+++E-Access Bulletin- Issue 82, October 2006.

Technology news for people with vision impairment ( http://www.headstar.com/eab/ ). Sponsored by: RNIB ( http://www.rnib.org.uk ) BT Age and Disability Unit ( http://www.btplc.com/age_disability/ ) Ford Motor Company ( http://www.ford.co.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/ .

++Issue 82 Contents.

  1. Section One: News.
  2. 01: Blended Broadband Services Could 'Transform Lives' - accessibility expert maps out future possibilities.
  3. 02: US Court Sends Message Of Hope To Blind Americans - anti-discrimination law applies to retail websites.
  4. 03: Expert Software Will Analyse User Needs - EU funding for inclusive technology project.
  5. 04: All UK Retail Websites Fail Basic Accessibility Standard - survey finds poor performance among market leaders.
  6. News in Brief:
  7. 05: Talking Mobile - phone screen reader released;
  8. 06: Game On - accessible games maker launched; 07:
  9. 07: Multimedia Initiative - guidance for web developers launched.
  10. Section Two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' Forum.
  11. 08: Open Response - Linux screen reader feedback; 09: E-Forums
  12. 09: Continued - online groups discussed; 10:
  13. 10: Reader Feedback - screen reader request answered.
  14. Section Three: Conference Report - e-Access'06.
  15. 11: Time to Rock The Boat: At E-Access Bulletin's recent annual conference e-Access'06, BBC age and disability correspondent Peter White called for disabled and older people to work together in the battle for accessibility. Mel Poluck was there.
  16. Section Four: Focus - Website Accessibility.
  17. 12: Better Than A Manual: A blind screen reader user and resident of Dudley in the UK contacted his local council's web team after finding the content of Dudley's website hard to access. The subsequent exchange of emails shows that these problems can be overcome with benefits for all members of the community.

[Contents ends].

++Sponsored Notice: BT Internet Rangers- How young people can help bridge the digital divide.


BT Internet Rangers is an initiative celebrating the role young people play in helping their elders get online. The initiative was launched in 2003 after research revealed nearly a third of parents and grandparents had been taught or encouraged to use the internet by a young person.

The search is on to find the BT Internet Ranger of the year 2006. Open to anyone under the age of 16, young people can enter themselves or be nominated by someone they've helped.

There are 11 laptop computers up for grabs - the winner will also win a family trip to Cornwall and a VIP tour of the world's fastest internet café at the BT Satellite Earth Station in Goonhilly. http://www.btinternetrangers.co.uk .

[Sponsored Notice ends].

Section One: News.

+01: Blended Broadband Services Could 'Transform Lives'.

Access to simultaneous, multi-channel services over the internet is set to transform the way disabled people use online services, according to a new report launched at the e-Access'06 conference ( http:///www.headstar.com/eaccess06 ).

"Blended transactions" will in future be the "most remarkable manifestation of the use of broadband for disabled people," said the report's author Kevin Carey at the annual conference on access to technologies by people with a disability.

So-called "blended" or "hybrid" applications have the potential to deliver help to the user simultaneously through more than one channel, minimizing the barriers that disabilities often present said Carey, who is director of digital inclusion charity HumanITy and vice-chair of the RNIB.

For example, if confronted with an online form a user could contact a human advisor by activating an on-screen link to call for assistance. Using internet telephony based services - or voice over IP (VoIP) - he or she could talk to the advisor while filling out an online form, for example, and both parties would have access to the form.

Carey suggested this hybrid model could also combat the social exclusion experienced by older and disabled people. "An always-on broadband community network" could be used for "virtual communities of support" he said, as well as reduce feelings of isolation.

To fund this blended approach to broadband services, the public sector should collaborate with charities and the private sector to work out a distribution model whereby the public sector would pay a basic subscription to a supplier, suggested Carey. "Individuals could then top up with special services such as mobile wireless. This would save a huge cost in over-engineered hardware, installation, maintenance and upgrading," he said.

NOTE: For more on this, see Kevin Carey's recently published report 'Broadband and Disability' ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/bt3 ), published by HumanITy and sponsored by BT in association with Ability magazine and E-Access Bulletin.

+02: Us Court Sends Message Of Hope To Blind Americans.

A landmark ruling in a US federal court has established that US anti- discrimination law applies to online services provided by retailers, opening the way for vision impaired citizens to take legal action against the owners of inaccessible websites.

At a hearing in California, federal district court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel rejected a claim by the retailer Target that anti-discrimination law such as Americans with Disability Act (ADA), does not apply to online services. The case against Target, which operates 1,300 stores in 47 states, was filed as a class action lawsuit on behalf of all vision impaired citizens unable to access the Target website ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/ada2 ).

"The message that this case sends to blind people in the US is that gratuitous technological barriers to their participation in the mainstream of American life will not be tolerated," said Daniel Goldstein, of Brown, Goldstein and Levy LLP, acting for the National Federation of the Blind, and a blind college student Bruce "BJ" Sexton.

It is alleged that Target's website prevents blind customers from browsing and purchasing products online, and accessing corporate information such as employment opportunities, investor news, and company policies. "The ruling by the court in the Target case is the first federal court ruling to hold that a commercial retailer's website is subject to the ADA," Goldstein told E-Access Bulletin.

"The significance for other retailers using websites to supplement their commercial activity is that they need to make their websites accessible to the blind," he said. "The parties will now engage in what is called discovery - the securing of information from one's adversary on matters relevant to the prosecution and defense of the case," said Goldstein.

+03: Expert Software Will Analyse User Needs.

An EU-funded project is underway to develop "intelligent" software that automatically learns how a particular user accesses web-based services, and offers to adjust the user interface when appropriate.

The three year DIADEM project, co-ordinated by Brunel University in the UK, will see software developed in Norway and Italy and piloted at the city councils of Turin in Italy and Sheffield in the UK.

DIADEM is based on widely used 'expert systems' technology. It will monitor input from users, build a profile of the services they are likely to need, and offer to adjust the interface according to their preferences.

"DIADEM will work in the background until the pattern of key strokes [or use of the mouse] suggests the user is having difficulties," Tony Elliman, project leader at Brunel University, told E-Access Bulletin. "By matching the pattern to general information about the task and the type of problems that can arise, it will then be able to offer appropriate help."

Assistance could come in the form of completing the information in a form's field or "box," rephrasing a question, or modifying the order in which questions on the form are answered and speech output may be included to assist users with a vision impairment.

Funded with three million pounds from the EU's e-inclusion project ( http://www.einclusion-eu.org/ ), other project participants are: the Norwegian National Computer Centre, Norsk Regnesentral, an independent, non-profit foundation that carries out research and development projects; IT supplier MORE in Norway; and state owned IT services for the Piemonte region, CSI-Piemonte, in Italy.

Sheffield will address issues surrounding use of the technology in public places such as libraries, while in Oslo, Norway, technology company and consultancy Bluegarden will develop its use in the workplace, conducting user testing with around 40 employees of the national postal service.

+04: All Uk Retail Websites Fail Basic Accessibility Standard.

The UK's top online shopping sites all fail to meet basic web accessibility guidelines, a survey of the top 30 retail websites has found.

According to research by web usability consultancy Nomensa, not one of the homepages reviewed reached achieved 'level A' compliance - the minimum level of accessibility - according to the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). And all but one of the 30 websites reviewed used graphical text and 28 sites did not provide appropriate text descriptions for images, 'alt tags,' to show vision impaired visitors what is on screen.

Pop-up windows, inaccessible to screen reader and screen magnifier users were found on 25 of the websites. And just three of the sites surveyed were found to have made an effort to improve the accessibility of their websites: John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Tesco.

The websites under scrutiny included: online book and music shop Amazon, mobile phone company Carphone Warehouse, computer company Dell, retail giant Marks and Spencer, and supermarket Tesco.

The study was carried out by web usability company Nomensa, which said businesses risk alienating over than 10 million disabled people in the UK by designing websites with low accessibility. The report said: "Almost without exception, online retailers are not taking web accessibility, customer experience or profitability seriously."

++News in Brief:


+05: Talking Mobile:

The first screen reader for smart phones powered by the Windows Mobile platform has been released, enabling users to manage call lists; send and receive SMS and email; record voice notes; and share data with other devices such as mobile phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and laptops. Mobile Speak SmartPhone is developed by Spanish company Code Factory: http://fastlink.headstar.com/smart10 .

+06: Game On:

A prototype of a tool allowing vision-impaired people to create their own computer game is to go live in February 2007. 'Audio game maker' has been created by the Bartiméus Accessibility foundation in the Netherlands: http://fastlink.headstar.com/game1 .

+07: Multimedia Initiative:

The first draft of guidance for website developers to create accessible multimedia content using has been released by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The Accessible Rich Internet Application suite will help developers make rich, dynamic web content accessible to people with disabilities: http://fastlink.headstar.com/wai1 .

[Section One ends].

++Special Notice: Voice Over IP (VoIP) In The Public Sector- 24 October 2006 - Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), London http://www.headstar-events.com/voip06/ .


Within five to 10 years, analysts predict that traditional voice telecommunications will be a thing of the past. Increasingly, voice calls are already being carried using internet technologies and cost savings, productivity gains, and specialist new services such as teleconferencing are all there to be exploited.

For the second year, E-Government Bulletin is hosting a seminar for all public sector bodies and their private sector partners who are keen to find out more and understand how they can exploit the new VoIP technologies to the full.

For more information and to register, see: http://www.headstar-events.com/voip06/ .

[Special Notice ends].

++Special Notice: Matthew Taylor Is Keynote At 'e-Democracy '06.'- 16 November 2006 - CBI Conference Centre, Centre Point, London.


Matthew Taylor, chief adviser on political strategy in the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, is now confirmed as our keynote speaker at e-Democracy '06, the UK's largest ever dedicated e-democracy conference and exhibition.

Topics covered include e-voting; the role of the internet in political campaigning in the UK, US and worldwide; citizen-representative dialogue using new technologies; grassroots movements and the net; webcasting meetings; online policy consultation; and much more.

Other speakers include Mary Reid, former Chair, Local E-Democracy National Project; Tom Steinberg, Director, MySociety; and Liz Barclay, Presenter, You and Yours, BBC Radio 4. For more information and to register see: http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy06/ .

[Special Notice ends].

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


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

+08: Open Response:

Tim Pennick of Suffolk in the UK responds to DPM Weerakkody's request in the September issue on Linux open source screen readers: "A good place to start looking is the website of the Blinux project: http://leb.net/blinux/ , though I'm not sure if this is still being kept up-to-date.

And Steve Cutway, Information Access Specialist in the IT Services department of Queen's University in Ontario, Canada also responds "I am aware of two open source projects currently under way: the Speakup project: http://linux-speakup.org/ and the Orca GNOME Live! project: http://live.gnome.org/Orca . [Responses to inbox@headstar.com] .

+09: E-Forums Continued:

Steve Cutway also contributes to the discussion on accessible online forums in the June, July and August issues of the bulletin: "I agree with the writer [Deborah Hart from Women in London group Microyster] who suggested a Mailman approach [is] more practical. They can generate an impossible amount of email but given the challenges many blind and vision impaired computer users face accessing too many websites, email discussion groups may still be a better bet.

"I am totally blind and have been involved with access technology for more than 30 years and I still prefer email correspondence even if it isn't instant! A very good free Mailman service in North America is Freelists." ( http://www.freelists.org ).

On a different subject, Steve asks: "Are the Dr Who accessible DVDs available yet commercially? The BBC has a store in Toronto and I'll go and buy the complete set when they are." [Responses to inbox@headstar.com] .

+10: Reader Feedback:

In response to Don Wessels from South Africa who requested information on Thunder screen reader in the September issue, Roger Wilson-Hinds, director of Screenreader.net who developed Thunder writes: "We have been using Thunder here since the beginning of the year and it is especially good and easy with WebbIE, its own text browser. Since the launch, we have received messages from all over the world from pleased customers so we can advise Don and others to try Thunder first before paying out on more costly alternatives. It's totally free for personal home use. We welcome feedback." [Responses to inbox@headstar.com] .

[Inbox ends].

++Section Three - Conference Report- e-Access'06.


+11: Time To Rock The Boatby Mel Poluck.

With a meagre five per cent of books published in the UK available in formats accessible to people with vision impairments, it's no wonder BBC age and disability correspondent Peter White was in combative mood at last month's 'e-Access'06' event, the annual conference organised by E-Access Bulletin. ( http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess06/ ).

"We're talking about equality and natural justice that people have the same access to information as everyone else," White told the audience. "We need to make people understand how important this is: I'm not convinced agents, booksellers and publishers have got the message. Maybe the time has come for rocking the boat," said White.

Of the few books accessible to vision-impaired readers, those published in electronic formats are much more convenient to carry around than printed formats such as Braille, for example. "I thought it was going to be impossible, to pluck a book off the shelf and read it like other people," said White, describing holidays when he and his wife would argue over suitcase space because his Braille books took up so much room.

While there is an ever-expanding range of media on which to listen to accessible books - MP3 player; podcast and CD - it remains the case that 95 per cent of titles published in the UK are not accessible, blocking out a massive chunk of reading material on the market. "We need the same choice as everyone else," he said. "[That's] one thing to give absolute priority to," White said.

The decision to develop accessible products or features of products, may boil down to the perception of the disability market, White told the audience. For example, manufacturers are happy to add text or camera facilities to mobile phones and leave it to the consumer whether or not they are used, said White. But, as soon as the "disability" label is associated with a product or feature at the conceptual or market research stage, manufacturers think of this as a "minority market" and are put off, he said.

In convincing the manufacturers, publishers and those who ultimately decide on of the importance of accessibility, the numbers game is crucial, he told delegates. "You need to convince people you're a big and powerful lobby." Higher figures give you "political capital," he said.

But there is a fine line to walk between arguing this case and leaving manufacturers feeling misled. An example is the accessible talking radio from Pure. "[Pure] were disappointed with the results," White told delegates. "Take-up was astonishing in terms of numbers but not astonishing in terms of numbers you need to make a profit," he said. "They felt misled."

But the answer to the fight for accessibility may lie in manufacturers tapping in to the burgeoning proportion of older people in the UK population. "The older generation boom" - that's where the market is," White said. Now, technology companies need to be investing in the "grey pound," said White.

So, apart from convincing the private sector of the "natural justice" in designing products and services for people with disabilities, now is the time to forge alliances with other groups in society. "You need to convince people you are a big and powerful lobby," White said. "It's in our interest as a community, older people and non-working disabled people to get on the digital bandwagon," said White. And in turn this could prove to be a sure-fire way to win the "numbers game," he said.

[Section three ends].

++Section Four - Focus- Website Accessibility.


+12: Better Than A Manual

A blind, elderly resident of Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) in the UK found difficulties with navigating his council's website using the JAWS screen reader. The following is the ensuing email exchange between the resident, David Bates, and the council web team. This extract shows that although accessing public services online can be a problem for some users, these problems can be overcome with benefits for all members of the community.

From David Bates, sent 25 July 2006:

Hi, I spoke to you about blind residents accessing the Dudley website with a screen reader. After a few hours I could eventually find most of the departments, but this is very laborious as many of the same links have to be listened to over and over again on each page. This is accentuated by the length and complexity of the site.

Remember that the blind reader won't know which page he is on without keying in the required keystrokes to read out the page title, and the similarity of each page beginning is very confusing to listen to, and closing an opened page requires several keystrokes to operate the Back button.

Listening to the Home page with up to 117 lines is a tedious task, with subsequent links and subject pages repeating the same list - could this format perhaps be [made] more logical and simpler to understand? If you try out your computer using JAWS, with the monitor turned off, I'm sure that you will find this suggested navigation format easier and quicker to use.

From Stuart Orford, Web Developer DMBC, sent July 26, 2006:

David, thanks for the feedback: it's good to get a real user's perspective rather than working from what the various accessibility and usability organisations say we should do. I've thought about setting up a quick fix that should help in using the site. The idea to use a 'skip navigation' or 'header' [link] has been considered before in the past but unfortunately not implemented. However, since your email I've had a look at our main style template on the test system and put in a few tweaks which I'd like to run past you first.

I've added a 'skip to content' link at the very top of the page which will always be the first link on every page of the site. If selected, this link would bypass the header area and the navigation menu, linking you to the title of the page content itself.

At the end of the 'contents,' I've added two links. The first one is a duplicate of the 'skip to content' which would take you back the start of the page content, missing the header and navigation menu. The second would be a 'skip to menu' [link] which would drop you at the top of the main navigation.

From David Bates, sent 30 July 2006:

Hi. Your suggestion for skip links sounds very helpful, also the careful wording of such links would be of immense help to less computer literate users. I imagine council websites are intended to appeal to a wider spectrum of users than almost any other sites, and this requirement must make their formatting very difficult. Old people like me tend to think of a website as being like a printed catalogue, where you look down the contents page, find your subject, and turn to the page indicated. Finding that this page is then a copy of the one which has just been read is very confusing. A blind user might then press the required keystrokes to read out the title of the page, or perhaps the 'back' keystroke to close that page and start over again. The skip links that you suggest would remove this confusion. If the screen controls such as text size have to be at the top of each new page, the skip link could land the cursor below these controls to read out a duplicate of the page link title. Or the cursor could land on [wording such as:] 'the above controls are to help make the screen more readable,' immediately above the title line, which could also contain the relevant phone number. This layout would also make perfect sense to sighted users providing that the focus line for the cursor was somewhere on the opening screen of the new page. As blind users rely on the synthetic voice to read out the screen text line by line, and to also speak each key as it is pressed this is much slower than for a sighted person, [so] extra links make the task much longer. The 'welcome' page took me 7 minutes to listen to and contained a selection of screen controls, some difficult to understand. Alternatively I could tab through the headings in about 3 minutes and miss out some important items such as the council phone number. This format is probably very interesting for those surfing the website for entertainment, but frustrating for those looking for a specific page. Each link could lead to a detailed subject menu which would keep the user in their chosen section and moving onwards to their target subject with fewer irrelevant links to read on the way.

From Stuart Orford, sent 09 August 2006:

David, I've amended the Dudley site to now include the various 'skip to links.' The first link on the page is now a 'go to content' which will drop you at the page title and ignore all the headers and the menu. At the end of the page content there are two links: 'go to menu' and 'go to homepage.' The first will take you back the menu and the second will reload the Dudley site at the homepage again.

It's not possible to add another link at the end to jump back to the start of the page content. The reason is that I'd have to have the link titled 'go to content' because of W3C accessibility guidelines ( http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/ ), as we cannot have a links on a web page that go to the same page with different link text.

We have been thinking about the header area and have made a note of your suggestions but nothing is decided yet as we need to consult with our Marketing team. The menu navigation system is somewhat lengthy but was set up based on a national list of service areas. The thought behind this was that if all councils adopted it then if you go to another local authority site the menu list should be the same and save confusion. This will most likely change in the future as further guidance is published. Finally, David Bates told E-Access Bulletin: "Ideally every website designer should have access to a computer with a screen reader, on which they should have to demonstrate their website using sound only, and with the monitor switched off. The missing picture would be worth a thousand words!" NOTE: If readers have experiences of particularly good - or bad - exchanges with online service providers, please let us know. We may publish a representative sample in future editions of the bulletin. Email the editor on inbox@headstar.com . [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].

++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 .

++End Notes.



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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].