I am one blind person who can’t access your offering

laptop displaying program

laptop displaying programAll too often I hear software vendors, businesses of all types, individual product managers/ developers etc. say “We don’t have blind or deaf customers. Sure it would be nice to have a website/ application/ offering that would work for them, but we just don’t have the demand.”

This is about legal. It’s a true story based on a single blind person’s request for accommodation, failure to get the needed accommodation and how the Seattle Public School system is paying a higher than necessary price to offer that accommodation.

The story begins in July, 2012 when Noel Nightingale, mother of three children in the Seattle Public School district and a person who is blind and relies on the JAWS screen reader to access the web could no longer navigate effectively through the Seattle Public School website. There had been an update to the website which made formerly accessible links and forms available to Ms. Nightingale unusable for her.

Despite engaging the webmaster to restore accessibility and having promises that that would be done there was no material change. Additionally her middle child was placed with his peers into a new online math program, ST Math. This innovative math teaching program relies on visual inputs. While this may be great for a person with sight, as a blind parent, Ms. Nightingale was not able to monitor his progress at home, which is part of the school’s expectation.

Finally, with a second child in the ST Math program, with the Seattle Public School district website still inaccessible a lawsuit was brought to get relief. This is the full text of the motion for preliminary injunction brought in US District Court in Washington state. The injunction was filed in October, 2014 after approximately a year and a half of less formal but ongoing negotiations.

In September, 2015 the Seattle School Board voted to enter into a consent decree to fix the issues. This is a 3 1/2 year long decree which is estimated will cost the district between $665k and $815K to implement. It had previously been estimated that it would cost @ $90K to fix the website.

Part of the settlement is to hire an Accessibility Coordinator. Job anyone?


Accessibility requirements

Examples of requirements written for Taleo to fix accessibility issues.

#1 –

As a JAWS screen reader user I want to know about all mandatory fields when filling out a form. In the personal information page of the Taleo job application there is a two field mandatory entry to indicate where I learned about the job position.

When tabbing through the form user arrives at the first drop down box labeled “Source Type”. This permits the user to select, using up/ down arrows a general category, such as ‘Career Fair’ or ‘Magazine’. When pressing Enter the system opens a second, mandatory drop down box, where choices are available to further refine the source of learning about the job. This drop down box appears visually on the screen but is not announced. When user Tabs again they are taken to the Submit button, skipping over the second drop down box.

This causes an error on the page, which user has to discover and fix before moving on through the application.

Expectation: all mandatory fields on a page will be accessible to user when using keyboard only approach. All page elements will be announced via JAWS when they are available on screen.

Actual: the second drop down box is skipped when user first moves through the screen using Tabbing.

Fix: the second drop down box can be accessed using the Tab and JAWS reads the second label and user is able to complete the action without incurring a page error.

#2 –

As a JAWS screen reader user I want to hear all error messages announced when they occur so I can take corrective action.

When user enters a search term while looking for a job, if there are no results, a message appears on the page saying “There are no results for the search term used. Please try again.”

Expected: When an error is reached, focus will be placed on the error message and JAWS will read the error text.

Actual: The error is rendered silently, leaving the JAWS user unaware that it occurred.

Fix: When an error occurs on the search page JAWS now reads the text so user is informed and can re-enter a different query.

#3 –

As a JAWS screen reader user I expect to move through a page in a logical fashion through all screen elements.

On the login page for Taleo cursor is placed automatically in the username form field upon page arrival. When they fill out that information and Tab, they are moved to the password form field. One more tab brings them back up to the top of the page, not to the next page element, which is the ‘Forgot password?’ link.

Expected: On a login page, the user is most likely to want to enter username, then password and then Submit to move into the site.

Actual: The focus, when Tabbing, moves from the password field to the top of the page. Due to page design there are 8 Tabs that need to be moved through to get to the Submit button.

Fix: When user Tabs from password, they move to the two “help” questions, “Forgot password” and “Forgot username?”, then to Submit button. They are no longer taken to the top of the page and forced to make their way back through the whole page to finally Submit their credentials.