I’m often asked “Are things getting better for you because of technology, laws, etc.?” In my last blog about the wonders of iPhones which are accessible out of the box, you’d think the answer would be a resounding “yes!” Then I run into an app that is totally inaccessible like a Bible trivia game or the Jeopardy app and my “yes” changes to “sometimes”.

When our public library migrated to a new catalog, it became less accessible than before. I checked with the administrator who agreed they really “should” consider accessibility in purchase decisions, but it wasn’t done consistently. She also wasn’t optimistic that the product’s maker would respond to her comment. So far they haven’t.

In case you’re fighting a similar battle, here’s a quote from the government’s Section 508 website:

“How Section 508 Applies to Public Libraries Section 508 applies to federal departments and agencies. It does not apply to recipients of federal funds and does not regulate the private sector. However, the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) and its successor law, the Assistive Technology Act of 1998 (AT Act), both contain provisions requiring grant recipients to comply with Section 508. Each state that receives a grant under Section 101(e) (3) of the AT Act must continue to abide by the assurances the state made in its application submitted under section 103 of the Tech Act, and must continue to comply with the Tech Act’s reporting requirements. In Section 103(d) (6) of the Tech Act, states were required to submit an assurance that the state, or any recipient of funds made available to the state, would comply with guidelines established under Section 508. Such compliance includes adhering to the standards issued and published by the U.S. Access Board. Since all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, are recipients of federal funds under the AT Act, Section 508 binds them all, along with recipients of federal funds passed along through these jurisdictions. Therefore, all public libraries will need to comply with Section 508’s requirements for accessibility of information technologies for both their patrons and their employees.”

When customers demand 508 compliant products, they will be made so. Clearly if the old product is more accessible than the new product, it is possible. So I’ve asked my library board to pass a resolution asking our system library to use 508 guidelines in purchasing decisions, basically asking them to please obey the law.

Another day I get an email asking Next Avenue readers to take a survey with a link to a survey invisible to a screen reader. So I email them “your survey is not section 508 compliant. Aging well, which you rightly promote, should also include access via screen readers because more people lose vision as they age and still wish to remain involved. Your audio challenge for the captcha on the feedback page is not a link so is also not usable with a screen reader. The only way I can give you feedback about inaccessibility is by asking a sighted person to help me. This does not square with the independence and dignity you promote, does it? If you need a beta test of an Accessible survey, contact me and I’d be glad to help.” Nothing happens.

I hear at a neighborhood meeting that they’re going to put a traffic roundabout in the neighborhood, which will be good for traffic flow but not pedestrians and most especially not blind pedestrians! Next blog may well be about scurrying around trying to make sure they know the best practices for roundabout accessibility.

All this “progress” is making me tired and cranky! Ironic, isn’t it?