Accessibility Update: Thanks Again, Microsoft!
You may remember that a while back we were very excited to have secured the donated services of a CART provider to enable a deaf attendee to experience WordCamp NYC in person. Sadly, that donation fell through and we had to start our search again. I’m very happy to announce that we’ve got a new plan in place now, and that a new sponsor will be picking up the costs: Microsoft to the rescue again!
When we were unable to find another CART provider to donate services to the event as a sponsor, we decided the best course of action would be to simply hire a local provider and find a sponsor to cover the costs (around $1600). As Microsoft had already decided to become a sponsor of WordCamp NYC, it made sense to work with them around sponsoring accessibility, especially given their own extensive work in this area. Their position:
Accessibility makes it easier for anyone to see, hear, and use a computer, and to personalize their computer to meet their own needs and preferences. For many people with impairments, accessibility is what makes computer use possible. At Microsoft, our mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential. We consider our mission statement a promise to our customers. We deliver on that promise by striving to create technology that is accessible to everyone—regardless of age or ability. Microsoft leads the industry in accessibility innovation and in building products that are safer and easier to use.
When people think of disabilities or accessibility, it usually summons images of wheelchairs or references to screen readers. However, there are a number of disabilities that require accommodation to ensure accessibility, including hearing disabilities. According to the National Center for Health Statistics of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 34 million Americans have a significant hearing loss; of these almost six million are profoundly deaf (current U.S. population is estimated at 304,059,724, so that’s about eleven percent with significant hearing loss, and just under two percent with profound deafness). Within the web community, the numbers are a bit higher, possibly owing to how much computers have helped the deaf to communicate with the broader population. According to Microsoft’s Accessibility division, among adult computer users in the United States:
- 1 in 4 has a vision difficulty
- 1 in 4 has a dexterity difficulty
- 1 in 5 has a hearing difficulty
Hearing difficulties can range from slight hearing loss to total deafness. We have only one deaf attendee in need of assistive technology services at our WordCamp, but clearly hearing disabilities need to be considered, especially with the proliferation of video and audio content on the web (to be accessible, information must be delivered visually as well, such as with transcripts).
Please join me in thanking Microsoft for their commitment to accessibility and for sponsoring assistive services for WordCamp NYC. Thanks, Microsoft!
Footnote: Yes, we will have a deaf attendee who will be accompanied to sessions by a transcriptionist. Because the live transcription process requires special equipment, I’d like to make certain that our deaf attendee and her transcribers can get a seat in each session attended. So if you see two women looking around a crowded room holding computers and trying to find a seat, please consider offering yours if you’re able to stand or cop a squat on the floor. Thanks!