The Accessibility Issue

For an industry that makes a business out of being advanced, IT historically has lagged in the area of accessibility.

Since the beginning, IT companies set out to develop operating systems and software programs that made work and life easier, faster and more accurate, but ironically, they often left out the millions of people worldwide with special needs who could really benefit from such technology.

For example, features such as audio clips embedded in software and Web pages often exclude members of the deaf or hard of hearing community, while blind and visually impaired computer users miss out on graphics and videos.

In 2004, the U.K.’s Disability Rights Commission (now part of the Equality and Human Rights Commission) surveyed 1,000 sites and found only six to be AA compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 put out by the World Wide Web Consortium, according to London-based publication The Register.

But now, it seems IT is finally catching up with the rest of the world. In May, Microsoft announced the availability of a new plug-in for Microsoft Word 2007, 2003 and XP that allows users to save Office Open XML documents in the Digital Accessible Information SYstem (DAISY) XML format, which improves accessibility for the blind and visually impaired.

DAISY XML was developed based on a standard created in 1998 by the nonprofit DAISY Consortium, which serves the visually impaired community.

Many visually impaired computer users currently turn to screen readers and auditory tools to interpret Web pages, Word…


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