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[Issue starts.]

ISSUE 19, JULY 2001.


Section One: News.

Section Two: Appeal response - sunlight sensitivity. Bulletin readers offer their advice to the father of a child seeking relief from the sun's glare.

Section Three: Reader response - co-operation is key. E-Access Bulletin reader Matt King rebuts Kevin Carey's contention that niche players in the access market are a recipe for failure.

Section Four: Profile - Charles Bennett: portrait of an online artist. Tamara Fletcher profiles the new 'virtual writer in residence' at the National Library for the Blind.

[Contents ends.]



VisuGate (http://www.nlbuk.org/common/Visugate.html), a nascent visual impairment portal, has received 190,000 UK pounds from the National Lottery's New Opportunities Fund putting it on track to launch next summer.

The project is run by a 20-strong consortium, led by the National Library for the Blind and including the RNIB's Research Library; Action for Blind People; The British Journal of Visual Impairment; the International Centre for Eye Health; the Department of Education at University of Birmingham and BT Soundings.

According to project managers David Egan, recruitment was already underway and the active development phase will begin by the end of August this year. Testing is scheduled for next spring, leaving a few months to make final adjustments before its summer launch.


Following our appeal for translation partners, E-Access Bulletin has begun to collaborate with a network of blindness institutes and associations across Europe and the world to produce versions of the newsletter in different languages.

Our first language partner, as previously announced (see E-Access Bulletin, April 2001), is the Bologna-based Cavazza Institute. Information on our Italian version can be found at http://www.cavazza.it/eab and to subscribe to the Italian version email eab-it-subs@headstar.com

Subsequently we have been able to launch Portuguese and Spanish language versions. The Portuguese edition is being produced in association with GESTA (http://www.gesta.org), a sub-group of the Portuguese Association of Blind and Partially Sighted (ACAPO), with support from the Portuguese Guide Dogs Association. The project is led by Jorge Fernandes, special access adviser to the Portuguese government.

GESTA has members not only from Portugal but also from Brazil and the wider Portuguese-speaking world. The Portuguese language bulletin web site and archive can be found at: http://www.gesta.org/eaccess/eaccess.htm and to subscribe to the Portuguese version email eab-pt-subs@headstar.com

Our Spanish version is produced by an Argentinian group 'Red de Integración Especial', with input from the Spanish national blindness institute ONCE (http://www.once.es). The project leader in Argentina is Graciela Caplan, professor of philosophy and literature and Buenos Aires University, and our advisor from ONCE is Pedro Zurita Fanjul, former Secretary General of the World Blind Union. An archive can be found at: http://www.redespecialweb.org/eaccess.htm and to subscribe to the Spanish version email eab-es-subs@headstar.com

We are extremely grateful to all our language partners, and are keen to hear of other potential collaborators who might be able to produce versions in other languages. Partners are required to translate or cover the costs of translation of the bulletin within about a week of its appearance each month, and to maintain a simple web page with details about that language version and a text archive. Anyone interested should contact the editor Dan Jellinek on dan@headstar.com


UK legislation may help tackle discrimination against people with disabilities by wen site designers, according to a paper published this month in Warwick University Law School's Journal of Information, Law and Technology.

Author Martin Sloan argues that access guidelines set by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 could be extended to services provided by the Internet. "It would otherwise seem anomalous to differentiate between a customer who visits a travel agent and another who wishes to use its online booking facility," Sloan says.

He backs up his case by referring to landmark legal battles in the US and Australia. 'Web accessibility and the DDA' can be found at:


Margaret Bennett has left her post as chief executive of the UK National Library for the Blind this month following her appointment as head of Lifelong Learning and Technologies Division at the Department for Education and Skills in Sheffield.

Bennett had held the top job at the NLB since 1996, where she has implemented a range of innovative projects designed to create a flexible library combining multiple formats including Braille, large print, digital texts and web services and focused on the needs of all kinds of visually impaired user. Before joining the charity she trained as an accountant and worked at West Midlands Arts, North West Arts and Nottingham Community Housing Association.

In her new post she will work on such initiatives as the University for Industry (http://www.ufiltd.co.uk), UK Online learning centres and projects relating to access to technology and online learning.

Erstwhile NLB deputy chief executive Helen Brazier is currently acting chief executive pending the recruitment of a permanent replacement by the organisation's trustees.


All but six of the UK's 100 largest listed companies have failed to make adequate provision for accessible web design, according to research by Internet developer Aspect Internet.

Aspect spokesperson Sarah Gooding would not reveal the full list of results, saying: "We don't want to do a naming and shaming exercise." But Gooding said firms covered in the survey would be told their score if they contact Aspect (http://www.aspectgroup.co.uk).

The company did, however, name the six companies which managed to achieve the 85% pass mark: Tesco, Alliance & Leicester, Lloyds TSB, Amvescap, Royal Bank of Scotland and Vodafone.


An imaginative solution has been found to the chaos caused by the 'Section 508' US government technology procurement regulations imposed on 21 June to enforce web accessibility standards: the 'Magic 508 ball'.

The 12-sided cardboard figure was the brainchild of Jim Tobias, president of accessibility company Inclusive Technologies. Its sides carry all the 508 regulations, "from 1194.21 in SubPart B to 1194.41 in SubPart D".

Though "pretty free of features", Tobias says it provides a physical outlet for those forced to wrestle with the complexities of the regulations. So far 180 people have been driven to order the flimsy, flammable dodecahedron, although no accessible Braille version has yet been produced.

For more on the confusion surrounding Section 508 see the January and June issues of E-Access Bulletin. And for more about the Magic 508 Ball visit:

News In Brief:

ACCESS ALL AREAS: Last month saw the launch of JustVanilla, a web site through which users can browse the Internet using their own viewing settings. By browsing indirectly through the site visually impaired users need no longer be tied to using a particular customised machine. See: http://www.justvanilla.com

TEXTPHONES, THE LAST WORD: A guide to buying a textphone has been made available on the Internet by Ricability, the research organisation for consumers with disabilities. See under 'Communication' at http://www.ricability.org.uk/reports.asp

TECHSHARERS WANTED: Techshare 2001, an RNIB sponsored conference on learning, work, digital society and technology on 27 and 28 November in Birmingham, is open to submissions for 45- minute presentations. Email techshare@rnib.org.uk or paste them into the form at http://www.techshare.org.uk

SAO PAOLO SEMINAR: A Portuguese language seminar called 'Acessibilidade, Tecnologia da Informação e Inclusão Digital' � 'Accessibility, IT and digital inclusion' - is taking place on 28-29 August in Sao Paolo Brazil: http://www.fsp.usp.br/acessibilidade

[Section One ends.]



Following last month's appeal from an E-Access Bulletin reader for information about devices to help his young daughter who suffers from poor vision and sunlight sensitivity, we received a large number of extremely helpful reader responses, including links to a number of useful web resources � thanks very much to you all.

Chris McMillan, a member of the American Nystagmus mailing list, writes in to say: "If the child has achromatopsia (total colour blindness) then there is a self-help group right on their doorstep in California. Frances Futterman is the lady who set it up, and one of the things she has done is track down a complete list of types of 'wrap round' sun specs. The Achromatopsia Network web site is at: http://www.achromat.org/

He also suggests Eschenbach Sunglasses which use Corning glare control lenses (details from http://www.eschenbach.com/ - but see also Jen Hensil's comments below), and he says shops such as Toys"R"us and Walmart also sell suitable sunglasses for VI children.

However, Jen Hensil adds: "I would not recommend the Corning lenses on children. Corning lenses are glass, and therefore have a propensity to shatter. A far better option for children with light sensitivity are NoIR sunshields from NoIR Medical Technologies. They come in a wider variety of shades and darknesses than Corning, are far less expensive, and safer since they are plastic.

"I also recommend seeing a low vision doctor for glare evaluations."

Another American Nystagmus list member agrees: "NoIR sunshields are safe and fairly sturdy and are available in a range of 'shades' so you can get the kind that works best for your child. They are more likely to wear them if they are comfortable with the colour and shape of the ones they get. [My child's] are large with wrap-around shades, meaning the shade continues onto both sides and there is no frame outline to distract his side vision."

Bulletin reader Jane Fleming says: "I have cone dysplexsia, and part of the condition means I squint in bright sunlight. Of the prescribed sunglasses the all-round kind are the best. In the event I purchased a pair of skiing glasses - the ones used to counteract snow-blindness. They are simple, inexpensive and widely available.

"I have also changed the background page colour of Word documents on my computer to an off-white and I browse the Internet with a grey background screen with light graphic. I wear sunglasses to use the Internet and I have an anti-glare screen device."

David Porter writes in with a refreshingly non-technical suggestion. "They've probably tried it, but just in case, I wonder if a broad brimmed hat might help. I see better in bright sunlight when I have some shade - not necessarily sunglasses."

John Sanders, vice president of the UK Nystagmus Network, says our reader's daughter may have nystagmus. "There is no cure for nystagmus, but there are a number of things which may help. For example, his daughter would probably benefit from wrap-around sun-glasses and a baseball cap. She may also need prescription glasses to correct myopia which she may have as well - ideally, she will already have prescription glasses if she needs them, but sadly we find that isn't always the case or that the prescription is wrong."

The Nystagmus Network has a web site at: http://www.btinternet.com/~lynest/nystag01.htm

Sue Allard writes in to say she has Retinitis Pigmentosa and suffers badly with glare problems. "All sunglasses - whatever colour - block too much light and so my vision is depleted even more. I'm not sure which is worse, the glare or the 'cure'!

"However, I have finally found some lenses that really do help. They have been tested out and are recommended by the British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society (http://www.brps.demon.co.uk). They are 'Blue-Bloc' lenses, which, as the name suggests, block out only the blue, problem-causing wavelengths. For more information email Ian Pyzer at Medi-View on eyepyzer@aol.com

"Glare does seem to be a major problem in most eye conditions. It seems, from my experience with Gloucestershire County Association for the Blind that many sighted people do not realise or understand what a difference can be made for someone with even very little sight, if glare can be managed.

"I have had some dealings with people producing signs and it has been extremely difficult to persuade them that white shiny surfaces with black writing is not the way to go! I would be very interested to hear from others with glare problems to hear how it affects them and how they deal with it." Responses to this new appeal are welcomed via the editor of E-Access Bulletin Dan Jellinek on dan@headstar.com

[Section two ends.]


* In an article in last month's bulletin, 'Commercial sector must be

driven to build in accessibility', Kevin Carey argued it would be preferable for major software developers to build accessibility features into their products rather than people having to rely on niche-market accessibility suppliers.

For all its strengths, Carey said, the specialist accessibility marketplace is fragile and ramshackle and ultimately investment and reliability are more important than improvisation and enthusiasm. He concluded that if current disability law was inadequate to force suppliers to make their products accessible then the law must be beefed up.

One reader at least, Matt King, begged to differ: below, we publish his response. If anyone would like to continue the debate please email the editor Dan Jellinek on dan@headstar.com

By Matt King mattking@us.ibm.com

In the first place, I can't imagine that either of the two practical examples in Kevin Carey's article - failure to add a Braille display to an access package producing speech and failure to make a new laptop accessible as it ran a new operating system incompatible with earlier access software - would be any better served in the future he suggests.

Does he know how companies the size of Microsoft work? When was the last time you were able to get an issue with a 'niche' feature of an MS product (or the product of any other major computer sofware developer) resolved any faster or cheaper than you could with GW Micro or Freedom Scientific?

Second, does he realise how large companies respond to legislated solutions? Remember that in the environment he is suggesting that the large software developers will not have any revenue streams that are dependent on the quality of the access solution built-in to their products.

With excruciating difficulty, someone may be able to develop some local legislation in the UK or somewhere else to legislate for some minimal level of quality. Besides being expensive to enforce, keeping the legislation current would be nearly impossible. That would surely slow down progress toward more advanced and truly universal design.

Third, do sighted users have a different way to read a line, word, or character in every software package? Imagine having to learn how to do these things with each different commercial vendors' products. And don't think you would even have consistency among products offered by the same company. Or is he suggesting a 100,000-page piece of legislation that would become obsolete every few years as it intimately details how every access operation should be implemented?

Finally, if we are making this request for one disability, shouldn't we make it for all? And, what is the definition of all? Where do you stop? How small of a niche do we force companies to serve? Do we stop at disabling conditions experienced by x% of the population or less? What would 'x' be?

I would encourage everyone to think in terms of how we can leverage the marketplace and technology to work in our favour. For instance, there is a huge lack of standards in the accessibility industry. Instead of working with disconnected and relatively ineffective legislative bodies around the world, what about putting the same amount of energy toward developing standards for compatibility and communications between assistive technologies and general purpose software?

There are excellent forums for doing this in the various IT and electronics industry standards bodies. I think the IT industry is ready and willing to co-operate.

* This reader response is by Matt King, Accessibility End User

Advocate, IBM Business Transformation. Views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of IBM.

[Section three ends.]


CHARLES BENNETT: PORTRAIT OF AN ONLINE ARTIST. By Tamara Fletcher tamara@headstar.com

"Messages travelling on bursts of electricity � like thought. Each of us thinking and all the wires lit up with our words. I'm 47 and married and didn't want to tell my story the usual way. I was born".

Thus writes Charles Bennett in a poetic biography written for the National Library for the Blind on his appointment this month as the organisation's fifth 'virtual writer in residence'.

Following Matthew Sweeney, Susan Everett, Jean Sprackland and Syed Manzurul Islam into this position, he will take up 'residence' on the library's web site (http://www.nlbuk.org) as part of its interactive 'Read On' programme for blind book-lovers. The scheme has funding from the National Lottery.

Bennett has a love of all things creative, especially poetry, for which he credits his English teacher. School was not an otherwise pleasant experience for him as he endured bullying. "It was a glimmer of light in a dark forest � I guess I must have been about 14 but I think you continue to discover poetry throughout your whole life," he says.

Leaving school at the age of 16, he worked in industry for 14 years before enrolling at University to study drama and theatre studies at the age of 30, where he graduated and went on to teach English.

He gave up his teaching career as he wanted to concentrate on poetry and became 'Reader in Residence' in Blackpool, with a remit to foster an interest in reading in the area. He developed a number of projects including the Blackpool Beach Library.

"I ran the smallest mobile library in the world � I ran books in a wheelbarrow up and down Blackpool Prom and delivered books to your deckchair," says Bennett.

In January 2000 he was appointed as Literature Development Facilitator at Staffordshire County Council where he worked with librarians and the public to promote literature. One of the schemes he was involved in there centred around live poetry readings in estate agents and the estate agents themselves would write their own poetry as part of the 'Poetry Places' scheme funded by the Poetry Society.

Bennett became interested in the possibility of using computers for his work when he visited Smith College in the US back in autumn 1986. He found what he describes as an "electronic treasure trove" where the students taught him to translate his work from paper to screen.

"One of the benefits of using a computer for a poet is that you can manipulate type written text more easily. It benefits the visually impaired or blind as they can access a great deal of information without having to leave home."

As Virtual Poet in Residence at the NLB his role will be "to stimulate an interest in poetry, literature and life," and to stimulate an interest in individual creativity and contemporary poetry.

The full requirements of his role are still being firmed up but it is likely that he will be responsible for choosing a book each month and entering into dialogue with readers via the web as well as having audio files of his readings to download from the site. He will also encourage the writing of poetry by visitors.

"I am happy to talk about bananas and chickpeas, cricket or poetry; to engage in debate; or to provide an insight into the world and extrasensory ability. The visually impaired and blind have a special way of interacting, almost extrasensory. I think disability is the wrong word as it's like an extra ability," he says.

One of the major disadvantages to blind people he cites as "not being able to access contemporary texts so it's more difficult to be as widely read. My guess is that there are advantages as those with visual impairment tend to be more responsive to cadence and nuance. Seeing can be a visual noise which stops you concentrating."

As manager of the Ledbury Poetry Festival (http://www.poetryfestival. com) he says he would also like to think about developing some projects aimed at accessible poetry for the blind for next year's event.

This year's festival has just taken place, and Bennett is currently recovering from something of a "poetry hangover". So the virtual residency will be the hair of the dog � and E-Access Bulletin readers are urged to visit his web page at http://www.nlbuk.org/readon/wir/current.html and help him recover.

[Section four ends.]


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Please send comments on coverage or leads to Dan Jellinek at: dan@headstar.com

Copyright 2001 Headstar Ltd. http://www.headstar.com The Bulletin may be reproduced in full as long as all parts including this copyright notice are included. Sections of the report may be quoted as long as they are clearly sourced as 'taken from e-access bulletin, a free monthly email newsletter', and our web site address http://www.e-accessibility.com is also cited.

Editor - Dan Jellinek dan@headstar.com Deputy Editor - Phil Cain phil@headstar.com Reporter - Tamara Fletcher tamara@headstar.com Editorial Advisor - Kevin Carey humanity@atlas.co.uk

[Issue ends.]