Braille Monitor                  October 2021

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How Speaking Out Can Help Prepare for Cloudy Days and Save Lives

by Jonathan Franks

Jonathan FranksFrom the Editor: Making accessible emergency warnings on radio and television have long been a concern of the National Federation of the Blind, so it is no surprise that the same concern would be expressed as newer forms of technology seek to provide these alerts. Jonathan Franks is a board member of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas, and he demonstrates what happens when an advocate is both articulate and persistent. Here is what he says:

Throughout the past couple of years, I have noticed that when severe weather is going to impact the Austin, Texas, area, the local NBC affiliate KXAN has been using its Twitter account in an inaccessible manner. Its Twitter account would send out tweets stating “The following counties are possibly going to be impacted by severe weather.” However, the Twitter account would post images with no ALT text or any type of text-based description stating as to which counties will be affected by inclement weather. This clearly is an accessibility barrier for those who use text-to-speech software and who use Twitter. I have used my own Twitter account in conjunction with the Austin Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Texas’ Twitter account to voice that this is an accessibility barrier and a potentially dangerous issue for people who are blind.

After several attempts, I had received no response from their account. However, after continued perseverance in which I continuously tweeted them from both accounts, thankfully the KXAN Twitter account responded stating that it was not their intention to put any barriers in place for blind people and that they would be working with the necessary team to remedy this issue. The Twitter account responded by saying: “KXAN News Verified account @KXAN_News Mar 17 replying to @nfbaustin Good morning, we hear you loud and clear. It was not our intent to create unnecessary barriers for our visually impaired readers. We will do better. We will make sure our web/weather teams both see your message to us so that our future tweets are more thoughtful to this. That includes working with our developers to try to improve these automatic posts as soon as possible.” Since that interaction, I have noticed that the KXAN weather accounts have sent out tweets that have a text component within them that states which counties and areas will be affected by severe weather. My time with the National Federation of the Blind and experience working with the Housing, Transportation and Disaster Team with Disability Rights Texas have definitely increased not only my ability to strongly advocate for people who are blind, but also my skills in being cognizant of the needs for people with disabilities. I want to commend KXAN for their efforts to recognize their unintentional accessibility barrier and also their willingness to remedy the issue.

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