UserWay Logo UserWay Logo Mobile
Feature image Accessibility News - Summary for the Week of January 13th, 2017

Welcome to this week’s accessibility news roundup. It’s Friday, January 13, 2017 and we’ve had some pretty big stories this week. Read on to find out why Uber and Edmonton’s Crash Hotel have lots of work to do, and why you might hate flying a little less in the near future.

Taking a Fresh Look at Section 508

When accessibility rules are created, they frequently have an unspoken expiration date. While there isn’t normally a hard rule for when accessibility guidelines need to be revised, it’s a good idea to revisit them pretty frequently to make sure the rules match the state of the current world.

That is especially true when the rules have to do with the digital world, which is changing at a lightning fast pace. Thankfully, Section 508 was updated recently so it will better serve the community. Section 508 basically applies to any federal agency with digital content (it’s a bit broader than that, check out the Section 508 website for more details) to ensure the content is fully accessible. The rule hadn’t been updated in quite some time so this is a great move. Any organizations that are bound by these rules will have a full year to make sure they are compliant before penalties can start being handed down.

Could Airlines Get More Accessible? (Let’s Hope So!)

Previously, I tackled the treatment of disabled people on airlines in my Universal Accessibility blog post. Long story short, I couldn’t see well enough to find my own carryon after it was stowed by a flight attendant. The ACCESS Advisory Committee is working to ensure that accessibility isn’t ignored on airlines. Apparently there have been conversations about closed captioning on in-flight entertainment, wheelchair accessible bathrooms, and more. It seems there is still some debate on the rules for service animals, and I’m not sure that will be included in the revised guidelines.[1]

Google Maps Looks at Accessibility Issues

If you’re anything like me, you rely pretty heavily on digital maps to help you find your way. What if that digital map could show you the most accessible route in addition to helping you locate your destination? Apparently, Google is looking into that with Sourceable reporting, “Google began including questions regarding accessibility in its Local Guides program and have since accumulated enough information to now launch this component in the US with the intention of eventually extending the service worldwide.”[2]

As the article’s author, George Xinos, notes, this could make a huge impact on the disabled community. Accessible information is usually only created by the people who need it. This can be incredibly limiting and if anyone is newly or temporarily disabled, they may not have access to the most helpful information.

Wheelchair Accessibility an Issue for Uber

It seems like Uber has been growing like crazy since the company was founded in 2009. With that growth, comes a responsibility to create accessibility options so that their service can be used by everyone. Well, at least I think it should come with that responsibility (as do many other people).

From what it sounds like from reviewing the Chicago Tribune’s report, while Uber claims to be committed to accessibility, they have not done nearly enough. In fact, they’ve landed in some legal hot water because of this issue, “Uber is being sued by Access Living, a locally based and influential advocacy group, for failing to comply with the comprehensive Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.”[3] The article notes that there are some programs that are supposed to provide help, but they might be falling short. It’s hard to know just how much progress is being made, and the Tribune’s author makes it clear that transparency is a big issue here.

Inaccessibility Is Apparently Ok for One Canadian Hotel

Get ready, this one is pretty annoying. Apparently, the Crash Hotel in Edmonton is taking advantage of a loophole that means their hotel does not need to follow modern accessibility guidelines. According to CVC news, if a building in the area does not have any functional or structural changes done to it, and was built before the accessibility guidelines went into effect, then it does not need to follow the rules.[4] Basically, if the hotel only undergoes cosmetic changes, they don’t need to be concerned about whether or not the hotel is actually accessible to their guests.

The hotel responded about this issue when a guest tried to stay there and found out they couldn’t accommodate his wheelchair, “’We are examining the feasibility of renovating one or two rooms for full accessibility as we work on the rest of the rooms in this building that is over 100 years old,’ said Carmen Winkler, Urban Sparq’s director of operations.”[5] They can examine the feasibility all day long, accessibility is the right thing to do and I certainly hope they quickly realize that.