The Australian government has announced it will be adopting an internationally aligned standard for IT accessibility in government, requiring vendors at procurement stage to offer accessible website, software, and digital device services. The standard, Accessibility requirements suitable for public procurement of ICT products and services, is a Direct Text Adoption of European Standard EN 301 549 and establishes a minimum standard to ensure that all Australians can access information and use services electronically by public authorities and other public sector agencies, the government said. The government expects the new standard will be used by all levels of government when determining technical specifications for the procurement of accessible IT products and services, including computer software and hardware, telecommunications, and office equipment such as printers, photocopiers, and scanners. Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) CEO Teresa Corbin said that while the standard is intended in particular for use by public sector bodies during procurement, she believes there is application in the private sector. "The standard will help industry and operators avoid creating technologies that exclude users from the information society," she said.
Google Maps just made life a little easier for wheelchair users looking for accessible locations. People with disabilities and those who use mobility aids can now click on various storefronts and other public places within the mobile app, and it will say whether the locations have accessible entrances. The information is listed under the "Amenities" section for each business. A group of Google employees used their "20 percent time" to create the feature. The company allows employees to use 20 percent of their time (one day per week) to work on projects unrelated to their main jobs -- and several major products, like Gmail and Google News, began through the program.
Over the past few years, we've been seeing more and more products at CES meant to assist the elderly and disabled. In fact, last year was the first year we added an accessibility category to the official Best of CES awards -- and the finalists in that category were indeed some of our favorite things we saw at the show. This year was no exception, with four finalists in the accessibility category, and a whole bunch of other products that we didn't have room for on our shortlist.