TU professor Jonathan Lazar receives Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award
National Federation of the Blind honors six with cash awards at 2010 Convention
TOWSON, Md. (July 13, 2010)—At the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in Dallas, six individuals and organizations were named winners of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for their outstanding contributions toward achieving full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality.
Dr. Jonathan Lazar of Towson University was one of the winners, and awarded $5,000 for his research in the improvement of web accessibility for blind users.
“For almost a decade, I’ve worked in collaboration with the NFB, getting to know blind individuals and working with them to make the web more accessible for blind users,” says Lazar, professor of computer and information sciences and director of the universal usability laboratory in the Jess and Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics.
“The key is that we need to get past assumptions and perceptions and instead collect empirical data on how blind users actually interact with websites,” he continues.
Lazar has published numerous studies that examine levels of website compliance with accessibility guidelines, including those of government websites, which by law must be accessible but often are not. Together with his undergraduate students, he recently examined 15 Maryland state agency websites for compliance with state accessibility regulations, and uncovered that all but one had compliance issues of some kind. Today, they are examining why federal government websites are often not in compliance with accessibility regulations.
In his undergraduate classes, Lazar encourages students to work on accessibility-related projects in collaboration with the local community, and has taken students on field trips to the NFB International Braille and Technology Center, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, the Maryland Technology Assistance Program, and the Maryland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
In one class, Lazar led his students in a research project that documented that, when airline websites are inaccessible, blind people wind up paying higher prices for airfares, even though that is against the law. “I am trying to have an impact on public policy in technology, for blind users in Maryland and the U.S.,” he says.
It was also Lazar’s team that developed the Human Interaction Proof Universally Usable, or HIPUU, after discovering that many forms of web security were strictly visual and existing audio alternatives were incredibly hard to use. HIPUU is a new form of human interaction proof which has task success rates above 90 percent for both blind and visual users. Currently, the Information Systems Solutions group, which is part of the Division of Economic and Community Outreach at Towson, is working on turning the HIPUU prototype into an industry product.
Bolotin was a blind physician in Chicago during the early 20th century. Widely respected, he used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for the employment of the blind and their full integration into society.
President of the NFB Dr. Marc Maurer said his organization is proud to honor “those who are doing exceptional work to help achieve the shared dream of Dr. Bolotin and the National Federation of the Blind—a society where the blind are treated as productive, independent and equal citizens."
For more information about the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Program, including biographies of this year's winners, eligibility criteria and application procedures, visit www.nfb.org.