locked Re: Letter from the head list representative: pandemic check-in, your health matters first #AdminNotice


 

Hi all,

We can speculate all day about priorities of organizations (with humor included), but that’s not the main reason why we are gathered here in the first place. More importantly, the spirit of the letter was to check in with folks on how they are doing, access to crucial information, and to remind you all to follow public health guidelines.

One thing to keep in mind: we witness frequent discussions of blindness organizations and their multiple priorities on various forums (including this forum in the past). As much as we do need to point out tech advocacy strategies organizations can use, discussing organization business is not really the pillar of this forum cluster, fully knowing that it leads to difficulty in managing forums. Therefore please do your best to refrain from discussing organization business that has nothing to do with the spirit of this forum cluster, especially given that this is an international forum with many countries and cultures represented.

Cheers,

Joseph

 

From: win10@win10.groups.io <win10@win10.groups.io> On Behalf Of enes saribas
Sent: Saturday, March 6, 2021 10:46 AM
To: win10@win10.groups.io
Subject: Re: [win10] Letter from the head list representative: pandemic check-in, your health matters first #AdminNotice

 

The blind organazations were too busy making sure that blind people could get gun permits. Having fully automatic asault rifles are obviously more important than getting covid-19 vaccination right?  

On 2/28/2021 10:19 AM, Gerald Levy via groups.io wrote:

 

The reason why so many government web sites are not blind accessible in that there is nobody overseeing them.  There was little or no enforcement of the ADA during the previous administration, and so the situation has become progressively worse.  You would think that the blindness advocacy groups would be outraged and take immediate legal action, but with the hodge-podge of appointment scheduling web sites throughout the country and no federal coordination among them, it would be virtually impossible to file lawsuits, which, in any case, could take years to resolve.  Also, the blindness organizations do not like to get involved in litigation unless it means a financial windfall for them, as in the case of the NFB's successful lawsuit against Target, which forced them to make their web site more screen reader friendly for blind customers, but also resulted in a $250K settlement for the NFB. I live in New York City, and not only can't I make an appointment online because most of the mishmosh of web sites are largely inaccessible with JAWS, but there have not been first dose appointments available for weeks anywhere in Manhattan where I live, anyway.

 

Gerald

 

 

On 2/28/2021 9:11 AM, molly the blind tech lover wrote:

How is this possible?

This is 2021. Aren’t government websites supposed to be required to be made accessible by now?

 

 

From: win10@win10.groups.io <win10@win10.groups.io> On Behalf Of Gerald Levy via groups.io
Sent: Sunday, February 28, 2021 7:19 AM
To: win10@win10.groups.io
Subject: Re: [win10] Letter from the head list representative: pandemic check-in, your health matters first #AdminNotice

 

 

Hi list.  In view of Joseph's  message about the pandemic, I thought I would share the following relevant article which describes the trouble many blind people have been experiencing trying to make appointments online for Covid vaccinations:

 

[tech-vi Announce List] COVID vaccine websites create inequity for the blind - ModernHealthcare.com

"Screen reader" - Google News - Thursday, February 25, 2021 at 12:33 PM

COVID vaccine websites create inequity for the blind - ModernHealthcare.com

Many COVID vaccination registration and information websites at the federal, state and local levels violate disability rights laws, hindering the ability
of blind people to sign up for a potentially lifesaving vaccine, a KHN investigation has found.

Across the country, people who use special software to make the web accessible have been unable to sign up for the vaccines or obtain vital information
about COVID-19 because many government websites lack required accessibility features. At least 7.6 million people in the U.S. over age 16 have a visual
disability.

WebAIM, a nonprofit web accessibility organization, checked COVID vaccine websites gathered by KHN from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. On
Jan. 27, it found accessibility issues on nearly all of 94 webpages, which included general vaccine information, lists of vaccine providers and registration
forms.

In at least seven states, blind residents said they were unable to register for the vaccine through their state or local governments without help. Phone
alternatives, when available, have been beset with their own issues, such as long hold times and not being available at all hours like websites.

Even the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Vaccine Administration Management System, which a small number of states and counties opted
to use after its rocky rollout, has been inaccessible for blind users.

Those problems violate the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which established the right to communications in an accessible format, multiple legal experts and
disability advocates said. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law that prohibits governments and private businesses from discriminating
based on disability, further enshrined this protection in 1990.

Doris Ray, 72, who is blind and has a significant hearing impairment, ran into such issues when she tried to sign up for a vaccine last month with the
CDC's system, used by Arlington County in Virginia. As the outreach director for the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, an advocacy center run by
and for people with disabilities, she had qualified for the vaccine because of her in-person work with clients.

When she used screen-reading technology, which reads a website's text aloud, the drop-down field to identify her county did not work. She was unable to
register for over two weeks, until a colleague helped her.

"This is outrageous in the time of a public health emergency, that blind people aren't able to access something to get vaccinated," Ray said.

Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, wrote to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in early December, laying out
his concerns on vaccine accessibility.

"A national emergency does not exempt federal, state, and local governments from providing equal access," he wrote.

Dr. Robert Redfield, who was then leading the CDC, responded that the interim vaccine playbook for health departments included a reminder of the legal
requirements for accessible information.

CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed said in an email that VAMS is compliant with federal accessibility laws and that the agency requires testing of its services.

But more than two months into a national vaccine campaign, those on the ground report problems at all levels.

Some local officials who use VAMS are aware of the ongoing problems and blame the federal government. Arlington Assistant County Manager Bryna Helfer said
that because VAMS is run by the federal government the county cannot access the internal workings to troubleshoot the system for blind residents.

Connecticut Department of Public Health spokesperson Maura Fitzgerald said the state was aware of "many accessibility issues" with VAMS. She said it had
staffed up its call center to handle the problems and was working with the federal government "to improve VAMS and enable the functionality that was promised."

Deanna O'Brien, president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire, said she had heard from blind people unable to use the system. New
Hampshire's health department did not answer KHN questions about the problems.

Blind people are particularly vulnerable to contracting the COVID virus because they often cannot physically distance themselves from others.

"When I go to the grocery store, I do not have the option of walking around and not being near a person," said Albert Elia, a blind attorney who works
with the San Francisco-based TRE Legal Practice on accessibility cases. "I need a person at the store to assist me in shopping."

There is no standardized way to register for a COVID vaccine nationwide — or fix the online accessibility problems. Some states use VAMS; some states have
centralized online vaccination registration sites; others have a mix of state-run and locally run websites, or leave it all to local health departments
or hospitals. Ultimately, state and local governments are responsible for making their vaccination systems accessible, whether they use the VAMS system
or not.

"Once those portals open, it's a race to see who can click the fastest," Riccobono said. "We don't have time to do things like file a lawsuit, because,
at the end of the day, we need to fix it today."

Common programming failures that make sites hard to use for the visually impaired included text without enough contrast to distinguish words from the page's
background and images without alternative text explaining what they showed, the WebAIM survey showed. Even worse, portions of the forms on 19 states' pages
were built so that screen readers couldn't decipher what information a user should enter on search bars or vaccine registration forms.

The new vaccine pages had more errors than states' main coronavirus pages but slightly fewer than state government websites in general, said WebAIM Associate
Director Jared Smith.

In Alameda County, California, when Bryan Bashin, 65, who is blind and CEO of the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, tried
to sign up on Feb. 9 for his vaccine appointment, he encountered multiple hurdles. The appointments slipped away. That night he received an email from
the city of Berkeley offering vaccinations. But after two hours struggling with its inaccessible website, all the slots were again taken, he said in an
email.

He was only able to get an appointment after his sighted sister signed him up and has since received his first shot.

"It's an awful bit of discrimination, one as stinging as anything I've experienced," Bashin said.

Susan Jones, a blind 69-year-old in Indianapolis, had to rely on the Aira app, which allows a sighted person to operate her computer remotely, when she
tried to register for her vaccine appointment.

"I resent that the assumption is that a sighted fairy godmother ought to be there at all times," said Sheela Gunn-Cushman, a 49-year-old also in Alameda
County, who also had to rely on Aira to complete preregistration for a vaccine.

Emily Creasy, 23, a visually impaired woman in Polk County, Oregon, said she tried unsuccessfully for a month to make the scheduling apparatus work with
her screen reader. She finally received her first shot after her mother and roommate helped her.

Even Sachin Dev Pavithran, 43, who is blind and executive director of the U.S. Access Board, an independent agency of the federal government that works
to increase accessibility, said he struggled to access vaccine registration information in Logan, Utah.

The Indiana Health Department, Public Health Division of Berkeley and Oregon's Polk County Public Health did not respond to requests for comment. Utah's
Bear River Health Department did not answer questions on the issue.

After Alameda County received complaints from users that its site was not compatible with screen readers, officials decided to move away from its preregistration
technology, Health Department spokesperson Neetu Balram said in mid-February. The county has since switched to a new form.

If vaccine accessibility issues are not fixed across the country, though, lawsuits could come next, Elia said. Members of the blind community recently
won landmark lawsuits against Domino's Pizza and the Winn-Dixie grocery chain after being unable to order online.

And, Elia said, "this is not ordering a pizza — this is being able to get a potentially lifesaving vaccine."

Kaiser Health News
is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with
Kaiser Permanente.

https://www.modernhealthcare.com/safety-quality/covid-vaccine-websites-violate-disability-laws-create-inequity-blind

     David Goldfield
Assistive Technology Specialist
Feel free to visit my Web site
WWW.DavidGoldfield.info
_._,_.

 

Gerald

 

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