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Spencer Hunley
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Spencer Hunley
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TL;DR: When people with disabilities cannot utilize the same free services that others without such impairments can use, the playing field is not level - and does not promote equality, nor equity. Sometimes litigation is the only way this changes. Also, maybe asking for volunteers to caption the videos in exchange for credits/certificates/etc would be a novel idea, a win-win for all.

Look, I get it. Many people view this as counter-productive, that suing for captions will only discourage large institutions from creating offerings to the public with little or no fees involved. While this seems logical, it runs against the hidden narrative that has been hidden but upheld among private and public institutions over a long, long time.

A good example of this is the ADA. We take it for granted now (and some take it begrudgingly), but it didn't pass easily. Sunshine and rainbows were not gloriously present while Justin Dart and President George H.W. Bush held hands and skipped through fields of daffodils and signed the ADA into law. (Pardon my sarcasm)
People with disabilities - namely, those with physical impairments - chained themselves to buses, federal and state government buildings, and climbed stairs while dragging their wheelchairs and other equipment, trying to show in the most obvious terms why the ADA and its requirements/regulations were needed. The accessibility you see today didn't always exist, and often - if not always - it took blunt, harsh action to just even have it considered.

Turn to the past five years of technological growth, of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and internet apps that can manage most of our lives with a touch or a swipe. Those of us that have full usage of our five senses can take advantage of this, utilizing apps that require no form of payment to supplement the mundane tasks we do every day.

We assume that, since it's on a device, it's pretty much accessible; after all, it has a touch screen! It has bright colors! It's connected to the internet! Children with autism use tablets, that means it's accessible, right? Etc, etc, etc.

Fascination with convenience and actual accessibility are two different things.

This has been a fight for a long time, longer than many of the commenters on the ArsTech story have been aware. Groups like the NAD have asked, requested and even demanded captions from various companies and institutions (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), only to be told "oh, sure, we'll get right on that," and then observe little to nothing being done. Such lawsuits are not the first but last resort; unfortunately, it seems to be the only way captioning is accomplished.
Most MOOCs are available for free, this is true; however, for a price, you can acquire a certificate proving that you have not only taken the course but have passed it as well, adding to your professional resume or CV. And as time passes, MOOCs are slowly becoming more and more mainstream, allowing people from all walks of life to continue their education at their own pace and time.

If MOOCs are the future, the fight for proper accessibility should start now - rather than later, when the argument will be "MOOCs have been around for decades. If captioning was such an issue, why didn't they bring it up earlier?"

There may be a little truth to the argument that lawsuits could negatively affect future 'free' offerings to the public; but the public includes people with disabilities (check it out, they're the largest minority on earth!). Excluding them from such offerings means they're only free to those without disabilities, which is, effectively, discrimination.

Of course, I do have a way to solve this: have the institutions put together community service groups, volunteers, etc. and have them caption the videos. Or better yet, on the same site as the MOOCs are hosted, have an option for those who want to volunteer to caption courses. That way, a crowdsourced solution can work to ensure correctness, accuracy and quality. (This does leave the door open for pranks and internet trolls to mess with the courses, but I'm sure we've experienced enough of those to know how to protect against such shenanigans)

It's easy to ignore people with disabilities; we hardly see them in pop culture, or in our government, or even in our daily lives. But blaming them for trying to level the playing field so that they can climb the same steps that are available to others is, well, shitty.
Disability group that sued Netflix over online captions turns to universities.
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Spencer Hunley

Scientific & Mathematics  - 
 
 

I am posting this on behalf of a graduate student who is visually impaired; anything you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.

Help with finding tutors for GO enrichment analysis, R, Cytoscape, Python, Linux, Perl, Octave and/or MATLAB for yeast microarray analysis, next generation sequencing and constructing gene interaction networks needed!

"Hi,
 
I am a visually impaired bioinformatics graduate student using microarray data for my master’s thesis aimed at deciphering the mechanism by which the yeast wild type can suppress the rise of free reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by caloric restriction (CR) thus extending lifespan but the Atg15 and Erg6 knockout mutant cannot.

Since my remaining vision is very limited I need very high magnification.  But that makes my visual field very small.  Therefore I need somebody to teach me how to use these programming environments, especially for microarray analysis, next generation sequencing and constructing gene and pathway interaction networks.  This is very difficult for me to figure out without assistance because Zoomtext, my magnification and text to speech software, on which I am depending because I am almost blind, has problems reading out aloud many programming related websites to me.  And even those websites it can read, it can only read sequentially from left to right and then from top to bottom.  Unfortunately, this way of acquiring, finding, selecting and processing new information and answering questions is too tiresome, exhausting, ineffective and especially way too time consuming for graduating with a PhD in bioinformatics before my funding runs out despite being severely limited by my visual disability.  I would also need help with writing a good literature review and applying the described techniques to my own yeast Affymetrix microarray dataset because I cannot see well enough to find all relevant publications on my own.

Since I am legally blind the rehab agency is giving me money to pay tutors for this purpose.  Could you please help me getting in touch regarding this with anybody, who could potentially be interested in teaching me one on one thus saving me time for acquiring new information and skills, which I need to finish my thesis on time, so that I can remain eligible for funding to continue in my bioinformatics PhD program despite being almost blind?  The tutoring can be done remotely via TeamViewer 5 and Skype.  Hence, it does not matter where my tutors are physically located.  Currently I have tutors in Croatia and UK.  But since they are both working full-time jobs while working on their PhD dissertation they only have very limited time to teach me online.  Could you therefore please forward this request for help to anybody, who could potentially be interested or, who could connect me to somebody, who might be, because my graduation and career depend on it?  Who else would you recommend me to contact regarding this?  Where else could I post this because I am in urgent need of assistance.

If you or someone you know can help, please contact me directly via email at Thomas.F.Hahn2@gmail.com and/or Skype at tfh002 because my text to speech software has problems reading this website aloud to me.

I thank you very much in advance for your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, recommendations, advice, time, help, efforts and support.

With very warm regards,

Thomas Hahn"
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Spencer Hunley
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Discussion  - 
 

I am posting this on behalf of a graduate student who is visually impaired; anything you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.

Help with finding tutors for GO enrichment analysis, R, Cytoscape, Python, Linux, Perl, Octave and/or MATLAB for yeast microarray analysis, next generation sequencing and constructing gene interaction networks needed!

"Hi,
 
I am a visually impaired bioinformatics graduate student using microarray data for my master’s thesis aimed at deciphering the mechanism by which the yeast wild type can suppress the rise of free reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by caloric restriction (CR) thus extending lifespan but the Atg15 and Erg6 knockout mutant cannot.

Since my remaining vision is very limited I need very high magnification.  But that makes my visual field very small.  Therefore I need somebody to teach me how to use these programming environments, especially for microarray analysis, next generation sequencing and constructing gene and pathway interaction networks.  This is very difficult for me to figure out without assistance because Zoomtext, my magnification and text to speech software, on which I am depending because I am almost blind, has problems reading out aloud many programming related websites to me.  And even those websites it can read, it can only read sequentially from left to right and then from top to bottom.  Unfortunately, this way of acquiring, finding, selecting and processing new information and answering questions is too tiresome, exhausting, ineffective and especially way too time consuming for graduating with a PhD in bioinformatics before my funding runs out despite being severely limited by my visual disability.  I would also need help with writing a good literature review and applying the described techniques to my own yeast Affymetrix microarray dataset because I cannot see well enough to find all relevant publications on my own.

Since I am legally blind the rehab agency is giving me money to pay tutors for this purpose.  Could you please help me getting in touch regarding this with anybody, who could potentially be interested in teaching me one on one thus saving me time for acquiring new information and skills, which I need to finish my thesis on time, so that I can remain eligible for funding to continue in my bioinformatics PhD program despite being almost blind?  The tutoring can be done remotely via TeamViewer 5 and Skype.  Hence, it does not matter where my tutors are physically located.  Currently I have tutors in Croatia and UK.  But since they are both working full-time jobs while working on their PhD dissertation they only have very limited time to teach me online.  Could you therefore please forward this request for help to anybody, who could potentially be interested or, who could connect me to somebody, who might be, because my graduation and career depend on it?  Who else would you recommend me to contact regarding this?  Where else could I post this because I am in urgent need of assistance.

If you or someone you know can help, please contact me directly via email at Thomas.F.Hahn2@gmail.com and/or Skype at tfh002 because my text to speech software has problems reading this website aloud to me.

I thank you very much in advance for your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, recommendations, advice, time, help, efforts and support.

With very warm regards,

Thomas Hahn"
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Retweeted +Marysia Kurowski 
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Spencer Hunley
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Discussion  - 
 
Hi everyone,

Hope you had a great holiday and are looking to 2015 with a sense of renewal, drive and hope.
I'm finally tackling what I kept putting off for a number of reasons - a summary of how my presentation went at LinuxCon North America 2014, what I learned, and our strategic points for 2015. I will be making a poll here soon.
-------------------------------------------
Getting accepted to speak at LinuxCon - again - was wonderful news; it confirmed that 2013 wasn't just a fluke, and our topic (assistive technology and accessibility) was relevant to attendees and conference organizers.

I noticed more women and attendees with disabilities there, which is promising - I hope to see more in the next few years.

For example, Jon Kuniholm discussed prosthetics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElrBKqGm_GE&list=UUfX55Sx5hEFjoC3cNs6mCUQ), and explained why the current hype over 3D-printed hands and arms was a bit premature, as the ABS plastic is not durable nor versatile enough for daily use, and the lack of source files for such devices made improvements extremely difficult. His keynote was informative, entertaining and brought rationality, clarity and experience to an issue that most of the audience knew little about.

My session was scheduled at the same time as a very popular talk - one on Docker. That presentation was packed; Docker was THE topic on everyone's lips this past year, with good reason: it could solve a lot of problems and make virtualization not as much of a pain in the ass.
However, this meant that a lot of attendees who were interested in my topic  were unable to sit through my session; compared to 2013, I had less of an audience. Not because no one was interested, but due to being in the wrong time slot.
I didn't modify or change my presentation, and had great participation by audience members. People do think this is an important topic, but...they're just unsure how to help. Since there is no centralized umbrella of all FOSS and Linux-based AT and accessibility, they don't know who to approach or where to go for resources and information. My reference sheet (available here: http://www.slideshare.net/SpencerHunley/universal-tuxinfo ) is packed with links for various projects, groups and applications - and it doesn't cover everything. As one audience member said to me after the presentation, if it's difficult to connect and contribute, people are less likely to do so.

What I took away from my own presentation was that perhaps Universal Tux could be that umbrella; a centralized resource for all things in the AT/accessibility realm for FOSS and Linux. I'm not ignoring the monumental problems that such a project represents, but I'm also not ignoring the opportunity. We're gaining allies on a gradual basis, and since our message is positive instead of negative, people are listening.

So with that, I think this year we can gradually work to start building towards this goal. It's going to take a significant amount of time, but I think it is entirely possible.

Looking forward to working with all of you this new year, and maybe I'll even get to meet some of you in person.

- Spencer
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I agree on focusing on userspace; that seems the best idea considering last year's...kerfuffles, so to speak.
I'd start the non-profit now, but I don't want to step on +Carla Schroder's toes; plus we'd need to figure out some logistics and financials first. But we can draw on experience from The Ada Initiative and other organizations.
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Spencer Hunley

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"For those of you with short memories, back between 2005 and 2007, Sony didn’t want us playing their CDs on our computers, fearing we might rip-and-burn, so they surreptitiously used their CDs to install DRM software on our computers, which ended up making our machines vulnerable to all sorts of malicious attacks. Their solution to that brouhaha was to release an “uninstaller,” which didn’t uninstall anything and actually installed more exploitable software while collecting email addresses to send back to Sony’s home office.

Even if it wasn’t karma, maybe Sony does deserve some of the blame for trying to secure its network on the cheap.

Ya see, the virus or whatever it was that got into Sony’s system wasn’t the work of a genius, but something you can buy on the black market where the script kiddies shop for toys. Not only that, this piece-o’-code sat on their servers for months without being detected. I can only assume this is because Sony’s IT dudes and dudettes were too busy making sure that we weren’t making copies of Sony movies when streaming them over Netflix."
 
Friend and accomplice +Christine Hall gives us the lowdown on The Great Sony Hack of 2014. Or should I say "The Latest Great Sony Hack?" Some of the lesser-known facts of this cyber knockout punch make for an interesting read.

America...Frigg Yeah!!!
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Spencer Hunley
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Discussion  - 
 
I think it would be awesome if we could get someone to speak about assistive technology and accessibility at this conference. Anyone up for attending? +Charlie Kravetz, +DeeAnn Little, +Carla Schroder, +Charlie Carter, etc?  I would be more than willing to assist with putting together a presentation. I just don't think I will have the money -  or possibly the time - to attend.

With the recent developments surrounding Stephen Hawking's assistive tech, I think this is a good opportunity of which to take advantage. Everyone seems to be focusing on how they can someday use it for their own convenience, and those with disabilities just seem to be forgotten in the conversation.
 
Open source developers, designers, technical writers, et al take note! CFP is now open for #OSCON  2015.

2014 was the biggest and best yet with many firsts including Kids Day and video recordings of every session. 2015 is looking even better.
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Thank you, +Josh Simmons . My message is simple. Everyone should be able to use a computer in this age of technology.
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In their circles
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Spencer Hunley

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"What’s even more jarring is that neither side seems to ever want to invite someone who is, you know, actually autistic to the party.
I guess that’s because it would be awkward if they were actually in the room when we were all talking about how somebody’s neurological makeup is a tragedy to be feared and avoided at all costs.”
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I know you posted this a week ago, but I had another friend make this exact point. He has autism, but to hear people talk as if that makes him some soulless being is just ridiculous.
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Spencer Hunley

Help Needed  - 
 
 

I am posting this on behalf of a graduate student who is visually impaired; anything you can do to help will be greatly appreciated.

Help with finding tutors for GO enrichment analysis, R, Cytoscape, Python, Linux, Perl, Octave and/or MATLAB for yeast microarray analysis, next generation sequencing and constructing gene interaction networks needed!

"Hi,
 
I am a visually impaired bioinformatics graduate student using microarray data for my master’s thesis aimed at deciphering the mechanism by which the yeast wild type can suppress the rise of free reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by caloric restriction (CR) thus extending lifespan but the Atg15 and Erg6 knockout mutant cannot.

Since my remaining vision is very limited I need very high magnification.  But that makes my visual field very small.  Therefore I need somebody to teach me how to use these programming environments, especially for microarray analysis, next generation sequencing and constructing gene and pathway interaction networks.  This is very difficult for me to figure out without assistance because Zoomtext, my magnification and text to speech software, on which I am depending because I am almost blind, has problems reading out aloud many programming related websites to me.  And even those websites it can read, it can only read sequentially from left to right and then from top to bottom.  Unfortunately, this way of acquiring, finding, selecting and processing new information and answering questions is too tiresome, exhausting, ineffective and especially way too time consuming for graduating with a PhD in bioinformatics before my funding runs out despite being severely limited by my visual disability.  I would also need help with writing a good literature review and applying the described techniques to my own yeast Affymetrix microarray dataset because I cannot see well enough to find all relevant publications on my own.

Since I am legally blind the rehab agency is giving me money to pay tutors for this purpose.  Could you please help me getting in touch regarding this with anybody, who could potentially be interested in teaching me one on one thus saving me time for acquiring new information and skills, which I need to finish my thesis on time, so that I can remain eligible for funding to continue in my bioinformatics PhD program despite being almost blind?  The tutoring can be done remotely via TeamViewer 5 and Skype.  Hence, it does not matter where my tutors are physically located.  Currently I have tutors in Croatia and UK.  But since they are both working full-time jobs while working on their PhD dissertation they only have very limited time to teach me online.  Could you therefore please forward this request for help to anybody, who could potentially be interested or, who could connect me to somebody, who might be, because my graduation and career depend on it?  Who else would you recommend me to contact regarding this?  Where else could I post this because I am in urgent need of assistance.

If you or someone you know can help, please contact me directly via email at Thomas.F.Hahn2@gmail.com and/or Skype at tfh002 because my text to speech software has problems reading this website aloud to me.

I thank you very much in advance for your thoughts, ideas, suggestions, recommendations, advice, time, help, efforts and support.

With very warm regards,

Thomas Hahn"
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Spencer Hunley
moderator

Discussion  - 
 
Updated List of Priorities - with a poll!

Our previous list of priorities can be found here: (https://plus.google.com/u/0/117117443351945024533/posts/55YgUNACRZk)

To improve upon that list, I have put together a limited poll to determine what our top priorities are. You can post a comment below for your specific priority if it's not listed. The choices are in no particular order; the poll function here on G+ limits the number of choices, amount of text for each choice, and only allows you to choose one instead of checkboxing multiple items - so this poll is unofficial and just to get a perspective from everyone.
3 votes
Documentation
33%
built-in onscreen keyboards/screenreader
0%
Speech-to-Text/Text-to-Speech interfaces
67%
Better web accessibility
0%
Touchscreen improvements and more config
0%
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Both are good starting points; I like the living doc as a good way to constantly and consistently improve documentation.
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Jonathan Frakes, of course I want him to direct Star Trek anything.
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My personal and sincere thanks to Charlie Kravetz and everyone who is helping us get to our 9K goal. We are at just 50% of the money we need to operate for a full year and we only have 2 weeks to go. Your donations go to putting computers and Internet service into the homes of kids that cannot afford it. You guys rock.
A child's exposure to technology should never be predicated by the ability to afford it.
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TELL US: How are YOU are
participating in #GivingTuesday?
Take a photo, video or an #UNSelfie of
your #GivingTuesday activities and
share what you’re doing on Facebook,
Twitter or Instagram!
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From a Model S owner in Tennessee | Blog | Tesla Motors
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I was driving home from work on the interstate in the right lane at approximately 70 miles per hour, following a truck. In the middle of the