+++E-Access Bulletin- Issue 96, December 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/ .

++Issue 96 Contents.

  1. 01: Technology Giants Forge Accessibility Alliance - Microsoft, Adobe, HP and others collaborate on tools and standards.
  2. 02: EU Countries Set To Miss 2010 Accessibility Targets = European progress report reveals patchy progress.
  3. 03: Tourism Websites Fall Short On Accessibility - Just one site of 10 reviewed meets 'acceptable' standards.
  4. News in Brief:
  5. 04: News in Brief: 04:
  6. 05: Microsoft Word; 05:
  7. 06: 2020 Framework - national vision policy
  8. 07: Million Strong - online petition on disability law.
  9. Section Two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' Forum. 07: Apple Tasting - call
  10. 08: for views on technology firm; 08:
  11. 09: Moodle Extras - educational
  12. 10: software platform; 09:
  13. 11: Misplaced Responsibility? built-in accessibility
  14. 12: Ubuntu Update - text browser packaged with Linux brand;
  15. 13: Unequal Opportunity - online job application struggles; 12: Barcamp Call: government websites event.
  16. Section Three: Special Report, Part One - UK Newspaper Web Sites
  17. 14: and Accessibility.
  18. 15: Here Is The News - If You Can Find It: Newspaper websites should be liberating for people with impaired vision, allowing to access stories at the same time as everybody else. But new research from Journalism.co.uk shows that many are being denied this ability through poor website design.
  19. Section Four: Special Report, Part Two - UK Newspaper Web Sites
  20. 16: and Accessibility.
  21. 17: Mixed Bag: Selected Findings from the Journalism.co.uk Study: a round-up of high and low points of the research into all the major UK national newspaper websites, by publication.

[Contents ends].

++Special notice: Mobile and Flexible Working in the Public Sector- 23 January 2008, RIBA, London - 100 Pound Early Bird Discount for Pre-Christmas Booking http://www.headstar-events.com/flexible08/ .


Mobile and flexible working practices can help public sector bodies' staff work closer to the citizen and reduce the carbon footprint of your organisation. And flexible working practices ensure that services can be delivered 24-7.

Headstar is pleased to announce the third annual conference on Mobile and Flexible Working in the Public Sector will take place on 23 January 2008, at RIBA, central London. A superb speaker line-up features Stephen Regan, Head of Management and Technologies Programmes at Cranfield University; and Colin Rowland of Cheshire County Council. Book before Christmas to qualify for a 100 pound discount. To see the full programme and to register online, see: http://www.headstar-events.com/flexible08/ .

And for information about sponsoring or exhibiting at the event please email Claire Clinton on: claire@headstar.com or call her on 01273 231291.

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Technology Giants Forge Accessibility Alliance.

A group of the world's leading technology companies have forged a new alliance to harmonise accessibility standards, techniques and tools in a move one leading accessibility analyst is calling "the most exciting and significant accessibility development of the past 12 months."

Founder members of the Accessibility Interoperability Alliance (AIA - http://www.accessinteropalliance.org ) include Adobe, BayFirst Solutions, HP, Microsoft and Novell, as well as specialist assistive technology companies such as Claro Software, Dolphin Computer Access, GW Micro, HiSoftware, Madentec, Texthelp Systems and QualiLife.

The group will collaborate on a range of engineering projects intended to increase interoperability between existing technologies; design new technologies or solutions; improve developer guidelines; lower development costs; and increase accessibility innovation.

Initial projects will include developing a set of keyboard shortcuts to provide consistent behaviour to users of assistive technology products in any web browser; improving the interoperability and exchange of information between IT hardware and software and assistive technology (AT) products; and adding accessibility features and capabilities to software user interfaces.

"Today, developers must work across divergent platforms, application environments and hardware models to create accessible technology for customers with disabilities," Rob Sinclair, director of the Accessibility Business Unit at Microsoft, said in a statement issued at the alliance's launch last week. "The AIA is an opportunity for the entire industry to come together to reduce the cost and complexity of accessibility, increase customer satisfaction, foster inclusive innovation, and reinforce a sustainable ecosystem of accessible technology products."

The project could also create new markets for existing specialist accessibility technologies, the alliance said. "This is the most exciting and significant accessibility development of the past 12 months," Julie Howell, Director of Accessibility at web design agency Fortune Cookie and former head of accessibility at RNIB told E-Access Bulletin.

"Equality for disabled people means access to the same content at the same time, in the same time, at the same cost and with the same ease as everyone else. The battle for e-accessibility will be won when the developers of tools that author and access web content work together in harmony. Access technology developers have worked with mainstream IT developers in the past, and when they have, disabled people have benefited."

+02: Eu Countries Set To Miss 2010 Accessibility Targets.

European member states are in danger of missing targets for a more inclusive information society pledged for achievement by 2010, according to a major new international study published by the European Commission last month.

A pattern of "eAccessibility gaps, deficits and patchworks" was revealed by the study, 'Measuring progress of eAccessibility in Europe' (MeAC) ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/meac1 ).

In a declaration made in Riga in 2006, EU ministers pledged to halve the gaps in computer literacy and access across Europe and ensure all public websites are accessible by 2010. However progress remains "fragmented and slow", the new study finds, and "most of the Riga objectives will not be met on time". More than one in three Europeans are still excluded from fully benefiting from the digital society, it finds.

The report says: "Accessibility of public websites remains stuck at 5 per cent. Only 10 per cent of people aged over 64 are internet users while the average in Europe is 47 per cent. Without further intervention, the gap will only be halved in 2015 instead of 2010." Lower-educated, economically inactive and elderly people at the greatest risk of being left behind, the report finds.

However, the research says there is evidence of the effectiveness of EU-level policies in progressing e-accessibility in Europe, and acknowledges legislative progress made by three individual states: Italy, Spain and the UK.

In an attempt to accelerate progress, the commission has adopted a new framework to integrate e-Inclusion actions across Europe, and is considering new legislative measures similar to the accessibility aspects of the US Americans with Disabilities Act.

It has also launched a year-long awareness campaign for 2008 entitled 'e-Inclusion, be part of it!', to culminate with a ministerial conference to reinforce commitments at all levels (see http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/einclusion ).

Speaking at the campaign's launch Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, said: "It is neither morally acceptable nor economically sustainable to leave millions of people behind, unable to use information and communications technologies to their advantage.

"Progress has been only half as fast as it should be. The commission is sending today a clear signal to all parties concerned: industry, regulators and governments that we must act together now to ensure a barrier-free information society for all."

+03: Tourism Websites Fall Short On Accessibility.

Almost all UK tourism websites are failing to meet basic acceptable standards of accessibility, according to a new report from technology access charity AbilityNet.

The report, the latest in a series of 'State of the eNation' surveys by the charity, assessed ten websites at random from a list of the most popular UK visitor attractions. The sites were rated using a five star scale from 'very inaccessible' (one star) to 'very accessible' (five stars), with three stars representing an 'adequate' level of accessibility.

Only one of the ten sites examined - the Glasgow Science Centre - met or exceeded this 'adequate' threshold. The centre's site (http://www.glasgowsciencecentre.org ) has been improved in the past year with accessibility in mind and as a result achieved four stars.

Of the other sites assessed, four achieved two stars (the Eden Project, The Giant's Causeway, National Waterfront Museum and Portmeirion) and five were deemed very inaccessible, receiving only one star (Belfast Zoo, The Burns Heritage Museum, Edinburgh Castle, Kew Gardens and the London Eye).

Sites which fail to meet the three-star level may be falling short of service access requirements set out in the UK's Disability Discrimination Act, AbilityNet says.

The report took into account sites' compliance with the international World Wide Web Consortium's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, as well as the practical difficulties that visitors with a range of disabilities may experience. Among the features that cause problems are small text that cannot be resized; unnecessary complexity; closely clustered buttons; unlabeled images and over-reliance on visual clues. Since the audit was taken at least three of the single-star-rated attractions have expressed a commitment to improving the accessibility of their websites.

++News in Brief:


+04: DAISY Save:

A free plug-in allowing users of Microsoft Word to 'Save As DAISY' - saving files in a format which can be converted into a DAISY electronic book - will be available in early 2008. The DAISY format allows users to scroll through text, skip to and from different sections and footnotes much like a reader might with a printed text. It is hoped the new plug-in will encourage publishers to make more texts available to DAISY users: http://fastlink.headstar.com/daisy2 .

+05: 2020 Framework:

A draft strategic framework for the improvement of eye health, prevention of sight loss, and support for the visually impaired in the UK has been published by Vision2020 UK, an umbrella organisation focused on visual health. Among the many initiatives is a call for the communications regulator, Ofcom to push for an increase in the proportion of television and radio broadcasts offering audio description from 10% to 50% within 15 years. Consultation on the UK Vision Strategy runs to 17 January 2008: http://fastlink.headstar.com/vision1 .

+06: Million Strong:

More than 200,000 people have signed an online petition calling for improved legislation protecting the rights of Europe's fifty-million disabled people, as part of a combined online and offline petition campaign by the European Disability Forum, '1million4disability'. Last month the campaign met its initial target of raising a million signatures in nine months, presenting around 1,300,000 names to the European Commission. The website is still active, at: http://www.1million4disability.eu .

[Section One ends].

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


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

+07: Apple Tasting:

E-Access Bulletin is researching an article on the accessibility features of the new Apple operating system 'Leopard' and all other Apple products such as the iPod and iPhone. We would appreciate views from readers who may have disabilities and who use Apple products as to their strengths and weaknesses, and also would also welcome people's general perceptions of Apple as a company and of the firm's approach to accessibility.

Please send all comments to inbox@headstar.com .

+08: Moodle Extras:

In our October issue (story number 11, section three) Nick Freear and Chetz Colwell wrote on their experiences of ensuring the accessibility of the widely-used open source online education platform Moodle at the UK's Open University. Due to an oversight some useful links were left out of this piece, and Nick writes in to set this right.

To find out more about Moodle, readers can visit: http://moodle.org and for more on current accessibility work on the platform, see: http://docs.moodle.org/en/Accessibility .

The authors would also like to add some acknowledgements: the work is a collaboration involving Open University colleagues, Moodle.com developers and many others, and the community on the Moodle.org forums.

+09: Misplaced Responsibility?

Linda Woodbury, a reader in San Diego, California, sends in some striking general observations on accessibility that make particularly interesting reading alongside this issue's announcement of a new accessibility alliance between a group of major technology firms (see story one, News, this issue).

She writes: "Why do you think that we continue to develop technology for blind persons to read appliances, digital read-outs, signs and street information, etcetera, etcetera, when the blind person then is always responsible for determining which device to use, often affording the cost, and burdened with carrying extra equipment everywhere?

"Wouldn't it seem more advantageous to press hard for all corporations and government entities to simply offer built-in accessibility into their products, services and marketing efforts wherever it is at all possible? Simple solutions which cost only a minor change in product development and packaging would seem a good start. To this point, it always seems the responsibility of the blind individual, who often has the least resources, to bear the cost."

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+10: Ubuntu Update:

Jeff Seager, Communications Specialist at the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services, writes in to add to his Inbox contribution in our last issue. Jeff had sung the praises of the Ubuntu brand of Linux for prioritising accessibility by automatically installing the open source 'Orca' screen reader software.

He now adds: "A few days after my first note to you, I realised that the Lynx text browser also was installed by default in the new 7.10 version of Ubuntu Linux. I hadn't noticed this sooner because I'd installed and customised Lynx myself in Ubuntu 7.04, and my customised version remains intact.

"Like the default GUI web browser in Ubuntu, the newly installed Lynx opens (the first time, and until you change the home page) with a page tailored for new users of Ubuntu, linking to more Ubuntu learning resources. Nicely implemented accessibility for those who need or prefer a text-only browser."

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+11: Unequal Opportunity:

Further to our contribution last month from reader Norman Waddington, who experienced accessibility difficulties applying for a job online with a local authority, another reader, David Rosser, writes in to offer his own similar experience.

"I can sympathise and relate to Norman Waddington's article on the difficulties experienced applying for a job.

"I myself am visually impaired and recently tried to apply for a job online with the NHS and found it less than user-friendly. I visited my local job centre and asked for a hard copy of the application form and was told by the job centre I would not get an interview as they prefer online applications.

"I feel more should be done in improving the accessibility of online application forms to enable people with visual impairments to have equality. Improving online applications for jobs would be a positive step for everyone as it would make the lives of visually impaired people easier but also sighted people as well."

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+12: Barcamp Call:

Alex Stobart of the Scottish Executive writes in to draw E-Access Bulletin readers' attention to 'BarcampUKGovWeb', a proposed two-day 'Barcamp' meeting he is helping to organise to discuss issues relating to government websites. The event is planned for the weekend of 26 and 27 January 2008 in central London.

The 'barcamp' format refers to a new, informal style of event that is planned collaboratively online, with everyone who plans to attend also pledging to help out in some way with speaking, chairing or organisation. Stobart says that one of the participants has specifically asked that the organisers invite people from the accessibility community, and this is why he has written in to this newsletter.

For more information see: http://barcamp.org/BarcampUKGovweb .

[Inbox ends].

++Section Three: Special Report, Part One- UK Newspaper Web Sites and Accessibility.


+13: Here Is The News - If You Can Find It.

In the world before the internet, blind people had to rely on a limited range of newspaper articles - selected by others - being deemed suitable for translation into Braille or other formats, and posted out far too late to be meaningfully termed 'news'.

With the web, theoretically the playing field is levelled; anyone who can access a computer including blind screen-reader users and people with impaired vision can access the websites of the major newspapers at the same time as everybody else, reading the headlines as they break and picking the articles they want to read - however trashy - from the entire range.

That is, of course, assuming that the newspaper websites are accessible to screen-readers and other special access technologies. But according to a major new piece of research into the accessibility of newspaper websites from the specialist journalism news site Journalism.co.uk, this is not a safe assumption.

Last month Journalism.co.uk asked a group of blind or visually- impaired volunteers to carry out user testing on eight of the main national newspaper sites: the Express; the Guardian; the Independent; the Daily Mail; the Mirror; the Sun; the Daily Telegraph; and the Times. The volunteers were John Allnutt, a JAWS screen-reader user (version 3.7), and three young students from the Royal London Society for the Blind's Dorton College: Rosie Johnson, Josh Pinnell and Charlotte West.

The group was asked to carry out a series of tasks on each site including to access the current lead story at each website; navigate to a news story of interest to them away from the home page; locate and play a piece of audio or video; use the search function to track down a story; find and interact with the blogs or reader feedback sections; and locate the accessibility information section, if present. They were also invited to record their general overall impressions of each site.

The results were mixed, to say the least. Only the Guardian and the Daily Mail websites were found to have sections dedicated to accessibility, and only the Daily Mail provided a text-only version of its website for blind and visually impaired people. No newspaper site has yet earned an RNIB 'See It Right' logo, awarded for excellence in this area.

Navigation around the sites by screen-reader users and people with impaired vision was often hampered by confusing site layouts and structures, and pop-up advertisements that appeared without warning and with no textual explanation.

All the sites did have at least some positive features relating to accessibility, though there was little consistency throughout, and they all presented the volunteers with problems as well.

Analysing the results for Journalism.co.uk, Richard Warren, technical manager at web usability consultancy Userite, said: "None of the eight newspapers reviewed have grasped the fundamental difference between the internet and the print media. All have tried to replicate the look of their printed version and just added a confusing set of navigation menus.

"The result is a collection of cluttered pages that are not very user- friendly and make little, or no, concession to disabled users."

A common problem found by the survey was the need to listen to an extensive list of links (navigation menus) and other page furniture before getting to the main content of the page, Warren said. This is because Jaws (and other assistive software) reads the page in the order in which it is written.

"The sighted user has his or her attention drawn to the main story in the middle of the page by the colour and size of the headline font and associated images. The blind user has to listen whilst Jaws works it way through all the menus, advertisements and other clutter on the page," he said.

"There is an easy solution to [this] problem, which is to introduce a new link at the top of the page that takes the user directly to the main page content thus avoiding all the navigation links. The Mirror, Daily Mail and Guardian each provide this option with varying degrees of success.

"The Guardian and Daily Mail even try to provide a selection of shortcut keys [but] this technology is incorrectly implemented on both newspapers and could cause users to save unwanted files on their computer rather than navigate to the required page."

A second, common problem found by the research was the use of pop- up windows. "These are annoying for sighted readers, but they can be a disaster for the blind who often have no way of knowing that the focus of Jaws has changed from the main page to a pop-up window," said Warren.

"As a result the reviewer tried to continue navigating as if he was on the original page and got totally lost."

Some features of the sites would cause problems not just for those with impaired vision but for people with impaired movement as well, the research found. Many of the sites use pull-down menus for navigation, but sighted people with limited mouse control would often be unable to select accurately from these menus. The cursor frequently loses its focus on the menu, which then closes before they have had time to select the desired option, Warren said.

Other problems were experienced by the volunteers in accessing the sites' video news content and interactive blogs. "Videos and blogs are newer technologies so the accessibility functions might not be as well known. However this is still not an excuse for not trying," he said.

"Videos should have an alternative transcript of the associated audio available for deaf people to read and an alternative text description of the scene/s to enable blind people to put the audio into context."

The solution to most of these issues is to follow the main accepted international standards for web accessibility, Warren said. "The Daily Mail provided a text-only version of its website for blind and visually impaired people, but the link to this was so far down the page that blind people may fail to find it. However, the provision of text-only pages is not the only, or indeed the most desirable, solution for accessibility.

"The newspapers tested could easily apply the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to their existing content, make better use of their style sheets so that important content is coded near the top of the page and use the HTML codes for headings and lists in a proper manner."

Ultimately, the newspapers themselves could lose out by failing to properly embrace issues of accessibility, says Oliver Luft of Journalism.co.uk. "Despite the obvious benefits for users, good accessibility has advantages for publishers, including higher ranking and more matches from search engines, which can more accurately index the content," Luft says.

"Yet these benefits are overlooked by many of the UK's major newspapers in their online strategies."

NOTE: For selected results from the research by newspaper see Section Four, this issue. And for full details, see: http://www.journalism.co.uk/5/articles/530590.php

[Section Three ends].

++Section Four: Special Report, Part Two- UK Newspaper Web Sites and Accessibility.


+14: Mixed Bag:

Selected Findings from the Journalism.co.uk Study.

The specialist website Journalism.co.uk has published an in-depth study into the accessibility and usability of the websites of the UK's main national newspapers (see Section Three, this issue). In part two of our report on this study, we present a round-up of the good points and bad points of all the sites surveyed.

- The Express http://www.express.co.uk - Good News: Good layout of blogs section, which lists content in a similar style to news articles, with an appropriate headline indicating to the screen reader user what lies behind each link.

- Bad News: The site's search engine, instead of immediately informing the user of how many results they have and displaying them, presented the volunteers with out of context links to Madeleine McCann and Princess Diana among the first returns with no explanation that these were commonly-searched-for terms.

- The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk - Good News: The site - a favourite with volunteers - features an accessibility tool as the third link read out by JAWS on entering a page. While this resizing tool - aimed at users with visual impairments - does feature on other newspaper sites, it is rarely so prominent.

- Bad News: Takes JAWS users a long time to tab through to the top news stories of the day in the site's navigation bar. "Sighted users might be able to identify where the news content is instantly, but I have no idea. JAWS has to work its way through all these different sections first," said John Allnutt.

- The Independent http://www.independent.co.uk Good news: The website includes a tool to resize fonts at the bottom of the page, which is useful to visually impaired users. And the paper says: "We are currently in the process of redesigning the website and are taking accessibility into account, not least by retaining scaleable fonts."

Bad news: A recent redesign of the blogs section has given it a layout completely at odds with the rest of the site. The blogs page also contained some pop-up advertising, confusing for screen reader users. Overall, the volunteers found this site one of the hardest to use.

- The Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk - Good News: The site makes regular use of a 'skip to main navigation' link, which allowed the volunteers to bypass much of the extraneous navigational 'furniture' on each page.

- Bad News: A change of left-hand navigation bar in the blogs section was disorientating for John, who was uncertain how to navigate from this page to other sections of the site.

- The Mirror http://www.mirror.co.uk - Good News: The results pages for a search were not inundated with adverts, as was the case on other sites, allowing JAWS to access the results more quickly.

- Bad News: The news navigation process was 'convoluted' and 'misleading'. A 'skip to main content' link seemed like a promising way to avoid adverts, but in fact led John to a long list of showbiz news stories rather than the main news section.

- The Sun http://www.thesun.co.uk - Good News: The position and heading on the top stories help readers with impaired vision identify that they are important. The size of the text is good and The Sun's direct style gives a clear impression of what story is about.

- Bad News: The search facility searched the entire world wide web by default rather than this website, without informing the user, as the site uses a drop down menu rather than radio buttons to change this feature.

- The Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk - Good News: When first entering the site, John's screen reader immediately began reading the main news content - a rare and welcome pleasure.

- Bad News: Clicking through on a link to an article in the education section did not provide instant access to the piece. Instead, JAWS read the headline but then had to trawl all the navigation bars and adverts before reaching the story.

- The Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk - Good News: Search engine results page was found to be very accessible as it was uncluttered and included summaries for each result, as well as the author and date of stories listed.

- Bad News: First the home page reeled off the site's technical parameters, then took the volunteers into a host of holiday adverts, without any heading identifying them as adverts to screen reader users.

NOTE: For full details of the research, see: http://www.journalism.co.uk/5/articles/530590.php

[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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Copyright 2007 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
  • Reporter: Majeed Saleh
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey
  • Marketing Executive - Claire Clinton
  • Sales and Marketing - Jo Knell, Will Knox.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue 96 ends].