+++E-Access Bulletin.- Issue 58, October 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: 'Chip And Pin' Bank Card System Under Fire.

High street retailers face prosecution under the Disability Discrimination Act because new 'Chip and PIN' technology being introduced across the UK may not be accessible to people with disabilities, according to Qm Group (http://www.Qmgroup.com ), a designer of public information and queue management systems.

The chip and PIN technology is designed to combat fraud by requiring customers to input a number at the point of sale instead of signing for purchases. It has currently been introduced in some 438,000 retail outlets across the UK and all retailers must adopt the technology by January 2005 if they wish to remain protected by banks against fraudulent transactions.

However, most keypads for inputting PIN numbers aren't accessible to people with disabilities, says Qm Group. They lack inclusive design features, such as display screens capable of showing large numbers and letters, keyboards with tactile markings, a "pip" on the number 5 key to provide a reference point for vision impaired people, and separate colour schemes for numerical and function keys. Qm has also criticised the physical location of keypads on counters, which it says makes them inaccessible to wheelchair users.

But the chip and PIN programme management organisation (http://www.chipandpin.co.uk ), set up by the British Retail Consortium (http://www.brc.org.uk ) and the financial clearing house APACS (http://www.apacs.org.uk ), has hit back at the Qm claims. It says it ran trials that included vision impaired people, which showed that 93 per cent of vision impaired people were happy using chip and PIN.

The organisation also says that the vast majority of keypads not only incorporate the "pip" on the number 5 key to aid navigation for blind and visually impaired users, but also have an extendable cord so they can be used below counter level by wheelchair users. It says accessibility advice was issued to all keypad manufacturers - around five firms in all - although it admits the devices do not conform to a standard design.

However Paul Snee, inclusivity manager at Qm Group, says it is this lack of conformity that is causing problems. "The cancel and clear keys are in different places on different keypads," said Snee. "Some of the keys are vertical and some are horizontal and they don't include tactile markings. This hardware marginalises and discriminates against those with disabilities."

+02: Us Disability Law Unravels Over Web.

A US court of appeal has ruled that organisations providing online services don't need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA - http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/statute.html ), adding to confusion about how anti-discrimination legislation applies to web sites in the US.

The decision, which upholds a 2002 ruling by a district judge that the ADA applies only to physical spaces and not to web sites, once again highlights ambiguities in the law, which is interpreted differently from state to state.

The lawsuit was originally filed by campaign group Access Now (http://www.adaaccessnow.org/ ) and blind web user Robert Gumson against Southwest Airlines (http://www.southwest.com ). They argued it was "extremely difficult" for vision impaired people to buy tickets on the Southwest web site, that there were no text alternatives to graphics, and that navigating the site was difficult.

In October 2002, a Florida district judge rejected the Gumson claim on the grounds that the ADA doesn't apply to web sites, and it is this decision that has been upheld by the court of appeal. However, since the original lawsuit Southwest has redesigned its web site to make it easier to use by vision impaired people.

This latest ruling follows hot on the heels of a case in August, which produced the opposite outcome, with the New York State Attorney- General forcing two high-profile leisure companies to make their web sites fully accessible after ruling that they were in violation of the ADA (see E-Access Bulletin, September 2004).

The ADA dictates that "all places of public accommodation" and "all goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodation" must be made accessible to people with disabilities. But it was made law before the internet became mainstream, and doesn't explicitly mention web sites.

There is no such ambiguity in the UK's Disability Discrimination Act and the supporting codes of practice published by the Disability Rights Commission (http://www.drc-gb.org ), which make it clear that web site owners must make their sites accessible to people with disabilities or face legal action.

+03: Online Forms Could Boost Patient Power.

Disability groups are being consulted about a service that would enable patients to supply details of their symptoms, medical history and treatment preferences online ahead of a consultation with a doctor or clinician, reducing the need for basic and often repetitive questions to be asked at each appointment.

At a meeting this month organised by the British Computer Society Disability Group (http://fastlink.headstar.com/bcs2 ), NHS policymakers met with disability groups to gauge demand for such a service, which is increasingly used by healthcare providers in the US and mainland Europe but has yet to be adopted by the health service here.

The service would prompt patients to supply information through a structured online questionnaire. "An awful lot of information could be provided in advance," said Brian Layzell of the British Computer Society. "People with disabilities could find such a service particularly useful."

Although the NHS has not committed itself to rolling out the service, Layzell is confident the government will support further tests of commercially available products. "One of the outcomes of the meeting is likely to be a pilot project launching early next year," he said.

++News in Brief:



A free CD-ROM containing new resources on eye conditions is being sent to all governments for World Sight Day on 14 October as part of the VISION 2020 global prevention of blindness plan: http://www.v2020.org/world_sight_day .


A new set of tools enabling C++ software developers to build Linux-based solutions that are accessible to screen readers has been released by software specialists Trolltech: http://fastlink.headstar.com/trolltech1 .


A guide for companies on the accessible recruitment of staff online has been published by the Employers' Forum on Disability in conjunction with the London Development Agency. 'Barrier-free e-recruitment: recruiting disabled people online' costs 15 pounds for members and 25 for non-members: http://www.barrierfree-recruitment.com/publication.htm

[Section One 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 Two: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.


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

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


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


Further to our recent discussion about problems with the Tesco supermarket's web site and credit card purchasing systems, Jonathan Tyrer of the RNIB says: "I've been using the Tesco access site for over two years now. I've had the odd problem, but on the whole I think it's a fantastic service and it annoys me when I see the sort of negative, unhelpful comments you've had in your last two issues. If people don't like it, don't use it - get a taxi and go yourself! Good luck!"

And further to the related discussion of the accessibility of the new 'Chip and PIN' credit card authentication system, Debbie Payne of Hereford responds to Danielle Cleary's account of being refused a purchase after her signatures didn't match, even though she was blind. "I'm horrified by the treatment she received. I've suffered similar discrimination in a well known high street shoe store. I was also told that my signatures didn't match, so I kicked up a stink and threatened to report the store for their treatment. For the record, I did leave the store with my shoes. However, that's by the by. The point I'd like to make, is that both Danielle and myself are a case in point in support of Chip and PIN. For heaven's sake, let's stop bleating about how difficult or not it might be, let's embrace it and look forward positively to our new freedom to shop with confidence." [Further responses to inbox@headstar.com].


In our April issue (issue 52) John Taylor wrote in to recommend a font called Tiresias LP which has been designed for people with eyesight problems. This month he adds: "This font can be purchased through: http://www.tiresias.org/fonts/ for around 30 US Dollars or so."


Following last issue's request from our reader Estelita from Derbyshire for information about accessible music resources, both Claire Gailans and D.P.M. Weerakkody, Professor of Western classics at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, write in to offer themselves as email penpals to help Estelita. Professor Weerakkody writes: "Although I teach classics (Greek and Latin), I pursue music as a hobby, and can play some keyboard and wind instruments - with mistakes."

Claire Williams writes in to suggest the web site http://www.dab.org.uk as a useful resource; and Chris McMillan says: "Estelita may like to contact the Visually Impaired Musicians Association, an organisation of blind and partially sighted musicians and music lovers. Telephone Barbara Leighton on 0208-366-6019, email: barbara.leighton@talk21.com or visit: http://www.uk-piano.org.uk/vima/


E-Access Bulletin is looking for an accessible course or training materials for one of its staff to learn Linux web programming language PHP. Has anybody used any good PHP learning resources or been on a PHP course they can recommend? Please reply to: inbox@headstar.com .


The same Estelita has a powerful suggestion for a possible series of future articles for E-Access Bulletin - for which we shall need our readers' help. She says: "I would recommend that if it is possible that you could add a short story of any disabled people who successfully reached their goal regardless of their disabilities to each issue. It will give more interest to the readers, and also it will bring encouragement or a sense of enlightenment to people who perhaps feel sorry for themselves." So if you feel you have been through a struggle whose outcome might inspire other readers of the bulletin in their own lives, or have a tale to tell of a friend or colleague who is inspirational, please write in and let us know at inbox@headstar.com .


Beryl Williams of Saskatchewan, Canada asks: "I would be interested to learn if there is UK anti-discrimination legislation, governing the banking industry, in respect to alternate formats, electronic and telephone banking services for blind, deaf/blind and partially sighted customers." Responses please to inbox@headstar.com .

And George Cassell, editor of the international publication Blind World Magazine, would be grateful for assistance or advice that readers might like to offer him on the accessibility of the title's web site: http://www.blindworld.net [Please email responses direct to George on blindworld@earthlink.net].

[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: internet TV

+12: Community Of The Futureby Mel Poluck.

AT508.com (http://www.at508.com ) is an internet TV station dedicated to Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (http://www.section508.gov/ ), the part of US law which requires US federal government agencies to make their information technology accessible to people with disabilities.

The channel provides a forum for live debate and links government agency representatives, the public, technology companies and advocacy groups, bringing together key players in the field of access technology. Webcast panel discussions allow viewers and listeners to interact with guests by email and the station also covers major events such as the international assistive technology conference 'CSUN' (http://www.csun.edu/cod/conf/ ).

According to Dave Gardy, chief executive of the station's creator TV Worldwide (http://www.tvworldwide.com ), the service has grown into one of the most active of their 20 internet television stations.

AT508.com founder and technology journalist John Williams first approached Gardy about starting up the channel after he started receiving enquiries about the new legislation. "I saw the deed on 508 become closer to becoming law [and] started to get a lot of calls and emails asking me questions about 508," Williams says.

Launched two years ago at the World Congress on Disabilities (http://www.wcdexpo.com ) in Florida, Gardy says webcasts regularly receive around 30,000 viewers and listeners and up to 200 emails per webcast. With around five per cent of content available only by pay- per-view, most of the site is free to access, with the service gaining most of its revenue from corporate sponsorship.

There are three main advantages of web broadcasting compared with TV or radio broadcasting, Gardy says: "The distinct advantages are the interactivity; the archivability and most importantly, the community."

A hot topic currently under discussion on the channel is the effects of the law on the IT giants. "They are frustrated because several [government] agencies are not enforcing it. Businesses supported 508 in the belief that once they showed the will to support 508, the administration would, then there would be a trickle-down effect," Williams says.

But channel AT508.com webcasts are not always free of controversy. "There have been shows that have not pleased the government," Williams says. "But that's OK, because the government has to be taken to task when it doesn't do its job."

Last year, Williams and Gardy planned a show with representatives from federal government and the American Association of People with Disabilities (http://www.aapd-dc.org ). "Our aim was to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of Section 508. We got a lot of calls from government and businesses," he says. Specifically the team were warned that strong criticisms of government or business could lose the channel goodwill and support.

"We sat down and I said let's do this. We can't afford to buckle, that goes against everything democracy stands for. We got a lot of feedback from government listeners [who] said they liked it. They liked the fact we weren't ducking issues," Williams says. However, the White House called Williams to tell him they disapproved.

One major annoyance for Williams is that few government departments take a strong approach to compliance, and no single agency is given responsibility for enforcing Section 508. "[The Department of Homeland Security] could be role models for enforcing 508," he says. "Some departments within federal agencies were enforcing 508 and most were not." This, he said, inspired yet another show.

"It's an emerging field which is probably still in its embryonic stages, but one of these days, it's just going to zoom," Williams says. "I think you'll see that in the next five years." It seems as if the panellists will have plenty to talk about on AT508.com for some time to come.

[Section Three ends].

++Section Four: Web Standards- HTML.


+13: Strict Standards Make Accessible Sitesby Jim Byrne.

There have been many different versions of Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) since the World Wide Web was invented in the early 1990s by Tim Berners-Lee. The rules for each version are encapsulated in the standards published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

The standards dictate the tags publishers are allowed to use, and in what order, and how those tags should be interpreted by browsers. For example, text within header tags are interpreted as headings, text within paragraph tags are interpreted as paragraphs, and so on.

It is said, usually with irony, that the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from, and in this case it is quite true. However, if you are beginner, you won't go far wrong if you decide to use the latest and final version of HTML released by the W3C, which is known as HTML 4.01 Strict. This is a good standard to adopt as it will never change, giving a solid, reliable way to mark up your pages that web browsers will understand for a good while yet.

The 'Strict' part of the name means that you should not use tags and attributes that are no longer part of the final HTML standard. The jargon used when referring to these non-standard tags and attributes is 'deprecated'. Staying away from deprecated tags and attributes removes a few more potential barriers to accessibility for your visitors.

Using HTML in a standard way means you have to put the correct tags around the appropriate document structures. Headings should be marked up using heading tags, lists should be marked up using list tags, passages of quotation should be marked up with the blockquote element, and so on. The W3C provide a free validation tool to check whether your document is valid HTML: http://validator.w3.org/ .

Once a document has been created using standard HTML you can alter the way it is presented by using different 'style sheets' in much the same way you can alter the look of the text in a Microsoft Word document. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) contain information to set, among other things, the size and colour of headings, the justification of text, the layout of the page, and so on. In other words CSS should be used to provide information about how the page looks for visual users, and in more general terms, how it is presented to different types of user and 'user agents', such as browsers for example.

HTML should ideally be used only to markup the structure of your document, indicating what bits are headings, paragraphs, list, quotes, and so on, with CSS being used to determine how the document looks. By separating structure from presentation you are creating more flexible pages because a given user can then apply their own style sheet so that the content is presented in a way that suits their needs. On pages that do not use standard markup, style sheets may not work as expected.

Using standard Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) ensures that your pages will work on the widest range of hardware and software, including screen readers, for example. Pages using standard markup will also work more consistently on a wider range of browsers.

Further developments such as XHTML aim to provide more flexible and intelligent ways of adding labels to your web published documents. XHTML, for example, makes it easier for computers to process and transform documents into different formats. If you are a more experienced coder and you have the tools to ensure that you don't make mistakes when marking up documents, you may prefer to use XHTML 1 Strict. Adopting this more up-to-date standard will assist with accessibility, and help to 'future-proof' your pages.

NOTE: Jim Byrne has been an accessible web design consultant since 1996. He is a web designer, LAMP Web applications developer, author and founder of the Guild of Accessible Web Designers. The original version of this article can be found at: http://www.gawds.org/show.php?contentid=104 .

[Section Four ends].



+How To Receive This Bulletin

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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].