+++E-Access Bulletin.- Issue 71, November 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/ .

++Sponsored Notice: Win An UltraCane on VIP On Air.


This week and next VIP On Air, the internet radio station for blind people, is running a competition to win an UltraCane, the award-winning hi-tech mobility device from Sound Foresight.

To win you need to answer a question which will be repeated on the station's 12 - 2 show each day, with all correct respondents being entered into a draw to take place on 2 December on the same early afternoon programme.

Try your luck by listening in at: http://www.viponair.com .

[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Bbc Launches Free Online Web Customisation Resource.

A free online resource helping people with disabilities to access the internet by customising their computer, mouse and keyboard to their individual needs has been launched by the BBC.

'My web my way' (http://www.bbc.co.uk/accessibility/ ), provides advice in non-technical language on how to use the built-in accessibility features of the three main computer operating systems Windows, Apple Macintosh and Linux. The resource also provides information on add-on assistive technologies.

The service is aimed at people with sensory, motor, and cognitive disabilities of all kinds including "those people with minor vision impairments who would not consider themselves to have a disability," the site says.

"We're finding a wider range of people would benefit. The site is designed for anybody that needs an adjustment in their browser," said Jon Gooday, senior consultant at accessibility charity AbilityNet, which helped the BBC develop the site based on AbilityNet's own similar online resource 'My computer my way' ( http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/myway/ ).

As part of a plan for future improvements, the site intends to provide information in audible format. Feedback from users is encouraged to help suggest further improvements.

+02: 'Large Gap' Between Electronic Goods Makers And Users.

There is still a "very large gap" between manufacturers of electronic consumer goods and the needs of users with disabilities, delegates heard at last month's European eAccessibility conference hosted in London by the UK Presidency of the European Union.

"It is clear manufacturers need partnership advice and help to deliver requirements," Neil Thomas from the Royal National Institute of the Deaf (RNID) told the conference (http://fastlink.headstar.com/eur3 ).

Thomas said that manufacturers, users and standards producers must work jointly to improve the accessibility of mainstream electronic goods and services to combat the frustration experienced by people with a disability when using everyday devices such as washing machines and mobile phones. There is also a lack of information on product accessibility to disabled users, he said.

Steve Tyler, Senior Strategic Manager for Digital Technology at RNIB, said manuals for consumer goods from mobile phones to washing machines must be provided in accessible alternative formats. This would be "an easy win" for manufacturers, he said.

The conference covered the accessibility of electronic goods and services across Europe, setting out an action plan across member states. Countries will reconvene in two years' time to discuss progress.

+03: Irish Charity Opens Centre For Inclusive Technology.

A new agency offering technology users advice on accessible products and services, and bringing them into closer contact with designers and developers, has been opened by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI).

The NCBI Centre for Inclusive Technology ( CFIT - http://www.cfit.ie/ ) has launched a web site with information on how people with disabilities use technologies and the problems they face, advice for consumers, and guidance on the accessibility of web sites and digital formats such as PDF. The centre's work will cover a broad range of technologies, from accessible cash dispensers to digital TV and the web, its director Dr Mark Magennis told E-Access Bulletin.

Further initiatives planned by the centre, subject to government funding being released, include a two-year project to improve communication between end- users and developers of products and services. "We hope to set up developer forums, in a similar way to BrailleNet in France," Magennis said. CFIT also hopes to win government support for a smaller project that will explore how blogs for blind people can help strengthen communities, he said.

Later this next month the centre will also learn if it has been successful in a bid for funding from the European Commission to develop metadata for digital TV content, as part of the commission's eContentplus programme ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/eur4 ).

+04: New Internet Radio Station For Visually Impaired Listeners.

Blind internet users have a new source of information and entertainment following the launch last month of blueIRIS ( http://www.blueIRIS.info ), a free online radio station for vision-impaired people based in Blackpool, Lancashire. The service, launched by Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Society for the Blind, aims to deliver programmes reflecting both local and national interests.

The blueIRIS team are in negotiations with publishers to provide content for a talking books service, with a deal having already been reached to broadcast the best-selling Dan Brown novel 'The Da Vinci Code'. A more local flavour will be provided by the North West Sound Archive, which has donated material on the history of the Fylde Coast, including content recorded by BBC Radio Lancashire. At present, up to four hours of material is broadcast daily, including local news and issues, and a listing service for local events.

Users can access the service with computers running either Microsoft Windows or Apple Macintosh operating systems, and with a broadband connection. The blueIRIS service grew out of a pilot project launched earlier this year, which was tested by 15 users aged between 20 and 80 years old with varying degrees of vision and computer literacy.

The majority of the 150,000 pounds needed for the project has been provided by the Lancashire Digital Development Agency, an organisation funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency to promote take-up of broadband. Other partners in the project include Blackpool Council, Ultralab, Rural Surround and Interface IT Services.

++News in Brief:


+05: Awards Open:

Bids have been invited for a prize of 240,000 euros in the biennial research and development award for new technologies for the blind and visually impaired, run by Spanish national blindness organisation ONCE. Entries must be submitted by 30 June 2006: http://www.once.es/otros/premios/imasd .

+06: Reading Aloud:

A software package aimed at print-impaired schoolchildren has been released, providing text-to-speech output for on-screen information to help children with spelling, reading and writing. The Dolphin Tutor, from assistive technology company Dolphin, works with Microsoft applications such as Word, Excel and Internet Explorer: http://www.dolphinuk.co.uk/education/products/tutor.htm .

+07: Deafblind Forum A discussion list on issues relating to accessibletechnology for deafblind people has been launched by Western Oregon University in the US. 'Deafblindtecchies.com' offers an open forum for technical support and sharing advice on devices. To subscribe, email: DBTECHIES-subscribe-request@TR.WOU.EDU .

+08: Glasgow Guide:

Feedback is sought on a pilot audible city guide to Glasgow in Scotland, covering selected public buildings, streets and stations. The service, from Describe Online with Glasgow City Council, can be accessed or downloaded over the web, with guides available in all audible formats including mp3 and over the phone: http://www.describe-online.com/glasgow/ .

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


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

+09: Hostile Features:

Gerald Weichbrodt writes in response to our survey (October issue) which found low accessibility awareness among technology suppliers. "The comments regarding accessibility features being offered in a cloak and dagger fashion really struck a chord. We are told that our population is ageing and that visual limitations will be a factor for a larger number of people. However, if you try to find a modern telephone sporting a host of features, usually either the manufacturer has nothing to offer for those of us who can't see the display, or they used to have one obscure model with such features but discontinued it due to lack of interest.

"Probe a little deeper, and you find that the specialised model was never really marketed widely. Also, the special model wasn't made available in showrooms, so nobody could walk in off the street and try it. It would have to be ordered, unseen, and probably with a long lead time. How on earth can a product with accessibility features succeed if it's produced and marketed in such a way?

"If accessible products have a track record like this, then that just sets a precedent for accessible products not being profitable. Meanwhile, the trend is away from controls with direct tactile feedback toward visual menus and other blind-hostile interfaces to the point where it just isn't fun to shop for consumer gadgetry anymore.

"I eagerly await the day when accessibility becomes a selling point and not just an obscure gimmick that nobody takes seriously as a source of market advantage." [Responses please to inbox@heastar.com]

+10: Colour Insight:

Michael Crossland, Senior Research Optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London writes in response to John Starbuck's request in our last issue for colour vision test sites. "The Ishihara colour vision test is widely available, even from Amazon.co.uk: http://fastlink.headstar.com/col1 .

Web-based colour vision tests should be treated with caution as the tests are invalid unless performed under the correct type of lighting and screens may not render the colours correctly. The site you link to is also very likely to infringe copyright.

"There are many other better colour vision tests available, such as the City University test and the Farsworth-Munsell tests. The easiest way to have colour vision tested efficiently is to ask your local optometrist or university school of optometry." [Responses please to inbox@headstar.com]

+11: Skype's Limits:

Chris McMillan from Reading in the UK writes in response to Nick Apostolidis's feature on Skype internet telephony, published in our September issue, which said sound quality is far superior to a normal telephone. "I personally would disagree with this," writes Chris. "Much depends on the quality of the phone line involved and the person you're talking to. I am not a telephone expert, but I find the further one is away from a large town, the poorer the quality of the line.

"For international calls, 'computer to computer', it will only work on another computer elsewhere in the world if they have true broadband capability, so the visually impaired worldwide are not yet able to take advantage of what we are now beginning to take for granted. I haven't yet rung up anyone on a landline from Skype outside the UK to test how well it works.

"There are improvements that could be made. Skype ought to look seriously at their font colour for those who use magnification. Sky blue is not the best colour for the vision impaired, and would be rubbish for anyone who is blue colourblind." [Responses please to inbox@headstar.com].

+12: Podcast News:

Chris McMillan also writes to tell readers about a web site that makes audio books available via podcasting, called Librivox: http://librivox.org/ . It is an open source service aiming to make all books in the public domain available for free online in audio format. Volunteers record chapters of books in digital format, then catalogue and podcast them. "The web site is a bit informal still, but I think its aim is similar to the non-profit service 'Bookshare' (http://www.bookshare.org ), writes Chris. [responses please 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 Three - Conference report- UK Presidency eAccessibility conference.


+13: Demand For Accessible Supplyby Mel Poluck.

"Would a barman want a fifth of his customers not buying drinks?"

This was the question posed by Richard Howitt MEP, president of the All Party Disability Intergroup for the European Parliament, to delegates at last month's conference on eAccessibility hosted by the UK presidency of the European Commission ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/eur2 ).

Howitt's point was that a fifth of the population of Europe has a disability, but member state governments had yet to take a concerted stand to address their accessibility needs.

The event centred around the recently published EU Communication on eAccessibility ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/eur5 ), which suggests three "policy actions" for member states to focus on: accessibility requirements in public sector procurement, better use of existing legislation and accessibility certification.

But Howitt warned governments of the danger of this voluntary approach. "If in two years we're going to have another set of studies and a set of dialogues, you risk losing the confidence of the European Parliament and the citizens of Europe," he said.

"Access to ICTs by people with a disability must be recognised first and foremost as a rights issue," said Professor Rodolfo Cattani, board member of the European Disability Forum. "Legislation is the best means to support and protect the rights of disabled people," he said.

But before legislation can be considered, the importance of accessibility must be more firmly grasped by the manufacturers of technology. "Positive advances in mainstream technology have come about more by chance than an intention to meet disabled people's needs. It is still regarded by the ICT industry as a side issue," Cattani said.

Delegates heard that by 2030, the over-60 age group will comprise 30 per cent of Europeans, further increasing the population of people with a disability. But manufacturers continue to ignore the issue, they heard.

"For large manufacturers there will be times when the size of the market will not be big enough to make [accessibility] a business priority," James Page, Manager of Radio Regulations at mobile phone company Nokia UK told delegates, although he added Nokia would be "foolish" not to consider the needs of all consumers.

And the view of accessibility as a specialist issue may not be restricted to the technology industry, according to IBM's director of accessibility for Europe and the Middle East, Dr Wilfredo Ferre. "From experience talking to customers in the private sector, when you try to convince them to be accessible, their reaction is 'what is accessibility?' They see it as a niche issue."

The European Commission is set to evaluate the outcome of the proposals laid out in its Communication in two years' time and will create new legislation "if deemed necessary," it says. In the meantime, the answer to increased understanding of the importance of accessibility and to speed up wider implementation, according to Ferre, is a partnership approach between citizens, industry and government. And for this, he said, "the industry stands ready to play its part."

[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 - TechnologyWeb Content Accessibility Guidelines.


+14: The Human Touchby Alastair Campbell.

The accessibility of a web site can be measured at various stages throughout its development, against the international World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines ( WCAG - http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/ ), so it helps to know which accessibility issues are best dealt with at which stage.

The most important stage for accessibility is during template development, where the general code that will be produced is decided. These templates form the foundation from which all the pages on the site will be made, and this is where the most WCAG checkpoints are accounted for. Tools such as the W3C's validator and accessibility tools are useful at this stage, but many items still require human checks to see what is appropriate.

The process of integrating accessible templates into a product or system, such as a content management system (CMS), can be very difficult. Often there are times when certain aspects are "hard-coded", so it would involve changing how a system works to produce valid and accessible code. Occasionally it is not possible to replicate templates exactly.

However, it is vital to check at the end of this stage that the templates have been integrated successfully. It is best to do a complete accessibility and code check on a representative sample of pages, and run automated checks on the entire site to see if any other errors come up. When templates are used, the only errors that occur tend to be replicated across many or all pages.

Once the site has been confirmed as being completely accessible at this stage, the only thing that can go wrong now is the content. Automated tools will check a page for many items, but it is important to understand how much of each checkpoint an automated tool can realistically check for.

Of the 65 WCAG version 1 checkpoints, there are five checkpoints that can be fully assessed by an automated process, and which are actually better assessed automatically. These are checkpoint 3.2, which checks for valid code; checkpoint 4.3, which identifies the language of a document; checkpoint 9.1, which warns against server-side image maps; checkpoint 11.2, which deals with deprecated HTML elements; and checkpoint 12.4, which checks that labels are associated with their controls in the code.

Another eight checkpoints can be partially assessed by automated tools. These are checkpoint 1.1, where automated tools can check for the existence, but not for suitability of alternative text; checkpoint 3.4, where the existence of non- relative units can be confirmed, but not whether they make a difference to display; and checkpoints 6.3 and 9.3, which ensure pages work without scripts. Automated tools can check for scripts, but not whether the page works for a user.

These tools can also help with checkpoint 6.4, which deals with mouse or keyboard only scripts, but not whether they actually work for people; and checkpoints 7.4 and 7.5, which deal with automatically refreshing or redirecting pages. Some of these can be detected with automated tools, but there are many possible ways that they may escape detection.

Checkpoint 13 checks whether link text such as 'click here' is repeated for links to different pages, or if the same page is linked to by different text. However, many instances found by checkers do not affect people.

Automated tools can be used at the pre-launch stage to check across many pages, as user-checks have been performed already. However, some things, such as relevance of alternative text, will never be machine-checkable. These issues account for 13 of the 65 checkpoints. The point is that there are many things that cannot be confirmed by an automated process.

Once the templates are tried and tested, and the CMS is in full swing, there are several checkpoints that often come up when a site is reviewed. For example, whether links to the same page have different link text; whether links are not separated; or headings are not nested correctly.

These are common examples from our experience of relatively minor accessibility issues that are often best found by an accessibility testing tool that 'spiders' a site, checking every page within a specified domain. Content issues such as alternative text have to be checked by people, and training the authors is the most effective measure.

Many accessibility issues will be identified during the template stage. Working to resolve them at this point in the development cycle will prevent more resource intensive resolution attempts farther down the line. Quality assurance and automated tools both play a part in the latter stages of the development cycle, but more often than not they will identify issues too late for them to be resolved satisfactorily.

Formulating a clear strategy, based on knowing where and when to test for accessibility issues, combined with the right tools, the right training and a good quality assurance process, is the key to a successful development project.

NOTE: Alastair Campbell is Technical Director at Nomensa (http://www.nomensa.com ).

[Section Four ends].

++End Notes.



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 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
  • Technical advisor - Nick Apostolidis
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends].