Few days to go and before we ring in 2019, here is a quick look back at some of the main news in the land of accessibility:
The beginning of the year saw the refreshed Section 508 being legally coming into effect. The Section 508 standards were established in 1998, that require Federal agencies to develop and procure technology accessible to people with disabilities. After a great deal of consideration, the US Access Board published a final rule that updates the Section 508 Standards.
Microsoft launched the Soundscape app that empowers people who are blind or have low vision to explore the world through a 3D audio experience. The app helps you explore your surrounding by enhancing your awareness of what is around you and helping you get where you want to go.
- Google Maps introduced “wheelchair accessible” routes in transit navigation to make getting around easier for those with mobility needs.
- First Indian Sign Language Dictionary of 3000 words was launched on 23rd March by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, India. The dictionary was developed by Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, M/o Social Justice & Empowerment.
On 25th April, Pinterest partnered with Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired to make their website and app more accessible to people with visual impairment.
Global Accessibility Awareness Day held on 17th May witnessed several events, conferences and webinars all over the world with the aim to build awareness and promote accessibility.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) published the WCAG 2.1 on 5th June. WCAG 2.1 added 17 more Success Criteria to those previously established in 2008 to address mobile accessibility, people with low vision and people with cognitive and learning disabilities
VPAT assists the Federal Government Agencies and other buyers to determine how accessible an “Electronic and Information Technology” product is and make preliminary assessments while procuring a product. At the request of representatives of the U.S. Access Board, Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) released the updated VPAT® version 2.2. The updated version provides a column for recording conformance to each provision of a standard or guideline when appropriate, using one of four conformance levels: supports; partially supports; does not support; and not applicable.
Department of people with disabilities, India took the initiative of verification audit of accessibility features in 70 railway stations. The verification audit of 70 railway stations in 25 states to be completed within 6 months. In first phase, 15 important railways stations will be audited. Subsequently, 25 and 30 stations will be audited in second and third phase.
The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility of the websites and mobile applications of public sector bodies made it mandatory to be transposed into national law in all EU member states by September 23, 2018. The directive references the incorporation of the EN 301 549 Standard which sets out the accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services in Europe. EN 301 549 Standard which was published 4 years ago, is the first ever European standard for digital accessibility.
The World Federation of the DeafBlind launched the initial global report on the situation and rights of persons with deaf-blindness. Person with deafblindness from across the world who took part in the Helen Keller World Conference in June 2018 were consulted to confirm the findings and elaborate on the recommendations for this report.
On 28th November, Instagram announced new features which included providing alternate text description for images to improve accessibility for people with visual impairment. Instagram introduced automatic alternative text along with the option to create your own alternative text.
The world celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2018. This year’s theme was empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality as a part of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The UN Secretary-General launched on the Day a flagship report, entitled “UN Flagship Report on Disability and Development | 2018 – Realizing the SDGs by, for and with persons with disabilities” on this special day.
The year ends with a bang as ITI release the VPAT®, version 2.3, which includes a column for providing a more detailed explanation for each reported conformance level.
Looking forward for more initiatives in the land of accessibility and a more inclusive 2019 for everyone.