+++E-Access Bulletin.- Issue 56, August 2004.

Technology news for people with vision impairment (http://www.headstar.com/eab ). Sponsored by RNIB (http://www.rnib.org.uk ).

NOTE: Please forward this free bulletin to others (subscription details at the end). We conform to the accessible Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard: http://www.headstar.com/ten .

++Special Notice: Techshare 2004- 18-19 November 2004, Jury'S Inn, Birmingham, Uk


The RNIB's Techshare 2004 conference is an important event for professionals who are interested in technology and the role it plays in learning, work and society for people with sight problems.

For further information email techshare@rnib.org.uk or visit: http://www.rnib.org.uk/techshare .

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Overhaul For Email Newsletter Standard.

The latest version of the Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard, drawn up by the publishers of E-Access Bulletin as a blueprint for creating email newsletter layouts that are easy to navigate by people using special access technology such as screen readers, has been released.

The revised standard (http://www.headstar.com/ten ) draws on the most recent feedback from a range of leading organisations which have signed up to endorse its principles and apply the standard to their own communications.

Signatories now include the UK government's Department of Work and Pensions; two local authorities, The London Borough of Brent (http://www.brent.gov.uk ) and Tunbridge Wells (http://www.tunbridgewells.gov.uk ); and overseas groups including the library of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (http://www.cnib.ca/library ) and The European Design for All e- Accessibility Network (http://www.e-accessibility.org ).

Version 1.1 of the TEN guidelines includes new suggestions on font styles, the best use of upper and lower case text, and the most accessible ways of embedding web links into text. There is new guidance on how to structure a newsletter to enable easy navigation, with suggestions on where to place contents listings and background information, and how to begin and end sections of an email newsletter.

Organisations wishing to sign up to the standard, which merely requires them to endorse its general principles, should email ten- standard@headstar.com .

NOTE: E-Access Bulletin's main web site (http://www.headstar.com/eab ) has also been improved and made more accessible, enabling easier navigation with shortcut keys, while important elements of the page like the site menu are clearly signposted. Users can toggle between page formats displaying ordinary graphics and large text using a single mouse click. The web site now meets all priority 1 and 2 and most of the priority 3 specifications of the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT ).

+02: Unix Accessibility Forum Unveiled.

Efforts to improve the accessibility of the Unix operating system have progressed with the launch this month of the Unix Accessibility Forum (UAF - http://accessibility.kde.org/forum ).

The forum is to be hosted by the KDE Project (http://www.kde.org ), a group of open source software engineers developing a desktop environment similar to Windows or the Mac Operating System within which Unix can be used.

UAF draws together developers of screen reader and magnification technology for Unix, the widely-used open source computer operating system.

Although developers have gradually improved Unix magnification tools over the last ten years, development work has begun only recently on the software interfaces needed to plug screen readers into Unix systems.

"This is important because the internal systems of many large employers such as banks run on Unix," said Dr Terry Barnaby of Beam (http://www.beam.ltd.uk ), a developer of assistive technology for Unix and Linux, the popular operating system derived from Unix. "Many bank employees have to use a Unix windows interface to verify customer transactions, such as when a cheque is paid into an account, for example," he said.

According to Barnaby, making Unix accessible is complicated by the fact that desktop applications such as graphical user interfaces and web browsers are built by different communities of developers, and often cannot be made to work together without detailed technical knowledge.

For example, screen readers are being developed by both KDE and the separate GNOME (http://www.gnome.org ) community of developers for Unix desktop applications. Part of the UAF agenda will be to build bridges between the various different developer communities.

+03: Online Web Browser Adaptor Hits Uk.

A new system developed by IBM allowing people to set preferences for their web browser such as large text sizes, which can then be accessed from any computer, is to be supported in the UK by the charity Abilitynet.

The system works by combining a small piece of software or 'plug-in' downloaded to the user's computer - which must be running the Internet Explorer web browser version 5.5 or higher - with preferences and settings stored on a remote web server by each user with a unique password. When the user logs in to any computer at work or home which has the browser plug-in, and enters their username and password, their preferences and settings will be restored.

Web Adaptation Technology (WAT - http://www.webadapt.org ) can adjust settings such as page magnification, text size and spacing, colour balance, graphics display, and audio output.

Individuals and non-profit groups can use the technology for free, while other organisations must negotiate licence fees with IBM. The technology has already been undergoing trials in the US, in association with several charities and research bodies.

"Although some owners of web site are very rigorous when it comes to accessibility, it will probably be years before most web sites are accessible. In the meantime, this kind of service will be of some value," said Mark Wakefield, Community Relations Manager at IBM UK.

According to Wakefield, it is likely that many vision-impaired people will need assistance to download and use the software. AbilityNet (http://www.abilitynet.org.uk ) is to provide information and help-desk support for individual users, and training for organisations that sign up for the WAT service.

+04: Plaudits For 'Chillingham' Adventure Game.

Early feedback from players of Chillingham, a computer adventure game which uses sound alone and requires no sight to play, has been extremely positive, according to its creators Bavisoft (http://www.bavisoft.com ).

The game is named after a haunted village where the action takes place. Players take on the role of the protagonist Frederick, who is on a mission to find his missing friend Lily. The adventure is controlled using just the four arrow keys on a computer keyboard, allowing players to select objects, navigate the village and choose to talk to its residents such as Old Bill the hermit.

In return for objects that will help them on his adventure, Frederick must solve puzzles, go on assignments and fend off enemies such as cackling witches using the objects acquired en route as weapons.

"The inspiration for Chillingham was to recreate games that we enjoyed playing as youngsters, namely the text adventures," says Russ Byer, vice president of Sales and Marketing at Bavisoft. "The concept of melding the adventure with a few of the arcade style games seemed like a perfect fit," he says.

He says the company has received praise from early players on sound quality, the challenge of the puzzles, the storyline, and the range of arcade events. "Defending against monsters, catching bugs, navigating the raft and mimicking the hermit were all mentioned as enjoyable aspects. And even though they all used the 4-key interface, the controls and games within the games were different enough to not be boring," Byer says.

Chillingham costs 44 US dollars. Bavisoft's previous creations include Grizzly Gulch, the first ever sound-based adventure game, set in the Wild West (see E-Access Bulletin, Issue 5, May 2000 and Issue 24, December 2001).

++News In Brief:



The National Library for the Blind is seeking vision-impaired people to test a selection of DAISY format electronic books using Dolphin's 'EaseReader' software. The aim is to improve the access; cost-effectiveness; and quality of electronic books. In return for their help, testers will receive a selection of DAISY books on CD and technical support: http://fastlink.headstar.com/nlb1 .


A campaign to highlight to employers that sight loss need not be a barrier to employment has been launched by RNIB with Action for Blind People. A report 'Beyond the stereotypes: Blind and partially sighted people and work,' has been published, along with a charter, 'Work matters.' A DVD featuring interviews with employers and vision-impaired employees has also been released: http://fastlink.headstar.com/rnib5 .


The European Commission has announced its first 'Design for all and assistive technology' award, to take place in November. European designers, engineers, design students and companies will be encouraged to enter projects that ensure user involvement from all sections of society: http://www.dfa-at-awards.org .

[Section one ends].

++Special Notice: The Uk Association Of Braille Producersconference - October 4-5, 2004 - The Albright Hussey Hotel, Shrewsbury.


The UK Association of Braille Producers is holding a conference in Shrewsbury on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 October 2004. The two days will be packed with presentations, demonstrations and workshops of interest to anyone involved in Braille production including staff of charities, prison Braille units, school resource bases and local societies, commercial producers, and voluntary transcribers. Topics will include changes to the Braille code, copyright rules, DAISY, tactile diagrams and Moon production. Developers of Braille software, embossers and raised diagram machines will be demonstrating their latest products.

For more details and to register see: http://www.ukabp.org/conference.asp or email conference@ukabp.org or phone 0870 765 9388.

[Special notice ends].

++Section Two: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.


Please email all contributions or responses to inbox@headstar.com .


There has been widespread support among our readers for the suggestion of Amar Latif that banks should send out statements by email, without the account numbers for security, as the most accessible format.

Kawal Gucukoglu said: "I wholeheartedly agree with [Amar Latif]. As well as having to log in to find out what is available at your bank via their web site, they are mostly not accessible and I have repeatedly asked my bank about what they are going to do about their website and making it accessible for people with impaired vision. I have never had a satisfactory response and I continue to wait for banks to make their sites accessible to screen readers. I also would like bank statements via email!"

Carl Jolley says: "I would like to register my vote for having my bank statement emailed to me. I do use Halifax on-line when I have time, but as you say, logging on and so on takes time and this high pressure world doesn't really allow for that. We wouldn't have to have any confidential information on the statements, so no account number or sort code has to be printed as once we have registered our email address with them, then there is enough security to know that they are providing the correct information to the right person. The only security risk is if the visually impaired person enters the wrong email address, then someone will know you have been over spending at the supermarket!"

The accessibility consultant Julia Schofield says she too would like bank statements by email, and says: "I don't feel that the brailling of statements going outside the banks to other organisations is particularly secure."

And Simon Cavendish agrees: "Yes, I think it would be an excellent idea to have one's banking details provided minus the account number. What a silly excuse the banks use. I believe health and safety reasons are still used by some organisations to discriminate against disabled people."

Two other readers recommend telephone banking as a good alternative to inaccessible web sites. Bart Simons, Web Accessibility Specialist at the Belgian e-government solutions firm ASCii, says: "My bank in Belgium runs a phone banking service. This means I can hear my statement and the list of past transactions through the phone. This is a regular service and thus not only set up for clients with a handicap. This method is very convenient and fast. I consider it indeed more secure than receiving this information via email."

And Debbie Payne of Hereford says: "I don't use internet banking, but I do use the phone banking service provided by my bank, which I find invaluable. It gives you spoken access to your balance, recent transactions and so on and allows you to speak to an operator should you wish to obtain detailed information of transactions on previous statements. This is ideal, particularly if you do not read Braille, or find internet banking time-consuming."


Also on the subject of banking, the debate continues about the accessibility or otherwise of the new 'Chip and PIN' system which will see electronic codes replacing signatures for use with credit and debit cards.

Debbie Payne writes: "I agree with Clare Page, who was incredulous as to why visually impaired people cannot use the Chip and PIN system. Personally I can't wait to start using it. As a totally blind person myself, I avoid using my card in shops, because I find using a signature extremely difficult, and always feel self-conscious. As Clare rightly points out, the only problem should be knowing the layout of the keypad. Surely, it would be far easier to simply key in a four-digit number than to worry about where to put your signature on a piece of paper."

And Julia Schofield asks: "Do we in the UK always respond negatively to change? Is it poor education about something new, and the often negative stand taken by lead organisations for the blind that lead to this reaction to progress?

"I hate fumbling for a pen and having to ask where to sign on a credit card or other receipt. If you can use a mobile phone, surely a 'pinpad' is no harder? Perhaps we should just be pressing for different surfaces on important keys like 'enter' or 'validate'?

"Perhaps some unbiased 'how to' information and a little help the first time would change opinions - it's much easier and safer. I do think people tend to not like what they don't know, and from my past consultancy work with the Post Office, we found that if people were introduced to the PIN entry personally then they were converts immediately."


Continuing our discussion on cheaper types of screen-reader software, Nick Freear of Bunbury IS says: "I use a audio Web-browser 'pwWebSpeak' from Productivity Works: http://www.soundlinks.com/pwgen.htm

"Their terms include: "If you are a visually impaired individual, or are using the software to evaluate sites for accessibility, you may use the software freely, but will not be entitled to support." Unlike most screen-readers 'pwWebSpeak' does not rely on a separate browser to access the Web - it is self contained. The download is 6.3 Megabytes."

[Section two ends].

++Special Notice: Web Accessibility Forum.


Accessify Forum is a discussion forum devoted to all topics relating to web accessibility. Topics cover everything from 'Beginners' and 'Site building and testing' through to projects such as the new accessibility testing tool WaiZilla and the accessibility of the open source forum software itself.

All you need to register is a working email address, so come along and join in the fun at: http://www.accessifyforum.com .

[Special notice ends].

++Section Three: Focus- Online Shopping.


+11: Diary Of A Dissatisfied Customerby Karen Turner And Mel Poluck.

E-Access Bulletin reader Karen Turner began using the Tesco supermarket's online, home delivery shopping service when she found herself unable to leave her home due to illness. However, even though Tesco has provided a special 'Access Grocery Service' web site aimed at those using assistive technologies, Turner found that ordering goods as a blind user was fraught with difficulties.

In fact, Turner does not use the 'Access' site (http://www.tesco.com/access/about.htm ) because she says it does not carry all the special offers shown in the main site, and it is not possible to amend an order after it has been placed.

The following is an edited selection of a series of emails between Turner and the customer service department of Tesco, exchanged as a result of these problems.

1 March 2004. From: Karen Turner. Dear Tesco, As a blind person, my preferred browser is Opera as this gives me many keyboard controls instead of having to use the mouse. On completing the order, and entering my payment details, I obtained an error message. I tried several times with different payment cards and received the error again and again, and became angry and frustrated feeling that I had just wasted four hours navigating your site.

4 March 2004. From: Suzi Harris, Customer Service Manager, Tesco.com. Dear Karen, If you experience any problems in future placing orders with Tesco.com, please call our helpline where one of our operators will be happy to help.

5 March 2004. From: Karen Turner. Dear Suzi Harris, You have made no comments on the difficulty I have using Tesco.com and my preferred browser. You state I should contact an operator on your helpline. However, I fail to understand why you cannot give a reason for my difficulty now, and wonder how I can contact you by telephone at the same time as viewing Tesco.com when I have one line for both my internet and telephone connection and no mobile phone?

9 March 2004. From: Sean McKellican, Customer Service Manager, Tesco.com. Dear Karen, I'm sorry to hear of the problems that you are having with our site and the Opera browser. The site is not designed or coded in order for customers to use other browsers other than Internet Explorer or Netscape. This has always been the case since day one of the web site but fully understand as the years go by that this will have to change.

At the moment we only have three per cent of our customers using the Opera browser - a few of them have advised us of this problem. In the meantime, until we do decide to change the site in any way, we can only ask that you use Internet Explorer or Netscape, or you can try our other site of www.tesco.com/access.

11 March 2004. From: Karen Turner. Thank you for your kind and informative reply. Today I decide I need further products from Tesco and grudgingly use the Internet Explorer browser. I am not given information regarding my overall bill as I add each item and navigating with the tab key on this page is long and tedious, as I have to listen for my screen reader to speak each item. On adding items to my shopping basket, the text box for the product is omitted by the tab key and therefore not read to me by my screen reader. I am forced to attempt to visually read these boxes in the hope that I will order the goods I require.

After each addition, I return to the original product list and start the procedure again, instead of being able to return to my latest choice. I then try to update selected items to my original order, then proceed to 'check out.' I then find I now have two orders, the shopping I did on the access page being treated as a new order.

Uncertain of the next step, I contact your helpline, and explain I want these items to be delivered with my original order. I queried if this would mean I had two separate delivery charges, which your operator confirmed. It appears you are not willing to forgo one of the delivery charges as you cannot amalgamate these two orders.

17 March 2004. From: Stuart Robertson, Customer Service Manager, Tesco.com. Dear Karen, Thank you for your email. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to your query. Unfortunately, I have only just received your email after the time that your order can be amended. Orders for delivery before six pm can only be amended up until two forty-five am on the same day. Once again, please accept my apologies for any inconvenience caused.

17 March 2004. From: Karen Turner. Thank you for replying to my email. However, I feel what you really mean is you have delayed actioning my email. I appreciate all the time and effort spent aiding my shop online. Unfortunately, due to the incomplete advice given by yourselves to my individual queries at the relevant times, I do not feel you have shown complete commitment, empathy or satisfaction to your customer.

18 March 2004. From: Elaine Pople, Customer Service Manager, Tesco.com. Dear Karen, I fully appreciate your comments. We aim to provide the best possible service for our customers and any feedback or suggestions made are always very welcome. The relevant department dealing with such matters has been notified and I can assure you that this will be taken on board.

NOTE: If other readers have had similar exchanges that might make interesting reading, please let us know. Email the editor on inbox@headstar.com .

[Section three ends].

++Special Notice: Test Your Site'S Accessibility.


Headstar, the publishers of E-Access Bulletin, is offering a range of independent, expert assessment packages to ensure your web services comply with best practice and the law. We can provide you with a clear, detailed report on the current access status of your site, and a list of tasks you will need to carry out to ensure compliance with government requirements.

Reports also include results from general quality assurance tests such as link-checking. Taking accessibility action benefits all users, will make your site easier to maintain, and can improve your search engine rating! Please note the service is tailored in particular to larger organisations with major web sites or services.

For more information please email: access-consult@headstar.com .

[Special notice ends].

++Section Four: Access Concepts- The Totally Integrated Portal.


+12: Universal Serviceby Ken Matthews.

The Totally Integrated Portal (TIP) is a name I have given to the concept of developing a highly structured web site to completely integrate the visually impaired or dyslexic person into the digital domain, allow them to interact with each other and the outside world as simply as any other person who has access to the internet.

I believe the concept can be broadened to include other disabled groups, and can be achieved relatively quickly. The technology is available: all that is required is the will to carry it forward.

Here's how it would work. People who access the site would be greeted by a voice message giving them a choice of a numbered menu. The computer or other type of device that the client is using would be voice activated, and the user would simply say a number. Here are a number of example options, although anything could be offered:

1: News headlines. 2: Newspapers in depth. 3: Radio schedules 4: Library 5: Latest information for specific groups. 6: Communication. 7: Other accessible sites. 8: Online games rooms. 9: Voice chat rooms 10: Recorded chat. 11: Talk to the moderator. 12: Radio stations.

Upon choosing a number, the individual would be given a further set of numbered options. In the examples listed above, options one and two could lead to top headlines from the main national newspapers, and selections of say 10 stories from each paper, respectively.

Option number three. Radio Schedules, would present structured radio programme timetables.

Option number four, Library, would offer a selection of audio books that could be listened to as streaming audio.

Option number five, Latest information for specific groups, could cover for example announcements from the RNIB for blind people, information for dyslexics, or information for people with a motor control disability such as cerebral palsy.

Option number six, Communication, would offer telephone lists and direct connection to a range of services including voicemail or doctors' surgeries or hospitals. The concept is that this area would be tailored to individual requirements of each person.

Option number seven, Other accessible sites, would connect to other web sites meeting the same criteria as the gateway. Again, the possibilities are endless as more sites become accessible.

Option number eight, Online games rooms, would offer accessible games like live quizzes or bingo.

Option number nine, Voice chat rooms, would be live and moderated for the most part, although the concept is basically client led. At any of the chat rooms, the moderator could allocate a room for private advice if required on a one-to-one basis. Options might include The social worker; Citizen's advice bureaux; Meet the doctor; The lawyer's forum; The Benefits session; Political forum.

Option number ten, Recorded chat, would feature recordings for people who had missed live events.

Option number eleven, Talk to the moderator, would allow service problems to be aired or new features to be requested.

Option number twelve, Radio stations, would combine access to current stations with a new dedicated 24-hour web radio station carrying content of interest to any disabled client group. The station could become a main hub or meeting place for all groups.

The TIP concept would generally use voice recognition on the client's own equipment to communicate with the service, and meaning the client could make any recognisable sound to represent a number. Other disabled groups who are unable to make any sound or movement at all, should be able to interface with the equipment through other means, eye movement or blinking come to mind, because these methods are already being used in other areas. The 'Eyetracker system' seems to be particularly effective in operating equipment for the disabled who are only able to communicate by eye movement. This would appear to be an obvious interface for the portal for any group with such severe disability. Number pads could also be used by clients who have limited movement.

The assistance of specialist societies that look after the interests of disadvantaged groups in identifying peoples' needs and helping provide the necessary hardware and software is fundamental to the whole model.

The TIP gateway is envisaged as being a server in its own right and carrying out all of its services as a stand-alone application. Integration with other servers in different fields may happen in the longer term. For example, the TIP server could integrate with a library server to allow customers access to the audio books, so when the client accessed the library from the menu of the portal, the sub-menu of the books and the streaming audio book could be downloaded from a remote server.

The portal would also be designed to enable the clients to communicate with their family or friends in whatever part of the world they may reside, opening up a world of opportunity to them. Other services such as council services might be accessed in similar ways.

The simple fact that people with severe disabilities could have better options to integrate with the outside world makes the TIP concept worthwhile. I don't believe the money required to implement these ideas would be excessive, and the improvement to the quality of life to the recipients would be immeasurable.

NOTE: Article Copyright Ken Matthews, 2004. Ken Matthews is vice- chairman of the Mid-Fife Newstape, a talking newspaper and audio magazine service for the visually impaired in Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy. Individuals or organisations interested in discussing ways of realising the TIP concept should contact him on kenmatthews@blueyonder.co.uk .

[Section Four ends].

++End Notes.


+How To Receive This Bulletin

To subscribe to this free monthly bulletin, email eab-subs@headstar.com with 'subscribe eab' in the subject header. You can list other email addresses to subscribe in the body of the message. Please encourage all your colleagues to sign up! To unsubscribe at any time, put 'unsubscribe eab' in the subject header.

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

Copyright 2004 Headstar Ltd http://www.headstar.com . The Bulletin may be reproduced as long as all parts including this copyright notice are included, and as long as people are always encouraged to subscribe with us individually by email. Please also inform the editor when you are reproducing our content. 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.headstar.com/eab is also cited.


  • Editor - Dan Jellinek
  • Deputy editor - Derek Parkinson
  • Senior reporter - Mel Poluck
  • News reporter - Julie Hill
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends].