Mobile Accessibility practices for Government Of India Applications

Few months earlier, a set of like minded accessibility enthusiasts under the co-ordination of Dr Nirmita Narasimhan of Center for Internet and SocietyExternal Website came together to formulate mobile accessibility practices to share with the Government of India. Government of India and various state governments are using mobile applications as a channel to communicate, provide services and get feedback on governance. We have found that these fruits are not reaching to more than 150 million Indians with disabilities. So, we want to educate the departments and teams developing these mobile applications on the importance of mobile application accessibility and ensure that they have right technical knowledge in making them accessible.

Presently there is no single uniform international standard on the accessibility of mobile apps. The W3C is working on a standard, which will take time to be published. In the meantime it has published some best practices, primarily based upon the WCAG 2.0. There are also guidelines available from Google , Apple and BBC. However, none of these are comprehensive and cannot be adopted as is. Experts from various organizations with their experience and a study conducted by CIS to understand the challenges encountered by people with disabilities in using the government apps are compiled together to formulate these mobile accessibility practices.

Though the primary intention of these mobile accessibility practices are for the government, these can be adapted and used as reference for any mobile application developer / designer.

Bookmark the Mobile Accessibility Practices page to refer anytime you develop a mobile application. Upon request we can also provide a PDF to have the practices handy. The contributors’ section of the mobile accessibility practices document contains the names and email addresses to which you can drop a note should you have any questions or feedback. Alternately you can also comment on the mobile accessibility practices page too.

Lets together make web a better place.

aria-colcount (property)

aria-colcount (property)

Dynamic tables are quite common in modern web. Number of columns depends on the data fetched by the input given by the user or any other parameters that define the table. aria-colcount (property) will be ideal to use in scenarios where the total number of columns are not available currently in the DOM. If all the columns of the table are present in the DOM aria-colcount (property) is not required. The user agents can calculate the total number of columns in the table and share it with assistive technologies.

Along with aria-colcount property aria-colindex property also need to be provided for user agents to effectively inform the position of current column within the table in case of dynamic tables.

Developers must set the value of aria-colcount to an integer equal to the number of columns in the full table. In case the total number of columns is unknown, authors must set the value of aria-colcount to -1 to indicate that the value should not be calculated by the user agent.

Aria-colcount property used in roles

Values of aria-colcount property

Integer that is equal to the total number of columns in the table. The value must be -1 (minus one) if the total number of columns is unknown.

Seeing AI, a Microsoft App for Visually Challenged

Seeing AI is a free app by Microsoft to help narrate things, identify persons and read documents. The app is also known as talking camera app, currently available for iPhone users. Seeing AI is a revolutionary application using artificial intelligence to make life of people with low vision and people with blindness comfortable. Problems this seeing AI app can solve are countless. Starting from recognizing people, with their emotions and calculating the approximate age and distance from camera, reading the printed material, identifying the barcode of products are to name a few. VoiceOver the inbuilt screen reader is compatible with this app, if the user is low vision and does not use voiceover, still an audio output is provided. Seeing AI app is first released for iPhone and is very accessible for voiceover users. We tried our best to cover the interface of the seeing AI app and explain each feature of it in detail. Through this article we also want to share tips and tricks to make optimum utilization of the app.

With a simple user interface, the seeing AI app contains menu as the first item, followed by a quick help button. At the bottom is the channel changer option. The area in between the quick help and channel changer is the main feature. This area of the screen changes depending on the channel the user choose to use. A pause/ resume button and camera button are observed in the main region depending on the channel currently in focus.

Seeing AI home screen

Menu

The first item menu contains the following items. Worth exploring them.

  • Face recognition: Explained in detailed later in the article.
  • Help: In detail help of each channel with short videos.
  • Feedback: This option opens email application allowing the user to share feedback. You can also email your feedback to seeingAI@microsoft.com.
  • Settings: Setting currently have only one option i.e. manage lighting toggle button. This feature allows the camera to adjust the lighting for a clear picture.
  • About: The version of Seeing AI can be found here, current version is V1.0.
  • Close: Close is the first option in the menu allows you to close the menu and return to the home screen.

Seeing AI menu screen

Face Recognition

When you first open face recognition option in Seeing AI app, it has a quick help option and next to it is the camera button. By default the front camera will be on. This face recognition option asks you to take 3 pictures of a person and save with the name. Once you save a person on Seeing AI, the app will recognize the person automatically whenever it identifies the person in future.

Adding picture to face recognition feature.

Later when you open the face recognition feature of the seeing AI app again in the future, the screen will list down the recognizable people and also an add button to add new persons.

Quick help

Quick help in each screen provides information only about that particular channel. A button at the end of the screen that shows the video tutorial is also available. A close button on the top of the screen to return to the home screen.

Seeing AI document channel help screen

Channels in detail

Short Text

Short text is the default channel when the Seeing AI app is opened. Simply point the camera on the text you want to read. Read the text using voiceover or if voiceover is not switched on the content is automatically read out by the seeing AI app. If you move the camera while reading or if the app recognizes more clear content it starts reading from the beginning.

Document

Select the document channel on the seeing AI appp. Point the camera to a printed document. Listen the suggestions to bring the all the edges of the document in the camera viewable region. Once the document is accurately fit, the seeing AI app says hold steady and the picture is automatically taken by the appp. Wait for the processing to be done. After the content of the document is read automatically or is available for voiceover users. Intrusting thing is the format of the content such as headings are also read out by voiceover.

Product

Point the camera to the barcode of the product. The seeing AI app gives audio beeps to help locate barcodes and then scans them to identify products. Perfectly identified the pack, see the screenshot below.

Screenshot showing output from a product

Person

A wonderful and exciting feature in the Seeing AI application is recognizing people around you. While taking the picture the feature also announces the location of the face on the camera allowing the visually challenged user to move the phone to a perfect spot before taking the picture. The feature also recognizes number of faces in the capturing region. If the person is not already saved in the face recognition feature explained above, Seeing AI app says the gender, posture such as sitting or standing, approximate distance away. If the person is already captured in the face recognition feature, it announces the name with which the pictures are saved instead. The application also can capture and informs the color of clothes, hat or glasses. The exciting feature in the channel is that the seeing AI app provides approximate age of the person and the emotion such as looking happy, looking neutral etc.
Don’t get offended if the Seeing AI app recognizes the age a little high, try once again where you have better lighting.

Scene beta

Currently observed as an experimental feature available on the Seeing AI app, this channel describe the scene around you. Take a picture of anything around and wait a few minutes until the music stops. The scene or the things around you will be described. This channel has an intelligent feature of identifying different objects around you and structure them with a sentence. A word “probably” is pre-fixed before the sentence. Definitely a cool feature in the Seeing AI application. Can’t wait to use it everywhere I go.

Currency

This channel is currently not available in the Seeing AI app. Seems like a future feature, it identifies currency bills when paying with cash.

Related Links

Share your experiences with the app in comments below.

Technology on travel! A hard of hearing driver and a blind rider

I am a technology believer and great supporter of accessible technologies. Being a person with blindness, most of my daily activities highly depend on technology. My daily travel to office is not an exception.

I use UberExternal Website for my daily commute. Today morning when I have booked an Uber pass as usual the vehicle information screen has displayed on my phone. As I read it with VoiceOver after the vehicle information a strange message is read out by the screen reader. “Your rider may be hard of hearing”. OMG, how would be the ride? Rider being blind and the driver being hard-of-hearing. How do I communicate? Is this journey be challenging? Do I need to cancel the trip? Many questions popping up in my mind in that fraction of second.

Uber screen showing the trip details including driver information

Anxiety one side and a little nervousness on the other side, I decided to take the ride. I was carefully watching the ETA, nervousness increased in my mind and still a little confidence somewhere in my heart as the driver approaches my apartment. As soon as the ETA ticked 2 minutes I started stepping towards the lift. The driver have not called me until he reached the pick-up location. No challenge communicating so far.

My apartment watchman have located the vehicle, as he opened the rear door on the left side the driver asked “Is it Rakesh”. I have nodded my head in sign of agreement. If the profile picture of the rider can be updated on the app, even this barrier can be removed. As I got in the vehicle both of us have not spoken a single word. As most of the Indians who use these cab services know, we need to tell the exact building or streets as the driver approaches the destination. I am tensed as I can neither point to the office building nor can signal him the right direction. The driver is so professional as he could exactly locate and reach the destination. Needless to say he has driven with at most professionalism and by following all the traffic rules as far as my other senses can recognize.

I want to thank him personally while getting down but I don’t know even basics of Indian Sign Language. Any ways I can show my gratitude with a good rating and thanking him on the app. Most of us want to learn basics of some languages where we travel frequently but we never care to learn basics of sign language to communicate with those who have hard-of-hearing though many of them are in our near premises. The bill of the travel will automatically be deducted from my Paytm External Website account and technology helps here. In the entire journey from the time I booked the vehicle to the time I stepped down technology has communicated breaking the barriers of a blind rider and hard-of-hearing person.

The reason I want to post this article is to let people know how technology plays an important role in the lives of people with disabilities and to strongly emphasize on the significance of accessibility in these applications. Only because the Uber appExternal Website on my iPhone is accessible using voiceover this adventurous journey is comfortable. The journey of a blind rider is independent and the difficulty of the driver is known to the rider allowing them to communicate in the right channel. In my personal opinion if the rider has a disability letting the driver know about it may also increase the comfort. As far as I could remember, I have not observed any such information captured while registering as a rider on Uber.

Roll Back GST for Persons With Disabilities

With the call from our beloved Javed Abidi, Global Chair DPI; Honorary Director, NCPEDP, on behalf of and for the well-being of persons with disabilities this article is posted. Maxability will share this article to all interested parties, email and tweet as much as possible to raise the voice of persons with disabilities. Please share this and create an impact to roll back GST for people with disabilities. 10 days more for the next GST meeting and to implementation.

As you are aware, the GST Council has proposed a levy of 5% GST on all items for persons with disabilities mentioned in list 32. Besides this, GST for the following items specifically has been levied as follows:

  • Braille Typewriters – 18%
  • Braille Paper – 12%
  • Braille Watches – 12%
  • Braillers – 5%
  • Carriages for disabled people – motorised or not – 5%
  • Cars for physically disabled persons – 18%

It is shocking to know that the Council has proposed to levy tax on assistive aids and appliances which are of absolute necessity for persons with disabilities! This very move by the Government infringes the recently passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 that provides for equal rights, opportunities and non-discrimination! It is also to be noted that all these items were earlier exempt from VAT and Customs Duty.

In view of the above, various disability groups have been registering strong protests for the withdrawal of the proposed tax on aids, appliances and assistive devices used by persons with disabilities through representations to not just the Finance Minister (FM) at the central government level but also, to the FMs of the States as well!

We were also quite hopeful that the GST Council would heed to these petitions and rollback or significantly reduce the proposed GST during their meeting on Sunday,18th June, 2017. However, this didn’t happen!

The Council deliberated on the tax rate for restaurants in five star hotels but, did not reduce (leave alone abolish) the tax on disability aids & appliances. What is even more absurd is that the Council has decided to levy a 18% tax on restaurants in five star hotels – the same as the tax fixed for Braille typewriters!

On what basis are these tax rates being fixed is beyond comprehension! But, all is not lost! The next meeting of the GST Council is scheduled for 30th June. We cannot let this opportunity slide.

We are therefore, making an urgent appeal to the entire Indian disability sector and all our well wishers and friends to join hands and flood the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Minister’s Office with urgent petitions! Please courier letters or send faxes or emails or just a Tweet and a Facebook post tagging the relevant people – PMO (@PMOIndia), Finance Minister (@arunjaitley), Ministry of Finance (@FinMinIndia), Arun Goyal, Additional Secretary, GST Council (@ArunGoyal59), DEPwD (@socialpwds), etc.

Let us together make both, the South Block and the North Block sit up and take notice. We need to go all guns blazing on this!

We look forward to your support on our campaign on ‘Rollback GST for Persons with Disabilities’ (#RollbackGST4PwDs)!

Updated 21.06.2017

GST: UPDATE AS ON 20.6.2017
The current position of GST on disability aids & appliances as of today is as follows:

  • GST on Braille Typewriters (Chapter 84:32) has been brought down from 18% to 5 %.
  • GST on Braille Watches (Chapter 91:1) and Braille Paper (Chapter 48:8) has been brought down from 12% to 5%.
  • GST on Orthopaedic appliances, including crutches, artificial parts of the body, hearing aids etc. (Chapter 90:9) is still at 12%.
  • Almost all the disability goods, for example Braille Typewriters, Braille Watches, Braille Paper and so on, GST is now at 5% (Chapter 90).
  • Only piece of good news is that Braille Books (Chapter 49:1) are at NIL tax. However, it defies logic as to how will we produce Braille Books when the Braille Paper is being taxed at 5%!!!
  • The Cars for Physically Disabled Persons (Chapter 87:1) are still at a whopping 18% GST.

Information is kind courtesy of Javed Abidi on Facebook. The game is not yet over. We need to keep pressure on government to bring GST at 0% on all assistive technologies and products used by persons with disabilities.

#rollbackGSTforPWDs

Updated on 22.06/2017

Related articles (Links navigates to external websites)

Accessibility Legal and Policy Update

The Education and Out Reach GroupExternal Website of W3C WAIExternal Website has published an update on the laws and policiesExternal Website governing accessibility and disability through-out the globe. This accessibility legal and policyExternal Website information is important for accessibility enthusiasts to understand and digest how the world is moving towards inclusive web. I have tried analyzing the phase in which digital accessibility is progressing through this article. Section 508 refresh in the US, EUWeb & mobile directiveExternal Website and Right to persons with disabilities Act 2016(PDF)External Website in India are few legal and policy updates worth noting. This is on the progressive side.

In this legal and policyExternal Website page, the laws, Mandatory policies, policies, and Procurement laws of 18 countries including few from European Union are updated. As I do a quick search on internet there are 247 countriesExternal Website in the world. I just want to leave the rest to be thought by the readers. I am not concerned about the statistics of the countries but deeply concerned about the people with disabilities who live in the country where the laws and policies are not in place. I am bothered about the people with disabilities who live in the countries where laws and policies are on books but not in reality. Is the globe moving positively in the phase it need to be?

Being in the digital accessibility space for nearly a decade now I have seen a massive change in the way people consume the content or the way people interact with the web. The mobile era has completely changed how people use digital content, web technologies are hitting the market faster than a new recipe, but the awareness, learning and implementation of accessibility is not moving in the phase it should be. The newer markup languages like HTML5 and accessibility technologies like WAI ARIA are bringing accessibility lives to many digital products but this cannot be fulfilled until the designers, content authors, developers and test engineers understand how important is it to provide accessible content. Most of these groups create accurately marked up and accessible digital content only when the laws or policies mandate them or when the vender / client pays for it.

So if governments make a policy mandate, do you think the digital content that is under the jurisdiction of the policy will be made accessible? The term Mandatory policy is defined as “Required accessibility goals or implementation that is not regulated by law”, At W3C WAI Web Accessibility Laws and PoliciesExternal Website page. As per this page Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW)External Website is a mandatory policy recommended in 2009, however a news article recently reveals that only 38 among 7000External Website government websites are accessible. So are the laws and policies sufficient to make digital space an inclusive one?

Being a passionate accessibility consultant and beneficiary of accessible digital content I on behalf of Maxability urge designers, content authors and developers to keep accessibility and the needs of persons with disabilities in mind while creating websites, mobile apps and other digital products. The governing bodies of the law and implementers of the policies must take digital accessibility as a critical aspect. We at Maxability are always open to contribute to an accessible digital world.

aria-current (State)

aria-current state is used to indicate the current item in a set of elements within a component or a widget or a set of related elements. The aria-current state is specifically important to inform the screen reader user about the difference when an element within a set of related elements is visually styled to indicate it is the current item in the set.

aria-current state is an enumerated type. The values that are allowed by the spec are given below and explained in detailed later.

  • aria-current=”page”
  • aria-current=”step”
  • aria-current=”location”
  • aria-current=”date”
  • aria-current=”time”

Any value other than the above specified value for aria-current should be treated as aria-current=”true” by assistive technologies. If the aria-current attribute is not provided or the value is an empty string then assistive technologies should treat it as aria-current=”false” which is a default value. Assistive technologies or user agents should not expose any state to the user when aria-current attribute is not specified or the value of aria-current is an empty string.

Authors should only mark one element in a set of elements as current with aria-current attribute. Authors should not use the aria-current attribute as a substitute for aria-selected in widgets where aria-selected has the same meaning. For example, in a tablist, aria-selected is used on a tab to indicate the currently-displayed tabpanel. On the other hand aria-selected and aria-current can be used to different elements in a same component. For example, In a calander aria-selected represents the date selected by the user where as aria-current indicates the current date.

Aria-current state used in roles

All the elements of base markup.

Values of aria-current State

Value Description
Page Represents the current page within a set of pages.
Step Represents the current step within a process.
Location Represents the current location within an environment or context.
Date Represents the current date within a collection of dates.
Time Represents the current time within a set of times.
True Represents the current item within a set.
False Default Does not represent the current item within a set.

Inclusive Design 24 #ID24 2017

When: June 9, 2017.
Where: Live on YouTube via Google hangouts.

Inclusive Design 24 is a free 24-Hour online community event on accessibility. One hour sessions are hosted for full 24 hours on 9th June 2017. Inclusive Design 24 have webinars lined up for everyone from beginners to experienced, from executives to developers and the topics ranging from basics to advanced.

All the sessions will be live streamed on YouTube via Google hangouts. For questions during the webinar, Tweet them to @paciellogroup using the #ID24 hashtag

For the speakers and topic list visit Inclusive Design 24External Website

From team Maxability, we thank The Paciello GroupExternal Website for sponsoring this great event.

Nominations open for 8th NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards

National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) is a non-profit voluntary organisation founded in 1996 working as an interface between various stakeholders – Government, Industry and Civil Society Organisations (both national and international) for the empowerment of persons with disabilities.

NCPEDP has long believed that accessibility is the bedrock of inclusion. However, it is not limited to just the physical space. It includes, among many others, transport infrastructure, information & technology, aids and appliances. Access therefore, is an issue that cuts across disabilities, sectors, abilities and age groups and forms the very basis of Empowerment! And, a concept that is intrinsic to any kind of access is ‘Universal Design’, which means a design that is usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or situation.

Thus, to recognise exemplary and innovative work towards the cause of accessibility that promotes the principles of Universal Design, NCPEDP with the support of Mphasis launched the ‘NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards’ in 2010.

2017 will see the eighth edition of the Awards which are given in 3 categories: Persons with Disabilities, Working Professionals, and Companies/Organisations. The Awards cover accessibility in the following fields:

  1. Built Environment
  2. Transport
  3. Information and Communication Technology
  4. Services
  5. Aids and Appliances

We have been tremendously motivated by the huge response that the Awards have received since it’s inception and this year, we look forward to seeing an even greater excitement!

 

The Concept Note along with the Nomination Forms can be found at NCPEDPExternal Website . We have also enclosed last year’s commemorative brochure for your reference.

We would appreciate if you could please nominate deserving candidates and also help us disseminate the documents further to relevant individuals/organisations in your mailing lists. The last date for sending nominations is Wednesday, 31st May, 2017.  Please send us your nominations at
secretariat.ncpedp@gmail.com.

More details and registration process can be found at NCPEDPExternal Website

Note: The last date for nomination submission is 31st May 2017.

Global Accessibility Awareness Day GAAD 2017

The 6th edition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day GAAD 2017 is on May 18th. GAAD is marked on third Thursday in May every year. It’s interesting to see the world talking about accessibility and experiencing the problems arising due to inaccessible digital content, and software products. GAAD is also an opertunity for each one of us to understand the problems faced by persons with disabilities. Awareness towards accessibility and sensitivity towards disabilities are the primary objectives of global accessibility awareness day (GAAD). These are the primary objectives for Maxability too and hence we promote GAAD through our blog.

Attend a global accessibility awareness day GAAD 2017 event in your city. Check the list of citiesExternal Website that conduct GAAD 2017. Many companies plan to have an awareness campaigns internal to their organization. Reachout to HR, Diversity & Inclusion or accessibility teams within your organizations to know more.

No GAAD 2017 events in your city? Your company is not aware of GAAD 2017? Don’t worry, We have some ideas for you. See below how to create awareness yourself and encourage teams around you.

Simple checks to observe accessibility

  • Can a user with wheel chair comfortably reach your work station from the main entrance?
  • Write the sentence “Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day” on Facebook and post it to public. Wait!!! do this just with keyboard. Some computer users cannot use mouse.
  • Try calling a friend from your smart phone, the challenge is do it in sunlight. This is how low vision users experience the digital content
  • Watch videoExternal Website, just watch it, close your years, experience the difficulty faced by deaf or hard-of-hearing users.
  • If you own a website or a developer/ QA engineer do these simple checks on your websites. It just takes 10 minutes

Global Accessibility Awareness Day GAAD 2017 events in India

Deque Software Pvt Ltd at Hyderabad

WHEN: 18 MAY 2017

02:00 PM to 7:00 PM
WHERE:
T-HUB CATALYST BUILDING
IIIT-H Campus, Gachibowli
Hyderabad- India
Phone: 9652129697
Registration and informationExternal Website

Mitra Jyothi, Prakat Solutions and CIS at Bangalore

When: May 18th, From 2: 00 pm to 7: 00 p.m
Where:
NIMHANS Convention Centre
Hosur Road

Lakkasandra, Behind Bus Stop

Bengaluru, KARNATAKA 560029

Registration and informationExternal Website

GAAD 2017 celebrations by Paypal at Bangalore

When: May 18th, From 10: 00 am to 1: 00 p.m
Where:
PayPal India Pvt. Ltd.
8th Floor, Tower 11, Pritech Park SEZ
RMZ Eco Space Campus, Bellandur, Outer Ring Road
Bengaluru, Karnataka 560103

Registration and other detailsExternal Website

GAAD 2017 by Aubergine Solutions Pvt. Ltd at Ahmedabad

On May 19th, between 5.30 pm and 6.30 pm on basics of web accessibility. Details on GAAD 2017 at AhmedabadExternal Website.

About Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)