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Check out the most recent Disability Carnival at Astrid’s Journal!

September’s awesome disability carnival is up at Astrid’s Journal: Disability Blog Carnival: Identity.

October’s edition is scheduled to be hosted at Through Myself and Back Again, by lilwatchergirl. Keep an eye out for more details!

By 28 September, 2010.    Uncategorized   

The Canadian Government Is Going To Court So They Don’t Have To Make Web Content Accessible To Screen Readers

[Content Note: Not all of the links I have included in this piece have comments, but many of them do, and those comments are basically full of “Stupid disabled people wasting everyone’s time and energy by wanting the world to treat them like human beings” comments.]

If you’ve been following Canadian politics this week, you could very easily come away with the impression that the most significant – or perhaps even the only – thing going on with this week’s opening of the Federal Parliament was the Gun Registry Vote.

That there’s a federal court Charter challenge brought forth by Donna Jodhan arguing that blind Canadians are being discriminated against by the Federal Government for refusing to make their website content accessible to screen readers is not really getting a lot of attention. (Cripples these days! It’s like they don’t sell papers/make page views.)

A little bit of background information first. Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which went into effect in 1982 and is the Thing against which laws and the like must be “tested” in order to be considered actually legal in Canada. To give some lovely controversial rulings, the reason Canada has no abortion law is because it was found to violate the Charter’s guarantee to security of the person (and no law has since been passed) and it was found that refusing to include “homosexuals” in protections against discrimination violated Section 15, or the right to Equal Protection Before the Law, even though sexual orientation wasn’t included in Section 15.

Section 15 is the important one here:

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Now, I Am Not A Lawyer, and it’s been about 10 years since I studied the Charter, so I’m going to leave that out there and not discuss my personal interpretations because they don’t matter. What matters is two things: 1) What the court says and 2) That the Federal Government is arguing that they shouldn’t have to be accessible to screen readers in court.

The latter is, of course, being read as Jodhan wasting tax payers money in a frivolous lawsuit, not the Federal Government for refusing to have accessible content.

From what I can tell, this is what’s going on: In 2004, Jodhan attempted to apply for government jobs online. However, the site wasn’t set up to allow screen-readers to access the site, so she was unable to do so. In 2006, she attempted to fill her Census out online, and again, the federal government website was not accessible to her screen reader.

On Tuesday [September 21], Jodhan will argue in federal court that her inability to apply for a position on the federal jobs website or complete the online version of the 2006 Census breached her equality rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

She will also argue that this violation and her ongoing inability to access the government’s online information and services constitute a breach against all blind and partially sighted Canadians, said Jodhan’s lawyer David Baker.

About 3 million Canadians have visual or other impairments that make it difficult to access the Internet.

The Federal Government is, in turn, is responding with “What, you think you should have a right to access the same information that everyone else can? Ha ha! Ha ha!”:

Internet access to government services and information is not a right guaranteed in law, the government says in its written submission to the court.

“Alternative channels available did allow (Jodhan) to access services and information independently, in a manner that respected her privacy and dignity,” it says.

With more than 120 government departments and agencies and more than 23 million web pages, “it is unlikely that the government’s web presence will ever be perfectly accessible to all,” it adds.

Frankly, if the Federal Government doesn’t think that their websites provide information in a timely fashion, and that access to that information isn’t something that they should prioritize, why are they bothering with them in the first place? And if they do think it’s important, why are they in essence arguing that “It’s important for most people, but not for the three million Canadians who won’t be able to access it?”

I support Donna Jodhan’s fight for equality of access to information for all Canadians. I hope you do, too. If so, I strongly encourage you to email your Member of Parliament and let them know. Perhaps if enough of us contact the government and let them know we value accessibility for Canadians with disabilities, they’ll start acting like we shouldn’t have to go to court just to get it.

This is the email I sent to my MP, who happens to be Megan Leslie, and cc:ed to the leader of the NDP. Please feel free to adapt it to send to your own MP. (This should give you their email address.)

Dear Megan,

I recently learned of Donna Jodhan’s Federal Court case, arguing that the Canadian Government must provide screen-reader accessible content on their websites, as reported in the Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/863379–blind-woman-says-federal-websites-discriminate-against-the-visually-impaired) and the CBC (http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/09/18/to-blind-accessible-feds.html) In light both Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada’s recent signing of the Declaration of Rights of Disabled Persons, I’m appalled that the Federal Government would waste tax payers’ dollars in arguing that 3 million Canadians should not have the ability to access government services online or apply for government jobs online.

In this day and age, it’s ridiculous for the government to argue that access to the internet is not necessary. According to the Toronto Star, government lawyers are arguing “Internet access to government services and information is not a right guaranteed in law”. While I agree that this is technically true, in refusing to provide this access, the government is arguing that blind and visually impaired Canadians should have less access to government services and information than Canadians who are sighted.

Megan, every day it is clearer to me how many societal barriers are put in place that prevent people with disabilities in Canada from full participation. The time and energy the federal government is frivolously spending in defending their lack of web accessibility could be far better put to use in bringing the government’s websites up to the same standards as those in other countries, standards that are reasonable to expect in the 21st Century.

This is such an important issue, and I hope that the NDP will work to bring awareness of it to Canadians, and encourage the federal government to stop fighting against people with disabilities, but fighting for them.

Thank you,

Anna P.
cc: Jack Layton

In The News: Toronto StarUPICBCGlobe & Mail

Recommended Reading for Thursday, September 23

I’m still quite ill, and again, this is another pull from things I’ve been meaning to link since they were written. If there’s a theme (and my fever is a bit unclear on whether or not there’s a theme), it’s vaguely “disability-related discussions in places that are not specifically disability focused”, so please read with that in mind. Starred posts have video as well as written content.

rboylorn at Crunk Feminist Collective: This is Not a Fairy Tale: Black Women and Depression *

I have a confession to make. Despite my outward appearance and demeanor, some days it is a physical struggle to get out of bed in the morning. At least once a month I cry myself to sleep, to the point of waking up with puffy red eyes and hiccups. Dating back as far as I can remember (early childhood) my mood has always been generally melancholy, an oceanic blue. I experience bouts of depression that range from simple sadness to life re-considerations as predictably as season changes. It has become more manageable the older I get.

This feels like a confession because while I am only admitting to having moments of humanity and vulnerability, I am a black woman, and for me these realities are oftentimes seen as weaknesses. We (black women) are supposed to be strong. We (black women) are not supposed to break down.

mimi thi nguyen at Threadbared: Foot Fetish (via Penny @ Disability Studies, Temple U):

I am considering, among other things: the figure of the disabled body as a problematic metaphor; the eroticization of medical apparatus as well as the disabled body; phenomenological prosthetics that transform consciousness of self in the world; the blurring of the always precarious line between medical-surgical discourses of necessary utility and rehabilitation and “elective” aesthetics and beauty; clothing (and shoes) as armor against access and intimacy; Seoul’s pink parking spots designated for women in high heels; and finally, this quote from Rosemary Garland Thomson

Rehana Mirza at Women & Hollywood: Why I Made Hiding Divya *

My sister, Rohi, and I have long fought against cultural norms — she, as the producer, and myself as a filmmaker. When I first started writing this film, it was because of Rohi’s friend, Rashi Shyam, whose father had shot himself. No one within the South Asian community even knew how deeply he was struggling with depression. No one acknowledged his depression even after that, when he was hospitalized. So we decided to make this film, hoping to de-stigmatize mental illness and bring awareness of the issue to all cultures.

LadySquires on viz: Excuse Me, But There’s Some Prejudice On Your Face:

Let’s take stock of everything that’s wrong with that, shall we? First of all, this line of critique makes several aggressively sizest assumptions about the relationship between larger body size, intelligence, and human worth. Furthermore, it eclipses the presence of the many progressives who happen to be fat (or poor spellers). Then we have the Flickr album labelled “Teabonics,” obviously a pun on the term “ebonics,” which was used for a time to describe African American vernacular speech. In other words, this pun posits a relationship between the quality of one’s grammar or spelling, intelligence, and worth as a human being, a logic that has historically been used to exclude African Americans and other minorities from the public sphere. Given the relationshisp between illiteracy and poverty, this is also a logic that erases anyone from a lower socio-economic background.

Colleen Hodgetts at Gender Across Borders: Prosecuting HIV in Germany

Nadja Benaissa, of the popular German all-girl pop group No Angels, has been charged in criminal court with grievous bodily harm and attempted aggravated assault. Her crime? Having unprotected sex with three men without informing them of her HIV-positive status. One of the men has since become HIV-positive as well. (The other two tested negative for the virus.) Although the singer is now 28, she was tried in juvenile court because her crimes allegedly began when she was only 17, the age at which she became infected with the virus. She faced a prison sentence of between six months and 10 years, but was given a two-year suspended sentence and 300 hours of community service working with those who are HIV-positive. Has this case educated the public to take strides against infection or further increased the stigma against HIV-positive people?

In The News

US: White Americans Living Longer with Muscular Dystrophy than African-Americans “A new study shows that white men and boys are living longer with muscular dystrophy due to technological advances in recent years, but that the lives of African-American men and boys with muscular dystrophy have not been extended at the same rate.”

US: Family Mourns Loss of Disabled Son “The family said his death was unexpected and an autopsy so far did not reveal a cause.”

US: Once You Know ‘Jesse’ Your Life Will Change “People see a kid in a wheelchair, or with Down syndrome or autism or any other kind of disability and think only of limitations. They forget about love.” (Yes, this review is everything you think it is from this particular quote.)

By 23 September, 2010.    recommended reading   

Tell The Discovery Network that their transphobia is unacceptable

Late last week, PinkyIsTheBrain on tumblr began a campaign to bring attention to the new Investigation Discovery show “Who the Bleep Did I Marry?”, which equates someone being trans* with being a serial killer, a con artist, or a bank robber.

[Note: If you’re unfamiliar with Tumblr, it can be a bit hard to navigate. “Conversations” or comments or follow-up tend to be nested.]


Music plays in background: “Love and marriage, love and marriage”

The video opens on a scene of a wedding in an idyllic location surrounded by trees with an arbor of flowers. The camera zooms in on the bride, who turns and says:

(Marriage officiant in the background): Join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.

First Bride: Five years from now, I’ll find out that he’s a bank robber.

The camera cuts to a different couple, walking under a portico with their backs to the camera. The bride turns to the camera and says “Serial murderer.”

A zoom in on another couple, standing like they are being photographed with their families.
Third Bride (loud whisper): Russian spy!

Another couple, cutting a cake.
Fourth Bride: Cheater. With three other wives.

Another couple, surrounded by a crowd, the bride sitting on a chair while her husband kneels to pull off her garter.
Fifth Bride: And he’s a… a she.


(Kissing noise.)

We cut back to the original couple, kissing at the altar.

The closing shot is of a fancy black car driving away, trailing ribbons, tin cans, and toilet paper. ‘Who the (bleep) did I marry’ is chalked on the back window.

Marriage Officiant (sounding disgusted): Who the bleed did you marry?

Voiceover: Who the bleep did I marry? All new [episodes?], only on Investigation Discovery.

This is not just a ridiculous comparison, it’s a pretty damned offensive one that equates being trans* with being a serial killer – and once again equates being trans* with lying, which is the same argument that murderers make with they murder trans* people.

FuckYeahFTM looked up the contact information for the Discovery Network, encouraging people to get in touch and point out how bloody offensive and shitty this is:

Here’s more info about the show:

Who The Bleep? [Opens with sound & Video]

The other episodes they have include: Married to An Embezzler, The Biggest Con, Married to a Spy, Married to A Bank Robber

And they are including marrying a transman, or in their words “He is actually a She” on that level, with criminals and murderers.

Discovery doesn’t actually make it easy to contact them with concerns (I had to use a search engine to find the Contact page because it wasn’t anywhere on the Who The Bleep? page), so here’s how I did it:

32. How can I contact you with programming comments or questions?
We welcome your e-mail comments and questions, which you can send to us by clicking here.

This is the most efficient way to contact us. Comments or questions directed to anyone else at Discovery Communications will be forwarded to Viewer Relations, which means it will take us longer to follow up.

You can also write to us at:

Discovery Communications
Viewer Relations
One Discovery Place
5th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910

There is actually a lot of “required information” before Discovery will let you contact them. They want your age, your name, what network you’re writing about (Investigation Discovery in this case), post code, Cable provider, program time, and “information needed” (along with several other pieces of non-required information) before you can fill in your comment. I believe it’s five steps before you can tell them what your concern is, the site is very slow (at least for me), and I have no idea how accessible it is. (It does not like my computer at all)

However, reaching out and making it clear to Discovery that this stuff is not okay, that being trans* is not a crime, is not lying, and is not the equivalent of being a “Russian Spy” or a “Bank Robber”, is important, and I hope as many of you as possible will contact them and make that clear.

This is what I wrote, if you are looking for a template:

Hello Discovery Network,

I am disgusted and appalled at your decision to equate being a trans man with being a criminal, a spy, or a murderer. A trans man is not “really a she”. He is a man who married a woman. The decision of your network to “out” someone like this is especially dangerous, as many trans people are murdered for allegedly “faking” or “lying” or otherwise “cheating” their sexual partners.

I hope you will reconsider your decision to air such an exploitive, dangerous, and abusive program.

Again, here is Discovery’s Contact Form. I emailed them last week and have so far received only a form letter, but if we overwhelm them with numbers, surely they have to pay attention, right?

Recommended Reading for the Wednesday of My Discontent

I’m clearing out my backlog of awesome posts that I meant to link oh-so-long ago, but really: This stuff is always timely, and always worth reading. Also, today is the Wednesday of our discontent because I’m sick and miserable.

Disability & Protests:

Laura Hershey: Last Word on the MDA Protests (At Least For This Year):

Yes, the Telethon was bad again this year, at least the bits I watched. One thing that continues to amaze me is how big a role Jerry Lewis’ big ego plays, all the way throughout the Telethon. Here’s one late-night quotation that I bothered to write down:

“This child in the [Boston] Hospital had muscular dystrophy, and I went to see him, and he smiled when I walked into the room, and he grabbed my hand, and he said, quote, ‘I’m glad I got muscular dystrophy, because that’s why I met you.’ I rest my case. If there are naysayers out there, and if they’re uncertain as to the validity of my soul, trust me – it was a moment in time that takes me through the program in 2001 all the way through 2010.”

John R. Polito: Charleston’s 20th MDA Telethon Protest

Forget for a moment the worthiness of the MDA’s cause. Instead, reflect on the consequences of pity based fund-raising that gets viewers to dig deeper and give more by making them feel superior and different, by using differing muscular abilities and muscle disease to foster sorrow, pity and tears.

Imagine painting life with muscular dystrophy as hopeless and dark unless the MDA can raise enough money to “find a cure.” Imagine the indignity of someone handing you money on Labor Day simply because your means of mobility is a wheelchair. As Harriet often asked, what is the cure for stigma?

Bad Cripple: New Ways To Create Social Change

Perhaps it is because I teach college students but I think the only way to make effective social and political change today is through online, multimedia, and creative civil disobedience. Here I am thinking along the lines as groups such as Improv Everywhere to far more obscure though no less interesting approaches taken by cripzthecomic. I suggest those unfamiliar with Improv Everywhere take a look at their “actions”. Some are very funny, others stupid, but the mass appeal cannot be denied. As for cripthecomic he recently posted about something he called “stair bombing”. This London Ontario based person went to a local school, spread about one dollars worth of caution tape across the entrance and posted a sign “Sorry, no access Stairs out of Order”. When I saw this I laughed myself silly! All I could think of was all the “No access elevator broken” signs I have come across in my life time. I also could not help but wonder did people circle the building looking for stairs that were not out of order. I cannot help but think this caused a stir–and made people think. And this, making people think and laugh, is exactly what disability rights has failed to do lately. If we can do this, make people think and protest in a way that appeals to young people who do not separate political change from humor we might be onto something big–we might be able to make disability rights cool.

Disability & Etiquette

PatientC: The SmartAss Guide to Wheelchair Etiquette

Do not touch the damn chair! I do not know what kind of swoon overcomes the temporarily able-bodied, but they seem to forget everything they have learned about behaving in public when they come in contact with a person in a wheelchair. Do not touch the chair. Is it normally okay to mess with other people’s things without asking? No? Well, that is settled then. It is not your prop, leaning spot, or fucking toy. It is a tool, and part of a person’s personal space.

Do not touch the wheelchair user! For pete’s sake, if you would not normally casually touch a person, you do not get the right to do so when they sit down. It is okay to shake hands, the user of the chair will let you know if they do not want to or not able to do so. And I swear, if you pat me on the head, you may pull back a stump.

Static Nonsense has two Bingo cards up about Plurality. (They have provided a description of the cards as well): Dear World: BINGO! Plurality Edition #1 and Dear World: BINGO! Plurality Edition #2.

This particular one is very important to me because it shows a lot of the arguments used to invalidate the existence and identity of plural systems. They’re arguments that I have been fighting against for a long time and have forced me out of areas I had been a part of for even longer. These are the “skeptic” positions, the ones taken when people do just enough research to further justify their own prejudices. And if they’re not doing that, they’re spouting pseudo-science (fun fun).

In The News

Canada: Universal Pharacare Touted as a way to save billions [The last time I checked the comments they were pretty bad.] “But, above all, it says Canada pays too much for drugs – between 16 and 40 per cent more than other industrialized countries – in a bid to attract pharmaceutical investment.”

US: Haunted House Exploits Real Horror “While the number of people confined to institutions has dramatically declined since then, a plan to turn Pennhurst into a Halloween attraction suggests the stigma of disability has not been erased.” (Also ‘Pennhurst Asylum’ project is an abomination)

By 22 September, 2010.    recommended reading   

ADAPT Protests partially lock-down White House! Media Yawns, Changes Subject

I spent most of my weekend pretty much glued to Twitter following ADAPT’s latest action in Washington, DC and wondering where the media was, especially after a huge group of wheelchair users blockaded one of the White House gates and 16 people were arrested. I actually thought that the White House security arresting a group of people with disabilities would surely be the sort of thing that the media would pick up on.

Foolish me! Just like with the Arnieville protests that s.e. wrote about last week, the media is basically ignoring this four-day-long protest in Washington in favour of more important things. Despite repeated hunts by me and several other people, the only mention of the protest, “partial White House lockdown”, arrests, and march is this CNN report, which only quotes White House staff and the ADAPT webpage. Apparently CNN couldn’t even find someone from ADAPT to quote directly. (Also, the photos of the event that ADAPT have posted make it clear that CNN’s report is factually inaccurate.)

[If you would like to read NationalADAPT’s tweets, a good place to start is their September 18th tweet, and just keep going from there. Their timeline includes a variety of photos taken of the event, and also will point you towards other tweeters that were there.]

ADAPT has been protesting at the White House at least once a year (sometimes twice a year) since 1997, and has been holding protests in other cities across the US for 25 years. The focus of their protests for the last 11 years has been the Olmstead Decision and the Community Choice Act.

Eleven years ago, in the Olmstead decision, the Supreme Court said that Americans with disabilities have the right to live in the most integrated setting. Yet today, states are responding to budget shortfalls by drastically cutting home and community-based services. These draconian cuts are forcing seniors and people with disabilities into nursing facilities and other institutional settings because they don’t have the services they need to remain independent.

On Sunday, ADAPT held a funeral, complete with casket, to both mourn and bring attention to the number of people with disabilities who have died in nursing homes around the country while fighting to get out of them. Monday involved marching directly on the White House. While CNN reports that 9 people handcuffed themselves to the White House gates, the ADAPT photos and Reports make it clear that far more than 9 people were involved in this action.

The Park Police had closed the sidewalk and street in front of the White House around 10 in the morning as ADAPT approached. When the police used an SUV to block ADAPT and the sidewalk, the bulk of ADAPT charged into the intersection of 15th and G Streets stopping traffic completely. The police had believed they had successfully stopped the line of activists when suddenly all the traffic was stopped and the intersection was packed with activists.

“The people they thought were meek or expendable,” said Jennifer McPhail about the police force, “were the people who had taken their power.”

While ADAPT’s actions continue today across Washington, DC, members who are required to attend court this morning after being arrested have been illegally challenged at the court to produce documentation for their service animals, and need to bring attention to ADA violations to the very people one would expect to be enforcing the ADA.

When a local Washington paper was challenged on their decision not to report anything about the ADAPT protests, their response was first that they don’t cover national protests and then, when it was pointed out this was also a local protest, that it was a matter of debate, and there were protests every day in DC. Other media sources haven’t responded to questions about their lack of coverage.

I do understand this, to a point. Certainly I’ve attended protests that have received very little media coverage, and most of that in either local papers or in grass roots news organizations. However, at what point do we start to seriously question why multi-day – or, in the case of Arnieville, multi-week – protests by people with disabilities are getting ignored? The ADAPT actions have decades of history, and touch on issues that are hot-button topics in the US right now, such as health care, funding for social programs, and the standard of living.

And yet, still, despite everything: we protest, and are ignored.

Recommended Reading for September 20, 2010

Today’s Recommended Reading focuses on Voting.

See image description below
s.e.'s absentee ballot from the 8 June 2010 statewide primary in California, sealed in its envelope and addressed to the registrar of voters. The ballot stub and an 'I voted' sticker are positioned on top of the envelope.

Canada: Blind voter lashes out over mail-in ballots

A blind voter has lashed out at politicians who chose mail-in ballots for an Oct. 25 Ontario city’s municipal election.

Geof Collis said he is “appalled” by the decision in Kawartha Lakes, in southeastern Ontario, which he says has “effectively discriminated against me and others, ensuring that my right to vote is neither private nor independent.

Faced with a mail-in ballot, he say: “How would it be possible to vote if you were blind without help from someone in one form or another?”

Canada: Voter access improved: city

Pauline Baker has always found it hard to vote for St. Catharines politicians.

No, she’s not particularly cynical about local politics.

The 68-year-old, who has multiple sclerosis and needs a scooter to get around, just has trouble getting into her local polling station.

“It’s not very accessible and it has been bugging me forever,” said Baker, who was left fuming outside a locked door at Prince Philip School during a previous election.

A wheelchair ramp led to the school’s side entrance, but safety rules prevented that door from being left open, even on election day. (A passing teacher eventually let Baker in.)

Tanzania: Disabled Persons Sidelined In Elections

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) conducted a two-day workshop last week to sensitize and educate people with disabilities on the forthcoming General Elections.

The workshop, which attracted about 100 special needs representatives from all regions in Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar, mainly dwelt on the Rights, Responsibilities and Roles of Voters in the country’s fourth multiparty election.

The UNDP election support project manager, Mr Oskar Lehner, said the government was duty bound to ensure special needs voters were equally involved in the entire election process.

Tanzania: Disabled Spell Out Their Reasons For Polls Apathy

Disabled people in Mwanza Region say they have not participated in this year’s General Election by contesting in various posts because of being stigmatized.

They made the remarks recently through the Nyamagana district chairman of the Tanzania Society for the Disabled, Mr Anthony Chacha.

Speaking to The Citizen after receiving five wheelchairs and
as many tricycles from the Mwanza City Council director, Mr Wilson Kabwe, he said the Tanzania society does not yet have confidence with disabled peoples’ ability to lead.

By 20 September, 2010.    recommended reading   

Reminder! Deadline for Submissions to the September Disability Blog Carnival is Tuesday night!

I am totally cheating and just reposting what Ouyang Dan said earlier!

Astrid, of Astrid’s Journal, has agreed after much consideration to host the September edition of the Disability Blog Carnival, and we at FWD/Forward are enthusiastic to support that decision!

Astrid has chosen the theme “Identity”:

Think of it as broadly as you want. Posts relating to transforming identities, are of course especially welcome, as they honor both themes. Just a reminder that, even though this is a disability blog carnival, we honor intersectionality, so racial, ethnic, gender, sexual and any other type of identities also count, as long as the post is somewhat relevant to disability.

Comments can be submitted preferably here or else at the Disability Studies, Temple U. blog. The deadline for submissions will be Tuesday night, September 21 – Tuesday night your time, so don’t worry about my living in Europe. I hope to post the carnival on Friday, September 24 – whenever it suits me, my time.

We hope you will consider submitting something for the Carnival. Remember, the theme is a way to get you started, and we hope that you will interpret it to how it applies to your own situation, keeping the general spirit of intersectionality in mind.

Again, thanks to Astrid for taking this on, because without volunteers, there would be no Carnival!

Be sure, if you haven’t already, to check out the August edition of The Disability Carnival at Brilliant Mind, Broken Body, hosted by Kali.

By 20 September, 2010.    Uncategorized   

Dear Google: Can We Have Some Accessibility With Our Email Please?

Last week, Mathsnerd attempted to sign up for a new GoogleMail (know as Gmail elsewhere) account. I say attempted because this did not go well. At all.

Oh, wait, what’s that, Google? After trying more than three names, I have to go through CAPTCHA to prove I’m a real person? Okay, that’s kind of soon, but whatever. Gee, you sure scrunch those letters together and make them all wavy so that I have a real hard time figuring out what the hell you want me to enter…

Huh, okay, I’ve tried eight times, Google, and I can’t seem to read it well enough that you’re satisfied that I’m a real person. And while you offer a “read-aloud” accessibility option for the CAPTCHA down below for submitting the form (which, incidentally, doesn’t work in Chrome, yeah, you know, YOUR BROWSER!), for the CAPTCHA to keep trying different handles you conveniently don’t offer any alternate options.

Captcha is a sort of Challenge that a user must pass when a program thinks that the user might be a spambot instead of a person. Wikipedia’s article looks useful if you want to learn more about it. It’s certainly not the only Challenge software out there, but it is one that is widely used, especially by Google-related products, such as their web-based email and their blogging software, Blogger. In fact, Google likes Captcha so much they bought the company in 2009, making Google responsible for implementing their accessibility policy.

Description Below
A screen grab of a Google Captcha code. I think it's supposed to say monsworene, but I'm not sure, and it's very difficult to read due to size, font choice, and the way the letters are pushed together.

Some Captchas, including the ones used by Google, have an audio option. I’ve occasionally tried to use the audio Captchas, which are a series of numbers read outloud with a large amount of background noise, designed, I assume, to keep an automated system from being able to distinguish the Challenge. I’m an experienced audio typist, so while I found this irritating, I could cut through it. Earlier this year, Blind Bargains did a study and found that 73% of blind users were unable to succeed at the Captcha Challenge – and blind users, according to Google and Captcha, are exactly who the audio function is designed for. 1

Google has an Accessibility Feedback Form. In order to use it, you must have a Google Account. Depending on any number of factors, your attempt to get a Google Account to discuss their accessibility problem with Captcha could require you to pass a Captcha Challenge in order to prove you are an actual person.

Actually, let me highlight that: In order to tell Google about their problems with accessibility, you need to be able to pass through the inaccessible Challenge.

Those of you who already have Gmail or GoogleMail accounts, you can contact Google to raise your concerns at their Accessibility Feedback Form. The Feedback form has a lot of fields to fill out. I just filled out the one that I felt was most applicable, and it went through without requiring me to put in any more information.

Here is a template you can use. Please feel free to use, edit, or adapt this for your own purposes.:

Hello Google

I was very distressed to learn that Blind users and users with other disabilities were having difficulties in signing up for Gmail accounts through the Captcha challenge. One user has detailed her experiences here: http://accessibility-fail.dreamwidth.org/33494.html , and as well, Blind Bargains reports 73% of their users had difficulties with using the audio version of Captcha: http://www.blindbargains.com/bargains.php?m=5383

I know that Google wants to be a more accessible service for users around the world. I hope that the accessibility people at Google will have the opportunity to look into these complaints and work with various people with disabilities in order to solve these problems.

Thank you for your time.

This is an issue that cuts to the heart of the problems with inaccessible web content. Obviously there are thousands – maybe millions – of blind or otherwise visually impaired users of the internet, but in this increasingly-flashy internet age, where not only information but job applications are going increasingly online, web accessibility is a huge barrier to people’s participation in society. Google, as we all know, is a huge multi-national company with the ability to make an incredible difference by working with users with disabilities in order to make the web more accessible to us. By contacting Google, you will be adding your voice to the chorus asking for greater web accessibility.

Accessibility Feedback Form.

  1. Thank you to Codeman38 for bringing this study to my attention.

Signal Boost: Help Mia Mingus & CripChick!

To the Other Side of Dreaming: Finding Housing & Putting Disability Justice Into Practice

We’re reaching out across our bi-coastal networks to move to the Bay, specifically Berkeley because of the level of access that can be found there for disabled folks. This is a huge, complicated and multidimensional decision that we have struggled with and we will be writing more about it to you, our loved ones and family, in the coming months.

But right now we need you. We need help finding a place to live and creating a community careshift collective.

Check for more information about what Mia Mingus & Ms Crip Chick need at Leaving Evidence (mirrored at CripChick’s blog), and also check out the Book Sale at thaura zine distro: Revolutionary Love is More Than a Catch Phrase. There appears also to be an etsy sale in the works, so please keep an eye out for that as well.

CripChick also has a list of books she’s giving away, as their new digs won’t have room for all the books (woe).

For myself, I have only recently become aware of the amazing work that Mia Mingus does, but what I’ve read at her blog, Leaving Evidence, from hearing about her work this year at the Allied Media Conference, I am blown away by her passion, her drive, and her love. CripChick’s work I’m more familiar with, especially her work with young people with disabilities, as a youth organizer and a radical woman of color. Both of their blogs are outstanding, and as well they are also both heavily involved in community organizing and disability solidarity.

I know things are tight all over, but much of the help they need is not just in money, but in support and information. Check out what they need!

By 17 September, 2010.    activism, make the world a better place, signal boost   

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