Hulu Becomes Latest Streaming Service to Commit to Accessibility for Blind Users

For Immediate Release: Boston, Massachusetts—Hulu and advocates from the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) have reached a settlement agreement to increase the accessibility of Hulu’s streaming service to individuals who are blind or have low vision. As a result, Hulu will undertake efforts to make its website and software applications accessible via screen readers and will provide audio description tracks for streaming content where possible. With these efforts, Hulu will join the list of online streaming providers, like Netflix, that are prioritizing accessibility features and making the entertainment industry more accessible to the disability community. Hulu offers online streaming services to over 20 million subscribers across the nation. However, none of Hulu’s streaming content currently includes audio description—a separate audio track that narrates the key visual elements of video content between portions of dialogue to provide blind and low vision users a full media experience. For more on audio description, visit ACB’s Audio Description Project. Under the settlement agreement, Hulu will begin obtaining these tracks for as much streaming content as possible and will adapt its video player so that users can enable and disable this feature, similar to the closed caption option that currently exists on Hulu’s video player. Users will also be able to filter the Hulu streaming library based on the availability of audio description. Blind community members are enthusiastic about the new opportunity to fully enjoy Hulu’s extensive programming selection. According to ACB President Kim Charlson, “These improvements by Hulu will provide people who are blind or have low vision with access to the same online video entertainment services currently enjoyed by millions of Americans. ACB commends Hulu for working with us to enhance access to its services for people who are blind. Our goal is to open up Hulu’s services to the blind community and to increase the availability of audio described movies and television programming. Movies and television are a central pillar of American culture. As television and movie content are increasingly delivered through streaming services, this agreement ensures that the blind community will receive and be able to independently use accessible Hulu content. This access is critical to making certain that people who are blind are included as equal participants in today’s society.” In addition to providing audio description, Hulu will update its website and multiple software applications to ensure that screen-reader users can navigate and interact with the platform. A screen reader is software that enables blind individuals to access and interact with online services by converting the text displayed visually on the screen into audible speech or by outputting that information on a digital braille display. For a screen reader to work, website and app developers must program for compatibility. A single unlabeled button, like those for entering a password or submitting payment information, can render a website wholly unusable. By January 2020, Hulu will ensure that its website and applications are compliant with standard web-accessibility guidelines and that updates are tested for usability. “So many times it is that last step—an inaccessible website—that keeps those who are blind or experiencing low vision from fully enjoying what others take for granted,” says BSCB President Brian Charlson, “and now Hulu will be working with us to make sure that their service can be accessed by everyone.” Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a non-profit disability rights legal center, and Disability Law Center, Inc. (DLC), the Massachusetts Protection and Advocacy agency, represented ACB, BSCB, Kim Charlson, and Brian Charlson in these negotiations with Hulu. Rebecca Williford, Senior Staff Attorney at DRA, said, “This settlement will significantly improve access to movies and television for the blind community, moving people with disabilities one step closer to full inclusion in society, which was the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” Marlene Sallo, Executive Director of the Disability Law Center, said, “Online-streaming of videos has become an increasingly important source of entertainment. DLC is extremely pleased that, as a result of this significant agreement with Hulu, our clients and other individuals who are blind and visually impaired will now be able to enjoy the streaming of programs from Hulu.” A copy of the agreement can be found at www.dralegal.org/press/hulu-becomes-latest-streaming-service-to-commit-to-accessibility-for-blind-users. This agreement resolved a lawsuit filed against Hulu in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Civ. No. 1:17-cv-12285-PBS.   Media Contacts: Meredith Weaver, Disability Rights Advocates, Staff Attorney:  (510) 665-8644 Marlene Sallo, Disability Law Center, Executive Director:  (617) 723-8455   About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) Founded in 1993, DRA is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.   About Disability Law Center (DLC) The DLC is the Protection and Advocacy system for Massachusetts and is authorized under federal law to protect and advocate for the legal rights of individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts. DLC worked with Bay State Council of the Blind in a series of negotiations with Fleet Bank, Sovereign Bank, and Citizens Bank to ensure that their ATMs, websites, and other banking services were fully accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. For more information, visit www.dlc-ma.org.   About American Council of the Blind (ACB) ACB works to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life, for all people who are blind or visually impaired. ACB advocates for policies that provide services, opportunities, infrastructure, and equipment that are necessary for an inclusive society, in federal, state, and local governments, and among service providers and industry. For more information, visit www.acb.org.   About Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) BSCB is a membership organization of blind, visually impaired, and sighted individuals committed to an enhanced quality of life for Massachusetts’ residents who are blind or visually impaired. BSCB convenes meetings and conferences, organizes recreation activities, provides publications, radio programs, and information, and advocates for services and legislation that improve access for people who are blind. For more information, visit www.acbofma.org.

ACB Celebrates Marrakesh Treaty Being Signed, Sealed, and Soon Delivered to WIPO

­For Immediate Release Contact: Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs (202) 467-5081 astephens@acb.org WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2018 — The Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act was signed into law by President Trump on Tuesday, October 10th. The treaty now moves to the U.S. State Department to prepare the official diplomatic documents for delivery to Geneva where it will be deposited at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) headquarters, joining the list of other ratifying countries committed to expanding access to published works in accessible format for people who are blind and visually impaired, along with those who are print-disabled. “We’re excited that the United States has cleared the way to help in ending the global accessible book famine,” said ACB President Kim Charlson. “It’s been a long journey, and we’re thankful for the hard work and determination that the publishing industry, lawmakers, and all advocates have demonstrated over the years to get us to this point.” The President signed the treaty legislation after coming to his desk with unanimous support from both the Senate and House of Representatives. Treaties typically just require passage by the Senate; however, Congress had to pass additional legislation to assure that U.S. copyright law was aligned with the treaty’s language and other participating nations’ laws. The new treaty removes copyright constraints when accessing and sharing special format works in braille, audio, and other accessible formats internationally. “ACB recognizes that nations should not stand in the way of literacy, and the Marrakesh Treaty guarantees that people with disabilities can share equally in that right,” said ACB executive director Eric Bridges. “ACB is humbled to have been at the table since this landmark treaty’s inception, and we look forward to working with our counterparts abroad to help expand the availability of published works into the hands of people who are blind all over the world.” The treaty was a response to the grave concerns over the cumbersome international copyright laws that have made it difficult to gain access to published works in accessible formats like braille or audio. Agreed upon in Marrakesh, Morocco, on June 27, 2013, the U.S. will now join 71 other nations, including the 28 countries of the European Union, who ratified earlier this month. The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Together, we make a bright future. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.

ACB Applauds House on Final Passage of Marrakesh Treaty

For Immediate Release Contact: Anthony Stephens, Director of Advocacy & Governmental Affairs (202) 467-5081 astephens@acb.org WASHINGTON (Sept. 26, 2018) — The American Council of the Blind applauds the U.S. House of representatives after passage of the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (S. 2559) late Tuesday evening. The House vote moves the implementing legislation to the President’s desk for signage, and the treaty to the State Department for final preparation of the diplomatic papers allowing the U.S. to become one of the official Marrakesh countries committed to the expanded availability of accessible published works from around the world. “We’re excited that Congress was able to move Marrakesh over the legislative finish line during its final days of business before leaving for the October recess,” said ACB President Kim Charlson. “But what is most exciting is that U.S. citizens who are blind or have other print disabilities will soon be able to have access to special format materials available in other countries in English and other languages, as well as people with all types of print disabilities around the world who will soon be able to gain access to American published works for the first time in an accessible format.” The Marrakesh Treaty was the product of years of deliberations between the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), publishers, libraries, and disability rights advocates. The treaty was a response to the grave concerns over the cumbersome international copyright laws that make it difficult to gain access to published works in accessible formats like braille or audio format. The act, which was brought to the House floor by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, amends U.S. copyright law necessary for full implementation of the treaty. Hearing no objection, the legislation passed with unanimous consent. “We’ve had countless numbers of advocates who have helped make this treaty a reality in the United States,” said ACB Executive Director Eric Bridges. “We wish to thank the U.S. Congress, particularly House Chairman Goodlatte and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker for showing true leadership by shepherding this treaty through the legislative channels.” The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired.  With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Together, we make a bright future. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org.

Wegmans Becomes the First Aira-Enabled Supermarket Chain in the United States

Link to Article: https://aira.io/wegmans Link to Video: https://youtu.be/nBGp1qRz_AI Rebecca Bridges, an ACB member and wife of ACB Executive Director Eric Bridges, is featured in this video. SAN DIEGO August 28, 2018 – Aira is pleased to announce that Wegmans Food Markets is the first Aira-enabled supermarket chain in the United States. As the first partner in the Aira Supermarket Network, all Wegmans stores are now Aira Access Locations, giving any member of the blind and low-vision community free access to Aira’s service while in Wegmans stores. Aira, powered by AT&T, is a San Diego-based startup that makes use of wearable technology, artificial intelligence, and live, human assistance to deliver real-time visual description for people who are blind or have low vision. Using a smartphone or a pair of smart glasses, an Aira “Explorer” can connect to a remote, trained professional who can provide assistance on-demand using a live camera stream, GPS, maps, and information sourced from the web. Wegmans has a well-established reputation of providing incredible customer service, and in 2018 ranked no. 1 on the Temkin Experience Ratings for providing the best customer experience of any supermarket in the country, and they were also on PEOPLE magazine’s list of “50 Companies That Care.” “I’m excited to have Wegmans as our first partner in the Aira Supermarket Network,” said Suman Kanuganti, Founder and CEO of Aira. “Their commitment to ensuring all customers have the same great Wegmans shopping experience is inspiring and I’m proud to call them a partner.” “At Wegmans, we are committed to providing incredible customer service to all our shoppers,” said Linda Lovejoy, community relations manager for Wegmans. “Our partnership with Aira helps us deliver on this commitment, giving our blind and low-vision customers access to this innovative service and the ability to navigate our stores easily and efficiently.” Blind and low vision shoppers can download the Aira app on their smartphone and use it to connect to a remote, sighted agent to access information on-demand. On request, Aira agents can help shoppers navigate the store, find specific items, and identify the shortest checkout lines all at just the touch of a button. You can download the app at aira.io/app, register as a guest, and use Aira for free in any Wegmans store.   About Wegmans Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is a 97-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The family-owned company, recognized as an industry leader and innovator, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. Wegmans has been named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ by FORTUNE magazine for 21 consecutive years, ranking #2 in 2018.   About Aira AI stands for Artificial Intelligence; RA stands for Remote Access. When you put them together you get Aira. Aira is a service that uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to connect people to highly trained, remotely-located agents. At the touch of a button, Aira delivers instant access to information, enhancing everyday efficiency, engagement, and independence. Visit aira.io or call 800-835-1934 to learn more.  

2019 ACB Conference & Convention

The 2019 American Council of the Blind Conference and Convention will be held in Rochester, N.Y. from Friday July 5th through Friday, July 12th. Opening general session will be Saturday evening, July 6th. Daily general sessions will be held Sunday through Wednesday mornings, and our final general session, which will include officer elections, will be Thursday the 11th. The exhibit hall is open Saturday through Wednesday. We will have all-day tours on Friday the 5th and Friday the 12th, with many other tours throughout the convention. Special-interest affiliates, ACB committees and our business partners will hold sessions beginning Saturday, July 6th. Hotels We will be utilizing two hotels, the Hyatt Regency Rochester and the Rochester Riverside Hotel. We will have about the same number of rooms at both hotels, and room rates are the same at each property.  We will have guide dog relief areas at each hotel. If your dog prefers grass, the Riverside has a large grassy area just outside the front door. The two hotels are across the street from each other. For safe and easy crossing, there is an audible pedestrian signal at the corner. You can also go between hotels via a walkway through the convention center where general sessions and exhibits will be held. Other activities will be held in both hotels. The Riverside has a grab-and-go counter, and their restaurant is Rocburger, featuring build your own burgers, wings and decadent milkshakes! At the Hyatt you will find Starbucks, Morton’s The Steakhouse (fine dining), and the Hyatt’s restaurant, The Street Craft Kitchen and Bar, that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Although we will be using two hotels and the convention center, walking will not be an issue since the spaces are compact, with no historical stairways. Hotel Reservations Room rates at the Hyatt and the Riverside are $89 per night (single or double occupancy, with an additional $10 per person for up to four people). This room rate does not include tax, which is currently 14%. For telephone reservations, call the Riverside at (585) 546-6400 or the Hyatt at 1-800-233-1234. Make sure to mention you are with the American Council of the Blind 2019; rooms must be booked by June 7, 2019 to guarantee the convention rate. To make reservations online for the Hyatt hotel, visit the ACB Hyatt Reservation page. To make reservations online for the Riverside hotel, visit the Rochester Riverside Hotel – American Council of the Blind Convention 2019 page. Traveling to Rochester The Rochester airport (code ROC) is 10 minutes from the hotels; there is complimentary shuttle service to both hotels. The Amtrak station is six blocks away, as is the Greyhound bus station. The shuttle will pick up at both these locations. The Megabus stop is 10 blocks from the hotels. For anyone driving to Rochester, parking is $4 per night. Staying in Touch Once again this year, the conference and convention announce list will be filled with information! To subscribe to the list, send a blank email to acbconvention-subscribe@acblists.org. If you received updates for the 2018 convention, you do not need to re-subscribe. Convention Contacts 2019 exhibit information: Michael Smitherman, (601) 331-7740, amduo@bellsouth.net 2019 advertising and sponsorships: Margarine Beaman, (512) 921-1625, oleo50@hotmail.com For any other convention-related questions, please contact Janet Dickelman, convention chair, at (651) 428-5059 or via email, janet.dickelman@gmail.com.