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Section 1: A changing landscape page 3
Section 2: Mandates, legal requirements, responsibilities page 4
Section 3: Consequences page 5
Section 4: Audible and tactile system navigation page 6
Section 5: Strategies for success page 8
Section 6: A Collaboration with RNIB page 9
A changing landscape
“The most common disability in the world today is an inability to read. This disability may be caused by physiological, cognitive, developmental, educational or cultural reasons”. Peter Jarvis.
As the average age of the travelling population increases, the public’s awareness of the challenges faced by those with sensory, cognitive or mobility impairment has also increased.
The trend for provision of customer services via touch screen terminals creates additional disadvantages for those with disabilities. Access to information and services is effectively denied to those who are unable to see, read or interact with content presented in an exclusively visual format via a display screen.
Those disadvantages are frequently manifested in a very public environment (a modern passenger transport terminal) in full view of staff and other passengers. Transport terminals are often busy, highly stressed environments where any perceived impediment to progress through the immigration, customs clearance, check-in, security clearance or boarding process is considered as an unwelcomed disruption to the ‘regular’ passenger service experience.
Transit through a passenger terminal has been described as an embarrassing and sometimes humiliating experience by those with disabilities. It frequently requires intervention and assistance from travelling companions, staff or other members of the travelling public.
In the USA access to information and services for disabled military veterans and seniors has become a visible indicator of patriotic pride and national unity. Something of which politicians, law makers and corporate leaders are now very much aware. In a smartphone carrying, social media aware/active population there will be more consumer pressure, more mandated requirements and more international cooperation to achieve global improvements in accessibility.
Mandates, standards, legal requirements, guidelines and best practice
Current and planned
Many countries have legal frameworks that embody an expectation of equality, fairness and non-discrimination on grounds of race, religion, gender, colour, age or disability. In addition, some have enacted specific legislation to eliminate discrimination and eliminate barriers to information and services for persons with disabilities.
Examples of current requirements are listed below. These examples do not constitute a comprehensive or complete listing. Please refer to your local mandating authorities for latest/current requirements.
UK Equality Act 2010
Europe Pending replacement of Disability Discrimination Act 2010
EN 301-549 mandates a comprehensive set of accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT products and services in the EU. This mandate is now proposed as the basis for an internationally adopted standard,
Americans with Disabilities Act 2010. Design for Accessibility.
US Department of Transport: Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) became effective during 2010 with implementation required to commence by Dec 2016.
US Rehabilitation Act: Section 503 [Federal government contractors]. Section 504 [Rights in education, employment and other settings]. Section 508 [Requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured or used by the Federal Government].
FCC: 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), requiring communications services and products to be accessible to people with disabilities. Implemented December 2016.
Other Territories United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) for international standards.
Consequences of non-compliance
Current and planned
At the time of writing, several, high profile, class action law suits have created precedent and motivation for litigants to seek substantive legal redress (damages) for corporate non-compliance. Manufacturers and operators of public use IT terminals (kiosks) have been the primary targets.
The excerpts below were taken from articles written by Gregory F. Hurley & Michael Chilleen, attorneys at Sheppard Mullin law firm.
‘There has been a surge in Americans with Disability Act (ADA) class actions filed against businesses that use kiosk type devices.’
‘Until the legal landscape becomes more clear, it would be prudent for businesses to assess the accessibility of their kiosks and to consider options that are accessible and independently useable by individuals with a variety of disabilities.’
‘The availability of hefty damages in many states increases the potential exposure businesses face… Potential liability can be overwhelming when this type of lawsuit is brought as class actions.’
‘… general provisions [of the ADA] include not only clear space and reach range standards, but the requirement of “effective communication” with the blind and deaf.’
‘Although self-service kiosks can benefit both customers and businesses, they also create significant lawsuit exposure.’
In his article ‘The next wave – ADA Lawsuits against touchscreen POS devices’, attorney Richard Hunt of Hunt Huey PLLC states, ‘Touchscreen point-of-sale devices are ubiquitous, and the next wave of ADA lawsuits will undoubtedly be against businesses that use them.’
Audible and tactile system navigation
System users with impaired vision will rely heavily on audible descriptions and summaries of the visual content as usually presented to sighted users (via the display screen). Due to privacy concerns and the high ambient noise levels in many passenger terminals, audible content will usually be delivered to sight impaired users via an audio headset, handset or cochlea implant (rather than general use amplified speaker systems).
Navigation of audible content and selection of available services can be achieved by manipulation of tactile controls (usually a keypad device) and/or by voice commands (Voice Activation).
RNIB and Storm Interface recommend that provision of a compliant tactile interface, used in conjunction with a suitable audio device (usually a headset or handset), provides an effective and viable means to navigate screen based content. This type of audible menu navigation capability meets current requirements for provision of access to information and services for those with impaired sight or reading ability.
A voice activation capability can usefully augment a tactile / audible menu navigation system, providing accessibility options for those who are unable (for any reason) to manipulate tactile controls.
There will be many different users (voices) initiating a limited number of generic commands (page up, page down, select, enter, confirm, cancel, sound volume up, sound volume down, etc.). For this reason system response to a more limited menu of voice activation commands is often a more practical and tolerant proposition than adoption of more sophisticated voice recognition or intelligent voice learning technology. However, it should also be noted that capability for voice activation and voice learning are not mutually exclusive.
At the time of writing, the authors of this paper are not aware of any mandates or enacted legislation that requires or specifies the provision of voice activation features. However, as technology typically advances at a faster rate than the enactment of new standards or legislation, the authors of this paper envisage the emergence of voice activation as a viable means to further enhance system accessibility.
Software applications will need to support the delivery of audible content (audio tagging) and respond to data input from the tactile interface and/or voice input device (usually Voice Over USB or Voice Over IP). Audio content can be generated by the host application using one of many “text to speech”, “recorded voice”, “synthesized voice” or “image description” utilities. If the tactile/audio interface device supports VOUSB or VOIP then concierge or audio conferencing services can also be supported. It should be possible for the system user to adjust the sound volume and preferably the playback speed of any audible content during initiation of the audio program and/or during playback. The intro content should repeat (loop) to give the user time to adjust their headset, sound volume and play back speed before continuing to the system navigation and application content. It should also be possible for the user to skip forward or backwards through familiar content. Disconnection of the headset (or handset) should end the audio program and reset the device to its default sound level settings. Connection or reconnection of a headset or handset should restart the audio program, returning the audio program to its initial intro content.
Disconnection of the headset (or handset) should end the audio program and reset the device to its default sound level settings. Connection or reconnection of a headset or handset should restart the audio program, returning the audio program to its initial intro content.
Storm and the RNIB also recommend that pressing and holding down the select (enter) key for at least 3-4 seconds should also initiate a “help” or “more info” feature (even if a dedicated help key is also provided). This feature could also initiate a request for assistance from a qualified attendant if appropriate. It is proposed that this “press and hold for assistance” feature should be adopted for all tactile system navigation devices. This to create a universally recognized means to request assistance.
During user trials of Audible System Navigation Products it was observed that an initial challenge encountered by sight impaired users was to find the location of the headset jack plug socket. In addition to the provision of tactile idents to assist in location of the socket, Storm Interface and the RNIB propose that (going forward) a general protocol for location of the headset socket be adopted by terminal manufacturers. For example; the headset socket and any dedicated tactile navigation controls could usually be found in the bottom left quadrant of any customer facing control panel. This would limit the amount of searching required. This proposal has already been adopted by some hardware manufacturers. However, it is accepted that there are many “legacy” systems already deployed that may not be configured in this way.
As these tactile interfaces and audio devices will be used by many different people in exposed public environments, they must be intuitive and easy to use. They must be resistant to hard use and abuse. To facilitate regular wash down and sanitation procedures they should also be sealed against fluids and particulates. They must also be reliable and responsive to ensure immediate access to vital information and services at all times.
Strategies for Success
Recognizing and meeting the challenges faced by manufacturers, system specifiers and system operators
Accessibility is most effectively achieved when adopted as a primary system specification. It is most successfully implemented if considered during the concept design process. Accessibility should be a primary objective during the origination of hardware solutions, application software and content to be delivered. Consideration should also be given to the environment in which the system will be installed and the specific needs of users with disabilities. It is worth noting that terminals located in public or unsupervised environments will need to survive regular cleaning and sanitization procedures using sprayed liquid disinfectants and other cleaning agents. They may also need to resist hard use and abuse (vandalism). All human interface devices must be robust, responsive and reliable.
Bolt-on or retrofit accessibility solutions have been successfully implemented to achieve compliance with legal mandates in response to court judgements or as a condition of legal settlements. However, it is clear that the most effective and efficient solutions are implemented by design as part of the original design brief. Compliance with mandates may be an essential requirement, but a determination to make any self-service terminal as accessible and ‘as good as it can be’ for all users is often a more successful strategy.
There is advice, support, guidance and product evaluation services available from recognized agencies such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in the UK and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in the USA.
With guidance from the RNIB, Storm Interface have worked to ensure that compliant commercially viable hardware solutions are available to terminal manufacturers and system specifiers.
Developed as part of the Storm Assistive Technology Products range these system navigation and audio interface products have been designed, developed and field proven to deliver the most intuitive and effective system interface for those with impaired vision or reading ability, restricted reach or limited fine motor skills.
These interface products are offered in a range of formats with options for integrated sound processors, headset connections and keytop illumination. High contrast keytop graphics, high visibility fonts and raised tactile idents ensure these products achieve the highest levels in accessibility. They are compliant with all applicable accessibility requirements. Remember to ask your system manufacturer to install only genuine STORM-ATP products.
RNIB Business Collaboration
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the leading organisation in the UK representing 2 million blind and low vision persons. The agency is regularly consulted on the needs of the blind community by government, business and many international bodies.
RNIB Solutions offers a range of services to the business community including technical assessment, consultancy, training and user testing. RNIB is also a lead player in the World Blind Union, a global umbrella agency representing 191 national blindness agencies.
RNIB works in partnership with other agencies to bring about a world where vision loss is no longer a barrier to inclusion in society. RNIB work with businesses such as Storm Interface as a consultant and critical friend facilitating the development of more inclusive hardware, software and services. RNIB also offer an accreditation which businesses can work towards as a recognised mark of excellence in inclusive design.
In recent years RNIB Solutions has partnered with a very diverse range of businesses to create exemplar Accessibility invocations. The scope of RNIB’s recent engagement is vast and includes everything from personal labeling devices and showers to complex mobile applications and smart television operating systems. Essentially RNIB’s goal is to help businesses to embed inclusive design principles in any product or service. RNIB is also active on the Accessibility strategy boards of many major technology companies
In a recent engagement, RNIB worked with a major consumer electronics brand to envision an integrated Accessibility framework for their smart television range.
Over a period of around two years, technical advice, training and product iteration testing and review services were provided. At the conclusion of the project, the manufacturer launched an entire range of state of the art smart televisions offering out of the box Accessibility for persons with disabilities.
In another assignment, a major long haul airline approached RNIB with the desire to ensure compliance for its online booking facility. Again through a structured programme of tailored training, web consultancy and testing, the service was developed to a level where full compliance became attainable.
RNIB’s collaboration with Storm established and quantified the effectiveness of the company’s audible and tactile system navigation products. The commercial availability of compliant and effective interface devices (as developed by Storm) enables manufacturers of self-service systems to provide unprecedented accessibility to information and services for those with sensory, cognitive or motor impairment.
Storm Assistive Technology Products under user assessment at the RNIB test facilities in the UK.
An RNIB User Group were asked to complete two “real world” tasks;-
To choose and then purchase tickets for a family (adults and children), using different fare classifications, travelling by rail to and from designated stations.
To register as a voter, using a prescribed voter registration code (incorporating both numbers and letters), and then cast and confirm a vote for one of the several candidates standing in a fictitious election.
These assessments were made using various models and configurations of tactile/audible navigation devices. Users were then asked to rate each device against a number of objective criteria. They were then asked to comment on the ‘ease-of-use’ and advantages / disadvantages of each device.