+++E-Access Bulletin.- Issue 65, May 2005.

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/ .

If you are a journalist interested in access technology issues and would like to be added to our specialist press list, please email Mel Poluck on mel@headstar.com .

++Special Notice:- E-Government for All: Planning for Accessibility - 25 May, Urbis Conference Centre, Manchester http://headstar-events.com/accessibility/.


With the Disability Discrimination Act in full force there is a legal as well as a moral imperative for all e-government services to be accessible to all users. Our sister publication E-Government Bulletin presents a seminar where experts in the field will provide guidance on creating accessible e-government services that need not be costly to produce. Speakers include Shuna Kennedy, Chief Executive, AbilityNet; Jenny van Tinteren, Head of Accessibility Solutions, Job Centre Plus; Paul Blenkhorn, Professor of Assistive Technology, University of Manchester; and Jackie Driver, Service Improvement and Inclusion Team, Manchester City Council. The event is sponsored by Browsealoud. For more see: http://headstar-events.com/accessibility/ .

[Special Notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Dolphin 'Pen' Allows Pc Users To Carry Settings With Them.

Users of computer accessibility products from Dolphin Computer Access will be able to load their preferred settings for screen readers and magnifiers onto any PC using a new memory 'pen' device which launches this month (http://fastlink.headstar.com/pendrive1 ).

The Dolphin Pen is similar in appearance to memory sticks commonly used to store content or applications, and plugs into a computer's Universal Serial Bus (USB) port.

The company claims this is a first in the world of access technology. "I'm not aware of anyone else in the world who has done this. I expect others will follow," marketing manager Steve Hawkes told E-Access Bulletin.

According to Hawkes, the Dolphin Pen could save users a great deal of time and effort. "Currently, if a person wants to use a PC in a library, for example, they will often find that the magnification or speech output isn't right for them. It could take up to half an hour to configure it for their needs," he said.

To ensure full compatibility with the stick, computers need to download Dolphin's Interceptor software, which is available free on the web (http://fastlink.headstar.com/dolphin1 ). The Dolphin Pen works with the company's Supernova, Hal, LunarPlus and Lunar screenreader, magnifier and Braille products.

+02: New Apple Operating System Has Built-In Screen-Reader.

Apple computer users can access email, web sites, and word processing using a built-in text-to-speech translator as part of the new version of Apple's OS X operating system codenamed 'Tiger' launched last month.

The 'VoiceOver' translator (http://fastlink.headstar.com/tiger1 ) is compatible with the email application 'Tiger Mail 2'; 'Safari', a desktop tool for setting up live feeds of news and information; and 'Preview', a suite for reading and producing documents in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF).

As well as reading file contents, VoiceOver also provides spoken descriptions of keyboard commands, enabling users to navigate and interact with application and system controls. According to Apple, the system provides easy access to buttons, sliders, and check boxes, for example.

The technology is designed to start up right away, giving new users the ability to begin using the products without help from a sighted person. VoiceOver is activated by a 'Command-F5' instruction, triggering an audible prompt which tells users how to get started, and the names and location of keys on the Apple keyboard.

VoiceOver also offers new levels of customisation, providing users with the ability to tweak the audio output according to what works best for them. For example, a single voice can be assigned for every spoken description or unique voices to different types of information, helping users distinguish by whether they are listening to content or commands; the status, type, or attributes of a file; or the VoiceOver menu.

There are a number of ways that the visual display can be adjusted too. For example, VoiceOver provides screen magnification options, and also includes an on-screen menu and caption panel so sighted users can see what users hear. Sighted users can also practice using VoiceOver with a feature that temporarily darkens the screen.

Note: For new accessibility features planned for Microsoft Windows, see Interview, Section Four, this issue.

+03: Web Access Guidance Is First Step To British Standard.

The first steps towards the development of a British Standard for web accessibility have been taken by the British Standards Institution, with the release of a 'Publicly Available Specification' (PAS) for consultation.

The guidelines will attempt to remind web developers of the importance of web standards; set international web accessibility guidelines in a UK context; and clarify areas of confusion such as the proper role of automated tools and how and when to involve disabled people in site design.

Consultation will be open to government departments, manufacturers and industry bodies. The guidelines will then be examined by a steering committee comprised of accessibility experts, who can make amendments, before publication at the end of the Summer. A final review process could see the guidelines qualify to become a fully- fledged British Standard in two to three years' time.

The initiative was set in motion by the Disability Rights Commission (DRC) after its 2004 report 'The Web: Access and Inclusion for Disabled People' found a lack of knowledge in the area and shortcomings in current international standards (http://www.drc- gb.org/newsroom/newsdetails.asp?id=633§ion=1).

The DRC report found, of 1,000 British websites, 81 per cent failed to meet basic criteria for conformance to web accessibility guidelines (see E-Access Bulletin, Issue 52, April 2004).

+04: Accessible Quake Developers Seek Testers.

Developers of software allowing vision-impaired players to play the mainstream computer game 'Quake,' are seeking volunteer testers ahead of its launch.

Audio Quake provides a layer of sound effects to be used in conjunction with the celebrated game, in which players control a character whose mission is to destroy monsters in various environments.

Audio signals such as the sound of gusts of wind rushing around give clues to vision-impaired players about what size space they are in for example, and bleeping sounds crescendo in speed and volume according to players' distance from the enemy.

The software for Audio Quake, which is open source, can be downloaded from the site of the Accessible Gaming Rendering Independence Possible project (Agrip - http://www.agrip.org.uk ). To use it, users must first obtain Quake, or a shortened shareware version of the game which can also be freely downloaded from the Agrip site.

The next step, say developers Matthew Atkinson, undergraduate at Loughborough University and Sabahattin Gucukoglu, accessible games developer, is to design a facility to allow vision-impaired players to create their own levels.

Players' views will feed into the final version of the multiplayer game which is due to be launched at this year's Sight Village exhibition in July (http://www.qac.ac.uk/sightvillage/6-1.html ).

++News in Brief:


+05: Web Words:

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead has won the Museums Libraries and Archives' Jodi Mattes Accessibility Awards 'Excellence award' for its web site Webwords, which offers audio extracts from 500 books and allows users to choose the narrator for each title: http://www.webwords.org/ .

+06: Political Broadcast:

The workings of the European Parliament including debates by MEPs can now be accessed on the web in free monthly half-hour broadcasts. The first broadcast features topics ensuing from the recent visit to Europe by George Bush as well as interviews with UK-based MEPs: http://www.epaudiobook.com .

+07: Open Invitation:

The Open Source Access Technology Project (OSAT) has been launched to boost the development of free or low- cost open source access software. The project has started up an email discussion list and is open to all regardless of background or technical expertise: http://fastlink.headstar.com/osat1 .

+08: International Access:

A European project to investigate ways of improving internet accessibility for vision-impaired people has gone live. ENABLED, led by Queens University Belfast with 12 other organisations, will also focus on wireless networking and mobile computing. It has been awarded 3.8 million Euros funding for three years: http://www.enabledweb.org/ .

[Section One ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Open Skies With Traveleyes.


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Need a holiday? There are a few places still available on the next Traveleyes trip to explore the memorable beauty of the Andalucian countryside, accompanied by traditional food and wine. Date: 25 June to 2 July. For further information, please contact Traveleyes on 08709 220 221 or visit: http://www.traveleyes.co.uk .

[Sponsored Notice ends].

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


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

+09: Higher Education:

Helen Doherty from the Leeds Centre for Integrated Living in the UK writes in response to a query last issue from Alan Magson from Age Concern Bradford about possible funding for a 93-year-old vision-impaired lady he is training.

"The providers that I am aware of are Keighley Blind Association (http://www.keighleyblind.org/ ) which has IT support and Dewsbury College which is well resourced and has well trained staff. [Also] 'Guide' produced by Software Express (http://www.softwareexpress.co.uk ) looks as if it would be suitable for beginners."

Sue Allard, co-editor of a magazine called Modern-Eyes writes: "I have produced a step-by-step guide to using screen readers, magnifiers, Supernova, hot keys, basic word processing and basic emailing.

"The guide is designed for anyone who is new to computing or coming to computing after becoming vision impaired and having to 'start again'. It contains the book in large print, on tape and as text files on a disk. I have to sell the pack as it costs me about 55 pounds to produce. This may be of use to your reader."

Ron Sears from Oxford, who helps run Vision Impaired Visually Active (VIVA) writes: "Although Jaws is a very expensive screen reader, I have recently bought a subscription to the Freedom Box (http://www.freedomboxx.info ) with system access. This is a very easy system costing about 97 dollars [payable each year], it has speech access and you can do the same things as you can with a more expensive system."

[Responses to inbox@headstar.com please]

+10: Braille Bosanova:

Last issue, Marta Gil, manager of the SACI Network, a disability organisation at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, wrote in asking for advice on software to translate musical scores to Braille in Portuguese for a blind student.

Bill McCann, founder of Dancing Dots Braille Music Technology in Pennsylvania, US says his company's Goodfeel 2.6 Braille Music Translator (http://www.dancingdots.com/democddl.htm ) creates Braille scores.

"One can scan a printed score, listen to the PC perform the music, correct and edit the results and pass them on to Goodfeel which applies the rules of Braille music transcription and produces a hard copy or electronic Braille score.

"Dancing Dots anticipates release of Goodfeel 3 in Spring 2006. It will have many new capabilities including transcription of commercial music formats like Sibelius and Finale, a talking score option and improved methods to transcribe music theory and method books using optional integration with the Duxbury literary Braille translator." Multilingual versions are also in development.

Jos Sprenkels from the Netherlands adds: "The Dutch FNB Music department in the Netherlands [helps translate music] to Braille or Daisy format. For more information please contact them on: http://www.fnb.nl ."

[Further responses please to inbox@headstar.com]

+11: Blank Spots: Sisi Eli from Israel writes:

"After upgrading the Jaws version on my PC to 6.1, I encountered a problem with MSN Messenger. In the conversation window the screen reader goes silent. I get no voice or Braille feedback from the messages written by my contacts and myself, there's no ticking sound when my contact writes a message and there's no 'so and so says.'

"The problem happens with MSN versions 6.2 and 7.0. I bypass the problem by using Windows Messenger but I'd rather fix it if possible. Does anybody know of a Jaws script for MSN 7? I tried to reinstall the script I used before upgrading the Jaws version but it made no difference. Maximising the conversation window doesn't help either. Any advice will be greatly appreciated."

[Responses please to to inbox@headstar.com]

[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 Two - Conference Report- Vision 2005.


+12: Doing Nothing On Equality Is No Longer An Optionby Mel Poluck.

"We want to contribute to society and breaking down barriers in the workplace is a good place to start," Disability Rights Commission chairman Bert Massie told delegates at last month's international conference hosted by the RNIB, Vision 2005 (http://www.rnib.org.uk/vision2005 ).

The DRC (http://www.drc-gb.org/ ) was established by Parliament five years ago and represents people with a disability who have suffered discriminated in access to employment, education or goods and services.

Massie was critical of the current British system for awarding subsidised access equipment, including electronic devices, to people with a disability according to why they need it - such as with the Department for Work and Pensions' 'Access to Work' scheme - rather than simply what they need to function.

This meant for example that it would be hard for him to obtain a subsidised wheelchair unless he had a job, Massie said.

"Too much of our system is tied to employment," Massie said. "But a wheelchair doesn't know if you're in a shop or at work. It should never be less expensive to discriminate than not to do so. We need to get round to a system [that] gives you the equipment you need: but we're a long way from it. In Scandinavia they do it a lot better," he said.

Providing a service that people with a disability need regardless of any qualification such as employment ties in with web site accessibility, an area in which the DRC are leading the way, Massie said.

Last year's DRC investigation into web site accessibility uncovered a massive failure rate: some 80 per cent of the 1,000 pages tested did not reach the most basic accessibility standards. But this has inspired an ambitious project.

"We are now working with the British Standards Institution with a view to new [web site] guidance being issued," Massie said (see story 03, Section One, this issue).

Coincidentally, Massie was addressing delegates at Vision 2005 on the day changes to the Disability Discrimination Act went to the House of Commons for debate. The changes resulting from this mean from next year it will be unlawful to treat people with a disability less favourably, said Massie, and in terms of accessible service provision, the law will be extended to cover service provision on board public transport for the first time.

Local and central government will not only be obliged not to discriminate against people, but to promote equality of disabled people, Massie said. "Doing nothing will not be an option."

[Section Three ends].

++Special Notice: Braille Translations.


Braille Translations provides a fast, cost-effective, high quality service of translating any document into Braille. We are able to provide Braille menus, public leaflets and business cards in Braille and help make you compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. We can translate from large print, audio tape or audio CD.

We can also help with premises accessibility including Braille Tactile Signs for toilets and other doors.

All work is proof-read before dispatch and we are able to provide an express 24-hour service. Please call our offices for an immediate quotation or for further information on Freephone number 08000 190 946; Mobile: 07903 996533; email ghow@brailletranslations.co.uk or see: http://www.brailletranslations.co.uk .

[Special notice ends].

++Section Four: Interview- Rob Haverty.


+13: Tying Down Longhornby Derek Parkinson.

The planned 2006 release for the next version of Windows, codenamed 'Longhorn', will affect enormous numbers of computer owners. But for people with disabilities, it is of particular interest - a chance for Microsoft to build in some new accessibility features to the world's leading operating system which will make their life easier and shift the accessibility agenda further into the mainstream.

Rob Haverty of Microsoft's Accessible Technology Group (http://www.microsoft.com/enable/ ) was in Europe last month to promote this agenda, and he met E-Access Bulletin to explain more.

Formerly focused on product development, Haverty is now responsible for promoting the accessibility agenda within Microsoft. In this capacity he is also tasked with building links with assistive technology developers and other relevant interest groups.

Taking the user's perspective has always been a feature of his work, he says. "Before I moved into accessibility I worked in software test engineering, so I've always been focused on the needs of the user," he says. A major reason for Haverty's visit to Europe was to meet with Microsoft's research teams here, and help co-ordinate the company's response to new EU legislation.

"In the US, [the anti-discrimination law] Section 508 gave a strong focus to our work on accessibility, and we're now seeing similar legislation coming into effect here. Our strategy must take account of European legislation," he says. Another driving force is the much- discussed aging population issue, seen across the industrialised world. "A study carried out in 2003 showed that of adults aged between 18 and 64 in the US, 17 per cent were very likely to benefit from accessible technology, and 40 per cent were likely to benefit," he says. All of which means that accessibility is high on the Microsoft agenda.

So does that mean that Longhorn will boast the kind of text to speech facilities found in 'Tiger', the latest Apple operating system (see story 02, this issue)? The short answer is no, because it doesn't fit the Microsoft strategy, Haverty says. The company is keen to draw a distinction between areas where specialist assistive technology developers can make their contribution, and developing products with a degree of accessibility built in. "If Microsoft decided to move into assistive technology many of these specialist developers would go out of business quite quickly, and we don't want to do that," he says.

So Longhorn will include a text to speech engine similar to that found in Narrator, the product currently integrated into XP, he says. Compared with screen readers such as Jaws, Narrator can seem quite basic, but Haverty warns against simple comparisons. "It's unhelpful to think of Narrator as a screen reader, it can create confusion," he says. Microsoft is keen to see accessibility in a wider context. "We're moving away from thinking about accessibility as a niche thing towards making computers easier to use generally," he says.

Along with the text-to-speech engine found in Narrator, Longhorn will also inherit the magnification, on-screen keyboard and sticky key functionality found in Windows XP. So far, so familiar, but where Longhorn will differ is in the way it learns about user preferences, and in the tools available to assistive technology developers. There will be less need to dig through layers of menus to change settings, says Haverty. Instead, new users will be prompted to tell Longhorn something about themselves when they first use the machine, and the system will track user behaviour afterwards, suggesting options when appropriate.

But the most important development with Longhorn will undoubtedly be its interface for developers, containing the "hooks" needed to link text and rich media output with devices such as screen readers. The old interface, Microsoft Active Accessibility (MAA) proved difficult to use for many developers, and is to be scrapped. In its place will come User Interface (UI) automation. This aims to provide a clear and consistent route for developers to access information such as where a button is located on a screen, what text is displayed with it, and what the button does, for example. User controls and displays such as these are stored as objects and properties, all linked together in a single tree structure.

According to Haverty, the new UI tools should provide developers with easier access and more power to tailor interactions to the needs of users. "Our concern is that in the past, assistive technology vendors spent too much time trying to find the information they need rather than on developing products. We hope Longhorn will change that."

[Section Four ends].

++End Notes.



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

Copyright 2005 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 bulletin 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
  • Technician - Nick Apostolidis
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends].