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13 disabilities that remain for days, weeks, or months; or dis- identify and interpret what is being displayed on the com- abilities that occur gradually over time, such as those that puter screen. The interpretation is then presented to the user result from aging. Some of the types of disabilities that most with text-to-speech, sound icons, or Braille output. One chal- often prevent travelers from successfully receiving informa- lenge that is specific to traveler information system websites tion are summarized as follows: is that the use of graphics, maps, pictures, movable text, and other similar features is often used on traveler information · Visual impairments (e.g., blindness, near-sighted, far- websites. For example, maps are often displayed with col- sighted, and color blindness) can prevent a traveler ored segments of roads to indicate whether traffic is moving from accessing travel information when visual displays freely, slowly, or is congested. The display of images such as are used exclusively. maps may not be interpreted properly by screen readers. For · Hearing or speech impairments (including deafness, example, in many circumstances, a map displaying traffic partial hearing loss, and various speech impairments) speeds or transit routes would not be relayed in its entirety can prevent a traveler from successfully accessing travel by a screen reader. Therefore, if the map is the only source information when audible announcements or voice of information dissemination, a user with impaired vision prompts are used to disseminate travel information. would not have access to the information. · Language barriers (e.g., not speaking or reading the English language) can prevent travelers from success- A number of solutions are possible to achieve accessibil- fully accessing written or audible traveler information ity in traveler information websites: presentations. · An optional page with an all-text feature in which the The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, text descriptions of the conditions are provided to web- worldwide, approximately 750 million people have disabili- site visitors in a useful manner would allow the screen ties or special needs. According to the latest U.S. Census, reader to announce the information to the user. approximately 54 million persons with disabilities live in the · Similarly, tags can be appended to graphic images United States (Hunter-Zaworski and Stewart 1999). describing the content of the graphic and allowing screen readers to read the information. The U.S. Access Board is an independent federal agency · Some sites avoid graphic use altogether or provide mir- devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities. The ror pages with all text descriptions. Access Board operates a website with a large collection of information and many resources to serve travelers and agen- An all-text display does not necessarily solve the entire cies wishing to build accessible information systems. The problem for visually impaired users. The information may Access Board's website is http://www.access-board.gov/. be accessible (in that the screen reader can interpret the information to the user), but the written reports may be dif- ficult to understand unless the text is descriptive and thor- Summary Of Challenges Facing Accessibility ough. For example, a report of a crash may be shown on a To Traveler Information map such that a visual user of the website sees the location; however, the text description may not describe the location The accessibility of traveler information systems to persons in a useful manner. Guidelines exist for universally designed with disabilities refers both to the individuals' ability to websites to meet the accessibility and usability needs of per- access the information, as well as the need for the informa- sons with disabilities, and they are available on the Access tion to be presented in a manner that is easily understood. Board's website. This section summarizes the challenges related to Inter- Accessibility Challenges Related to Traveler Information net systems, telephone systems, and personal communica- 511 Phone Systems tion devices. Descriptions about additional challenges and resources available to meet these challenges are available at Accessibility to traveler information 511 phone systems by the Access Board's website. persons with either speech or hearing disabilities is an addi- tional challenge. A TTY (teletypewriter or text telephone) Accessibility Challenges Related to Internet-Based device is a text communication terminal that allows people Traveler Information Systems with hearing or speech disabilities to use the telephone. One challenge to using TTY devices to access traveler informa- The primary challenge facing persons with disabilities when tion phone systems is that typically a delay occurs while the accessing Internet websites is for visually impaired users to TTY device displays text to the user or interprets what the access the information presented visually on the website. user has typed in to the device. Often, automated phone sys- One solution to this challenge is the use of screen readers. tems do not work well with delays, and may interpret the Screen readers are software applications that attempt to pause as a hang-up or as a failure to select a menu option.
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14 One approach to achieve accessibility of 511 phone sys- · Persons with strong accents may encounter difficulties tems (and the ability to support delays inherent to TTY interacting with 511 phone systems. devices) is to use menu options at the onset of the call invit- Many 511 phone systems offer touch-tone options ing callers to select an option that indicates they are using a and do not rely on voice recognition. TTY device, therefore activating a menu tree that includes · Persons who do not speak English may have difficulties pauses and delays to wait for the TTY responses. In many reading websites or interacting with phone systems. instances, ordinary instant messages are a convenient substi- Multilingual traveler information systems are tute for TTY communication. beginning to develop. Currently, a few sites offer traveler information in English and French, and sev- Accessibility Challenges Related to Handheld Devices eral systems offer information in both English and Spanish. Agencies surveyed were asked whether Several states now disseminate traveler information in for- either their 511 phone system or traveler information mats that are compatible to mobile handheld web devices website offered information in multiple languages, [including smart phones, cellular phones, and personal digi- the results are summarized in Figure 6. tal assistants (PDAs)]. The sizes of both the keys and the visual displays offer unique challenges to persons with a Current Accessibility of Existing Systems variety of disabilities. Selecting and pushing small keys is a challenge for users with any form of visual impairment, as Accessibility to information by individuals with disabilities well as for users who lack dexterity in their fingers as a result is covered in Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as of such things as injuries or arthritis. amended (29 U.S.C. 794d). Section 508 requires that individ- uals with disabilities, who are members of the public seeking Other Accessibility Challenges information or services from a federal agency, have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to that pro- Additional accessibility challenges exist beyond those spe- vided to the public who are not individuals with disabilities, cifically defined as disabilities. These challenges and a syn- unless an undue burden would be imposed on the agency. thesis of options are summarized as follows: As part of the survey conducted for this project, survey · Persons who are color-blind may not be able to inter- responders were asked whether their systems were compli- pret colored maps or icons with similar colors. ant with Section 508 (and were provided a brief explana- Some traveler information websites avoid color (or tion of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973). The use drastic color contrasts) by using patterns to dis- responders' answers to these questions are summarized in tinguish roads or regions. Figures 7 and 8. FIGURE 6 Availability of traveler information in multiple languages.
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15 FIGURE 7 511 phone systems compliance with Section 508. FIGURE 8 Traveler information websites compliance with Section 508. Feedback from Users Regarding Accessibility Guidelines for Accessibility of Traveler Information Systems Responders to the survey were asked to describe any feed- back they have received regarding the accessibility of their Research conducted at Oregon State University (OSU) 511 phone and Internet dissemination systems. The respond- regarding ergonomic designs for Internet sites that dissemi- ers' reactions are summarized in Figure 9. nate information is presented as part of a research project
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16 titled "Next Frontier in Accessible Traveler Information · Guideline 5: Avoid moving or changing text. Systems" (Hunter-Zaworski and Stewart 1999). The results · Guideline 6: Provide a text transcription or description of the OSU research documented 12 guidelines for Internet for all embedded audio. traveler information systems to maintain accessibility for · Guideline 7: Make text links descriptive but not overly persons with disabilities. These guidelines are reproduced wordy. here, as follows: · Guideline 8: Use non-HTML formats only as alterna- tives to HTML files and not as replacements. · Guideline 1: Every graphic image must have a text · Guideline 9: Provide an alternative to online forms, descriptor. such as a printable form or an e-text version of the · Guideline 2: If "image maps" are used, then an alterna- form. If a form is used, then ensure that it can be navi- tive method of selecting the embedded links must be gated using the Tab key. provided. Only use client-side image maps. · Guideline 10: Test pages in a variety of browsers and · Guideline 3: Include a detailed text description for all on different operating systems. complex images, such as photographs. · Guideline 11: Avoid the use of proprietary HTML. · Guideline 4: Avoid the use of nonstandard text format- · Guideline 12: Avoid the use of Java or Active X in all ting and layout. World Wide Web pages. FIGURE 9 Feedback on accessibilty of traveler information system from individuals with disabilities.