+++E-Access Bulletin.- Issue 78, June 2006.

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: 'e-Access '06' - Technology For All- 14 September 2006, Central London - Early Bird Offer Until 30 June - http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess06/


‘e-Access'06,’ hosted by E-Access Bulletin and supported by RNIB and Scope, is the UK's leading annual event on access to all technologies, including internet, PCs, mobile phones and digital TV and radio, by people with disabilities.

The conference focuses on how digital technology is enabling people with disabilities to achieve greater independence. It also looks at the problems people face with access to technology including accessible banking and broadcasting. Sponsors include BSkyB, Jadu and Ford.

Places normally cost 195 pounds plus VAT for public sector, 295 pounds plus VAT for private sector and 145 pounds plus VAT for small charities and not for profit organisations (turnover below 300,000 pounds). However if you register before 1 July you will save 50 pounds per delegate by typing 'eb-offer' after your name. For more information see: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess06/ .

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Fans Will Lose Out, World Cup Web Sites Review Finds.

Official web sites for the 2006 World Cup are so poorly designed that most vision impaired fans won’t be able to use them to buy tickets for matches or souvenirs, and will have difficulty finding even basic information like match results, according to accessibility consultants AbilityNet.

The World Cup web sites for England’s Football Association (FA – http://www.TheFA.com/WorldCup2006 ) and the competition’s governing body Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA – http://fifaworldcup.yahoo.com/06/en/ ) were found to fail even the most basic accessibility requirements, the study found. On a five-point scale, where three indicates a base level of accessibility, the FIFA and FA web sites were rated one and two respectively, leaving both organisations at risk under anti- discrimination law, said AbilityNet.

The results are particularly disappointing given the landmark legal case over the 2000 Sydney Olympics, when sports fan Bruce Maguire won a legal case against the organisers because their web site was inaccessible, said AbilityNet’s Head of Web Services Robin Christopherson. “It really shows the lack of progress they have made over the last six years,” he told E-Access Bulletin.

The web sites were evaluated using automated checkers and human testers for compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines ( http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/ ) the internationally recognised standard drawn up by the World Wide Web Consortium ( http://www.w3.org/ ).

Both web sites suffered problems with their display, structure and navigation, making even the most basic services unavailable to even experienced web surfers, according to AbilityNet. “Many areas of FIFA’s site were difficult or impossible to use and, despite my best efforts, I was unable to buy a ticket…I think I'll follow the Cup on the radio,” said one.

Typical problems included failing to enable text to be resized or the colours of displays adjusted, poor labelling of images, use of inaccessible Flash animations at key points, embedding pop-ups in pages with no warning, and extensive use of JavaScript, which is inaccessible to users of older browsers. Both sites failed to adequately cater for people who rely on keystrokes rather than a mouse for navigation.

Although the FA web site was more accessible than that of FIFA, some accessibility features like audio news reports were spoilt because they weren’t well signposted, and could easily be missed, according to AbilityNet. “I’ll do what I did last time, and follow it on the BBC web site,” said Christopherson.

“We have made a number of changes to the site already to ensure accessibility but we are aware there is still more to be done and these have been incorporated into the overall review of our web site which is taking place at present. We do appreciate hearing from any user who has a specific issue with the web site,” an FA spokesperson told E- Access Bulletin.

The World Cup study is one of several ‘State of the eNation’ reports looking at web accessibility across a range of sectors. For more details, see the ‘News and Events’ section of AbilityNet’s web site: http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/content/home.htm

+02: Accessible Automatic Tellers To Be Deployed Across Italy.

Accessible Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) aimed at vision impaired users are being deployed across Italy.

Around 400 ATMs have already been installed across the country at Poste Italiane ( http://www.poste.it/en/ ) post offices, with a further 600 to be installed by October. The ATMs will allow vision impaired people to withdraw money independently and, for the first time in Italy, enable payment of council tax and speeding fines and allow pensions to be collected, among others.

Vision impaired users plug their own headphones into a socket located on the ‘Personas M series’ machine to receive all on-screen content as audio output to guide them through cash withdrawals and bill payments. The screens automatically blacken while a transaction is underway to ensure privacy.

Additionally, the machines’ ‘number five’ key has a raised profile to assist orientation when typing in number sequences such as pin codes and the function keys have tactile markers. There is also strong contrast between the written text and the screen background for low vision users.

Following a trial last year, machines using Braille were scrapped after it emerged only a small percentage of vision impaired people can read Braille, due to the fact the majority acquire blindness later in life.

The new dual purpose machines, which look like regular ATMs, aim to cut queues in post offices and increase efficiency as part of a wider modernisation of the Italian postal service.

The new machines have been developed by global technology company NCR, who are working in collaboration with Italian postal service Poste Italiane ( http://www.poste.it/en/ ) and national blindness organisation Unione Italiana Ciechi (http://www.uiciechi.it/vecchio/ibu.html ).

+03: Resource For Accessible Media Players Launched.

Vision impaired people wanting to know more about the accessibility issues to take into account when using portable media players such as Apple’s iPod have a new online resource with the launch of the Portable Media Player Portal http://www.hartgen.org/portable.html .

The web site gives an overview of issues such as the cost, functions, and accessibility for mass-market media players like Apple’s iPod family and the iriver products from Korea as well as those purpose- built for vision impaired users, such as the BookPort and BookCourier products.

“Products designed for the seeing market can be accessible because there are products available that make them talk. The specialist products have the advantage of being designed for vision impaired people but they have the drawback of high price and limited storage capacity,” Brian Hartgen, technical consultant at T and T Consultancy told E-Access Bulletin. Typically, specialist products provide four gigabytes of storage compared with the 40 or 60 gigabytes available with mass-market products, he said.

According to Hartgen, interest in portable media players has grown rapidly in recent months, but many people want guidance on what is available. “The bottom line is that if you want a player with large storage, that handles a variety of formats and is fully accessible, there’s nothing currently available,” he said.

However, the accessibility of the iTunes software has been improved for users of Jaws screen readers with the launch of new scripts from T and T Consultancy, enabling easier navigation around the iTunes system, said Hartgen http://www.tandt-consultancy.com/itunesscripts.html .

+04: First Online Multiplay Board Game Released.

The world’s first accessible multiplay board game has been released and is available for free online.

The game can be played online by up to five gamers who play the entire game using sound alone. For those playing the offline version of the game, the computer imitates co-players.

Developer Igor Khmelevtsov describes the game, Lords of the Galaxy, as “an economic strategy game like Monopoly.” Players are given a space ship in which they move between planets which, among other assets, are bought and sold while battling against meteorites and galaxy monsters. Players can buy weapons to defend themselves from enemies. The goal is to become Lord of the galaxy by accruing more money then other players.

“I’ve found a couple of accessible online card games for blind and visually impaired people,” said Khmelevtsov. “I have [developed] three online accessible games two gamers can play [but] I haven’t found any accessible online board games for [several] gamers.”

Lords of the Galaxy is available from Igor and Alina Khmelevtsov’s accessible gaming web site VIP Games Zone ( http://www.vipgameszone.com/ ), which has previously released online educational games for vision- impaired school children in the Ukraine and beyond. All VIP Games Zone games are free and can be played without special software.

++News in Brief:


+05: TV Trial:

Some 83 per cent of vision-impaired participants in recent digital TV trials in Bolton, England said they would “definitely” need help installing new digital TV packs. Participants with and without disabilities took place in the trials ahead of the deployment of digital TV across the UK scheduled for between 2008 and 2012. The report of the Bolton Digital Switchover Trial can be seen at: www.digitaltelevision.gov.uk/publications/pub_boltondigtv.html .

+06: Audio Entries:

Roaring Girl Productions and Your Local Cinema, providers of audio description for DVD releases and cinema respectively are among nominees for the accessibility category of the New Statesman Media Awards. This year’s theme is ‘The power of ideas.’ Judges announce the winners in July: http://www.newstatesman.com/nma/nma2006/nma2006nominate.php .

+07: Virtual Conference:

Accessible web logging (“blogging”) and video magnifiers are among topics covered by a set of free audio podcasts of presentations from this year’s Assistive Technology Industry Association conference in the US. Once registered, users can “visit” exhibitors, as well as listen to presentations on topics relating to

assistive technology: http://www.letsgoexpo.com/expos/Ocusource/ATIA01182006/index.cf m?page=attendeelogin .

[Section One ends].

++Special Notice: Building the Perfect Council Web Site- An E-Government Bulletin/Socitm Seminar - 11 July, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), London.


A partnership between E-Government Bulletin and the Society of IT Management's Socitm Insight Programme, this conference will attempt to encapsulate every aspect of how to create the perfect council web site: accessible, easy to use and compelling.

The event will draw on the collected wisdom of seven years of Socitm's annual 'Better Connected' review of all UK council web sites, bringing together experts and practitioners to share tips and warn against pitfalls. Registration costs just 125 pounds for delegates from Socitm Insight subscriber authorities; 195 pounds for other public sector delegates and 295 pounds for private sector delegates (all rates exclude VAT).

For more information and to register see: http://www.headstar-events.com/council/ .

[Special Notice ends].

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


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

+08: Expense Debate:

Asim Rauf from Pakistan continues the debate on the high cost of technology: “The problem with visually impaired people living in the third world is that we don't have access to modern technology because of its cost. When we convert the currency into our own, then it goes beyond reach, or even beyond thinking. There is an [imperative] need for the world to put its efforts together to improve the standard of living of people with visual impairment in third world countries.”

And Estelita Clayton in Derbyshire, England adds: “In response to the high cost of assistive technology issue: yes, it is so frustrating to some of us like myself who cannot afford to buy the assistive equipment we need because of the sky-high cost. So, the only alternative is to wait until a second-hand one comes around. Sometimes you are lucky if the item is in working order, or if you can get the manual with no problem. [please send further responses to inbox@headstar.com]

+09: Braille Exchange: Estelita also writes in with a request:

“I'm looking for Braillex Elba users to chat with. I hope I will meet Braillex Elba user pals to learn more about this machine as this is quite new to me.” [responses to inbox@headstar.com]

+10: Group Request:

Women in London (WiL – http://www.womeninlondon.org.uk/ ), an organisation that aims to promote awareness of new technologies to women with disabilities, has received an enquiry on the accessibility of email groups. Deborah Hart from WiL group Microsyster writes: “Are you aware of how accessible Yahoo [and other] e-groups are? If not maybe its time for a survey! On behalf of a group of disabled women who are having difficulty locating an appropriate tool for themselves, I would like to know information about any accessible e-group functions. The e-group moderator uses a talking browser. We are very much hoping to hear of recommendations or new initiatives. Direct questions to Yahoo and Smartgroups are so rarely answered.” [responses to inbox@headstar.com].

+11: Number Puzzle:

Barry Blomkamp, professional public speaker, trainer and corporate entertainer writes: “I am a totally blind fellow from Cape Town, South Africa and I am a user of Window-Eyes version five, SoftVert on my old but fast DOS machine, Talx on my mobile phone and a talking Sharp calculator among others. My question to you is: is there a movement in our world to push for an international standardisation of number keypads? For instance, my calculator and computer keyboards on my desk have numbering starting from the bottom left while all the phones’ numbering starts from top left.

“I personally don't really battle with the different number pads. I am thinking of young blind people in the future. Thanking you.” [responses please to inbox@headstar.com].

+12: Reader Query:

Sue Buckley writes in response to a contribution from Roger Wilson-Hinds, director of UK-based Choice Technology ( www.screenreader.co.uk ) from the April issue. Roger wrote on the high cost of assistive technology and his attempt to redress the balance by developing a free screen reader. "I have a friend who would need to find out about your free screen reading software. Also, do you know of any free screen enlargement software programs? Thank you.” [responses to inbox@headstar.com]

[Section Two ends].

++Sponsored Notice: QAC Sight Village 2005- Birmingham, UK - 18-20 July 2006


The latest in cutting edge technology for people who are blind or partially sighted will be on show this July at Sight Village at Queen Alexandra College in Birmingham.

Now in its thirteenth year, the event includes presentations covering tactile graphics and employment as well as panel discussions and high quality displays from companies and organisations from around the world and all over the UK. Sighted guides and tactile maps will be available for delegates.

Registration for this major international exhibition is free. For details and to register go to: http://www.viewplus.com/sightvillage-registration/

[Sponsored Notice ends].

Section Three: Opinion – Procurement

+12: In Search Of The Holy Grailby Kevin Carey

I am writing this piece from the Royal Geographical Society, London. The LBS4all project ( http://www.lbs4all.org/ ) – which aims to develop a personal navigation aid for people who experience difficulties travelling on foot – is holding a user day for location-based services.

In prototype, this allows vision impaired people using a personal digital assistant (PDA) and screen reader software from Dolphin Computer Access Pocket Hal, to undertake independent navigation with a stream of local information received on the web from adapted Ordnance Survey digital maps.

Whether or not this will be overtaken by standard satellite navigation systems, built for cars but adapted for foot travel, is a really interesting


But the “Holy Grail” is a blind person arriving in a strange town enabled to find any building she wants on foot (using, of course, a mobility aid if necessary).

Ah, the Holy Grail! I have been in accessibility now for more than a decade and am just a little weary of holy grails: a fully usable word processor; a bug-free Braille translator with an intelligent approach to layout; across-the-board web accessibility based on statute and regulation; a fully accessible mobile phone; full electronic programme guides (EPGs) and audio description for digital TV; an upgrade that upgrades. I have said before – and it is sad that this still holds true – the only fully accessible digital products that I own are my kitchen scales and microwave!

What are we to do about these frustrated ambitions? The key point is that the sector must stop worrying about technology; it should, simply, stop doing any speculative or loss-making research. Agencies like the RNIB and a host of niche developers have struggled and only the RNIB and a handful of commercial developers are still in the access technology business. Selling ambition and aspiration has proved to be of very limited use. There has been far too much concentration on the question: "Can you do it?" rather than on the questions: "How badly do you want it and how much of it do you want?"

In other words, instead of starting with technological research we should start with generic user requirement research and meet the needs of procurers. If we push for accessibility to be a user requirement in public sector services, public utilities, financial services, retail, broadcasting and telecommunications, consumer electronics, housing design and leisure (and that lot accounts for the vast majority of all digital transactions) you can be sure that there will be funding to realise the requirement.

Forget the technology and think about services. You want to talk to the Government, shop effectively, use a cash point, locate an entry phone, weigh self service potatoes, cross the road safely, send a message and, I suppose, pay your bills.

So lay off the Microsofts of this world; they only supply the providers of goods and services. If the procurement criteria change to include more accessibility than they currently supply, they will supply it.

In some instances the precise opposite applies; software companies are providing accessibility that suppliers are ignoring. We should never forget the farce of the audio described programmes waiting for a set top box to decode them.

In summary, we need to turn the whole, traditional sequence on its head. Techies working on flimsy budgets with miniscule markets (with the exception of the Department for Work and Pensions’ Access To Work items – http://www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk/JCP/Customers/HelpForDisabledPeo ple/AccesstoWork/ ) have largely failed. Even the few remaining major players provide scandalously expensive and unreliable solutions. The sector should concentrate on campaigning for generic, platform neutral, user requirements-based accessibility and should then make a respectable profit meetineg the need.

[Section Three ends].

++Seminar report – Seminar Report– Location-Based Services


+13: Carving A Path For Navigational Aidsby Mel Poluck

Navigational devices installed with location-based services enable vision impaired people to independently plan journeys and find routes on foot or by public transport. But many such services or devices are yet to reach the vision-impaired community.

Some local communities or authorities, for example, have installed units mounted at bus stops or lampposts providing location-related data activated by wireless fobs. And portable devices on the market specifically designed for vision-impaired users, such as the BrailleNote and Trekker both from Humanware ( http://www.pulsedata.com/products/Notetakers/BrailleNoteGPS.asp ) are wonderful devices but are unaffordable to the majority of people who need them.

Both products are enabled by Global Positioning System (GPS). And with this technology, along with General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), wireless and bluetooth available even on everyday devices such as mobile phones, the potential for location-based services or navigational aids is broadening. “All big companies are engaging in the delivery of location-based information to the consumer: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft. . . ,” Professor Mike Jackson of University of Nottingham told the audience of a seminar on location-based services for people with disabilities in London last month, hosted by PhoneAbility, the UK arm of European organisation COST 219ter ( http://www.tiresias.org/cost219ter/ ) which aims to ensure next generation services and terminals are accessible to all. “The intellectual and technological challenge we have today is with multiple streams of data which could communicate with each other to build up rich, timely data,” Jackson said.

Nevertheless, research and development on navigational aids for the mobility-impaired is blossoming around the globe. Later this year, for example, user groups with disabilities will test a navigational device in the Swedish cities of Stockholm, Malmo and Gotheberg. The trials are part of a research study ( http://www.pts.se ) from the Swedish National Post and Telecom Agency, led by the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, the Swedish Handicap Institute and government and industry bodies, Dr Jan-Ingvar Lindström told delegates. The pilot device provides audio mapping data to users via bluetooth, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and GPS technologies and will link users to a contact centre with staff via the mobile phone network to assist users requiring additional help. In future there are plans to introduce a facility enabling users to add their own data about the environment or points of interest as they encounter them.

Meanwhile, in Atlanta, US, the Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering and Research Centre (Wireless RERC- http://www.wirelessrerc.gatech.edu/ ), which promotes universal access to wireless technologies, is working on developing a location-based service prototype. “We encourage the industry to realise not all users of technology are 20 year olds with nimble fingers,” said Dr John Peifer, WRERC co-director.

Their Mobile Accessibility Guide (MAG – http://www.wirerc.org ) aims to provide tailored data to meet individuals’ transport and route planning preferences. The device’s memory contains location-related data gathered from various sources, including the local council and accessibility guides to public spaces. It provides information such as whether entrances have ramps or stairs – and if so how many – and doorway width for wheelchair users, among others. Users can choose to receive audio information about their environments and can receive updated alerts on recent, undocumented news such as broken lifts in buildings. MAG even allows its users to become “mobile reporters,” recording changes to locations and objects in the environment while on the move.

But in trials, this particular feature was unsuccessful. “People won’t spend time recording changes in the environment if they have to spend a long time doing it,” he said. “We need to research how long people are willing to spend on it.” Other aspects of MAG were found to need further development too. “The initial prototype was expensive and complex. The hardware was too clunky, interfaces were too complex,” Peifer also said volunteers needed more training on how to use the device.

Another MAG prototype is under development and the team are looking to incorporate geographical information service ‘Google maps,’ from software giant Google, to include markers highlighting accessibility of information, such as Braille menus, or buildings.

With the European Commission project, ‘Ambient Intelligence System of Agents for Knowledge-based and Integrated Services for Mobility Impaired users (ASK-IT – http://www.ask-it.org/ ) developing a navigational system which will next year be tested in eight European cities, and with further technological developments in the pipeline, the future of navigational services looks promising. Mobile phones will pick up voice over IP (VoIP) over wi-fi networks, allowing cheap or free calls and the possibility for data relevant to the user’s location to be streamed direct to devices in wireless “hotspots.” Additionally, more satellite launches are planned, adding to the multitude of location-related data sent to the planet.

But there is a way to go before devices are readily available on the market and problems do remain, such as users of GPS-enabled devices losing signal when they enter “urban canyons,” say, between tower blocks or when they are inside buildings.

But as University of Nottingham’s Mike Jackson said, the key challenge now is to unite multiple data streams to ultimately provide portable, refreshable, interactive and information-rich navigational devices which could improve the daily lives of vision-impaired people in extremely important ways: by boosting confidence in mobility, increasing independence and providing the chance for spontaneity.

[Section Four 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].

++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 2006 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].