Accessible Credit Reports

Previously I blogged about the inaccessibility of the legally mandated annual credit reports that consumers are entitled to from the various credit reporting services. I’m pleased to report that progress has been made in this area and we should be able to obtain accessible credit reports by the end of October of this year.

 

Washington, D.C. (April 23, 2008) – The nation’s three major consumer credit reporting companies today unveiled a comprehensive program to provide improved access to important credit information for people who are blind or visually impaired. The initiative, crafted with the American Council of the Blind, its California affiliate and several individual members of the blind community, will help protect the credit information of individuals who cannot read a standard print credit report.

 

Under the plan announced today, Equifax (NYSE: EFX), Experian (EXPN.L), and TransUnion have begun working to make online credit reports and related information accessible through their jointly operated website, AnnualCreditReport.com, the official site to help consumers obtain free credit reports. Accessible credit reports for people with visual impairments will be available online by October 31 of this year. By the end of the year, the companies will also make credit reports available in Braille and other formats at no charge to qualified individuals who cannot access print information.

 

Dinner, Ice Cream and Reality TV

Living in the Seattle area for me is often a mixture of old and new. Old because my father lived in the city of Seattle as a child and frequently speaks of favorite places with fondness. Old too because as a youth of 11, I visited Seattle with part of my family on a vacation to the area. Little did I know that some 22 years later I’d make my home here.

 

The new of Seattle comes in large part from the fact that, unlike my father, I live outside the Seattle city proper in the city of Redmond. This means that there are still many times when an evening out involves going to all new locations in the city.

 

Last evening was one of those adventures of discovery to the West Seattle area for dinner and a play at a small local theater. The night was made especially nice because dinner and the play were both better than expected. Then too, there was some ice cream tossed in for good measure so how can one go wrong?

 

The evening started off with dinner at the Elliott Bay Brewery Pub. While the menu is largely the typical pub grub, I’d have to say that Elliott Bay is well above average in the pub category of restaurants. Service was also topnotch. I also liked the fact that tables were spacious and roomy. There’s nothing worse than eating at a restaurant feeling like you are sharing your table with guests at the surrounding tables because the establishment is cramming too many diners into a cramped location.

 

After dinner we stopped off for some ice cream at the Husky Deli. This is by any measure a Seattle institution famous for ice cream that’s been in business since 1932. I’ll confess to not having heard of it before but Aimee tells me my father always speaks glowingly of it and a quick phone call to him asking if he could guess where I was and a mention of Seattle and ice cream confirmed this fact. Last evening might have been my first visit, but I’m sure it will not be my last. The deli offers a wide assortment of flavors, all made locally at the deli. The Swiss Chocolate orange comes with my personal recommendation and at $2 for a cone the price is more than reasonable.

 

There’s a video of how the ice cream’s made available. If you are using a screen reader, activate the Flash button named 0 to start the video.

 

After a stroll around the West Seattle neighborhood, we headed over to the ArtsWest theater to attend a performance of “The Dead Guy”.

 

The play was billed as a comedic look at reality TV where for a week’s worth of fun and one million dollars a contestant agrees to let the audience choose the method of his death. My brother Joel’s passing is still pretty raw for me so I wasn’t entirely certain how I’d react to the play because there’s a part of me that knows better than ever that death is no laughing matter. Still, I’m somewhat of a student of the media and the general plot of the play appealed to me. I also suspect that in some corners of the media industry the ideas from this play are more than just satire.

 

The ArtsWest theater was a nice discovery by itself. It is a small 149 seat intimate theater where the front row is less than two feet from the non-elevated thrust stage. I really enjoy productions in these types of theaters because of the real sense of connection you feel with the performance. That level of intimacy is simply not possible in larger theaters and no matter the quality of the production, the emotional impact suffers.

 

For me “The Dead Guy” didn’t entirely work. Sometimes the sum of the parts is not better than any individual item and for me this was one such case. The theater was good, the performance from the actors strong and some of the ideas in the play’s dialog thought provoking. Yet the end experience has left me feeling like there was some untapped potential just waiting to be drawn out.

 

Action in the play bounced between the comedic and the maudlin with bouts of preachiness tossed in as well. As an example early in the play the main character attempts to reconcile with a girlfriend only to be rebuffed with a humorous line about her not wanting to be a widow at 21. Yet by play’s end, the two have found love which is consummated by her bringing the man whose death is less than 15 minutes away a bakery treat he cherished from his youth. Unfortunately none of the emotions were delved into enough to leave an overall lasting impression much beyond the closure of the theater’s exit door. Then, perhaps that was in part the intent of the playright as reality TV seems to be in and endless race to push the boundary of believability with events that are really more and more unreal.

Technology Accessibility Still Needs Major Work

This article in Computer World is pretty accurate with respect to where accessibility stands today for individuals who are blind.  While I think the writer’s emphasis on the shortcomings of Narrator creates somewhat of a false impression of how full screen readers work, the main themes of the article are pretty accurate.  People who are blind still have to work way too hard to use computing technology and far too often one upgrade or web site change can set things back.  There are also far too many instances of blocking accessibility issues encountered almost daily.

 

The comments are also worth a read.

 

The article has also been making the rounds at Slashdot.

Report on Proposed Updates To Section 508 Standards Available

As some may know, a committee of folks from throughout the accessibility arena has been working on a report that recommends changes to the section 508 U.S. federal standards around accessibility. The report was recently made available. A news release talking about the report is available at http://www.access-board.gov/news/teitac-report.htm.

 

The report itself is at http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/refresh/report/. Details on the update process are available at http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/update-index.htm. I’d encourage anyone with an interest in accessibility to get familiar with this report and to watch for updates from the access board and opportunities to comment on proposed updates to Section 508.