Accessibility at AOL is about extending the power of the Internet to all users
Accessibility at AOL is about extending the power of the Internet to all users. In addition to addressing product compatibility with assistive technologies such as screen reader software, alternative keyboard devices and voice recognition products, AOL strives to introduce features to enhance the value of the Internet to people with disabilities.
- AIM® Relay Service allows individuals who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or who have a speech disability to place and receive conventional telephone calls in the U.S. via instant messaging. Users can connect to telecommunication relay service providers by adding the providers' screen name to their AOL or AIM Buddy List® feature. AIM Relay Services can be accessed from any computer or wireless device running the AOL service or AIM® client (available for free download).
- As mobile devices gain accessibility, AOL will enable more of our apps to reach a wider community. The AIM and Shoutcast iPhone apps are compatible with Voiceover, the built-in screen reader on iOS devices. Accessibility will expand to more apps over time and additional mobile platforms will be considered as their accessibility matures.
- Real-Time IM was developed with guidance from Gallaudet University and the Trace Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Real-Time IM (RTI) allows AIM users to watch instant message conversations unfold one character at a time. This provides a deaf user with a more natural-flowing text conversation, similar to conventional phone conversations. Users can access Real-Time IM from the menu on the Instant Message screen or by highlighting a buddy on their BuddyList and pressing Control+R on their keyboard. RTI is available in the latest release of the AIM software built for the Windows operating system.
- WebSuite Lite offers an accessible web mail and calendar interface. This product includes the essential techniques known to make web navigation with screen reader software more efficient. It also offers a comprehensive set of keyboard shortcuts that mirror those found in popular e-mail client applications. The keyboard shortcuts are surfaced through a menu at the top of the page. Log into your AOL account at mail.aol.com and select the "Basic" or "Accessible version" link at the bottom of the page.
The AOL Accessibility Policy expresses the company's commitment to develop products and services that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. The policy is founded on three fundamental principles:
Awareness: It is essential for employees to be informed about the challenges faced by people with disabilities in accessing the Internet and the technologies available to improve the user experience. This information fosters the ability to address accessibility throughout the product development life cycle. The following practices are used to heighten employee awareness of accessibility issues:
- Provide employees access to widely used assistive technology software used by people with disabilities to access the Internet for use during product development.
- To stress the importance of integrating accessibility into product design, we introduce the disability audience to employees by developing programs that include things like:
- hosting presentations by individuals with disabilities
- hosting presentations by technology experts
Responsibility: Solutions developed to accommodate a broad range of user needs translate into a richer online experience for all users. AOL maintains a dedicated accessibility team whose job responsibilities include:
- Providing support to product groups during all stages of the design and delivery of products and services.
- Participation in external initiatives involving industry, consumers and accessibility researchers to help advance adoption of best practices and techniques necessary to make web and software applications accessible.
- Defining product accessibility requirements.
- Monitoring AOL's application of this Accessibility Policy to its products and services.
Collaboration: Feedback from the disability community is a critical component of our accessibility efforts. AOL engages the disability community through the following practices:
- Use of consultants who are disabled to test products with assistive technology software and to guide the implementation of necessary improvements.
- Maintain a dedicated e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) to receive input on accessibility issues.
- Support and participate in national and international disability-focused initiatives.
- Cultivate relationships with developers of assistive technology software, which is essential to evolve product compatibility.