+++E-Access Bulletin.- Issue 69, September 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: The Xerox Copier Assistant- Digital Copying Made Accessible.


The new Xerox Copier Assistant - available from your local Xerox representative from 1 October - makes it easier for people who are visually impaired, blind or have limited dexterity to operate a Xerox digital copier without assistance from others.

The system provides an alternative to commonly-found touch screen controls which can be a barrier to many people with disabilities. An enlarged on-screen user interface, keyboard navigation buttons including tab, arrow and function keys assist usability as does the text- to-speech software, which talks the user through the copying steps, including advanced features such as collating.

A range of adaptive technology solutions may be used with the Xerox Copier Assistant to further broaden accessibility such as touch- sensitive keyboards, high visibility keyboards, foot pedal and ergonomic mouse variants.

[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Issue 69 Contents.

  1. Section One: News.
  2. 01: Football Clubs to Test Audio Description - first co-ordinated effort begins.
  3. 02: Minister Announces Support for Digital TV Switchover - but RNIB and Ofcom consumer panel want more.
  4. 03: Accesskeys Needs Standards, Report Finds - how to boost take-up of underused navigation tool.
  5. 04: Online Educational Games for Children Launch - free games for young learners. News in Brief:
  6. 05: Location, Location - GPS forum launch; 06: Legislation Call -
  7. European a-accessibility communication;
  8. 06: European a-accessibility communication; 07:
  9. 07: DVD.
  10. Section Two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' Forum.
  11. 08: Half-Baked - kitchen conundrum; 09: Portal Access - accessibility
  12. 09: Tune In - mp3 player advice sought;
  13. 10: 11: Contributor
  14. 11: Online Schedule - radio and TV listings;
  15. 12: Library News - Revealweb correction.
  16. Section Three - Technology - Skype.
  17. 13: Access to a World of Free Voice Calls: Using the internet to make phone calls could be the start of a revolution in voice communication. Until recently, making a phone call online was not a practical possibility for most people, but the arrival of services such as Skype is set to change all that. But how accessible is it? Nick Apostolidis investigates
  18. Section Four - Technology Focus - Mp3 Players Part II.
  19. 14: Getting Them Talking: With many mp3 players of varying accessibility now on the market, Mel Poluck reports on what is available and what can make the players that need it more accessible.

[Contents ends].

++Special Notice: e-Democracy '05- The UK's Largest E-Democracy Conference. - 9 November 2005, CBI Conference Centre, London http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy/


Accessibility will be among topics discussed at e-Democracy '05, hosted by Headstar, publishers of E-Access Bulletin, VoxPolitics and the Hansard Society. Speakers include Helen Petrie, professor of Human Computer Interaction at University College London and Sue Mottershead of Age Concern's Digital Inclusion Steering Group who will sit on the panel of a workshop on the digital divide. Set to be the UK's largest ever dedicated e-democracy conference and exhibition, with 200 delegates and one of the strongest speaker line-ups ever assembled, it will also cover e-voting, e-campaigning and e- consultation; and will include interactive workshops.

Places cost 145 pounds for public, charitable and voluntary sector and 195 pounds for private sector. For more information, see: http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy/

For sponsorship opportunities, please email Claire Clinton on claire@headstar.com .

[Special Notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Football Clubs To Test Audio Description

As the new football season gets into its stride, a co-ordinated effort has begun to provide vision-impaired fans with wireless audio description in more stadiums, including those of lower league clubs.

Coca Cola league clubs Brighton and Hove Albion, Bristol City, Cardiff City, Doncaster Rovers, Huddersfield Town, Swansea City and Nationwide Conference side Halifax Town are to test such services, E- Access Bulletin has learned. The clubs, working in partnership with the RNIB, aim to have the equipment installed and volunteer commentators in place by the end of the year.

At present, the quality of audio description services is patchy, if it is provided at all. In many cases, only a small number of headsets are available, particularly for away fans, and only at restricted locations in the stadium, which often means that families and groups of friends have to split up. Wireless technology can deliver the service to all seats in the ground.

Where no audio description services are provided many vision- impaired fans are forced to rely on radio commentary, but this can be frustrating. "The trouble with radio commentary is the regular interruptions while reports come in from other matches, other sports, or even traffic updates," said Eleanor Ellison of the RNIB. According to Ellison, most Premiership clubs now provide some form of audio description service, but the RNIB is keen to see all of them install the latest wireless equipment.

With the surge of interest in cricket following England's victory over Australia in the Ashes, the RNIB is hopeful that at least some cricket grounds will follow suit. "We've had discussions with the people at Lords, the Oval and Sussex Cricket Club," said Ellison. Later this year, the institute will partner with the BBC to put together a team of volunteer commentators for all the sports venues testing the technology.

+02: Minister Announces Support For Digital Tv Switchover

The RNIB and broadcasting regulator Ofcom have called for more detail from the government about support for blind TV users during the national switchover from analogue to digital television.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell outlined the decision during a keynote speech she made to the audience of the Royal Television Society convention last week.

"We propose to offer some additional support to those who are registered blind so they can benefit from the audio description facilities provided by digital technology," Jowell said.

While the exact nature of the support has not yet been outlined, it will be provided to households where one person is blind but it is unclear whether the support will come in the form of financial or practical assistance.

"The panel is unhappy about the practical support measures [for] socially excluded people including blind and partially sighted people. We need more detailed discussions with government," said Georgia Klein, Policy Manager of the independent Ofcom Consumer Panel ( www.ofcomconsumerpanel.org.uk ).

Additionally, partially sighted TV users were not mentioned in the address and the RNIB are asking the government to extend this support to partially sighted users, according to RNIB Head of Broadcasting, Leen Petrie.

The switchover, to take place between 2008 and 2012, means analogue television will switched off and all programmes will be broadcast digitally. A free '0800' number will be provided for customers with a disability.

NOTE: See also 'A Solid Start,' Issue 51, March 2004.

+03: Accesskeys Needs Standards, Report Finds

A lack of standards have caused low awareness and take-up of accesskeys, the alternative form of web navigation, according to a report on accesskeys, published this month.

Accesskeys are used by people unable to use a mouse or those who want to increase efficiency in navigating common links in web sites.

"There is a present lack of standardisation, for both how to assign accesskeys and how they should be represented. Consequently awareness of accesskeys is limited," Pete Ward, author of the paper told E-Access Bulletin. "The lack of standardisation or guidelines for how they should be implemented decreases the benefits which accesskeys provide," Ward said.

Ward also found there are potential clashes between built-in shortcuts, for both browsers and user agents, and keys selected to be accesskeys. "The number of available keys which may be assigned as an accesskey without causing a clash is very low," Ward said.

"Many web authors, on account of the difficulties associated with implementing them, will choose not to utilise them. Standardisation or guidelines will encourage web developers to use accesskeys." Ward, who also tested a proposed standard with intended accesskeys users wrote the paper for his Masters Degree project at University College London, with support from consultancy The Usability Company. ( http://www.theusabilitycompany.com/ ).

+04: Online Educational Games For Children Launch

A set of free online educational games for vision-impaired children was launched this week.

The three games: 'Typer,' to help players learn to type on a QWERTY keyboard; 'ABC,' to help players learn the English alphabet and 'Numbers Stuff,' for players to learn basic maths, can be downloaded from the VIP Games Zone site ( http://www.vipgameszone.com/ ).

"All programs will have the same interface; this way, children will not need to learn a new interface for each program," said developers Alina and Igor Khmelevtsov of Israel-based VIP Games Zone. All games have an audible menu and 'speak' actions so users do not have to use a screen reader. Features such as main menu items and tasks are displayed on-screen to allow sighted family and friends to help the vision-impaired child operate games initially.

Each game allows the child to send their score to a scoreboard on vipgameszone.com or kids.vipgameszone.com where they can check their position against other players.

The Khmelevtsovs sought views from parents and teachers to feed in to the development of the games via a questionnaire on their web site. Around 150 replies from parents showed there was a need for online educational games on various subjects.

"We plan to create mailing list for parents to discuss our programs and our future projects. We hope this will help us to improve our programmes for blind children, making these programs more accessible."

The pair has designed around 100 educational programs for Ukrainian schools and have developed a computer training method for children. They previously released accessible online game Super Football and strategy game Galaxy Ranger, among others.

++News in Brief:


+05: Location Location:

A discussion list on mainstream Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation technology and its accessibility to users with a vision impairment has been launched by James Odell. To subscribe to the list, send a blank e-mail to: mainstream-gps-request@freelists.org with the word 'subscribe' in the subject line, or visit: http://www.freelists.org/list/mainstream-gps

+06: Legislation Call:

The European Disability Forum has called on the European Commission (EC) to draw up legislation on accessibility for people with a disability in all areas including technology, following a communication on e-accessibility presented last week by the EC. Coordinated by European member states and the technology industry, the aim is to increase accessibility through common standards. http://www.edf-feph.org/en/news/press.htm

+07: Job Offer:

The Department of Work and Pensions has launched a DVD to promote Jobcentre Plus services to people with a disability or health problems. 'We can help' follows one character as she goes from her first interview at a Jobcentre through to employment. Copies are free from disability employment advisers at Jobcentre Plus offices: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/mediacentre/pressreleases/2005/sep/empl13- 020905.asp

[Section One ends].

++Special Notice: Techshare 2005- Early Bird Rate to 1 October - 17-18 November, Jury's Inn, Birmingham, UK.


Techshare 2005 is an international event for professionals interested in technology and the role it plays for people with sight problems. The conference will take place on 17 and 18 November with pre- conference workshops - newly announced - on the 16 November. It will be held at the Jury's Inn, Birmingham.

This conference is aimed at professionals who work in the field of sight loss or have an interest in technology. Packed with presentations and workshops, Techshare is a fantastic opportunity to meet with experts and other professionals in your field.

To register visit: http://www.techshare.org.uk .

[Special Notice ends].

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


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

+08: Half-Baked: Ralph Hindle from Bristol, UK writes:

"My wife Frances is registered blind and her kitchen is a workplace. Recently we have had to replace old kitchen appliances. Many new appliances such as ovens are full of digital technology which rules out their use by blind people. One oven would have been preferred by us but it had digital controls that Frances would not have been able to use. As a minimum, I would have expected that the digital output signals be available for conversion to speech [in which case] it might have been possible to obtain a better working situation in our kitchen for Frances.

"Is anyone monitoring new areas of exclusion of people with disabilities by the use of digital technology?" [responses please to inbox@headstar.com]

+09: Portal Access:

Jeanne Hart-Convery, a web developer at the Administrative Office of the Courts' Internet Services at the New Jersey Judiciary in the US, writes to ask about ensuring their intranet is accessible to all: "We're currently working on the portal system for our intranet. I want to make sure that if we use this online portal for our external site http://www.njcourtsonline.com it will be accessible to everyone. I'm doing research in advance to make sure. Are there any known issues with the IBM WebSpere Portal and accessibility?" [responses please to inbox@headstar.com]

+10: Tune In:

Colin Phelan from Chiswick in London writes in about the feature on accessible MP3 players published last issue: "I receive your monthly access bulletin and would like to thank you for all the information it has provided me. In the August article on mp3 players, it spoke about the NOMAD and the iPod shuffle. It is useful to know that the iPod shuffle is accessible as I was not aware of this. I would like a unit with a bigger memory and would ask what is the NOMAD?" [responses please to inbox@headstar.com]

+11: Contributor Query:

Ron Milliman from Bowling Green, Kentucky in the US writes: "I am the web master for the Kentucky Council of the Blind's web site: http://www.kentucky-acb.org . I would like to be able to allow another contributor to add web content who is not familiar with HTML or any of the programs such as Front Page or any other similar web design programs. We would like him to be able to use a program such as MS Word to add content and to be able to post his contributions to the site without messing up the header look of the site and without getting into other areas of the site.

"How can this be accomplished? Many other web masters with limited knowledge probably have this same problem and question. Your solution to this problem will be greatly appreciated!" [responses please to inbox@headstar.com]

+12: Online Schedule:

Ian Watt, web site and intranet manager at the Office of the Chief Executive, Aberdeen City Council writes in to add to a contribution from Jim Taylor in the August issue, who wrote to tell readers about a source for BBC7 digital radio programme listings. "I was going to suggest this site for all digital TV and radio stations: http://www.bleb.org/tv/?all which allows XML feeds of all listings, which can be manipulated in any way, but realised that BBC7 is not covered. Maybe the site is of use to some of your subscribers, anyway?" [responses please to inbox@headstar.com]

+13: Library News:

In the Inbox of the July issue, in a contribution entitled 'E-Books Located,' we described Revealweb as a service of the National Library for the Blind (NLB). Campaigns Officer at the RNIB in Northern Ireland David Mann writes: "Revealweb was developed and is now managed jointly by RNIB and NLB, initially under the auspices of the Share The Vision Project. Also, David Owen, described as being of NLB, is in fact Executive Director of Share The Vision."

[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 - Technology- Skype.


+14: Access To A World Of Free Voice Callsby Nick Apostolidis.

This month, the online auction giant eBay paid 2.6 billion dollars worth of cash and stock for a relatively small Swedish company which had developed a single piece of software, but a revolutionary one: Skype.

Skype ( http://www.skype.com ) is a messaging application that allows you to talk to other Skype users worldwide over the internet for free. You can also exchange instant messages, swap files including documents, pictures or music, and call any ordinary telephone number in any part of the world at very low rates.

The system was developed by two entrepreneurs who had previously developed the peer-to-peer file-sharing programme Kazaa, and in two years had acquired some 54 million users - a growth-rate of 150,000 users per day.

The price paid for the company - which according to some reports could rise even further depending on performance - might seem somewhat dizzy to the uninitiated. But eBay and many other internet portals see online voice communication as a key part of all future communication online, and the glue for future online communities.

Skype uses VoIP (Voice over IP) technology to encode, encrypt and transmit the sound of the voice to be decoded at the other end and reproduced in near CD-quality sound. It is not only reliable but also very secure, as it is not possible for someone to listen in to your conversation.

Skype offers its main functionality - calls between Skype users - for free, and the company has said these will always be free. They do charge for some enhanced services however, such as 'SkypeOut', which allows users to call ordinary telephones anywhere in the world over the internet. Sound quality is far superior to a normal telephone.

'SkypeIn' is another premium service (costing 30 euros a year) that allows users to register a phone number with Skype that anyone can then call. If you are online when they call, you can receive it, otherwise it diverts to Skype Voicemail.

For blind people, Skype offers many potential benefits beyond the obvious ones of free or cheap voice calls. For one thing, it has fairly good compatibility with the main types of screen reader including JAWS and WindowEyes.

There are improvements that could be made, and screen reader developers have been talking to Skype about how to improve future versions for accessibility, including better use of MSAA (Microsoft Active Accessibility) - the system used by Windows to communicate effectively with screen readers and other assistive technologies. But nevertheless it is already mostly accessible.

There are other accessible features too. You can assign hotkeys for answering, holding, resuming or ending a call. You can access the menu bar and most of the program functions using keyboard procedures.

However, navigating lists like your missed call list or the list of users that are currently online use non-standard Windows controls, with no information currently passed through to screen readers using MSAA.

There are also accessibility problems with the chat part of the program; the online Skype directory; and Skype Voicemail, which has point and click functionality without many hotkeys.

On the other hand the Skype Store - the part of its web site where services are bought - and the Skype web site in general is very well designed for screen reader access.

Page layouts are easy to understand and navigate with a minimum of keystrokes. When you use the Skype Store, the web forms are coded correctly, with labels for each of the controls, and the HTML is written in such a way that the screen reader can interpret it correctly. In the community section of the web site, there also is a message board which is also very accessible, unlike many others to be found on major sites.

As Skype continues to develop - and with eBay's billions behind it, one would assume it will do so rapidly - new services will be added such as call forwarding. We must hope that the Skype interface continues to improve so better access is provided using standard Windows controls, a better structured hierarchy and a more usable design.

As the popularity of Skype continues to skyrocket, it is also to be expected that a clutch of rivals such as Google's Google Talk (http://www.google.com/talk/ ) will attempt to steal its thunder. Screen reader developers and users will need to keep an eye on all these systems as well: Google Talk for example is not yet usable at all from the keyboard.

Skype must now set the accessibility standard at a high level: and then hopefully the others will follow.

[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 - Technology Focus- MP3 Players Part II


+15: Getting Them Talkingby Mel Poluck

Having an mp3 player can open the gates to a wealth of audio content, from music to audio books. But not all players are designed with vision-impaired people in mind, and many small or specialist developers have taken up the challenge to make mp3 players accessible to vision-impaired users.

Work is now underway, for example, on text-to-speech firmware, or instantly upgradeable hardware, for players from global digital entertainment company Archos ( http://www.archos.com/ ), which will allow vision-impaired users to independently navigate menus and features.

The firmware, called Rockbox ( http://www.rockbox.org ), developed as an open source project in Sweden and Germany, comes from US-based software company Red Chair (http://www.redchairsoftware.com/ ) and will soon be compatible with the Archos iRiver H and IHP series, which cost 200 to 250 pounds.

"It's still in development, and that's why it's not as stable or feature-rich as it might be. I'd describe it as a late-stage beta, with some bugs still to be ironed out and some features still to be added," Aman Singer, a keen blind mp3 user from Canada told E-Access Bulletin.

Many models of the Archos line compatible with Rockbox, are relatively old so users often resort to finding them on auction sites. Rockbox has a dedicated page for blind users on its web site: http://www.rockbox.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/BlindUsersIndex .

"The iRiver series of players [from Archos] have lots of advantages," said Brian Hartgen, Technical Consultant at TandT Consultancy. "The greatest advantage is the volume of data these players can accommodate, their ease of use from a file transfer perspective, and the fact that you can use them as a portable hard disk to transfer other file types to and from your home computer, which I have found to be very useful."

The volume of data a player can store can be a key deciding factor when choosing a player. And while Apple Macintosh's iPod Shuffle is one of the most accessible players on the market, its disadvantage is its lack of storage capacity compared to other models.

"Despite one gigabyte being the maximum storage capacity however, this will hold about 9 or 10 books in high quality audio," Hartgen said about the player.

As a point of comparison, some Archos players can be upgraded to hold six times the amount of data held on the iPod. The iRiver series, offers 20 to 40 times the storage space of players such as the MuVo, from US-based company Creative Technology (http://www.creative.com/products/welcome.asp?category=213&subca tegory=215& ).

But Archos range devices will not play books from popular publications download site Audible, ( www.audible.com ), which the iPod does and in Europe at least, the player does not support the online mp3 music download service Napster To Go (http://www.napster.com/ntg.html ).

"[US software company] Red Chair ( http://www.redchairsoftware.com/ ) has done a deal with Audible so that you can just [transfer] Audible files to the Shuffle," Saqib Shaikh, Business analyst at Vodafone UK said. "And it's completely accessible. You don't need to install iTunes and I recommend not installing it since it stops windows from representing it as a drive," he said.

There is a wide choice of software to make the iPod range more accessible. For screen reader users, there is Hartgen's accessible scripts for iPod software iTunes, launched last month; Window-Eyes' set files, which can be used without a screen reader; and the Anapod Explorer from Red Chair.

But these solutions are not without their drawbacks. "While you can transfer books using Anapod without problem to the iPod shuffle," Hartgen said, "experience has demonstrated from various sources that the position within an Audible book is not retained when it is on the shuffle, whereas it is if the books are transferred using iTunes"

And there is yet more work going on to make the iPod accessible. "There is another program called All-Tunes ( http://wwwx.cs.unc.edu/~gb/cgi-bin/sliki/AllTunes ) developed by a group of students from the University of North Carolina in the US. This seems like a project to see if iTunes could be made accessible to screen reader users, and I have not personally had a lot of success using it," said Hartgen, who has recently set up an email discussion list on mp3 accessibility.

Much progress has been made to make mp3 devices accessible to vision-impaired users. Currently though, weighing up the accessibility pros and cons of a device is still the job of the user.

NOTE: Brian Hartgen will be presenting a paper on accessible portable media players at RNIB conference Techshare (http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/code/public_ rnib004057.hcsp ) in Birmingham in November.

[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
  • Technician - Nick Apostolidis
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends].