for including certain codes or content in ways that can be interpreted effectively by people who are not using the standard monitor, keyboard, or mouse to access and interact with websites.

Guidelines and Standards

Most national and international accessibility guidelines are based on at least one of two sources:

  • The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). WCAG 1.0 was published in 1999; WCAG 2.0, which is a major revision, was published in 2008. Among other changes, WCAG 2.0 strives to remain relevant as new Internet technologies are developed. WCAG is based on best practices, and is not formally affiliated with any legislation. WCAG has three levels of compliance: A (minimal compliance), AA (enhanced compliance), and AAA (advanced compliance). This document covers Level A and Level AA compliance.
  • Section 508 Standards, which were published in 2000 and are enforceable for Federal agencies under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Subpart B, 1194.22 covers Internet and intranet pages. Section 508 is slated for revision in the near future; when the revised standards are published, they will dovetail far more closely with WCAG 2.0. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which addresses accessibility of places of public accommodation, has recently been amended to cover website accessibility. When Title III standards are published, they will likely be based on WCAG 2.0 and/or Section 508.

What Website Accessibility Means

Website guidelines and standards primarily address two issues:

  • Coding. Many people with disabilities use assistive technologies to access the Internet. Assistive technologies provide an alternative to the monitor (e.g., programs that read information aloud) or to the keyboard and/or mouse (e.g., speech recognition software). These programs are often dependent on the presence of certain HTML tags, attributes, or other pieces of coding to work properly.
  • Interface. The “look and feel” of websites needs to be designed so that they are accessible to people with disabilities, whether or not they use assistive technologies. These guidelines and standards overlap significantly with mainstream usability guidelines. WCAG Level A guidelines primarily cover coding issues; Level AA guidelines cover both coding and interface.

This article discusses Section 508, Level A, and Level AA guidelines, and provides suggestions on how to comply with each of these.

 

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Accessibility Features in Computer Programs

Most word processors, spreadsheets, and other popular programs include features that are useful to people with disabilities. These are often documented in the application’s Help function under “Accessibility.”

Examples

Zoom magnifies the size of the document text on the screen, so that it can be viewed at one size and printed out at another without needing to reformat. This does not affect the text size of other parts of the application, such as the menu bar or dialogue boxes; to change these, see “Accessibility Features in Operating Systems.”

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Screen Readers for Blind Users

Screen readers provide an audio version of information that appears on a computer screen. They use keyboard commands to substitute for mouse use, and read almost everything on the screen, including menus, dialogue boxes, etc.

This article covers both free and third-party commercial screen readers designed for use by blind people, and will help you get started.

Programs designed for use by sighted people with learning or cognitive disabilities are covered in the article "Text-to-Speech Readers for People with Learning Disabilities."

Most screen readers are highly customizable, so that users can specify preferences such as whether punctuation is read, how fast the program speaks, or whether cues helpful for new users are spoken.

A video introduction to how blind people use screen readers is available online.

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Apple’s Mobile Products (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch)

In many ways, Apple’s iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touch are ideal accessibility tools. They’re lightweight and easy to use. The wide range of applications -- built-in, free, or generally inexpensive -- suit a variety of needs. The touchscreen interface is ideal for many people who can't use a keyboard or mouse. Finally, because they’re mainstream products, people use them without feeling self-conscious or paying a large amount of money. This article covers some of the accessibility features and ways you can use these devices.

Apple has included some powerful accessibility features in the iOS operating system used by its mobile devices:

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