The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently announced two BTOP grants, totaling $6.1 million, to help bridge the technology gap and increase access to justice in North Carolina and Washington State.
In North Carolina, the North Carolina Central University School of Law will receive nearly $2 million to upgrade broadband service and expand access to its legal education programs. The project will use videoconferencing to serve low-income residents and undergraduates at Legal Aid of North Carolina offices at North Carolina Central University and at four Historically Black Colleges and Universities as well as expand its Street Law project and other public school initiatives. More information about the project is available here.
In Washington, The Puget Sound Center Foundation for Teaching, Learning, and Technology will receive $4.1 million to expand public computing centers and enhance broadband adoption, workforce training, digital literacy, education, and justice resources. This project will partner with the Northwest Justice Project, Washington’s LSC-funded legal aid program, to create public computer centers in five rural courts, including the Kalispel tribal court. More information on the project is available here.
These are the only successful BTOP grants involving legal aid partnerships that we’re aware of. If you know of other BTOP grant awards in which a legal aid program is a partner, please let us know in the comments. -M
The National Center for State Courts publishes a yearly journal called “Future Trends in State Courts.” Among the topics explored in the 2010 issue is the role of social media/networking in the courts, including “The New Media Project of the Conference of Court Public Information Officers,” by Chris Davey ; “The Role of Social-Networking Tools in Judicial Systems,” by Travis Olson and Christine O’Clock; and “The Changing Media and Its Impact on the Courts,” by Hon. Tom Hodson. Also included in the 2010 issue is an article by Richard Zorza, “Public Libraries and Access to Justice,” and an article by Justice O’Connor that highlights www.ourcourts.org, an educational project that incorporates online games and other interactive media to teach young people about the rule of law. -M [Thanks, Claudia!]
The Ontario Civil Legal Needs Project recently released the report, “Listening to Ontarians,” which examines the barriers that Ontarians face in accessing the civil justice system. A collaboration between the Law Society of Upper Canada, Legal Aid Ontario and Pro Bono Law Ontario, the report does a nice job of identifying and exploring both the promise and challenges of using technology to increase access to justice for low and moderate-income Ontarians (see, in particular, page 58 of the report). The survey also found that “84 per cent of low and middle-income Ontarians are connected to the Internet.” The full report is available for download here (PDF). -M
Update: Only after publishing this post did I come across this great post on the Clicklaw Blog, which covers technology and access to justice issues in this report as well as another recent report, Moving Forward on Legal Aid: Research on Needs and Innovative Approaches.
Not surprisingly, the countries where people are tweeting most are also typically countries where a majority of the population has access to the Internet.
But, more interestingly, the slides point to several cases where Twitter use increased rapidly after a difficult situation or catastrophic event in countries where most people don't have access to the Internet. For example:
Dom Sagolla, who created the post and slides, says that in these situations, Twitter fostered communities and then provided them with a voice. To me, this seems like what social media and social networks are especially good at. They provide a voice to communities, especially when few other communication avenues are available. - K
Yesterday Kate spoke at the Gov 2.0 Expo in Washington, DC about courts' use of technology to help self-represented litigants. The Gov 2.0 Expo brings together speakers on using the Web as a platform for government and citizen participation. You can watch Kate's terrific presentation below. Not only does she highlight the amazing work being done in our community, she also gives voice to those for whom justice is out of reach because they cannot afford a lawyer. - M
The Social Science Research Council just published a new study, "Broadband Adoption in Low-Income Communities," by Dharma Dailey, Amelia Bryne, Alison Powell, Joe Karaganis and Jaewon Chung. The study is based on “170 interviews of non-adopters, community access providers, and other intermediaries conducted across the US in late 2009 and early 2010 and identifies a range of factors that make broadband services hard to acquire and even harder to maintain in such communities.” More information and a link to download the study is available here. -M (Thanks, @shrivercenter!)
The National Center for State Courts, the Self-Represented Litigation Network, and the Legal Services Corporation are hosting a two-day conference on how public libraries can improve access to online legal information. The training takes place on January 11th and 12th in Austin, TX. Participants will learn how to access legal information online and how to develop effective partnerships between libraries and legal services organizations, among other topics. Conference organizers will select between 10 and 15 teams from around the country to participate. More information about the training is available here. -M
Harvard’s Berkman Center recently launched the Online Media Legal Network (OMLN), a U.S. network of top law firms, law schools, in-house counsel, and lawyers willing to provide pro bono legal assistance to “qualifying online journalism ventures and other digital media creators.” Part of the Center’s Citizen Media Law Project, OMLN’s website allows lawyers to submit an application to provide legal assistance and clients to request legal help. Services include business formation and governance, copyright and fair use, access to government information, and employment issues, among others. A press release about the Network’s launch is available here. -M
Google Scholar now includes case law and legal journals as part of its online collection of searchable scholarship. Users can either select “legal opinions and journals” when they initiate a basic search or use the advanced search to filter by state or federal court opinions. The results set includes a variety of useful metadata, including the case cite and “how cited,” a list of opinions that cite the source case. The collection also includes law review and journal articles, although these results are primarily links to HeinOnline, which requires a subscription. -M
Update: Here's the official post from the Google Blog.
Yesterday Illinois Legal Aid Online, the organization that oversees client, advocate and pro bono websites and other access to justice technology projects in Illinois, launched its LiveHelp project, which allows individuals to use a web-based chat service to communicate with a “navigator” to help them find legal information on their client website, IllinoisLegalAid.org. The LiveHelp project, which was funded by LSC’s TIG program, supported by Pro Bono Net, and originally spearheaded by legal aid organizations in Montana and Iowa, has now been successfully replicated in several states. For more information about LiveHelp, contact Liz Keith at lkeith (at) probono.net. -M
A number of videos of sessions at the 2009 Court Technology Conference are now available online. In addition to the keynote by NPR’s Ari Shapiro, be sure to check out “Technology that Enables Self Help Centers: Solutions to Increasing Demands in a Time of Austerity,” a panel that features Pro Bono Net’s Claudia Johnson, Rochelle Klempner of the New York State Courts Access to Justice Program, LSNTAP and Chicago Kent’s Rachel Medina, and Stacey Marz of the Alaska Court System’s Family Law Self-Help Center. -M
The Minnesota Legal Services Coalition has launched SomaliLawHelp.org, a new legal resource for the Minnesota Somali community. Somali-language resources on the site include “know your rights” materials on topics ranging from family law to immigration, a legal glossary, and links to courts and government agencies. The site is built using technology developed by Pro Bono Net and supplements resources available on LawHelpMN.org, which includes a Spanish site and resources in 14 other languages. Local coverage of the new site is available here. –M [Thanks, Jessica!]
The Chicago Lawyer recently published a nice article on the work of Professor Ron Staudt, director of Chicago-Kent’s Center for Access to Justice & Technology. Among its other projects, the Center for Access to Justice and Technology is behind A2J Author, which allows advocates to easily build guided online interviews for pro-se users to generate court forms or find answers to their legal problems. -M
Thanks to Travis August for pointing out a Washington Post story that reports how people who are homeless are using technology to stay connected to their families, friends, and employers. - K
The National Legal Aid and Defender Association's Cornerstone Magazine recently published an excellent article entitled "Meaningful Web Access for LEP Clients: Examples from the Net" by Liz Keith, Leah Margulies and Michael Mulé. The article "discusses the obligation to translate website content and highlights emerging and distinctive ways that programs are using Web technology to help ensure essential resources and information are accessible to LEP clients." If you are responsible for client-facing websites, including your own organization's website, please take a few minutes to give it a read. -M
When writing instructions, your word choice isn't the only factor that determines whether people follow through. The font that you choose also plays an important role. Lifehacker reports that using clear fonts, like Arial, makes instructions seem easier to follow and the tasks more likely to get done. - K
Late last year I mentioned that the FCC had proposed a plan to offer free wireless Internet service to Americans. Not unexpectedly, the FCC didn't take action before the end of the year as some had predicted. However, the new administration has included six billion dollars in their proposed economic stimulus plan in order to improve Internet access in underserved areas. As digital divide advocates have long recognized, increased access to the Internet will provide both short- and long-term economic benefits. (Thanks to Molly French for pointing this out.) - K
A new series of resources on online intake have recently been posted to LSNTAP, with online training segments from Claudia Johnson (Pro Bono Net), Rachel Medina (Chicago Kent College of Law), Eve Ricaurte (Iowa Legal Aid) and Cynthia Vaughn (Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation). An overview of online intake and a resource on how to design a remote intake interview by Eve Ricaurte are also included. Legal aid organizations using online intake include Iowa Legal Aid and Legal Aid of Western Ohio. -M
Polyglot Systems, who develop solutions to reduce communication barriers in the medical field, is offering a free webinar on December 9, 2008 at 1:00pm EST/10:00am PST entitled "Using Technology to Improve Access to Language Services." More information and the registration form is available here. -M
The Wall Street Journal reports that the FCC has proposed a plan that would provide free wireless Internet to Americans, but both telecom providers and consumer advocates object to it. Consumer advocates dislike the plan because the service will be required to filter out pornography and material not suitable for children; the telecom providers object for the obvious reasons. The FCC will likely take action on this plan at its December 18 meeting. - K
comScore, Inc. recently released a report that for the first time shows the demographics of iPhone owners. It reveals that "while 43 percent of iPhone owners earn in excess of $100,000 annually, the strongest growth in users is coming from those earning less than the median household income." Specifically, the report indicates that "iPhone adoption since June 2008 rose 48 percent among those earning between $25,000 and $50,000 per year and by 46 percent among those earning between $25,000 and $75,000. These growth rates are three times that of those earning more than $100,000 per year." As we've suggested in the past, mobile technology has enormous potential for delivering legal information and advice to low and moderate-income individuals. -M
Many of the 51 million people who have a disability don't vote. In fact, only 21 percent do. Some don't vote because they are busy, they forget, or they think that it doesn't matter - reasons why anyone might not vote. But people with disabilities can also be deterred by the fact that many polling places are inaccessible. Advocacy organizations have stepped up to ensure that this population has the right to vote, both in theory and in practice. Check out voting resources available from the National Disability Rights Network, the United Cerebral Palsy's Don't Block My Vote campaign, and the Center for an Accessible Society. Also, the Minnesota Disability Law Center put together a great video that explains why it is especially important for people who have a disability to vote. If you or someone you know has a problem voting, you can contact Election Protection ... and you can even use Twitter to report your problem! - K
A national survey has found that households with a married couple and minor children are more likely than other household types -- such as single adults, homes with unrelated adults, or couples without children to have cell phones and use the internet. The survey shows that these high rates of technology ownership affect family life. In particular, cell phones allow family members to stay more regularly in touch even when they are not physically together. Moreover, many members of married-with-children households view material online together.
In October and November, the Federal Interagency Working Group on LEP is offering a free webinar series on "Understanding Census Bureau Data on Language and English-Speaking Proficiency." The webinars will cover key Census concepts as well as finding language-related data and will be led by Census Bureau experts.
The webinars will be held on October 30, November 6, November 13, and November 20 at 2:00 pm Eastern; however, the sessions will be recorded and posted online for reference. To sign up, email CRT.LEP@usdoj.gov with the subject line "Census Webinar" by Tuesday, October 21, 2008 and provide your name, phone number, email address, agency or organization affiliation, and whether you require access to the captioned broadcast or a copy of the presentations and web links for use with a screen reader. - K
It's always helpful to have a few interesting fonts on hand to spruce up a report, distinguish your PowerPoint, or to help ensure that your marketing materials attract attention. Most fonts cost money, but not at dafont.com, where all of the fonts are absolutely free. To load a new font on your machine, first download the font and unzip it. Next, if you're using Vista, simply right-click on the font file and select "Install" (same goes for Mac OS X, but double click and select "Install font"). If you're using XP, just save the font file to C:\Windows\Fonts. After the font is is installed, you can select it from the drop-down list as you would any existing font on your machine.
And remember: just because you can use a fancy font doesn't mean that you should. Accessibility is important, so be sure to use fonts that are legible. -M
An excellent article by Lisa Herrod on A List Apart, which discusses the challenges of (and provides some solutions for) delivering better user experiences for the Deaf. -M
|'alif ba' ta' by erinscafeamerician|
For those of you following the $100 laptop saga: "Tossing aside its iconic green-and-white laptop with its distinctive antennas, One Laptop per Child (OLPC) is pursuing a smaller 2.0 version, scheduled for release in 2010, in which dual touch screens will replace the keypad. The new version will have lower power consumption and a $75 price--a figure that OLPC claims is achievable despite the fact that the current model, the XO, sells for nearly double the sum mentioned in its "$100 laptop" moniker." See the full article here. -M
A recent article from Jakob Nielsen suggests that "between the ages of 25 and 60, people's ability to use websites declines by 0.8% per year -- mostly because they spend more time per page, but also because of navigation difficulties."
The article also addresses income: "After removing the age effect, the income effect is that people need 2.2% less time to use a website for every $10,000 increase in earnings." While I think that Nielsen's explanation for the latter is woefully inadequate, the numbers are compelling and I'm interested in hearing your thoughts about how both age and income should factor into the technology that we develop for our clients. -M [Thanks, Mark.]
The folks at Intel have discovered a way to stretch a Wi-Fi signal from one antenna to another located more than 60 miles away: "Already, Intel has installed and tested the hardware in India, Panama, Vietnam, and South Africa. Later this year, the company will sell the device in India, with a target price below $500. The point-to-point technology will require two nodes, which could provide "full back-end infrastructure" for less than $1,000." Reliable, affordable Internet access in rural areas is crucial to realizing the transformative potential that web-based legal solutions have for our clients.
If you're interested in this issue, be sure to check out www.accessinternetcolorado.org, a project of Colorado Legal Services spearheaded by Molly French, an advocate of equal technology access for all in our community. -M