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[Issue starts.]

ISSUE 17, MAY 2001.

Section One: News.
- Tesco site bags new RNIB award; Free and fair elections?; Internet access
experiences wanted; Physics via screen readers and rubber bands; Test-drive an online course; Radio listeners group � update; Sight village 2001; Ricability report online.

Section Two: Profile
- Cearbhall O'Meadhra.

Section Three: Legal Focus
- Olympics Website.

Section Four: Reader Response
- Colour Testers.

[Contents ends.]



The supermarket chain Tesco has
picked-up a newly-created RNIB 'See It Right' award for 'Tesco Access', an
accessible site for ordering groceries launched this week

The supermarket plans to back up the
site by training staff and giving them more time to unpack and describe goods for visually impaired customers.

Tesco has not always been strong on
accessibility: last year the RNIB lent its voice to a campaign urging the company to offer an accessible version of its web site. Once Tesco had decided to heed
protesters' calls, the site took around six months to develop.

Among Tesco's competitors, Asda told
E-Access Bulletin it has no plans to
create an accessible version of its web site. Sainsbury's online shopping site is frames-based, making it difficult to use with screen reading software.

According to the RNIB the See It Right award will be given to both commercial and none commercial web sites as and
when they are found to meet RNIB
access standards.


Polls Apart 3, a campaign to highlight disabled peoples' right to vote, is
inviting people to send in their
assessment of the accessibility of their local polling office through its new web site (http://www.pa3.org.uk).

The campaign has been launched by the
disability charity Scope with support
from the Disability Rights Commission. The web site will be used to publish realtime findings from each constituency as
they come in on Election Day, June 7.

The campaigners hope the convenience
of the online survey will mean more
people participate than in two previous paper-only surveys. On and offline
responses are expected from two thirds of UK election constituencies.

Scope plans to go on to use the results to name and shame councils that fail to
make adequate provision for accessible voting. The charity is an advocate of
pilot schemes to improve the lot of
disabled voters, including trial of
electronic voting techniques.

In the 1997 General Election, some 94% of disabled people surveyed encountered one or more barriers that could have
prevented them from being able to cast their vote. On average there are 13,000 disabled people in each UK


E-Access Bulletin is planning a series of articles investigating the practical
problems faced by visually impaired
people seeking Internet access for the first time. We will concentrate on four issues: cost; sources of financial
assistance; specialist training; and
providers of technical support.

To anchor this research in people's real experiences we would be extremely
grateful for readers' input. So, please, email your experiences, observations,
advice and opinions to Phil Cain on


The latest in John M Williams' regular assistive technology columns in the
Internet magazine BusinessWeek Online
offers a fascinating insight into the work of one of the world's leading blind
physicists, Kent Cullers.

Cullers, senior researcher at the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in California, uses both new and old technologies to help him in his work, ranging from raised-line drawing kits
using rubber bands and wax to the latest in Braille pads and screen readers.

For more on the technology Cullers uses to design alien-hunting radio telescopes see:


Duncans, an online learning company
based in Saskatchewan, Canada, is
looking for visually impaired people to test its online courses.

Around 600 courses are being offered
for free to access testers for 60 days, including ones in computing, business
and personal skills. Duncans' courses
generally cost between 69 and 149
Canadian dollars a year.

Anyone interested is asked to email one or two paragraphs on their background
to admin@duncans.ca The company
(http://www.duncans.ca) is also
interested to hear from technical
consultants and staff from organisations working in the access field.


In our last issue (April 2001) we
featured a piece about a radio listeners' email group started by Visually Impaired Radio and Electronics Society (VIRES).

The piece suggested that the online
community was dedicated to reminiscing about bygone radio programmes, but our source Clive Lever � a VIRES
subscriber - points out it is far more dynamic than that, and covers all radiorelated topics including the latest

Lever says examples of typical
discussions cover "which satellite
stations are about to change frequency, who's about to be awarded franchises for new stations and what special features stations like Radio 4 are running."

To join the group send a blank message to:


More than 60 specialist companies in
accessible technology development are
coming together at the Sight Village
2001 exhibition in Birmingham this
summer. Scheduled seminars include
sessions by the British Computer
Association of the Blind and suppliers demonstrating new products.

The event runs from 17-19 July. For
further information, see:


The new report from Ricability on the
new rights disabled people have in
dealings with telephone companies, 'Its your call' (See E-Access Bulletin, March 2001) is available online at:
The report is also available in tape,
Braille and large print on 020 7427

[Section One ends.]



Cearbhall O'Meadhra, the first ever blind person to be appointed to the Equality Authority of Ireland
(http://www.equality.ie), has come
through the hard way to emerge a strong champion of the rights of the visually impaired to access technology.

O'Meadhra is completely blind. He was
diagnosed at the age of four with retinitis pigmentosa - a progressive genetic eye condition that affects the retina. He
started to experience the effects in 1970 when blindness affected his lower field of vision and he became completely
night blind.

He qualified as an architect in 1969 and was a specialist in archaeological
surveying techniques. Occasionally his job would require him to work at night which became increasingly difficult - he was often only able to hear the voices of his fellow colleagues. Eventually the
difficulties led him to give up
architecture and follow his love of
flamenco and qualify as a music teacher in Spain.

In 1978, his failing vision caused him to fall down a flight of stairs and badly injure himself. He returned to Ireland and couldn't get work so embarked on a course teaching English as a foreign
language and taught in Dublin for three years. His first experience of
discrimination ended his employment -
the school received a complaint from an Italian agency that the students were
caused distress being taught by a blind teacher so he returned again to music
and set up a music school.

"I hadn't completely lost my sight but I couldn't see books so I learned to make music programs and spent a year
devising a complex 'note speller'
program to help familiarise students with a keyboard."

This was the beginning of his ongoing
relationship with computers and led him to apply for a post at the Bank of Ireland in 1983. The bank accepted his
application on condition that he
completed a rigorous RNIB
programming training course, funded by the national Rehabilitation Board in

"My Braille and typing were too slow - there were no computer screens or
terminals so we had to code on typing
paper which we couldn't see and if we
made one small error in the code the
program wouldn't work," says
O'Meadhra. "There were no sighted
people to help proof-read our work.
There was no system for recording
computer code in Braille so we had to
set it up ourselves - we were dictated code and we tapped it out in Braille. It was a 12 week course with strict
deadlines - and boy did my typing skills improve!"

He is scathing about the standard of
sophisticated computing help available from charitable sources. "There is a
horrible charitable attitude of lie down, submit, accept your fate. I've been active in the disability field for 16 years and witnessed thousands of people going
through courses but they are not coming out with computer skills. I know six
disabled people who are working.

"There were no courses in the
commercial sector to explain to blind
people how things work, so I was stuck at the bottom. They don't expect blind people to be in the workplace."

Initially employed at the bank as a
component programmer, O'Meadhra
soon found his phone became an
informal 'help line' for people requiring information about accessible technology. The bank was accommodating and
created a new post for O'Meadhra as
assistive technology consultant, with a remit to advise on how different types of technology can improve the lives of
visually impaired and blind people.

A year after he started with the bank, he and two other visually impaired people established the Visually Impaired
Computer Society
(http://www.iol.ie/~vics) to meet the
needs of partially sighted and blind
programmers. VICS works with
software developers and employers to
ensure that people with sight problems have access to technology.

The arrival of Windows 95 infuriated
members of the society as it was
completely inaccessible to people with visual impairments. VICS joined US
campaigners in their campaign to make
the software accessible.

As a result Microsoft has taken steps to improve its accessibility record -
Microsoft even boasts an accessibility site with resources and information for those with disabilities
Among the factors that persuaded
Microsoft to act were rumours that the US defence forces would not buy the
product if it were not made accessible to the blind.

O'Meadhra has recently been granted a
two-year secondment from the bank to
concentrate on his further role as
chairman at the Irish Institute of Design and Disability - a body that represents the needs and rights of disabled people to lead a normal life (http://www.idd.ie). The UK has a sister organisation to the IDD - the Institute for Inclusive Design (http://www.ukiid.org).

He is currently hard at work at the
Institute of Design and Disability
seeking to promote the adoption of the Barcelona declaration
(http://www.idd.ie/Barcelona_Declaratio n.htm) by all local authorities in Eire and Northern Ireland. The government has
provided funding of 300,000 Irish Punts over three years to aid wider
implementation of the declaration, which aims to promote inclusion and
accessibility throughout all regions in which it has been signed.

Among his many other tasks for the
institute, he built the organisation's web site in 10 days. In building the site
O'Meadhra deliberately set out to see if he could build it without HTML, so he
used Microsoft's FrontPage and hit
another problem with the corporations
software. He found that the hierarchical navigational structure of the program
was difficult for a blind person to
organise. He has since published a
report highlighting his experience using FrontPage to design a website, which
will be available at the VICS website

The institute's motto is 'Good design
enables, bad design disables'. "My
ultimate aim is to see industry and
design schools teaching accessible
design. You have to expect the disabled person to be a user and cater for
everybody," O'Meadhra says.

"Everything I've wanted to do I've had to climb a high wall. There is significant discrimination in Ireland. It takes twice as much work to achieve a managerial
level - the exams aren't even in an
accessible format. There's a general shift in the right direction but it's still
obstructed. We've got a long way to go."

[Section two ends.]



* In August 2000 the Sydney Organising

Committee for the Olympic Games
(SOCOG) was found to have engaged in
unlawful conduct by providing a web
site which was to a significant extent inaccessible to the blind (see E-Access Bulletin issues 9, 10 and 11). In this article Tom Worthington, one of the
expert witnesses called in this landmark case, describes how complainant Bruce
Maguire won the day.

On 7 June 1999, the blind sports fan
Bruce Maguire made a complaint to the
Australian Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission
(http://www.hreoc.gov.au) that he was
unlawfully discriminated against by
SOCOG in their failure to provide a web site which was accessible to him.

As part of the case, at the request of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, two
expert witnesses prepared reports for
Maguire on the accessibility of the
Olympics website. The witnesses were
Jutta Treviranus, manager of the
Adaptive Technology Resource Centre
at the University of Toronto, and myself.

During the case, SOCOG did not supply
technical details about the web site
requested by the complainant's experts, claiming the information was "highly
commercially sensitive information". At another stage SOCOG argued that
responsibility for any problems with the site lay with its contractor, US
technology giant IBM. However, this
was not accepted and no complaint was
made against IBM.

Technical details requested were a
sample page in electronic format from
the proposed Results Table on the
SOCOG website relating to the Olympic
Games; the content plan for the Olympic website; the number of templates to be used; the details of the tools used to generate the pages of the Olympic
website; and detailed calculations of
certain 'ball park' figures.

As this information was not supplied, it was necessary for the experts to examine the information which was available on the site to evaluate the design and
estimate the cost and time needed to
make the site accessible.

The 'Bobby' web-based tool
(http://www.cast.org/bobby) was used to test three selected web pages for
acessibility. The pages were displayed using Internet Explorer (Version 5.0 for Windows 95), with image display
switched off to simulate use by a blind person. The display of the web pages
was inspected for usability and then an examination of the HTML source code

Use of the Bobby tool proved difficult, due to the extensive use of frames on the site, requiring each frame to be
submitted separately. Based on the
inspection the conclusion was that the SOCOG Web Site was inaccessible to
the blind for three main reasons:

First, descriptive 'ALT' text tags were not included on all images. As an
example the graphic at the top of the
page which linked to 'home' had no

Second, tables were not laid out so as to be read in a linear way. Tables contained multiple lines of wrapped text, which
access devices like Braille readers would read unintelligibly across the rows.

And third, the 'Sports home page' carried a list of sports in one large image map, which was unreadable by non-text

In the absence of the technical
information requested from SOCOG, a
number of assumptions were made to
estimate the cost of changing the web
site for accessibility.

Based on the games' format of 300
events across 28 sports with some extra templates needed for general pages it
was estimated a total of 357 web
templates would be needed. It was
further assumed that the tools used to design the web site have provision for usability options such as the inclusion of 'ALT' tags, and therefore no additional cost was included for new tools.

Finally, an estimate of just over three weeks for one web developer to assess
the templates, make the changes and
carry out tests was calculated. The cost of the changes on the basis of a
consultant's rate per day of 1,900 US
Dollars was therefore estimated at
29,450 Dollars.

The decision was delivered 24 August
2000, with SOCOG found to have
breached section 24 of the Australian
Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
HREOC dismissed claims by the
committee that the cost and difficulty in providing an accessible site would
impose on the respondent "a level of
hardship which could not be justified".

It dismissed claims that the number of templates was as high as 1,295 and that the reformatting of templates would take hours each - "a more realistic estimate for the minor changes required is 10
minutes each . . . the cost of making the site accessible is a modest amount."

A declaration that SOCOG do all that
was necessary to render its web site
accessible by the commencement of the
Olympic Games was therefore issued.
Subsequently, on 6 November 2000
(after the Olympics) the web site was
found to only be partly compliant and
20,000 Australian Dollars was awarded
in damages, which SOCOG paid.

It should be noted that no web designers from IBM or SOCOG gave evidence to
the commission as to who, how or why
the web site was designed the way it

The Australian Internet Industry
Association (http://www.iia.net.au)
subsequently warned that the SOGOC
decision meant: "Disability access is a serious consideration for any Australian business wanting to establish a presence on the Internet. Sites which target
customers overseas might also be liable under equivalent legislation in the US, Canada, the UK and elsewhere."

However, there is little indication that Australian corporations are taking the threat seriously.

* Tom Worthington is an independent

electronic business consultant and a
Visiting Fellow in the Department of
Computer Science at the Australian
National University. This article is based on a paper he is due to present at INET 2001, the Internet Society Conference on 8 June in Stockholm -

[Section three ends.]



There has been a huge response from
readers to last issue's query from David Porter about a hand-held device to help blind people select clothes to wear
without choosing clashing colours, by
emitting sound signals (E-Access
Bulletin, April 2001).

Fred Gissoni of the American Printing
House for the Blind (APH), was one of
many writing in with details of a device manufactured by the Austrian company
Caretec known as 'ColorTest'. In the US, it is sold by his organisation at a price of 595 US Dollars (see
http://sun1.aph.org/products/colortes.ht m).

He says the device is approximately 15 centimetres long, 4cm wide and 3cm
thick. It is powered by a rechargeable battery. On the face of the device near the sensing end are two buttons, one
convex and one concave. When the
convex button is pressed, a digitised
voice announces the name of a colour
from a library of about 150 (versions are available in several languages). When
the concave button is pressed,
information is given on three other
aspects of the colour: brightness, hue and saturation.

'Brightness', presented on a scale from zero to 9.9, represents the amount of
reflected light in the colour. 'Hue' tells where within the visual spectrum the
observed colour falls. red is 3, blue 6, green 9 and yellow 12 - so for example a reading of 7.5 might be turquoise.
'Saturation' is an indication of the
strength or depth of colour.

If one presses the 'eye' of the instrument against a bit of clothing and holds down the convex button, a tone is heard. By moving the end of the instrument over
the surface, variation in tone can aid in determining information about whether a garment is solid, striped or of another pattern, although precise detail is not available.

Gissoni has personal experience of the device. "My wife and I have used the
device for upwards of three years and, despite some shortcomings, are pleased with it. It enables us to perform tasks that would otherwise be impossible."

In the UK, this same device is marketed as the 'Colourtest-150' by Vis-ability (http://ww.vis-ability.co.uk). Richard West is a UK user: "It is a hand-held
device, rather like a torch. It worked fairly well, but had a price tag of several hundred pounds [it currently retails at 450 UK Pounds], so I never felt it worth getting. However, for a blind person
living alone, it might have sufficient benefit to justify the expenditure.

Several other readers wrote in to
recommend ColorTest. They included
Lindy van der Merwe of Johannesburg,
South Africa, who says: "It is a truly wonderful device that not enough
visually impaired people know about.
The ColorTest can also detect a source of light, thus enabling me, as a totally blind person, to find out if lights are on or off. I have even used it to identify the colour of the roses in my garden.

"However, although the device can
identify colours, it will still be up to the person to decide which colours go
together. It might for instance be a good idea to try and find some information on the matching of colours in books."

Other advocates included E Marie-Lewis who says ColorTest is "extremely
reliable"; Pratik Patel, Project Manager at CUNY Assistive Technology
Services, who calls it "an excellent
device"; and Anna Dresner.

Robert Mortimer wrote in with a useful link to the 'Talking Products' section of the American web site Independent
Living Aids:
Not only can you buy a 'Talking Color
Identifier' here (which appears to be the ColorTest device under a different
name) but also a range of other devices from talking money identifiers to talking compasses and talking thermometers.

Peter Meijer, inventor of the auditory 'soundscape' device 'vOICe' (see EAccess
Bulletin, Issue 13, January 2001)
wrote in to point out that his invention could also be used to describe colours.

"You can use The vOICe auditory
display software
oice.htm) with a cheap colour web-cam
to have the colour spoken of whatever is at the centre of the camera view."

He also sends in a link to a
comprehensive table comparing all sorts of other light probes and colour sensors, maintained by Tiresias, at:
http://www.dinf.org/tiresias/Equipment/e b14table.htm

[Section four ends.]


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Copyright 2001 Headstar Ltd.
http://www.headstar.com The Bulletin
may be
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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
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Editor - Dan Jellinek
Deputy Editor - Phil Cain
Reporter - Tamara Fletcher
Editorial Advisor - Kevin Carey

[Issue ends.]