It’s Friday, February 10th which means it’s time for our weekly accessibility news roundup! This week, we’re going to once again visit the issue of public event accessibility and why Broadway has come under scrutiny for claims that they could do more to help disabled patrons. We also have some great tech resources for people who like to develop and test things from an accessibility perspective (specifically regarding Android apps and IBM). Read on to see what happened in accessibility this week!

Broadway Gets Slammed for Inaccessibility

By now, you’ve probably heard people raving about the musical, Hamilton. It’s been a huge success and changed the way a lot of people think about Broadway musicals. However, with all of this praise did come a somewhat disappointing story. First, let’s just say this isn’t only about the Hamilton musical and while it has been associated with the Broadway show, it seems to be a pretty pervasive issue throughout most popular Broadway theaters (just saying, let’s not only single this one show out as the offender – change is needed throughout the whole community).

Variety Magazine explains the accessibility gaps that Broadway needs to address to ensure that ALL fans are able to enjoy these incredible shows, “But while some services are on-demand and available at any performance — such as wheelchair seats and private iCaption devices — others, like sign-language interpretation and autism-friendly shows, are only available intermittently.”[1] As a visually impaired person who hasn’t seen a Broadway show since the vision loss hit, I can’t personally speak to the availability of accommodations in the theaters.

However, from the chatter about this issue across the news, it sounds like it’s a significant issue and there is some pretty solid hope that it will be adequately addressed in the near future. That’s a lot more hopeful than the recent outlook on the accessibility of football in the Premier League looks (you can read about that in last week’s news roundup) but it still begs the question why so many groups are just catching on to these huge accessibility gaps.

Android App Accessibility Help

Are you an app maker concerned about the accessibility of your apps? Well, Amit Diwan made a really helpful accessibility checklist for Android app makers on sitepoint.com. It includes helpful tips, considerations and insight into how to build apps that are more accessible for users instead of trying to build in accessibility features retroactively (which can be both frustrating and take a lot more time to get right). Remember, one of the best ways to build more accessible apps and websites is to user test and see what trouble people have when using your app. Still, Diwan’s checklist is an awesome place to start when you are developing a new Android app.

IBM Promoting Accessible Projects

Along the same user-testing lines, IBM announced this week that they are starting two new projects that will promote accessibility. The SD Times explains, “These projects are designed to help developers determine if their applications support the needs of those with limited mobility or vision.”[2] The two different projects are:

  • AccProbe – “The Accessibility Probe (AccProbe) is a standalone, Eclipse Rich-Client Product (RCP) application that provides a view of the Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) or IAccessible2 hierarchy of a currently running application or rendered document and of the properties of the accessible objects of that application or document.”[3]
  • Va11yS – “These code samples help developers and testers understand how different web components operate with assistive technology (AT) on desktop and mobile devices.”[4]

While it might feel a bit like a “here, you figure out what’s wrong with it,” slight, it seems like the intentions are to really get things right. Since it can be tough to find the right people and make the right connections to really get the most accessible solution, these open source projects make a lot of since.

Read more about IBM’s new projects by visiting the AccProbe IBM website, and the Va11yS IBM website.

Forget Tiny Homes – Let’s Make Accessible Homes!

If you like home renovation shows, then you’ve probably heard about Mike Holmes, star of shows like Holmes Makes It Right. He wrote an awesome article for the National Post about making sure your home is accessible, and building homes that will grow with you should accessibility needs arise as you age. His advice includes helpful suggestions like making door frames that are wide enough to accommodate walkers, and choosing flooring that will withstand wheelchair use over time are just the sort of ideas that most people don’t think about until they are actually in the situation where they need to use a walker or a wheelchair.

Learn more about his home recommendations by checking out Mike Holmes: Renovating now for future accessibility on the National Post’s website.

Idaho Polling Places Need an Upgrade

Voter accessibility is a huge issue. If polling places are not accessible, then Americans cannot exercise their right to vote, and that’s just unacceptable. Recently, 5 polling locations in Southwestern Idaho were identified as inadequate, “U.S. Department of Justice investigation conducted on Election Day questioned Canyon County’s measures to bring the polling places into compliance with the Americans for Disabilities Act.”[5]

While it’s great that they are looking into the issue, it does bring into question how many people ran into complications in recent elections before the issues were identified. Apparently the polling places have been told to either get up to code or they will be relocated. Hopefully this will continue to happen in communities across the U.S. so that all polling places are accessible for upcoming elections.

To learn more about polling place accessibility, read up on the ADA checklist for polling place accessibility, and read our post about voter accessibility laws.

What stories did you enjoy most this week? Were there any policy changes that you thought were great (or awful)? Any inspirational accessibility news stories you think everyone should know about? Share your favorite accessibility stories from the week in the comments below.