+++E-Access Bulletin- Issue 92, August 2007.

A Headstar publication.

Technology news for people with vision impairment ( http://www.headstar.com/eab/ ). Sponsored by: 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/ .

++Special notice: Techshare Expo 2007- 4-5 October 2007, Novotel, London


Techshare Expo 2007 is set to be the biggest ever European exhibition on access to the information society by people with disabilities.

Supported by RNIB, RNID, Dyslexia Action and E-Access Bulletin, Techshare Expo 2007 is a fabulous new showcase for products, services and organisations working to ensure that people with disabilities can participate fully in the information age. It is the place where decision makers from across the private and public sectors and people with disabilities will attend to source new products and services, meet with suppliers and be inspired by the innovations and ideas on show from exhibitors.

The exhibition is free to attend and open to public access. For details and to register see: http://www.techshare-expo.com/ .

PLEASE NOTE: This exhibition is running alongside the Techshare conference, hosted by the RNIB for professionals in the field, which does have an admittance charge: for more information and a full speaker programme for the conference see: http://www.rnib.org.uk/techshare .

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: International Trials For Groundbreaking Scanner.

A device is under development that combines a scanner and labeller with voice output, radio, mp3 player, talking clock, voice recorder and audio book player, for the first time in a single unit.

The TellMate, from Singapore company GaiShan Technology, can read Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips embedded in labels on household objects, such as tins of food and clothes. The device can scan these reusable "tagged" labels and "speak" the information stored on them aloud, once the user has pre-recorded the name of the item and any additional information about it, such as sell-by date. Tell Mate is sold with 20 reusable iron-on and adhesive-backed RFID tags.

The device is about the same size and dimensions as a thick remote control and has five main keys for navigating the features menu and buttons on the sides for voice recording, locking the keypad and power. Voice activated buttons tell users which button he or she has pressed.

"It's simple to use. The buttons are big enough but not bulky," said Dave Chatten-Smith, founder of the non-profit Hampshire blindness organisation Blink ( http://www.blinkfundraising.co.uk/ ) and current UK supplier of the device. "The voice commands are not professionally custom recorded voices, but it's a very good unit: it's small, compact; light and it has a good neck strap so you're not going to lose it," Chatten-Smith told E-Access Bulletin.

Chin Swee Jeen, of GaiShan Technology ( http://www.gaishantech.com/ ) told E-Access Bulletin that 100 units have been sold globally. Participants from trials conducted with 50 vision impaired people in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore and 10 in the US have said they prefer to have multiple functions in one gadget. "In this part of the world, new technology requires you to have a new mindset. The difference in accessing information [using] RFID is great. They are so used to having Braille or nothing at all," said Chin.

The device costs 250 pounds and is available from Chatten-Smith who, although the current UK distributor of the device, is looking for a permanent UK stockist. He found out about TellMate on an assistive technology news website and contacted the company to ask if he could test and distribute it for Singapore-based manufacturer GaiShan Technology. The second version, which is to have a built-in slot for a removable Secure Digital flash memory card format, will be released by winter 2007.

NOTE: To comment on this story or the issues it raises, please visit the E-Access Bulletin Live blog: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/ .

+02: Campaign For Accessible Mobile Phones Launched In Us.

A campaign has been launched to support vision impaired Americans who have problems accessing mobile phone services. The campaign, co-ordinated by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), will raise awareness of Section 255, a part of the Federal Communications Act that requires all phones to be made usable by people with disabilities.

The 'Cell Phone Accessibility Project' provides consumers with information about Section 255; what consumers can expect from a usable cell phone; information about available cell phones with features that make them more usable by people with vision loss; and strategies that consumers can use in campaigning for phones that meet their needs. The AFB also provides information about how to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which enforces Section 255 ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/afbmobile ).

"Two kinds of complaints can be filed under Section 255, formal and informal. The complaints are informal. The FCC notifies the companies against whom the complaints are filed and the companies are required to contact the consumers to attempt to resolve the accessibility issues," said Paul W. Schroeder, AFB Vice President, Programs and Policy. "We decided to assist a group of individuals in filing a series of complaints to provide evidence to the FCC that the cell phone industry, as a whole has not made enough progress in developing accessible cell phones," he told E-Access Bulletin.

"Hopefully, companies will do two things: provide more details about the accessibility features currently available in phones, and begin working with qualified experts to fully examine accessibility and improve everything from visibility of the display to the tactile identification of keys and speech output for all phone functions and information," Schroeder said.

"Thus far, 14 individuals have filed complaints against the cell phone service provider Sprint Nextel and against several phone manufacturers," said Schroeder. "I expect that there may be a few more complaints that will be filed in the next few weeks as we have a number of individuals who have expressed an interest in making complaints," he said. "Section 255 requires both service providers and manufacturers to ensure that their services and equipment are accessible to people with disabilities, if readily achievable. That is why the complaints are against both the provider and the specific phone manufacturer," he explained.

NOTE: To comment on this story or the issues it raises, please visit the E-Access Bulletin Live blog: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/ .

+03: Audio Description Included As Standard For Sony Tvs.

Sony has begun shipping its Bravia range of integrated digital TVs with audio description included as a standard function. The first of the new Bravia models were launched in June, and the company aims to equip the entire Bravia range with audio description by the end of September 2007.

Earlier this year rival TV manufacturer Panasonic made a similar move, enabling consumers to access audio described broadcast content without buying extra equipment such as a set-top box. At present, the audio description facilities provided by both Sony and Panasonic are restricted to programme content only, and so do not include an accessible electronic programme guide.

The move was welcomed by the RNIB. However, Jill Whitehead, RNIB Media and Culture Information Officer said that Sony could improve the accessibility of its remote control handset. "The Panasonic remote control is much better," she told E-Access Bulletin. Unlike Sony, the Panasonic system enables users to isolate the audio description stream, listening to it privately through headphones, which may be a bonus for households with sighted and vision impaired viewers.

Although Sony's move is a welcome development, Whitehead was cautious about the impact on other manufacturers. "Audio description is still not seen as a desirable feature for the mass market. The manufacturers think of it as serving a minority audience," she said. RNIB has produced a downloadable guide to audio description that includes more details about the new Sony and Panasonic models: http://fastlink.headstar.com/rnibdigtv .

++News in Brief:


+04: Market Access:

A guide aimed at private sector buyers who want to research the usability and accessibility markets has been published. The guide, from E-consultancy, contains information on market trends, advice about how to find the right supplier and information about costs. The guide contains detailed profiles of supplier agencies or consultancies with market positioning charts for each: http://fastlink.headstar.com/econguide .

+05: Speaking Out:

+06: Your Space:

An online petition has been launched to encourage search engine company Yahoo! to ensure visual user identification systems such as captchas are accessible to vision impaired people. The Yahoo! Accessibility Improvement Petition is calling for an audio alternative to the systems. Yahoo's current system uses graphics that cannot be translated by screen readers or Braille output devices: http://fastlink.headstar.com/yahoopet .

A social networking website aimed at vision impaired people has been launched. The Zone BBS from J-Squared Access Solutions, does not use captchas and is fully accessible with a screen reader. The site contains online games, a discussion forum, audio profile and voice chat features: http://www.zonebbs.com/index.php .

[Section One ends].

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


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

+07: Content Management:

Simon Pavitt, Director of Headware writes in response to queries from David Rosser of the Torbay Care Trust about being unable to access the PARIS Content Management System (CMS) in the last issue of the bulletin: "If you're looking for an accessible CMS a good starting point might be: http://fastlink.headstar.com/cmsacc ," writes Simon.

"I'd be disinclined to go for a proprietary system as you have no control over how it adapts to new standards or develops new features. Using open source software gives you more flexibility to make whatever changes you need.

"I use Drupal, which has a user group of people working on its accessibility: http://groups.drupal.org/accessibility . It also has the same interface for users as admin, although you have the choice of using different themes for each if you wish).

"A wide variety of open source CMS can be tried out at http://www.opensourcecms.com . It's not completely obvious, so follow the Portal (CMS) link in left menu, then select the CMS you are interested in and use the 'Admin login' link. You can then get your own idea about its accessibility or run any tests.

"Bear in mind though, that CMSs generally come with the ability to swap the template for another one. Drupal has hundreds that different people have contributed, for example. So the default one might not necessarily be the best one from an accessibility point of view, and a designer can adapt them to make them better or worse."

Waqas Hussain, Director of Consultancy Diversity, Equality responds to David Rosser's other questions about legislation relating to websites: "All UK websites including those of local authorities are covered under part three of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) 1995, to be accessible and usable by disabled people and I believe in your case, Part two (employment) may also be applicable. Furthermore, DDA 2005 requires all public authorities to promote disability equality, which does include taking into account accessibility and usability of websites or software for disabled employees and service users at the time of procurement or development.

"You could discuss these issues with the human resources department or the person in the Equalities unit responsible for dealing with disability equality and related issues. You could also request for a copy of the local authority's Disability Equality Scheme (DES) in an accessible format and point out any actions they have committed to take for improving accessibility and usability. We work extensively with local authorities on these issues. Please feel free to contact me should you need to discuss it further on: Waqas@deo-consultancy.co.uk ." [further responses to inbox@headstar.com]

+08: Local Heroes:

Suzette Keith from the Middlesex University Design for All Research Group writes: "Did you know that 99 per cent of EU businesses are classed as small to medium enterprises employing less than 250 people and most of these are sole traders, family run businesses or others with less than 10 employees? There are now many surveys of web accessibility of government and large organisations, but how are the small local service companies doing?

"Currently I am running an exploratory project for a European consumer group and want to find some examples of good practice among small businesses in the leisure and entertainment business and social services. These business sectors were chosen because they contribute to quality of life and wellbeing, and generally the fun side of life!

"Can anyone recommend a favourite accessible web site run by a small local business such as a family run restaurant or pub, online shopping for a specialised hobby, sport or food, or maybe an aromatherapist or similar? I will look at the site to see how it is designed and will make contact with the site owner or developer with a few questions in September. When you make your recommendation, please give me the URL and also can you tell me what sort of assistive technologies or adjustments you use when accessing the web, or tell me if you are a developer and recommend a client site." [responses to inbox@headstar.com].

[Inbox ends].

++Section Three - Focus- Mobile Technology.


+09: Breaking The Circleby Derek Parkinson.

The benefits of technology and how to make them accessible to more people, occupies a lot of Steve Tyler's thinking. As Senior Strategic Manager for Digital Technology at the RNIB, Tyler is always looking ahead, trying to anticipate the improvements that new technology can bring to the lives of people with impaired vision.

Mobile devices have a key role in his thinking, he told E-Access Bulletin. "In theory mobile technology should tick all the boxes for blind people. It provides communication, it can help you get around, and can be used as a safety device," he says.

To bring these benefits to more vision impaired people, Tyler hopes to build constructive relationships with manufacturers of mobile devices. Recent meetings with mobile phone giant Nokia ( http://www.nokia.com/ ) have given Tyler reason to be optimistic about this approach. "We've had some good sessions. The beauty of these meetings is being able to talk to the technical staff. We discussed some of the excellent voice technology that has been developed by independent suppliers, such as the Nuance Talks ( http://www.nuance.com/talks/ ) product for example," he says.

Specialist products such as this can bring huge benefits to users but there needs to be wider take-up, says Tyler. "Wayfinder [a GPS- enabled navigation system] works amazingly well with Talks," says Tyler. Excellent as these products undoubtedly are, too few people benefit from them, he says.

"It's no good if the technology doesn't reach the users. But it's often a struggle to get it out to the public because they don't know it's available, the cost is high, or the user needs to know some horribly technical information. Even when people do know about technology that makes their phone more accessible they have to send the phone away to have the technology loaded onto it. Either that or they have to be a computer geek themselves," says Tyler.

The trend towards globalised markets brings new opportunities, he says. In order to safeguard their position in North American and European markets, companies such as Nokia are having to respond to the needs of ageing populations, and the public policies and research programmes that promote accessible design. In Europe, a research programmes known as COST (Cooperation Europeenne dans le Domaine de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique) draws together researchers from EU and non-EU countries. One particular strand, 'Cost 219', aims to improve access to telecommunications services for elderly and disabled people. For information about work on COST 219 in the UK, see: http://fastlink.headstar.com/cost219 .

In the US, similar objectives are the aim of policies such as Healthy People 2010 ( http://www.healthypeople.gov/ ), a plan drafted by the US Department of Health and Human Sciences to improve the quality of life of ageing American citizens, and promote inclusion. Such policies encourage Nokia to think about how to make their products accessible, and organisations such as RNIB are well- placed to help them, says Tyler. "Their phrase is 'Connecting People'. They understand the potential of personal, configurable devices to break down barriers between people," he says.

Working more closely with organisations such as the RNIB will save Nokia valuable time otherwise spent researching what vision-impaired users want from mobile devices, and how they use them. Ultimately, the aim of the RNIB is to encourage manufacturers to build accessibility features into products from the start, as far as is possible, says Tyler. This would save the user from having to spend more time and money on assistive technology, but manufacturers must also be able to see benefits, most obviously demand from the mass market. "This needn't be rocket science, heads in the clouds stuff," says Tyler. An example of a mass market service which also brings great benefits to vision impaired people is the cinema listings service provided by network operator Orange, says Tyler.

"You can receive film listings and storylines for your local cinemas, in an accessible text format. So right there you have something that has mass-market appeal, but ticks boxes for blind people," he says. However, even when a manufacturer or service provider does introduce accessible options, barriers remain, says Tyler. "A few years ago the manufacturer LG introduced a talking microwave oven, but said that they couldn't sell them. I decided to do some research, and rang five big retailers of LG products to ask if they sold the microwave. None of them knew about it," says Tyler.

"A problem with the retail industry is that only sales are recorded. Failure to serve customer requirements doesn't get logged. It creates a circle that we must break," he says.

[Section Three ends].

++Section Four: Focus- Mobile Technology.


+10: A Question Of Mobilityby Dr Evangelos Bekiaris.

ASK-IT is a European umbrella project aiming to develop a platform for information and services that will be delivered via mobile devices. This is large, challenging and ambitious but aims to change the market.

The 'Ambient intelligence system of agents for knowledge-based and integrated services for mobility impaired users' ( http://www.ask-it.org/ ) is funded by 18 million euros - 10 million of which is paid by the European Commission (EC), the rest by over 50 partners. It is an initiative of the 'e-Inclusion' Strategic Objective of the IST Thematic Area of the 6th Framework Programme ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/einc ).

The aims are to prove that full travel accessibility for anyone who has a problem in being autonomously mobile can be achieved in a reliable, seamless and viable way using a range of available technologies and communications networks. It also aims to enable personalised, self- configurable, intuitive and context related applications and services as well as facilitate knowledge acquisition.

The services offered cover transport, tourism and leisure, personal support services, work, business, education and community building related content. Users can get information; guidance; book and pay for any transport, tourist or other service through any mobile device, such as a mobile phone, PDA, in-car terminal, tablet PC or laptop; anywhere - indoors, outdoors, in any connected city or country.

It will work seamlessly, so the technologies to keep the user connected might change, but he or she wouldn't notice. The framework is interoperable in terms of what mobile device used or whether a local or wide area networks is used. The framework is entrusted and based on intuitive web-semantics; thus offering a seamless and device independent service everywhere.

And the user interface adapts to the users' interests, abilities, habits and intentions. Content and tools are integrated within an Ambient Intelligent Framework [an electronic environment that is responsive to mobile devices] and a self-configurable user interface that offers service personalisation according to user profile, habits, preferences and context of use.

The ASK-IT service and system will be tested in seven core sites and one satellite site across Europe, with about 50 mobility-impaired users in each site. The sites are: Athens-Thessaloniki, Greece; Bucharest, Romania; Genova, Italy; Helsiniki, Finland; Madrid, Spain; Newcastle, UK; Nuremberg, Germany; and a satellite site in The Hague, Netherlands.

The main development work of the project is coming to an end and the focus has moved towards the integration of the tools into the ASK-IT system environment and the test sites. The pilot sites are coming to the end of the accessible content gathering and web services development. Connection of new and existing services to ASK-IT is realised through an innovative tool that has been developed within the project, namely the Data Management module.

Some examples of developed user interfaces are the domotics application, through which the user can control different parts of the house in terms of lighting and heating. And at the Greek pilot site, a social events web service has been developed allowing blind users to plan a trip to an ASK-IT site. He or she can make a booking so that a Braille map of the city would await him or her at the airport, as well as specially arranged personal transport to his or her hotel. The hotel will be fully accessible with Braille text, and announcements and guiding trails all over. Also, advice on nearby accessible restaurants and cafes is given, including route guidance on user's mobile or Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) on accessible routes.

At the end of the project, users will pay a small premium of 10 to 30 euros to have the ASK-IT software on their mobile device and a monthly or yearly fee or a pre-paid card depending on the country. Then services may be free, such as information from municipalities although each connected service or content provider can have its own pricing policy.

The tests of individual modules and services are planned to start in October 2007, while the integrated system will be tested a couple of months later. The first set of results will be reported by the end of the year and results from the whole project will be reported at the ASK IT International Conference in June 2008.

NOTE: Dr. Evangelos Bekiaris is Research Director at the Centre for Research and Technology at the Hellenic Institute of Transport ( http://www.hit.certh.gr/ ). and is a member of the ASK-IT Scientific Committee.

[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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  • Editor - Dan Jellinek
  • Deputy editor - Derek Parkinson
  • Senior reporter - Mel Poluck
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends].