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Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend and speak at the CSUN Conference "Technologies and People with Disabilities" - an annual conference held in California, sponsored by California State University, Northridge, Center on Disabilities. Those attending the conference came from all 50 states, 35 countries, and the private sector: http://www.govtech.net/news/news.phtml?docid=2002.03.27-3030000000009733.
I spoke about our web accessibility initiative here at the State of Connecticut. Just as Connecticut's Web Site Accessibility Policy has been looked at as a model for other states, it appears as though the CMAC process may be as well. Many organizations, public and private, are struggling with the same education, implementation and compliance issues that we are managing here. The volunteerism and collaborative spirit of CMAC seemed to inspire those in attendance to go back to their organization and try a similar, collaborative, approach.
If anyone would like to read the text of the paper I presented, most of it is available at the CSUN web site at: http://www-cod.csun.edu/conf/2002/proceedings/104.htm. While you are there, I would encourage you to read some of the other papers presented in the Internet/WWW track at: http://www.csuncod.org/cgi-bin/simple-search?conf_2002/sess_eng/info_conf.txt+output-file=conf_2002/sess_eng/search_resul.htm . I attended as many of the sessions in that track as was humanly possible and it was great to see the interest in and the progress being made in the accessibility arena by other organizations.
One presentation that I particularly enjoyed was put on by an organization called Knowbility http://www.knowbility.org/ Every year, in Austin Texas, they run a program called the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR). They match up local non-profit organizations with local web design firms, teach the web designers how to design accessible web sites, and then, for 24 hours (non-stop) the web designers and staff from the non-profit organizations design a web site for the non-profit. The concept is proving to be so popular that AIRs are being held this year in San Francisco, Dallas, and Denver. It's one of the best examples of a "win-win" situation I have ever seen.
I also have some good news to report. Some of you have reported problems when trying to run Bobby 3.2 (http://www.cast.org/bobby) against web sites with more than 300 or so pages; that Bobby seems to get 'stuck' and won't go any further. I had the chance to raise this issue with someone from CAST and learned that there is a workaround. It involves increasing the size of the "heap" (a Java term - it's roughly the equivalent of the swap file in Windows). You can find a tutorial on how to do this at: http://www.cmac.state.ct.us/access/tutorials/bobby.htm I tried my best to write it in non-technical terms, but if you have any problems getting it to work, please call or email me.
And another piece of good news, for those of you who have been doing your accessibility testing without JAWS, or traveling to Hartford and using the PC here at OSC. IBM has a self-voicing browser called Home Page Reader. HPR no longer acts as a plug-in to Netscape, it is now a standalone speaking browser for the Windows platform. A study presented at CSUN http://www-cod.csun.edu/conf/2002/proceedings/67.htm said that HPR does as well, if not better, than JAWS in supporting the techniques recommended by the WAI (W3C Web Accessibility Initiative) to ensure accessible web content. And, the price is certainly more reasonable and affordable: if you are a new Home Page Reader customer, the suggested retail price of HPR Version 3.0 is $149.00 for an individual license. For each additional license, the suggested retail price is $79.00. The IT Contracts and Purchasing Division at DOIT is making arrangements to have Home Page Reader added to the State's Master Agreement with IBM, and purchasing instructions will be sent out to state agencies shortly. In the meantime, I brought back 30 30-day trial Home Page Reader CD's - if you would like one, please let me know.
I would like to thank my agency, the State Comptroller's Office, for sponsoring my trip and allowing me to talk about the good things we are doing here at the State of Connecticut. This was the best conference I have been to in a long time, both in the quality and quantity of presentations and vendor exhibits and in the opportunities for networking with people with similar interests and concerns.Kathleen Anderson, Chair CMAC Web Site Accessibility Committee email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: (860) 702-3355 URL: http://www.cmac.state.ct.us/access/