Tremendous Victory for Digital Accessibility Advocates

A suspension bridge spans the logo with the acronym BVT in the middle. Beneath the bridge the words Blind Vet Tech appears. The bottom of the logo contains morse code reading TAVVI.
Disability digital accessibility advocates rejoiced on January 18, 2017, when the US Access Board Updated rules for Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 255 of the Communications Act. March 20, 2017 might be the effective date of the update, but compliance is delayed until January 18, 2018 for Section 508 and the Federal Communications Committee must first adopt the new Section 255 rules. The change advances accessibility of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) employed by federal and other agencies abiding by these acts. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act pertains to computers, telephonic communications methods, copier printers, websites, published software, kiosks, transaction devices, and any electronic documents. 255 of the Communications Act covers telephones, mobile and smart phones, routers, set-top boxes, computers with modems, Voice Over IP (VOIP) software, and the underlying software for these items.

The update’s chief results empower individuals with disabilities to access digital, electronic, and telecommunications services and programs under Section 508 and Section 255. This occurs through easier to understand accessibility standards crafted by industry leaders. The most important aspects include:

For Veterans with visual impairments, the accessibility of digital content and interfaces will increase within the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicare, and Social Security. Most notably, the VA’s check-in kiosks lack sufficient accessibility options for low vision and blinded Veterans. The Section 508 Team at the VA diligently works to correct this problem; the new rules will decrease the chances for this to happen again. The WAI guidelines for web interfaces and media content will advance accessibility guidelines to usability requirements for individuals with disabilities, a chief complaint of many accessing VA websites to Social Security online forms. Finally, provisions acknowledge and usher guidelines for emerging technologies, like smart phones and mobile devices, by noting their roles in the lives of individuals with disabilities and focusing on the how we use these items in accessing digital materials. Section 4 of the overview contains a complete list of each change and outcomes.

The ICT refresh represents the first steps into a world consistent with universal design principals. While this we celebrate this long fought victory, we need to remain active in advocating for digital accessibility throughout our entire digital life. We still face an uphill climb ensuring those covered under Section 508 and Section 255 comply with these rules and guidelines. While we evaluate implementation of the ICT, we also need to continue to pressure the Depart of Justice to adopt similar requirements, like WAIG, for entities under Section 2 and Section 3 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, like online stores to streaming media platforms.

Stay Informed

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If you have any questions, comments, or requests, feel free to send us an email here. All of our podcasts and other information related to Veterans, blindness, acceptance of a disability, and other resources may be found at BlindNotAlone.com

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AI Square ZoomText and Window Eyes Users Be Warned

If you rely on AI Square’s ZoomText or Window Eyes to access your computer, you may face serious issues accessing your assistive technology. On January 16th, AI Squared issued an urgent warning for all of its users. The cause involves a compromised certificate which may prompt the Windows error message, “A referral was returned from the server,” to appear upon launching the affected AI Square products. This will happen to the below list of AI Square products if not updated prior to February 26, 2017:

  • ZoomText Magnifier – Build numbers 10.10.8 to 10.11.6
  • Window-Eyes v9.5 – Build numbers 9.5.1 and 9.5.3
  • ZoomText Magnifier/Reader v10.1 – Build numbers 10.10.8 to 10.11.6
  • ZoomText Fusion v10.1 – Build numbers 10.11.1 to 10.11.5
  • ZoomText Keyboard v4 – Build numbers 4.0.0 to 4.1.0

If you use any of these AI Square products, start checking for updates. You can find the update in the update wizard for your software or by visiting this link.

If you have any questions or require any assistance updating or confirming you may be impacted by this issue, contact the AI Square support team at:

  • (727) 803-8600, and select Option 2
  • support@aisquared.com

Support Blinded Veterans at the Heartland's Annual Convention

The Heartland Regional group of the Blinded Veterans Association invites you, our fellow Veterans with visual impairments; your family and friends; and any VA staff to our annual convention. The Heartland Regional Group is the BVA’s only affiliate serving our fellow Veterans in Kansas and Missouri. Your participation will increase your knowledge about the BVA and VA services, our current objectives, and solicit your ideas for future programs. The Westgate Branson Woods and Resort agreed to host us this year. The convention starts on April 21st with opening ceremonies and educational sessions throughout the day. We will conclude on April 22nd, with a final business meeting and dinner. Here are the details:

Location

  • Westgate Branson Woods Resort
  • 2201 Roark Valley Road
  • Branson MO 65616

Dates

  • Travel into Branson on April 20th
  • Meetings from April 21st to 22nd
  • Depart on April 23rd

basic room rate is $63.00 plus tax per night. The basic accommodations include 2 beds, so rooms can be shared to lower the cost of this very affordable event. If you would like to see room layouts and additional pictures, please visit the Westgate Branson Woods Resort site by clicking here. Reservations may be made right now. Each Attendee may call the Reservation desk directly to make their reservations, 1(877)502-7058. Be sure to mention, when calling, the group code “14-576” to ensure you receive the discounted group rate. You will need your credit card to pay for the first night room charge plus tax . your card will not be charged until April 17. The group block will automatically drop March 10, 2017. Reservations made after that date may not get the event rate of $63.00 per night. You have until 72 hours before the beginning of the event to cancel your reservation. The room rate is available for three days prior to and three days after the dates of the event for anyone wishing to extend their stay.

Blinded Veterans Association Seeking Applicants for the 2017-2018 Academic Year Scholarships

Are you a Veteran with a visual impairment or the family member of a Veteran with visual impairment pursuing a college degree or post-secondary educational program? Well the Blinded Veterans Association annually offers seven scholarships ranging between $1,000 and $2,000. The BVA is a national non-profit organization concerned with the welfare of blinded veterans. Founded in 1945 by a group of veterans who were blinded in World War II, the BVA is chartered by the U. S. Congress and serves as the official representative of blinded veterans throughout the United States.

The BVA aims to award seven scholarships for the 2017-2018 Academic year. The Kathern F. Gruber scholarship program offers six $2,000 scholarships, while the Thomas H. Miller Scholarship Program provides one awardee a $1,000 scholarship. Basic Applicants must be a:

  • Dependent child, grandchild, or spouse of a Veteran with legal blindness
  • Veteran or Service Member of the US Armed Forces with legal blindness
  • Enrolled in an acceptable program for the 2017-2018 academic year
  • Enrolled as a full-time student
  • Legal blindness status may stem from natural causes, age related conditions, military service related, or other situation resulting in a Veteran or Service Member becoming legally blind.

    The scholarships are intended to be used to defray a student’s educational expenses, including tuition, books and other academic fees. Scholarship payments will be made by the BVA directly to the educational institution.
    Applications for the scholarships may be obtained from our website: www.bva.org. Requests can also be made by email to: projectassistant@bva.org or by mailing your request to: Blinded Veterans Association, 125 N. West Street, 3rd Floor, Alexandria, VA 22314.
    Completed applications and supporting materials must be returned to the BVA by no later than Friday, April 21, 2017 to qualify for the 2017-2018 academic year scholarship program. Due to time constraints related to processing the applications for the Scholarship Committee’s review, applications arriving subsequent to the aforementioned deadline WILL NOT be accepted. Incomplete applications will not be submitted to the scholarship committee. It is the responsibility of the applicant not BVA to ensure a complete application.
    Scholarships will be awarded on a “most-highly-qualified” basis utilizing the following criteria: answers to questions in the application form; transcripts of high school and/or college records; three letters of reference; and a 300-word-essay on the applicant’s post-education, lifetime career goals and aspirations.
    Each scholarship is awarded for one year only. Applicants are advised that the number of scholarships a recipient may receive under each program will be limited to four (4).

    The majority of this post was copied from an email announcement by the Blinded Veterans Association.