Digital Gap Initiative, the AHR and Public Interest Advocacy Centres invite you to a very special seminar…

You’ll remember from our 2016 Wrap-Up that we were eagerly spruiking Friend of DGI, Lainey Feingold’s then new book, Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits, which at the time had been recently published by the American Bar Association (ABA).

We can finally reveal just why it was that our little organisation was promoting this book by the renowned U.S. disability civil rights lawyer so enthusiastically.

Through the usual rigour of our forensic research in the area of digital inaccessibility – DGI after all being the CSI of digital access crimes – we had initially learned that disability rights advocates in the US had, like us, been similarly pushing to make the digital world accessible to everyone.  Their work, however, had led to more immediate outcomes than had occurred to date in Australia, including many more talking ATMs, accessible websites and mobile apps, talking prescription labels, accessible pedestrian signals, audio description and accessible health care and financial information.  What we learned again and again through the above advancements is how many had significantly benefited from an approach pioneered and developed by Lainey through her twenty plus years’ experience representing blind people and their organisations across the US.  This approach came to be known as Structured Negotiation.

When looking for a high-profile personality to open our inaugural World Usability Day event at Parliament House, Canberra in November, 2015, we reached out to Lainey, firstly advising her of our own efforts to make the digital world accessible “Down Under”, and then our request.  She rewarded us with the boundless generosity we would later come to know her by when she agreed, and kindly prepared a special video message to all those who gathered with us to celebrate the occasion.

Our networking with other disability rights advocates in the US continued in 2016, including with Blind Film Critic, Tommy Edison (after being kindly connected to him by local Friend of DGI, Rick Randall) and esteemed accessibility guru, Jim Thatcher, kept forcing us back into Lainey’s orbit, with both regularly referring to her in conversation and how highly regarded she was in our space.  Lainey herself then reconnected with us to alert us to her book’s release in September that year.  Then when Jim’s website went down and we were unable to raise a response from him, concerned, we reached out to Lainey who advised us that Jim had become unwell and connected us up with his wife, Diana Seidel.  Before we knew it, we had offered to step up to the plate and host his invaluable website as a historical archive [here].

Regular contact with Lainey continued into the New Year when she advised us of her intention to take a break from the exhaustion of “Trump’s America” and visit some friends in Sydney.  Seeing this as way too good an opportunity to pass up (we’re like that;), we floated the idea of returning the favour she had so kindly done for us at our Parliament House event by offering to coordinate our efforts to host a seminar promoting her book, and where she could also share her learned strategies and open discussion with disability rights lawyers how these might be similarly applied here in Australia.  Without very much coaxing at all, we were able to easily convince Lainey to agree, and the rest as they say is history.

And so it is with great esteem that the Digital Gap Initiative, along with the Australian Human Rights Centre (AHRC) and Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), invites you to:

Structured Negotiation and the quest for equal access in the digital age: lessons from the US disability rights movement

with US disability rights lawyer Lainey Feingold

Portrait photograph of Lainey Feingold

Date: Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Time: 5.30pm – 7pm

Venue: Ashurst Australia, Level 11, 5 Martin Place, Sydney

 

Order of events:

5.30pm              Light refreshments

6pm – 7pm       Seminar and Q&A

At the seminar, Lainey will discuss her 20+ years of collaboration to advance disability civil rights and how strategies used in the United States might be applied here in Australia. She will also bring the audience up-to-date on what is happening with U.S. digital accessibility court cases, laws, and regulations. Websites are global, tech companies are global and digital advocacy is global too.

RSVP*

*For screen reader users, we recommend using the Firefox browser to RSVP on the Eventbrite website – or please email diane.macdonald@unsw.edu.au to register your interest.

 

Lainey’s book, Structured Negotiation, A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits, tells the story of the dispute resolution process she pioneered that avoids lawsuits in favour of win-win solutions to complex legal issues. Lainey and her clients have used Structured Negotiation with some of the largest organisations in the United States to protect and advance the rights of blind people to access digital information and other technologies. The book can be purchased on the night (limited copies available). For readers with print disabilities, Structured Negotiation is available in epub format through the ABA, or with enhanced typesetting enabled in the ebook version from Amazon or on Bookshare.

Keep pushing for tactile Keypads on Touch Screen POS devices

This is the third article in our series on the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s “Albert” point-of-sale touchscreen payment device.

Albert has been available to Australian merchants since March 2015 and the bank is marketing it to retailers, cinemas, restaurants, festivals and other businesses and government services that use EFTPOS terminals.

The PIN entry function of this device is not functionally accessible for many people who experience blindness or significant vision impairment (357,000 Australians); combined vision and hearing difficulty (3,800,000 Australians), acquired brain injury (700,000+ Australians) and other cognitive disabilities (668,100 Australians), or manual dexterity difficulties (685,000 Australians).  So, approximately 25% of the population. It also poses a challenge for a significant number of the 53% of those older Australians who report having a disability.

DGI has received reports of outlets that have affixed Albert to a pole, no doubt due to concerns the tablet may be stolen or dropped, as replacement of the device incurs a fee to the merchant by the bank of $1,500.  This creates an extra difficulty for people with residual vision, or restricted movement, who often need to manipulate an object to get the best angle to see the screen or use gestures.

Our first feature article titled Commbank’s new EFTPOS “Albert”: Accessibility short-changed was followed by our second feature article on how Councils across Australia are choosing to adopt CommBank’s ‘Albert’ new payment system in spite of their knowledge that the device is not accessible to people experiencing vision, cognitive and manual dexterity disabilities.

So what has happened since the Digital Gap Initiative first broke the news on this inaccessible payment device?

Well, a lot and little.

“Accessibility Mode” Out of Touch with Retail Environment

It appears that the bank has finally acknowledged that it could have done more to incorporate accessibility in its design processes.  On its Accessibility Mode for Albert page, Sarah Abbott, Senior Manager Diversity and Inclusion, Commonwealth Bank, states:

“Commonwealth Bank recognises and endorses the importance of payment accessibility, and we are continually enhancing the features of our payment devices, including improvements to the accessibility function of Albert for blind and vision impaired customers.

“We continue to build a strong culture of awareness, understanding and participation for people with a disability. This includes looking at improving our future design processes so we can better include accessibility standards for platforms used by our customers and employees.”

While it is positive that the Bank has made this declaration, they need not wait for the future to remedy the accessibility deficit of Albert.

Kate Begley, Policy Advisor at Vision Australia, in their Submission to the Economy and Infrastructure Committee Inquiry into the regulation of ride sourcing services (dated 5 August 2016) (page 7), further states:

“Another area of technological development is in the use of touch-screen tablet devices, with gesture based input, for the purpose of processing financial transactions. The Commonwealth Bank’s Albert Payment terminals are one such example.  There is a growing trend towards the use of touchscreen-based payment terminals that are completely inaccessible for the majority of people who are blind or have low vision.

Regardless of attempts to familiarise people who are blind or have low vision with tablet gesture based devices, it must be emphasised that this is neither the preferred, nor the most suitable payment option for the majority of our community.”

This demonstrates that the steps the bank has taken in the direction of retrofitting accessibility in Albert have not measured up to the needs of the many people who are simply not able to enter their PIN number independently at outlets where the payment device is currently in use.

Basically, the bank expects we will all have to use gestures, instead of using the familiar tactile keypad with a dot on the number 5 that has provided a practical means for almost everyone to use a point-of-sale device everywhere in the world for decades, thanks to the genius and insight of Bell Labs industrial psychologist, and pioneer in human factors engineering, John E. Karlin.

To fully comprehend the profound thinking that went into the design of telephone-style tactile keypads, we urge our readers to read the obituary of John. E. Karlin, published in the New York Times on February 8, 2013.

It is doubtful that the same depth of research has gone into human factors engineering with touch screens, virtual keyboards and keypads, given the amount of companies now developing tools adapted from the analog world to tackle the significant limits of touch screens.

The natural course of progress means that at times even the best practices have to give way to new ideas.  But a new idea that makes it difficult for people to perform an everyday task that was previously simple is not progress or innovation.

To get an idea of Albert being used in “Accessibility Mode”, it is worth tuning in to the Talking Tech podcast – June 7, 2016 by David Woodbridge, Senior Adaptive Technology Consultant at Vision Australia.  David is demonstrating a tutorial app he downloaded to an Android smart phone. It sounds “easy enough” when David demonstrates the PIN entry steps. But with no disrespect intended to David, the following points need to be made:

  • David is an experienced user and demonstrator of technology (he worked for Apple Australia as an Accessibility Ambassador from 2009-2015 so over 6 years of daily experience with touch screen, gesture technology). The average disabled or aged customer will not likely have his level of expertise and confidence in using new technologies;
  • The demo includes audio feedback of numbers, which will not happen when using Albert in live-mode for PIN entry;
  • David is using the demo in a private, quiet and relaxed setting, not at the check-out queue in a busy and noisy shop, restaurant or mobile food van at a music festival, street carnival or major sporting event;
  • David is likely to have practiced the PIN entry step repeatedly, even before presenting this demo.  The demo is quite long, yet it’s still the “short version” of how much someone would need to practice to enter their PIN correctly in a few seconds. It’s the equivalent of “I cooked this one before the show”, when a chef demonstrates a recipe on a cooking show;
  • Albert is an Android device and the demo tutorial is only for Android devices.  Many blind people are more likely to have iPhones or other IOS devices, if they have a smart phone at all;
  • The audio prompts in the demo tutorial can be heard cautioning the user to take care of swiping straight in the direction of the numbers on the keypad.  Many blind people will find it challenging to trace a line on a smooth surface, as will those who are sighted but may have poor eye-hand coordination; and
  • The demo has a friendly little suggestion at the end that you should practice the PIN entry before attempting to enter it in Albert in a real situation.  But, what are all those people who don’t have an Android device to practice the demo supposed to do?

Further to these points, the “accessibility mode” in Albert needs to be switched on by a sighted person.  Even though the bank added instructions for “accessibility mode” in its Merchant Guide distributed with Albert (in the format of an inaccessibly designed PDF so not even able to be interpreted by a screen reader user) after DGI pointed out its omission in September 2015, many merchants report being unaware this mode is on the device, let alone how to turn it on or guide a customer on how to use it.

So what is DGI’s solution?  It is simple enough: Albert has Bluetooth capacity so it should be possible for an auxiliary tactile keypad to be paired to the device.

Next wave of lawsuits against retailers who use touchscreen POS devices

In California, USA, since 2004 the law has required that any newly purchased touch screen-based credit card terminals or any upgraded units be equipped with tactile number keypads.

The Law Office of Lainey Feingold and Co-Counsel Linda Dardarian have negotiated close to a dozen agreements with national retailers requiring telephone-style keypads at point-of-sale devices so that people who are blind do not have to disclose their PIN when using a PIN-based card.

These have included:

  1. Raley’s Point of Sale Settlement Agreement
  2. Best Buy Tactile POS Settlement Agreement
  3. Trader Joe’s Point of Sale Agreement and Amendment
  4. CVS Accessible Web Site and Point of Sale Settlement Agreement
  5. Target Point of Sale Settlement Agreement
  6. Staples Point of Sale Press Release
  7. Dollar General Settlement Agreement
  8. Rite Aid Tactile POS Agreement
  9. 7-Eleven Point of Sale Agreement
  10. RadioShack POS and Web Agreement
  11. Safeway POS Agreement
  12. Wal-Mart POS Agreement

Note: Lainey Feingold is a disability rights lawyer and an author who works primarily with the blind community on technology, digital, and information access issues.  She is nationally-recognised in the US for negotiating landmark accessibility agreements without lawsuits and for pioneering the collaborative dispute resolution method known as Structured Negotiation.  Lainey’s book about structured negotiation, Structured Negotiation: A Winning Alternative to Lawsuits was just published by the American Bar Association (ABA).  Read about Lainey’s book, available for sale on the ABA website in a range of formats.

In America it is therefore predicted the next wave of lawsuits under the ADA (their country’s equivalent to our own Disability Discrimination Act) will undoubtedly be against businesses that use inaccessible touch screen point-of-sale terminals.  A number of complaints have already been lodged here in Australia under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) regarding the inaccessibility of this device.

It would therefore surely be prudent and relatively cost-efficient, and technically feasible without compromising the concept or design of the product, for CommBank to supply all the merchants who have signed up (or will sign up in the future) to use the Albert terminals, with compatible auxiliary Bluetooth tactile keypads (which must be secured to the device by a cable so they are immediately available whenever a customer requires access to it).

Disabled unable to get a fair piece of the App Pi

The PIN entry issue is just one barrier.  Albert has pre-installed Apps, and at the time of writing we were unable to obtain verifiable information if these Apps are accessible.

On the Pi App bank support pages, which feature basic descriptions about each app available for use on Albert, there is no mention of Accessibility.

One of the most talked-about Apps on Albert, however, is the “Split Bill” App.  The description states this App “has been designed to enrich the customer experience between restaurants and their customers. It allows:

  • Fast and simple splitting of the bill with a human touch
  • Each person at the table to pay their share and add tips
  • A summary showing total amount of a bill paid on card, by cash and tip amount”

To read and hear these upbeat promos, and to know that chances are that many people will miss out on that “enriched customer experience”, or to put it in more down-to-Earth lingo, miss out on the ordinariness, or sheer fun, of working out one’s share of a bill, like everyone else sitting around the restaurant table, is dispiriting.

Even for those who manage to get used to entering their PIN in the device, what about access to all these other Apps?  The description of the Accessibility App states that it “Enables customers to practice the secure PIN entry process using Accessibility mode.”  On the “Accessibility Mode” page, again reference only appears to be made to PIN entry “accessibility”.

App developers and merchants have been encouraged to design new Apps for the device, and there is a Software Developer Kit (SDK) but it is only available to registered developers and there is no reference to Accessibility whatsoever in its Pi Developer Terms and Conditions Agreement.

And if CommBank’s stylish YouTube Albert promo includes any mention of the Accessibility Mode, it certainly didn’t rate a mention in the lead presentations.

Sounds like Accessibility is not cool enough, or not profitable enough!  And yet it can be both.

Albert continues to leave a bad taste in the mouth

But it appears that it’s not only accessibility issues plaguing Albert.  As was reported in our second feature article, the Taste of Tasmania was one of the first large-scale events in Australia to use the Commonwealth Bank’s Albert system.  This year the event will again be a cashless event, but Hobart City Council has abandoned the controversial Albert system in favour of a more accessible EFTPOS setup.

Albert processed more than 330,000 transactions for the event, but was plagued by connectivity failures and voided transactions.  So it didn’t just fail in being accessible for all, but also from a universal design perspective.

No doubt CommBank’s competitors are watching all of these matters closely and are being mindful of the need to truly innovate in this competitive arena by not losing sight of the human factor in the design of new technologies.

Although this article has once again focused on the Albert payment terminal, it is only one of the inaccessible touch screen devices used in payment and related processes that DGI has been monitoring.  Touch screen payment devices are also becoming increasingly used in the taxi and ridesharing industry. Touch screen self-service kiosks are also in use in airports, libraries, Centrelink, Medicare and other customer service centres, and are now being installed in major retail centres such as supermarkets.  Touch screen controls are replacing physical buttons in lifts and security systems in many office buildings, hotels and residential apartments.  Then there is the full range of home appliances now overlooking us as consumers.  If legislation and mandatory standards on the accessibility of digital technologies are not applied soon, it will be of little consequence if payment devices are accessible because for many there will be few things usable to buy.

DGI 2015 Wrap-up and what’s ahead for 2016

How DGI was born

Gisele Mesnage founded the Digital Gap Initiative (DGI) on a stormy Sunday in Sydney on 7 December 2014.

Gisele recalls:

“At the time I was in the midst of a legal action pursuant to the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) against supermarket giant Coles, over the accessibility of their website. It was at least the 12th DDA complaint I had lodged over web accessibility issues since 2001. My experience in conciliating these cases led me to believe that a more systemic approach – including legislative reforms – was needed to tackle digital accessibility issues in our digital age. So on Sunday 7 December 2014 I was bouncing ideas on this question over the phone with a friend, Leah Grolman. We were both drinking Rooibos tea and chatting between breaks in the wild thunderclaps that raged over Sydney. By the end of the storm, the Digital Gap Initiative had been born and named.”

Connecting

Gisele then connected with people who shared the vision for the goals of DGI.  On 15 April 2015 an inaugural meeting of an informal DGI management committee was held over Skype.  It was decided that DGI would operate as a network.

Launch events in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra

Melbourne – Global Accessibility Awareness Day

On 13 May 2015 the company AccessHQ hosted an event at its Melbourne offices to launch DGI.  Ted McCoskey, who had taken on the role of President of DGI, and Gisele Mesnage, founder of DGI, both spoke at this gathering.

Sydney – Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD)

This was followed by a bigger launch event at the Sydney Hilton on 21 May 2015, Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The event was again sponsored by AccessHQ and attended by over 50 government and business representatives.  Ted and Gisele again addressed this gathering.  One of the guests at the event was Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, who invited DGI to hold a launch event at Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

Parliament House, Canberra – World Usability Day (WUD)

The Canberra launch took place at Australian Parliament House on 12 November 2015 on World Usability Day (WUD).

The event was co-hosted by Senators Rachel Siewert and Lee Rhiannon (the Greens) and Senator Jo Lindgren (Liberal Party) and Senator Carol Brown (ALP).

The launch event, opened by DGI Founder, Gisele Mesnage (download Opening Speech document here) was attended by 60 people, including parliamentarians and other government representatives, as well as business and community leaders.

The highpoint of the event was Gisele’s opening speech (below), and a panel discussion hosted by Ted McCoskey. Panellists included Greg Barnett (AccessHQ), Roger Sniezek (Coles), Andrew Arch (Digital Transformation Office), Christos Petrou (IBM), Alex Varley (Media Access Australia), Johmar Gazo (NAB), Sarah Pulis (PWC) and James Newton (DGI).  The animated discussion explored the theme of inclusion and innovation.  The event received a special video message from Lainey Feingold of the Lainey Feingold Legal Office in the US.

Acknowledgements

We extend warm thanks to all those who donated to our chuffed.org appeal and made it possible for three DGI members to travel to Canberra to participate in the event.  We also wish to extend special thanks to Coles for paying for the catering at the event, to NAB for a $1,000 donation, and to all panellists and other supporters who assisted us with practical tasks.

Other 2015 Highlights

Our Focus for 2016

  • Accessible online shopping such as Coles
  • Continued campaigning on Touch Screen POS devices such as the “Albert”
  • Advocating for designated accreditation codes to be applied to ICT, web and other digital accessibility skills training under the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA)
  • Accessibility and ICT public procurement
  • Advocating against PDF as a sole format for online downloadable documents
  • Networking
  • Opening up discussion on compliance-based standard on digital accessibility