It is the the tax time of the the year again. The privatized IRS tax form electronic filing process appears to be, again this year, inaccessible to those of us with low vision. I wrote the following letter to the editor that I intend to circulate to the IRS's feedback process and to my my Senators and Congressmen: (P.S. after I wrote this blog post, I lost more of my vision last night due to another stroke and therefore I may not be able to do much for a while. I was barely able to update this post this morning even though I had preformatted it yesterday.):
Some related items of interest:
For nearly half a century I've filled out my own Internal Revenue Service paper tax forms. Last year, the IRS quit mailing me paper forms and falsely claimed everyone could file online for free. Therefore, I was shocked to learn it would actually cost me several hundred dollars to file electronically because I have low vision blindness.
In order to get free filing online in my tax bracket, the IRS requires me to use the "private" freefilefillableforms.com Website, but it is not accessible as required by the Rehabilitation Act of 1998 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by the Republican President George H. W. Bush in 1990.
This is inexcusable because mainstream Web browsers have had rudimentary low vision accessibility built-in for years. For example, most Web browsers allow text size and color to be changed and the entire Web page magnified. Alas, these low vision features are too often overridden and rendered useless by poorly engineered Websites.
Web pages designed for accessibility allow text to properly wrap for any screen width, which eliminates excessive horizontal scrolling. Also, every image will have a hidden descriptive text or caption.
At my request, the Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times newspapers' Web page designer kindly made a minor code change so the print page tab now displays text that properly wraps to any screen width. This also benefited all readers because stories can be printed out to any size they wish.
This year, after a long phone waiting queue and being transferred to four different IRS employees, my request for a disability accommodation was ignored. The IRS would not automatically mail me paper forms nor consider making all Websites accessible. I am hoping that Oregon's Senators and Congressmen will help right the IRS's illegality.
- "Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Samuel R. Bagenstos Testifies Before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties," justice.gov April 22, 2010 -- good summary of the problems with low vision and government's legal obligation for accessible Websites.
- U.S. Department of Justice, "ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments," Last updated: September 14, 2009 is a technical assistance document designed to assist state and local officials to improve compliance with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in their programs, services, activities, and facilities. -- says tax forms must be accessible to the low vision blind.
- U.S. Dept. of Justice, "ADA Best Practices Tool Kit for State and Local Governments," Last updated: October 09, 2008
- Kristin Pugmire, "Able Student Alliance files 10 complaints regarding campus structures, several new buildings non-compliant to ADA regulations, according to ASA," Barometer, Jan. 30, 2012 at Oregon State University
- Eliza Strickland, "Dream Jobs 2012: Web Guru for the Blind, IBM researcher Chieko Asakawa can't see your website, but she can make," IEEE Spectrum, Feb. 2012, p. 55-57 -- the perspective of a blind Web user and computer interface expert at computer maker IBM
- UPDATE Feb. 29, 2012: See other post Congressman Peter DeFazio responds to my IRS ADA complaint (2/19/12) and see article by Bennett Hall, "ViewPlus gets a nod from Microsoft," Gazette-Times, posted Feb. 24, 2012 -- "A Corvallis assistive technology company is getting some public relations mileage out of a promotional road trip by software titan Microsoft. ViewPlus Technologies, which makes embossing computer printers that produce tactile graphics and Braille text for the blind, partners with Microsoft to design systems that work with the company's ubiquitous Windows operating system. -- Accompanied by a videographer, Dan Hubbell and Gary Moulton met with ViewPlus founder John Gardner and sales and marketing director Andreas Gast, toured the plant and got a look at what the Corvallis company's latest tactile embosser can do."