Dots and Dashes for December 14, 2018

“Dots and Dashes” is a short newsletter featuring a variety of topics and ACB stories. This issue features news about autonomous vehicle legislation, a job application deadline, remembering George H.W. Bush, a request for your assistance with Quest Diagnostics, a fun audio-described video with music on unusual instruments, and more. Autonomous Vehicle Legislation Pending Autonomous vehicles will significantly increase the independence of millions of blind Americans, but we need a law to ensure the successful and safe operation of these vehicles. Fortunately, the U.S. Senate has the opportunity to pass the AV START Act. Our senators must work to bring this bill to the floor and pass this legislation immediately; it will positively impact the lives of so many blind people. Please contact your Congressional representatives to promote and pass the bill. To contact your senators, call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.   Deadline Nears to Apply for ACB Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs The American Council of the Blind (ACB) seeks a Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs to work in its national office in Alexandria, Va. For the job description and other details, visit http://acb.org/vacancy-advocacy-director. The application deadline is December 19th.   Remembering George H.W. Bush On the Dec. 5th episode of the ACB Advocacy Update, in remembrance of President George H.W. Bush, Claire Stanley and Tony Stephens will discuss the contributions he made to the disability community with the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act on July 26, 1990. Listen by visiting: http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-december-5-2018.  If you would like to make a $41 donation in honor of George H.W. Bush, visit http://www.acb.org/giving-tuesday-donation.   Quest Diagnostics As we all know, businesses are often turning to computer screens and tablets to sign people in. We have received a report that a Quest Diagnostics lab required a customer to sign in via such a tablet; no receptionist was present to help.  Because Quest Diagnostics is such a commonly used lab, ACB would like to know whether other people have experienced similar circumstances with Quest Diagnostics. Please share any experiences with Claire Stanley at cstanley@acb.org.   NRTC Needs Your Participation Please participate in a survey about job retention and career advancement by the NRTC on Blindness & Low Vision at Mississippi State University. The survey may be completed electronically at http://tiny.cc/retention_advancement, or you may call (662) 546-0737 and schedule an appointment to participate by telephone. Please share your experiences attempting to keep or advance in a job, even if those experiences were not successful. Participants who complete the survey may enter into a drawing for a gift card for $100. The survey is long – it may take you 30 to 40 minutes. If you have questions or need more assistance, please call Anne Steverson or Adele Crudden at 1-866-676-7266 or email at acc155@msstate.edu or ac41@msstate.edu.   What’s Aira? The Nov. 29th episode of the ACB Advocacy Update features Aira. We speak with Aira reps to understand more about the service, hear about some great holiday deals, and learn about the world of AI. You may listen to or download it at http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-november-29-2018.   For Your Holiday Enjoyment Enjoy this special holiday audio-video presentation from the American Council of the Blind with description provided by Joel Snyder of the ACB Audio Description Project. Rory Hoffman, a Nashville-based musician, plays “The Twelve Days of Christmas” on multiple unusual instruments. View the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11skGLNEzN0&feature=youtu.be. Rory Hoffman was raised on a small ranch in North Dakota. He grew up recording and touring with the family gospel band. He started teaching himself to play guitar and piano at age 3. By age 5 he was the drummer in the family band. He currently plays over a dozen stringed, keyboard and wind instruments. Rory has played the Grand Ole Opry numerous times, as a soloist and as a sideman with Ricky Skaggs, Kathy Mattea and John Cowan. Working with these stars and others has enabled him to play several notable festivals, including Telluride with John Cowan, and Djangofest as part of the John Jorgenson Quintet. He has performed in Norway, Italy and Jamaica, and enjoys any opportunities to travel the world, experiencing the culture and sharing music. When not out on the road touring, Rory is proud to be in several local Nashville bands, including 50 Shades of Hay, and the Gypsy Hombres. “Tour de Fourth,” Rory’s latest album, entered the world in 2016. It features music that demonstrates Rory's skill and diverse interests in country, western swing, jazz, polka, Latin, gypsy jazz, bluegrass and gospel music. It is a mix of original songs, and fresh arrangements of standards.

Dots and Dashes 11/30/2018

“Dots and Dashes” is a short newsletter featuring a variety of topics and ACB stories. This issue features a job announcement, holiday shopping information, a fascinating panel on artificial intelligence and accessibility, an update on the ACB Holiday Auction, and more.   ACB Seeks Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is seeking a Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs to work in its national office in Alexandria, Va. For the job description and other details, visit http://acb.org/vacancy-advocacy-director.   AI for Accessibility People with disabilities have long relied on technology to provide improved access, and creative innovations that regularly advance personal independence. Artificial intelligence (AI) is an exciting tool that can apply machine learning to complex accessibility challenges, automating functions that currently require human intervention. What can AI do for accessibility, and what's next? Join ACB and Verizon for a conversation featuring creative industry leaders using AI to address pervasive accessibility challenges. View it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmericanCounciloftheBlindOfficial/.   ACB Holiday Auction Coming Up Soon  Excitement fills the air; everyone is ready to bid and buy and have fun with the ACB Radio Holiday Auction.  It's coming up on Sunday, December 2 from 7 p.m. to midnight Eastern Time (4 to 9 p.m. Pacific), or until all items are sold. You can pre-register as a bidder for the ACB Radio Holiday Auction. This means that you won't have to wait to place your first bid the night of the auction while we obtain your name, address, phone number and email address. The auction pre-registration line is open through close of business today.  Call (877) 630-7190 to pre-register by phone, or pre-register by email by sending your name, phone number, email address, and the state where you live to auction@acb.org.  If your call goes to voicemail, please leave the requested information after the tone; be sure to speak clearly and include a phone number where you can be reached if necessary.   Free Holiday Shopping with Aira! We’re excited to announce a special shopping opportunity exclusively for ACB members who are Aira Explorers. Aira is offering ACB members 120 minutes of free Aira service for any tasks related to shopping, valid November 23 through December 25, 2018. How can I take advantage of this offer? Be both an ACB member and an Aira Explorer. Connect with an Aira agent and ask them to add “ACB Member” to your profile. Go shopping with Aira! Make sure you tell the agent that you’re an ACB Member and that you’re using the ACB Shopping Promotion. ACB affiliates should reach out to their members to explain how the offer works, and to ensure members know to update their Aira profiles to reflect their ACB membership. Get ready to make the most of your shopping this holiday season with Aira! Remember, as an ACB Member you’re getting 120 minutes of free Aira service, valid from Black Friday through to Christmas. Just make sure an Aira agent adds “ACB Member” to your profile! P.S. – Aira is free to use in any Walgreens store.   Thanksgiving Blessings  The November 20th episode of the ACB Advocacy Update is now available for download at http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-november-20-2018. Join Claire Stanley and Tony Stephens as they discuss the many things blind Americans have to be thankful for during this Thanksgiving season.   Thank a Veteran In the November 13th episode of the ACB Advocacy Update, Claire Stanley and Tony Stephens reflect on the sacrifices and contributions our veterans have made over the years, and the impact it has made for Americans who are blind and visually impaired. You may download it at www.acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-november-13-2018. Remember to subscribe via your favorite podcast app. Comments and questions may be directed to advocacy@acb.org.   A Note from Your Editor If you received the November large-print edition and noticed that the pages were all out of order, you’re not alone. There was a problem in the printing process that caused this major error. United Book Press/Ironmark has reprinted the issue and sent it out. You should have your copies in hand shortly.

Artificial Intelligence: New Visions of Accessibility

Link to video: https://youtu.be/1sN2hUpkHFo People with disabilities have long relied on technology to provide improved access, and creative innovations that regularly advance personal independence. Artificial intelligence (AI) is an exciting tool that can apply machine learning to complex accessibility challenges, automating functions that currently require human intervention. What can AI do for accessibility, and what's next? Join the American Council of the Blind and Verizon for a conversation featuring creative industry leaders using AI to address pervasive accessibility challenges. Speakers include Anirudh Koul, AIRA, Head of Intelligence and Research J. David Grossman, The GPS Alliance, Executive Director Reagan Payne, GM, Manager, Emerging Technologies Policy Tony Stephens, American Council of the Blind

Vacancy Announcement: Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is seeking a Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs to work in its national office in Alexandria, VA. The primary duties of this position will include: Leads the promotion and development of ACB's advocacy and legislative agendas (e.g., strategic goals, initiatives). Recommends actions to be taken and policies to be adopted by ACB. Oversees the implementation of resolutions adopted at ACB Conventions. Represents ACB on advisory committees and consultative bodies seeking organizational input. Monitors bills, speeches, and statements of government leaders, political influencers, regulators and legislative bodies. Monitors media, research reports, and analytics on issues of interest to ACB. Leads the drafting of proposed legislative and regulatory language for presentation to Congressional offices, administrative agencies, and other relevant stakeholders. Prepares written comments on pending legislation and proposed regulations. Presents oral comments on pending legislation at public sessions with regulatory bodies and Congressional committee hearings. Develops and maintains ongoing working relationships with members of Congress, Congressional staff and agency administrators to promote ACB's legislative and advocacy agendas. Establishes and maintains cooperative relationships with other disability and civil and human rights organizations to expand ACB’s sphere of influence. Creates and enhances collaborative relationships with corporations and private stakeholders in order to influence the usability and accessibility of their product and service offerings. Plans for and executes annual legislative seminar and Congressional fly in, including securing policy influencers and other stakeholders to present to ACB members. Serves as staff liaison to ACB committees, including ACB’s Resolutions Committee that meets at the annual conference and convention. Provides technical assistance to ACB members and affiliates pursuing advocacy projects. Oversees, and in complex situations responds to, requests for information and advice concerning the rights and/or obligations of individuals and organizations regarding blindness-related issues, and providing referral to other appropriate sources of assistance. Prepares external communication on legislative, judicial, and administrative developments for ACB content channels (e.g., ACB Radio, social media) and external content channels. Ensures that ACB members receive timely communications regarding ongoing legislative and advocacy initiatives. Other duties as assigned by the Executive Director. The Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs reports to the Executive Director. The successful candidate must have: Strong attention to detail. Excellent written and oral communication skills, including public speaking. Drive to take initiative with limited guidance. Knowledge of service-delivery systems and government programs impacting people who are blind. Ability to manage multiple tasks and priorities simultaneously. Ability to effectively direct and manage the performance of direct reports. Ability to respond promptly and meet deadlines. Ability to locate and quickly comprehend laws and regulations. Knowledge of applicable laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, government regulations, and executive orders. Knowledge of the democratic political process. General familiarity with assistive devices and technology used by people who are blind or visually impaired. Ability to travel as circumstances require. Ability to work evenings and weekends as needed, including participating in meetings and conference calls with ACB committees and affiliates. Desirable skills or training include general familiarity with assistive devices used by people who are blind, and a degree in political science or law, or other specific disability-related advocacy training. Experience in the use of social media to communicate organizational messages is highly desired. Salary depends upon experience. Applicants must send a resume, cover letter, and brief writing sample by e-mail to search-committee@acb.org. Applications must be received in the ACB national office by no later than December 19, 2018.    

Use Aira for Free for Your Holiday Shopping

We’re writing to share some exciting news from our friends at Aira. We’re excited to announce a special shopping opportunity exclusively for ACB members who are Aira Explorers. Aira is offering ACB members 120 minutes of free Aira service for any tasks related to shopping, valid from the Friday following Thanksgiving, November 23, 2018, (Black Friday) through to Christmas, December 25, 2018. How can I take advantage of this offer? Be both an ACB member and an Aira Explorer. Connect with an Aira agent and ask them to add “ACB Member” to your profile. Go shopping with Aira! Make sure you tell the agent that you’re an ACB Member and that you’re using the ACB Shopping Promotion. ACB affiliates should reach out to their members to explain how the offer works, and to ensure members know to update their Aira profiles to reflect their ACB membership. Get ready to make the most of your shopping this holiday season with Aira! Remember, as an ACB Member you’re getting 120 minutes of free Aira service, valid from Black Friday through to Christmas. Just make sure an Aira agent adds “ACB Member” to your profile!

Dots and Dashes from Washington 11/2/18

“Dots and Dashes from Washington” is a short newsletter featuring a variety of topics and ACB stories. Many are success stories. This issue also includes a dash of sad news.   Accessible Voting The Oct. 24th episode of ACB’s Advocacy Update podcast features Claire Stanley and Tony Stephens from ACB’s advocacy team as they focus on equal access at the voting booth going into the November 6th mid-term elections. They share the current state of accessible voting in America and offer resources for when access barriers rise. Email question and comments to advocacy@acb.org.  Link to podcast: http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-october-24-2018   Looking for a job? Sign up with Aira for 100 free minutes! To recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), Aira is pleased to announce a special program available to ACB members to foster employment opportunities. Aira, the service that connects people who are blind or low vision with remote sighted assistance, supports employment by providing customers (also known as Explorers) free service for activities related to finding and securing employment. The Aira Employment program has been available to our Explorers since February 2018. We offer free service to job-seekers as they navigate employment sites, fill out applications, build resumes, choose outfits, and travel to and from meetings with prospective employers. Aira will extend this opportunity to ACB members who are not Aira customers yet, so they can use the Aira app on their smartphone for 100 minutes of free employment-related service. Individuals will be able to initiate this temporary Aira Account for employment services starting November 12, 2018. How Does This Offer Work? ACB affiliate leaders are asked to reach out to their members to collect the names, mobile number, email contact, and state for ACB members who are not already Aira Explorers and who wish to use Aira to help find a job. Then, we ask that affiliate leaders send the contact information they’ve collected to Paul Schroeder at Aira who will ensure that ACB members are validated to use Aira as a Guest for the employment-related offer. To reiterate, this is for ACB members who are not currently Aira Explorers. How Will ACB Members (Aira Guests) Access the Offer? To use this opportunity, individuals must download the Aira app onto their smartphones (iPhone or Android). The Aira app is available in the App Store, Play Store, or at https://www.aira.io/app. Sign up for a free Guest account by tapping the banner at the top of the home screen that says “Tap to use Aira as a Guest for FREE.”  A Guest can use Aira at many locations where Aira Access has been deployed, as well as with certain offers in the “Call using a Free Offer” section of the app. From November 12, and once Aira receives the name, mobile number, email contact, and state for ACB members interested in this opportunity, we will authenticate temporary Aira accounts for 100 free minutes for conducting job-finding activities.  Aira will also offer a free month of service for any ACB Guest who finds a job and signs up for an Aira plan. As this offer is specifically designed to help foster employment, please be aware that our agents will be asked to end sessions that are not related to job-seeking. In addition, the 100 minutes will only be available for use through the end of December 2018. Aira is truly enthusiastic about its partnership with ACB and the opportunity to improve the employment situation for people who are blind or have low vision.   Focus on Diabetic Retinopathy The Halloween episode of the ACB Advocacy Update is now available! Listen in this week as Tony Stephens and Claire Stanley focus on one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States — diabetic retinopathy. They share some good news from several months ago out of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and discuss the challenges toward leading an active life and access to good nutrition for people who are blind. Listen to the podcast on our website by visiting: http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-october-31-2018. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast treats from, and feel free to leave comments (please, no tricks). Email advocacy@acb.org with questions or comments on the latest episode.   ACB 2019 Leadership Meetings ACB will hold its 2019 leadership meetings Feb. 23-27, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Alexandria. Room rates are $120 per night, plus tax. Make your reservations by calling (703) 683-6000, or visiting the Crowne Plaza’s website, https://tinyurl.com/y8suupom.   Tony Stephens Leaving ACB We regretfully announce the resignation of Tony Stephens as Director of Advocacy and Governmental Affairs, effective November 14th. He is leaving us to become executive director of a community-based nonprofit in Baltimore.  In his nearly three years with ACB, Tony has clearly elevated our legislative, regulatory, and direct advocacy efforts through his passion, optimism, and humility. Simply put, he has been a great teammate and we are all far better for having worked alongside him.  He will most certainly be missed. He has agreed to work with me and others in ACB to complete projects that are in process after his departure. Furthermore, Tony has expressed a sincere desire to remain an active member. I plan to take him up on his offer. With his departure, Tony leaves big shoes to fill. Stay tuned for a position announcement and the beginnings of the recruitment process. We wish Tony much success in his future endeavors and encourage folks to reach out to him in the coming weeks.    The next issue will have even more news and successes, so stay tuned!

Looking for a job? Sign up with Aira for 100 free minutes! 

To recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (October), Aira is pleased to announce a special program available to ACB members to foster employment opportunities. Aira, the service that connects people who are blind or low vision with remote sighted assistance, supports employment by providing customers (also known as Explorers) free service for activities related to finding and securing employment. The Aira Employment program has been available to our Explorers since February 2018. We offer free service to job-seekers as they navigate employment sites, fill out applications, build resumes, choose outfits, and travel to and from meetings with prospective employers. Aira will extend this opportunity to ACB members who are not Aira customers yet, so they can use the Aira app on their smartphone for 100 minutes of free employment-related service. Individuals will be able to initiate this temporary Aira Account for employment services starting November 12, 2018. How Does This Offer Work? ACB affiliate leaders are asked to reach out to their members to collect the names, mobile number, email contact, and state for ACB members who are not already Aira Explorers and who wish to use Aira to help find a job. Then, we ask that affiliate leaders send the contact information they’ve collected to Paul Schroeder at Aira who will ensure that ACB members are validated to use Aira as a Guest for the employment-related offer. To reiterate, this is for ACB members who are not currently Aira Explorers. How Will ACB Members (Aira Guests) Access the Offer? To use this opportunity, individuals must download the Aira app onto their smartphones (iPhone or Android). The Aira app is available in the App Store, Play Store, or at https://www.aira.io/app. Sign up for a free Guest account by tapping the banner at the top of the home screen that says “Tap to use Aira as a Guest for FREE.” A Guest can use Aira at many locations where Aira Access has been deployed, as well as with certain offers in the “Call using a Free Offer” section of the app. From November 12, and once Aira receives the name, mobile number, email contact, and state for ACB members interested in this opportunity, we will authenticate temporary Aira accounts for 100 free minutes for conducting job-finding activities. Aira will also offer a free month of service for any ACB Guest who finds a job and signs up for an Aira plan. As this offer is specifically designed to help foster employment, please be aware that our agents will be asked to end sessions that are not related to job-seeking. In addition, the 100 minutes will only be available for use through the end of December 2018. Aira is truly enthusiastic about its partnership with ACB and the opportunity to improve the employment situation for people who are blind or have low vision.

American Council of the Blind 2019 Scholarship Application Program

Please take a few moments to review the instructions before proceeding to the online application.
This will ensure you have submitted all required documentation in a timely manner.
Please copy the instruction page prior to proceeding so that you may reference them as needed.

Scholarship Application Instructions

The American Council of the Blind scholarship application process must be completed online.
Online applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. (CST) Friday, February 15, 2019.
Please do not leave any questions blank. Incomplete forms will NOT be considered.
You will need to include the following documents with your completed application:

  1. Certification of legal blindness from an ophthalmologist, optometrist or physician. (This hard-copy letter may be mailed.) Legal blindness is defined as an individual who cannot see better than 20/200 in the best eye with glasses or contact lenses or whose visual field in the best eye is 20 degrees or less at the widest diameter with glasses or contact lenses.
  2. Official certified transcripts from the school you are currently attending. Entering freshmen will need to include their high school transcripts and graduate students will need to include undergraduate transcripts. Unless extenuating circumstances exist, a 3.0 cumulative grade point average is required. (This hard-copy letter may be mailed.)
  3. Two letters of recommendation from a current or recent instructor, career counselor or employer. (Only Microsoft Word or rich text formats will be accepted; these may be emailed separately to: nfeela@acb.org.)
  4. Proof of acceptance from a post-secondary school. Entering and transferring students must submit a notice or letter from the admissions office certifying acceptance or consideration for admission. If this is not available when the application is submitted, it must be submitted as soon as it is available. Students continuing at the same school attended during 2018-2019 will not need to submit this document. (Only Microsoft Word or rich text formats are preferred; this item may be emailed separately to nfeela@acb.org.)

 

Only the application supplements which cannot be emailed must be mailed and postmarked no later than Friday, February 15, 2019, to:

American Council of the Blind Scholarship Program
Attn: Nancy Christine Feela
6300 Shingle Creek Parkway, Suite 195
Brooklyn Center, MN 55430

If you wish to make sure your application information was received, you may call Nancy Christine Feela at (612) 332-3242 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (CST).
Your scholarship information will be shared with your state affiliate of ACB unless you request that it not be shared.

The scholarship application contains several essay-type questions.


If you cannot allow yourself enough time to complete it in one sitting you will want to create a user login and password which allows you to save your application as a draft and return to it later.


If you already have a user login you do not have to create another one.


To create a user log in, visit www.acb.org/user/registerProvide your first name and last name, create a username, add your email address, and then click on create new account.

A member request will be sent to the ACB administrator who will respond back to you within 24 hours providing a temporary password to use when logging into the ACB website.

  • Go to acb.org. Click the Sign In link. This brings up the Membership Page where you can enter the user name you created and the temporary password.
  • Click Log in.
  • At the top of the page under User menu click on 2019 ACB Scholarship Application link.
  • This brings you to ACB’s Scholarship application.
  • Complete the required information and if you need to exit, click on Save Draft.

You should then be able to logout and return to the site at another time and finish the application.

Dots and Dashes from Washington 10-19-18

Welcome to “Dots and Dashes from Washington,” a short newsletter featuring a variety of topics and ACB success stories. Everybody loves a little good news, right?    White Cane Day ACB’s advocacy department celebrates International White Cane Day! View the video at https://tinyurl.com/ybs7jkx6.   Marrakesh Treaty The second episode of ACB’s new Advocacy Update Podcast is now available. Listen as ACB’s National Office celebrates the Marrakesh Treaty moving out of the House, and look ahead into the new 2019 federal fiscal year. The podcast is now available on iTunes & Overcast, and can also be accessed by visiting our website, or by subscribing to the RSS feed at http://acbradio.org/acb-advocacy.xml. The Marrakesh Treaty now has the President’s signature on it! Find out more at http://acb.org/marrakesh-signed.   Technology “Smart Tech: Making a Difference” features ACB’s Executive Director, Eric Bridges, in an interview with Ellee Pai Hong to discuss ACB's collaboration with companies developing innovative technology solutions for everyday life. Find it at https://tinyurl.com/yd2udjex. Bay State Council of the Blind’s own Brian Charlson – ACB’s First Dude – talks about some of the best new technology for people who are blind and visually impaired with “Here and Now’s” Robin Young. Curious about smart glasses or talking appliances? Listen to the interview at  http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/10/15/technology-for-the-blind. Advocates say the Justice Department is failing disabled people and businesses. Hear Eric Bridges’ interview with WUSA9 at https://tinyurl.com/yc5w4a2q. ACB and the Bay State Council of the Blind have settled with Hulu to make their streaming service accessible. Find the details at http://acb.org/hulu-accessibility.   National Disability Employment Awareness Month ACB’s Advocacy Update podcast features Tony Stephens and Claire Stanley discussing National Disability Employment Awareness Month and unpacking the employment gap for people who are blind and visually impaired. To listen to it, visit http://acbradio.org/content/acb-advocacy-update-october-16-2018.   Braille Some people call her the Energizer Bunny. Others know her best for making sure the vending machines, elevator lobbies and such have braille and large print signage at ACB’s national conventions. She’s also responsible for the braille on drive-through ATMs. Who is she? Margarine Beaman! Learn more at https://tinyurl.com/ydbjumj9.   ACB 2019 Leadership Meetings ACB will hold its 2019 leadership meetings Feb. 23-27, 2019 at the Crowne Plaza Alexandria. Room rates are $120 per night, plus tax. Make your reservations by calling (703) 683-6000, or visiting the Crowne Plaza’s website, https://tinyurl.com/y8suupom. Stay tuned for more good news in the next issue!

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.