I P M A  News

  Information Processing Management Associates January 1998  

Edited By Mary Ellen Bradley

Accessibility - The Day IS Coming | Upcoming Events | Election Results
December Board Meeting

Accessibility—The Day IS Coming

By Luther Smith

Personal computers and the Internet have been a tremendousbenefit for persons with disabilities. The ability to access,transform, and communicate large volumes of information withouthaving to travel, lift, or reach beyond the computer keyboard hasopened new worlds of opportunity for participation in societythrough employment, recreation, volunteerism and politicalaction.

Adapting the early text-based computer systems to meet theneeds of persons with disabilities was relatively easy.Third-party companies created alternatives to screen output suchas synthetic speech or larger print. Keyboard input alternativesincluded adapted keyboards, switch devices and speechrecognition.

Development and widespread use of graphical user interfaces,such as Windows and most browsers for the World Wide Web, hasthreatened to exclude some persons with disabilities. Initially,software and hardware developers seemed unaware of the problemsand their impact. Only after loud and persistent outcries frompersons affected and actions by state and federal governments todelay or withhold purchase of inaccessible products were majorsoftware companies willing to devote the necessary resources tomake their products accessible.

Awareness of the importance of software accessibility hasrisen over the last few years. Washington’s own Bill Gateshas written in a recent newsletter "As the average age ofthe population increases, the number of people with significantdisabilities will grow. ... When ways are found to keep peopleproductive, everybody benefits—not just the individuals, buttheir friends, relatives, employers and the whole economy, too.It’s an intelligent use of resources." IBM, Sun, andmany smaller companies are also attuned to the goals andstrategies for building accessible software. A tidal wave of Websites offer guidelines for accessibility; one(http://www.cast.org/bobby) will even evaluate an Internet siteand give suggestions for improvement.

Despite the widespread awareness, the latest offerings fromkey software vendors have diminished, rather than expandedaccessibility. In this fiercely competitive field, the rush tomarket has apparently caused certain features considereddifficult or non-essential to maintaining competitive position tobe left behind. Even Microsoft, which has done more toward accessthan its competitors, advised users with low vision or blindnessand those who rely on the keyboard or speech input to wait untilanother upgrade of its new Internet Explorer 4.0 before leavingthe old version. Now that 4.01 has been released as promised,third-party developers must adapt their software before theadvantages of 4.01 are available to persons with disabilities.

This attitude can’t continue. With tomorrow’stechnology outpacing today’s solutions, we must rememberthat accessibility is essential. The new computer languages andoperating systems are fundamental to the ability to produceaccessible software. While ease of using software may not changea person’s disability, it can certainly reduce theimpairment experienced.

Without clear, universal standards, published in time forthird-party developers to upgrade their offerings, productaccessibility will always lag behind. The result will be thecontinued handicapping of that segment of our population with thehighest unemployment and poverty, persons with disabilities.

Here at Aging & Adult Services, with the assistance of agroup of students from The Evergreen State College, we hope todevelop and demonstrate a set of guidelines for accessible webapplication design. We also plan to provide tutorials and toolsto aid web publishers and software developers within theAdministration. Through consistent application of theseguidelines, we hope to magnify the value of our products to ourclients, our employees, and the general public. As the workprogresses, I will submit subsequent columns describing ourachievements in this effort.

We are building the primary tool of 21st century society. Arewe designing for accessibility tomorrow? Do we build it rightfrom the beginning or have to retrofit?

To learn more about access issues, try the following websites: http://www.microsoft.com/enable, http://wata.org,http://www.trace.wisc.edu/text/guidelns/htmlgide/htmlgide.htm.

To quote Bill Gates again: "Still, the industry has along way to go in establishing and promoting these techniques sothat they will be used everywhere, in every software product,with the benefits available to everybody. ... We’ll getthere. I can see the day coming."

Adapted from an article published on October24, 1997 in The Olympian by Luther Smith, Department of Socialand Health Services

Upcoming Event

Mark your calendar for the IPMA sponsored event on DataWarehousing and the Internet. Digital Equipment and Oracle willpresent a case study of the California Department of CorrectionsLEADS Project. This project provided local law enforcementagencies with current information about parolees throughout thestate.

For this project, Digital developed a WEB front end secureinterface to an existing ORACLE database. The time is 10:00 -12:00 A.M. at the Aladdin Motor Inn, Lakeside 1 Room on January8, 1998.

On March 5, 1998, we will be presenting Sybase and SunMicrosystems. This event will be held at the Tyee Hotel in theCoHo Room. This event will begin at 10:00 A.M.

Election Results

The 1998 Board Election was held and the following wereelected to serve a two year term on the IPMA Executive Board.

Bob Monn: Bob is a returning board member and has served on theProfessional Development Committee. He has been with the Department of Ecology for 26 years and has been Ecology’s InformationServices Manager for the past seven years.

Phil Grigg: Phil is also a returning board member who has served as IPMAChair, Secretary and Vice Chair as well as the Executive Seminarand the Fall Forum committee. He is the IS Manager for theDepartment of General Administration.

Phil Coates: Another returning Board member who retired from state servicein March. He is the current IPMA Treasurer and was the former ISdirector at Fish and Wildlife.

Alvin M. Bloomberg: Alvin is completing his term as the IPMA Chairman. He is theManager of Information Technology at the Department of NaturalResources.

Thomas Bynum: Thomas is a new Board member. He is the Director of the Officeof Information Services (OIS) for the state of WashingtonEmployment Security Department. Prior to coming to the state in1991, Thomas was the Systems Manager/Staff Consultant for theWilliams Companies, a deversified Fortune 500 company. He is alsoa retired Navy Captain from the U.S. Naval Reserve.

—Mary Ellen Bradley

December Board Meeting

The IPMA Board met December 11, 1997. Members Present: JimAlbert, Mary Ellen Bradley, Phil Coates, Dennis Laine, DarrelRiffe, Joe Coogan, Bob Monn, Judy Schneider, Al Bloomberg

Guests Present: Ted Nelson

The meeting was called to order by Vice-Chair Jim Albert at7:40 a.m.

Report from the Chair:

The minutes from the November Board meeting were approved aspublished.

Treasurer's Report: PhilCoates reviewed the Treasurer’s report. An error was notedand corrected , and the report was approved as amended.

Al Bloomberg arrived a few minutes into the meeting, andassumed chair responsibilities from Jim Albert for the remainderof the meeting. The following committee reports were presented:

Business and Finance Committee— Jim Albertreported the IPMA investment portfolio was holding its own. TheIPMA Annual Report will be updated to reflect all activitythrough the end of calendar 1997, and to include business plansfor calendar year 1998, to be consistent with the IPMA’s newfiscal year. The Annual Report will be published in January.

Communications Committee— Mary EllenBradley discussed that publication of the IPMA Newsletter will betaken on by Phil Coates beginning in January. The Board discussedupdating the IPMA Web Page calendar to be more inclusive ofevents affecting the information technology community. Mary Ellenasked that she be notified of upcoming events as soon aspossible. Bob Monn will be taking over the IPMA Web Page activityfrom Joe Coogan. The Board agreed to purchase a digital camera,and to consider designating a Board photographer. The Board alsodiscussed plans for the Board’s Annual Planning Meeting inFebruary.

Professional Development Committee— JoeCoogan reminded the Board of the January 8th event on DataWarehousing and Internet. Digital Equipment and Oracle will bethe presenters, and the event will be held at the Aladdin MotorInn from 10 a.m. to noon.

Forum Committee— Dennis Laine reported heis completing the collections from outstanding Forum bills.

Executive Seminar— No report.

Election Committee— Darrel Riffe reportedhe had finalized counting the election ballots, and was in theprocess of notifying candidates of the results.

New Business— Jim Albert presented PhilCoates, Joe Coogan and Bob Monn each with a placque notingappreciation for their two years of service on the IPMA Board. Aspecial thanks was given to Joe Coogan for his many years ofservice. Joe had decided not to run for re-election.

Dennis Laine proposed the IPMA could expand its promotion ofeducation through donations to educational institutions. TheBoard expressed interest, and decided to pursue furtherdiscussions at the January meeting.

Al Bloomberg and Jim Albert will begin working on an agendafor the February annual meeting of the Board. There will be noregular Board meeting in February.

—Shelagh Taylor

IPMA, P.O. Box 1943, Olympia, WA 98507-1943