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It’s Friday February 17, 2017, which means now is time for us to take another look at the new accessibility developments that have happened over the course the week.

One item I’m particularly excited to report (and to start testing and contributing to) is the AccessNow app that could change the way people with disabilities find accessible locations. We’re also taking a look at what’s happening in the world of online shopping and why certain theaters across the United States don’t want to be lumped in with the recent Broadway accessibility issues.

Introducing the AccessNow App

Accessibility is a huge consideration for anyone who has a permanent or temporary disability no matter where they are around the world. Often, people have to go out of their way to determine whether a venue will be accessible and meet their needs by directly contacting the location and hoping the person on the other end is going to be able to provide the correct information. There isn’t always time for this level of planning, so sometimes people just have to go and hope the location is accessible.

That was true up until now, because it’s an issue that Maayan Ziv is trying to solve with the innovative AccessNow app. The app allows users to search for places to find out if they have an accessibility rating (accessible, partially accessible, patio access only, or not accessible) and users can contribute ratings for places that they visit.

This crowd-sourcing of information helps cover a wide range of places, and will hopefully provide users with a much more comprehensive and complete understanding of which places will meet their needs and which ones fall short.

Learn more about the app and how you can contribute by visiting the AccessNow website.

Digital Shopping Needs to Get Easier

We’ve blogged about this before, online shopping could use a lot of accessibility improvements. Recently, Econsultancy wanted to know just how accessible some of the biggest UK retailers’ online shops are for users who need modifications.

They noted that this trial accessibility run of websites was especially important since, “At the end of 2016 the BBC reported that retailers could be missing out on £249bn because many are inaccessible to disabled customers.’”[1] That’s a lot of potential sales lost to issues that are pretty easy to fix if online retailers just paid a bit more attention.

So, how did the shops that Econsultancy checked rate in terms of accessibility? Sadly, the results were overwhelmingly negative, “There were several common themes and unfortunately all of the sites failed to meet the Level AA of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines.”[2] Once again, we find that while the standards and guidelines exist, the digital retail community has a lot of catching up to do to make their shopping accessible.

Read the full article and learn which retailers were studied and what the issues were on the Econsultancy site.

Audiovisual Services in the EU May Be More Accessible Soon

The European Broadcasting Union, European Disability Forum, and the Association of Commercial Television in Europe pooled their resources to evaluate accessibility of certain types of media and make recommendations to the EU media community.

The three groups united to start drafting new recommendations to help improve the quality of audiovisual services with the goal of making some pretty substantial improvements, “expect these measures to enhance the accessibility of TV programmes for persons with disabilities.”[3]

As anyone with a disability knows, sometimes accessing media that is created for public consumption is not simple. These proposed regulations and changes could make things much easier, and we should all keep watch on the industry’s reaction to see if they start incorporating the suggestions in the near future.

You can learn more about these recommendations and read the full report by visiting the EBU’s website.

Some Theaters Are On Top of Access

Last week, we covered the issue that a lot of Broadway performances sacrifice accessibility options or have very limited help for disabled patrons. These accessible options can take many forms including providing captions, ASL interpretations, audio descriptions, and wheelchair accessible space. However, we can’t lump every theater into the inaccessible category as the Minnesota Daily website points out. They note that Minnesota’s Guthrie Theater even has its own designated accessibility manager to ensure that everyone can enjoy the shows they produce. Hopefully every other theater will start to follow suit.

Read more about how Minnesota’s theaters are incorporating accessibility into their performances by visiting the Minnesota Daily’s website.

What news caught your attention this week? Did you find any stories that you think we should write about next week? Share the stories that made you think, question, and talk about accessibility with us all by posting them in the comments below!