+++E-Access Bulletin- Issue 86, February 2007.

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/ .

- e-Access '07: Technology for All -2 May 2007 - New Connaught Rooms, London http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess07/ .

E-Access Bulletin's third annual conference and exhibition on access to technology by people with disabilities is a high-level event drawing together all the strands needed for modern public and private sector organisations to draw up progressive policies on accessibility.

Speakers include: Richard Howitt MEP, President of the European Parliament's All-Party Disability Intergroup; Geoff Adams-Spink, BBC Disability Correspondent; and Paul Timmers, Head of ICT at the European Commission's Inclusion Unit and panellists from RNIB and University of Southampton.

Supported by Ability Magazine and the RNIB, the conference is aimed at public sector bodies, technology suppliers educational institutions, banks, private sector providers of goods or services individuals with a disability and organisations providing at least some of your information or services digitally.

For more information and to register visit: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess07/ And for sponsorship and exhibition opportunities please contact Claire Clinton on 01273 231291 or by email at: claire@headstar.com

[Special notice ends].

++Issue 86 Contents.

  1. Section One: News.
  2. 01: E-Learning Company Appeals Against Inaccessibility Ruling - landmark case on e-learning materials.
  3. 02: State of Texas Sued Over Inaccessible Software - lawsuit filed by blindness organisation and staff.
  4. 03: Teaching Resource Planned for Northern Ireland - government addresses lack of accessible materials.
  5. 04: Tests for Live Digital Display Reader - Spanish company builds first prototype.
  6. News in Brief:
  7. 05: Adjustments Policy - e-learning paper;
  8. 06: Recognition - Jodi award nominations; 07:
  9. 07: View Safe - chip and pin
  10. 08: Burning Plans - audiogame maker delayed.
  11. Section Two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' Forum.
  12. 09: Open Appeal - open source compatibility question; 10: Domestic
  13. 10: List - appeal for household items list; 11:
  14. 11: Soundclash Solution -
  15. 12: blocking background noise; 12:
  16. 13: Tinier URL - automatic web address shortening.
  17. Section Three: Focus - Training
  18. 14: A Career Ladder With Broken Rungs: When Sam Latif was one of a few to be chosen by her employees to study for her industry's "gold standard" qualification, she jumped at the chance. But the training was fraught with obstacles to blind students and a legal battle has since ensued. Derek Parkinson reports.
  19. Section Four: Focus - User testing
  20. 15: Taking Testing Off The Back Burner: Mel Poluck looks at the importance of harmonising methods for testing and evaluating the accessibility of services and products, after a recent report found the time has come to align methods across Europe.

[Contents ends].

Section One: News.

+01: E-Learning Company Appeals Against Inaccessibility Ruling.

A landmark legal ruling on how UK anti-discrimination law applies to online content is in doubt after Project Management International (PMI), a professional body that offers membership through online examinations, launched an appeal to overturn a ruling that it discriminated against a blind IT manager in the UK.

The appeal by PMI challenges a finding by Reading Employment Tribunal, in November 2006, that the organisation had failed to make reasonable adjustments for Sumaira "Sam" Latif to access a computer- based examination. The judgment is thought to be the first time a ruling has been made against a provider of online content under the UK Disability Discrimination Act.

Her case, which was supported by the Disability Rights Commission, claimed that PMI discriminated against her in three separate ways: by making unreasonable demands to confirm that she suffered a disability; by failing to provide accessible course material; and by failing to make reasonable adjustments for her to sit the final examination.

The tribunal dismissed the first two claims, but agreed that Latif suffered discrimination when it came to the final examination, known as the Project Management Professional Credential Examination. This consists of 200 multiple choice questions, some including complex graphs and charts, which candidates must complete in four hours. Candidates access the examination material through networked computer terminals at 15 test centres in the UK. Latif was awarded compensation of 3,000 pounds "in respect of the injury to her feelings".

In the event, Latif passed the exam, but felt that PMI failed to address her needs adequately. Her request to use a screen reader in the examination room was refused, as was her request for tactile diagrams of graphs and charts. Latif was given the option of either not taking the examination, or completing a paper-based version with the assistance of a human reader supplied by BMI. "I was told I could only meet the reader half an hour before the exam. He had no experience of reading for a blind person," Latif told E-Access Bulletin.

According to the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), the appeal is unlikely to be heard before April. E-Access Bulletin understands that PMI is likely to argue that it made reasonable adjustments for Latif, and also that too much of the burden of proof was placed on PMI to show that it hadn't acted in a discriminatory way, rather than on Latif to show that it had, said the DRC.

NOTE: To comment on this story or the issues it raises, visit our new 'E-Access Bulletin Live' service: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=101 .

+02: State Of Texas Sued Over Inaccessible Software.

The US National Federation of the Blind ( NFB - http://www.nfb.org ) and three blind employees of two Texas state government agencies have filed a lawsuit against their employers and the state's chief technology officer for their alleged continuing failure to ensure that information technology is accessible to blind staff . If proven, the allegation would mean the state would be in contravention of its own law.

The dispute centres around the agencies' human resources software supplied by Oracle, which the employees say does not provide equal access to blind people using screen access technology. The lawsuit follows repeated attempts by blind employees of the Health and Human Services Commission ( http://www.hhsc.state.tx.us ) and the Texas Workforce Commission ( http://www.twc.tx.us ) to bring the issue to their employers' attention each time the software's licence has come up for renewal, a spokesperson for the NFB told E-Access Bulletin.

"The three state employees brought it to their supervisors' attention repeatedly from the time the systems were first installed," said the spokesperson. "In June 2005, they were told that the system was accessible, even though it wasn't and were subsequently told that it would be made accessible by September 2006. That date came and went without resolving the accessibility issues."

One of the blind employees, Edwin Kunz, who directs a rehabilitation centre for the blind within the Health and Human Services Commission, said: "I am unable to review and enter information, such as my hours worked and leave taken, unless a sighted person helps me to do so. Even worse, I can't access critical information about the employees that I supervise without the assistance of a sighted person."

The objectives for the lawsuit are two-fold: to ensure that Texas complies with its own laws and in future purchases only accessible technology; and to force the state to replace the current inaccessible software programs with accessible ones.

"The state legislature of Texas recognised the need for equal access for the blind by passing a law requiring it, and it is unconscionable that a state agency is violating that law," said Tommy Craig, President of the NFB's Texas branch. "We will not rest until all of the employees of the state of Texas have equal access to all the information they need to function effectively."

NOTE: To comment on this story, or the issues is raises, please visit E-Access Bulletin Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=102 .

+03: Teaching Resource Planned For Northern Ireland.

A project to investigate the feasibility of creating a central resource for alternative formats for teaching materials and textbooks in Northern Ireland has begun this month.

The Department of Education for Northern Ireland has engaged former school inspector Paddy Manning to assess the lack of access to books and teaching materials in Braille, electronic and large print format in Northern Ireland's schools. He will report back on 26 March on the case for creating a central resource and the practical implications of such a move.

"[Government] is not doubting there's a problem. They're seeing what they can do about it," said David Mann, campaigns officer at RNIB Northern Ireland. Currently, teachers and teaching assistants have to photocopy, enlarge and retype pages from textbooks to turn into Braille or large print, to allow vision impaired schoolchildren access to National Curriculum teaching materials. "A schoolkid has to rely on poor quality photocopies. Other times they'll have to wait a month or two for a textbook," Barry Macaulay, Campaigns Manager at RNIB Northern Ireland, told E-Access Bulletin.

Prior to the move Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) from each of the three main political parties of the Northern Irish government wrote to the minister for education asking for a solution to be found.

The scoping exercise builds on the findings of the RNIB report "Where's My Book?" ( http://fastlink.headastar.com/rnib8 ) published last year, which looked at the availability of teaching materials in accessible formats. This found none of the science textbooks prescribed by examination boards in Wales or Northern Ireland for key stage 4 schoolchildren is available in any accessible format.

On 28 March there will be a government lobby in England where teachers, schoolchildren and parents will gather at Westminster to meet Members of Parliament (MPs) and raise awareness of the lack of alternative formats in schools as part of RNIB's Right To Read campaign.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Executive, Scotland's government, is considering the business case for developing a central transcription service for creating alternative formats for teaching materials. There are no plans to undertake this exercise in England.

+04: Tests For Live Digital Display Reader.

Software is being developed to allow vision impaired people to read information on the digital display screens of electronic household products and at supermarket checkouts, a Spanish company has announced.

The DISPLAYER will allow vision impaired users to read everyday information displays including dynamic displays, such as those on microwaves, digital clocks, boilers and those found at public transport stations and supermarket checkouts.

The device would ultimately take the form of software or an application that could be installed on a smartphone or personal digital assistant (PDA) with a built-in camera. To read something on a display, users would hold the mobile device near it, capture an image of it and the system would interpret and read the content aloud using speech output technology.

"To help them capture the image of the display," said Igone Idígoras Leibar, Principal Researcher at Robotiker-Tecnalia ( http://www.robotiker.com/ ), the Spanish company behind the technology. "It orientates the user with [speech output], for example, it would say 'on the image there is no display' or 'move the camera to the right so that the display appears,'" she told E-Access Bulletin.

User testing with vision impaired people is due to start shortly. "Our idea is that the end users participate [in the development], not only at the end of the project but from the initial stages that we are now at," Leibar said. Tests have begun to ensure the device is usable in various lighting conditions, carried out by over 80 people using 500 appliances in their homes using different types of digital camera.

Last October the DISPLAYER project won the top award of 240,000 Euros in a competition run by Spain's national blindness organisation ONCE to recognise technology research projects helping vision- impaired people. ONCE has undertaken to test and evaluate the final prototype, due to be ready in 2008.

++News in Brief:


+05: Adjustments Policy:

Details of types of 'reasonable adjustments' which can be made for assessments of IT courses run by the British Computer Society (BCS) such as allocation of additional time or use of assistive technology, scribes or personal assistants, are included in a policy paper on e-learning accessibility published by the BCS. 'Access to assessment' is available at: http://www.bcs.org/access .

+06: Museum Recognition:

All technologies enabling greater access to museums, libraries and archives including interactive objects, audio- guides and personal digital assistants (PDAs) are allowable for entry to the 2007 Jodi Awards, which previously only recognised website accessibility in this field. Nominations are due by 30 April: http://fastlink.headstar.com/jodi1 .

+07: View Safe:

A device to reduce "shoulder surfing" when keying in PIN numbers at chip and pin terminals is to be rolled out across the UK. ViewSafe, from Scotland-based company Ingenico, is a magnifying case that shrouds terminal keypads, distorting the numbers on the keypad to all but the user: http://fastlink.headstar.com/pin1 .

+08: Burning Plans:

The release of new software allowing people to create accessible video games, 'Audio game maker', has been delayed until further notice due to a fire that destroyed offices of the Accessibility Foundation in Utrecht in the Netherlands: http://fastlink.headstar.com/ag1 .

[Section One ends].

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


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

+09: Open Appeal: David Bates From Dudley In The Uk Writes:"There Seems To Be An Increasing Drive Towards The Use Of Open Source Software, But Will Files Produced With These Programmes Be Accessible To Users Who Do Not Have The Appropriate Operating System Installed On Their Computers?

As a blind user I have a screen reader, JAWS, optimised to work with Microsoft software. Will I therefore need different screen readers to read programmes written for the other open-source platforms?

If a website is written with an open source programme will it open and read out correctly for me in Internet Explorer? Is there any possibility of developing a universal translator to which all platforms are compatible, which would then allow a single screen reader to read out text from any source? [Responses please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+10: Domestic List:

Janet John, housing officer at RNIB Wales, is looking for a definitive list of assistive technology that is useful for use in the home. "The definition of assistive technology for the home covers everything from kettle pourers to automatic curtain systems that close the curtains when it is dusk. Do you have a list of things you use in the home to help you stay independent and safe? [Responses please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+11: Soundclash Solution:

Roger Wilson-Hinds, director of Screenreader.net ( http://www.screenreader.net ) writes in response to a question in our December issue from David Bates about how to prevent websites playing unwanted music and sound which can disrupt screenreader output. Wilson-Hinds writes: "This is what I do: I have put a shortcut to the Volume Control, which is under 'accessories' and 'entertainment,' on my desktop, quick and handy. Once in the volume control, I can tab across to the particular source I want to adjust or mute and then 'alt tab' back to my website in peace. If that sounds a bit too tetchy, then here are the keystrokes:

"Windows key to start menu, 'p' to all programs and 'a' to accessories. then right cursor and down cursor to volume control. Right click screen reader key and cursor down to send. Then cursor down to 'shortcut to desktop' and enter. Still with me? Well, you only need to do that once.

"If you need to do this on an older system, you can rename your volume shortcut on the desktop to volume by pressing the right click screen reader key, cursor up to rename, press enter, type in "volume" and enter.

"When the volume screen is in focus, you have the opportunity to control the level of all audio, your CD player, the microphone and any midi keyboard you are using as well. Use the tab key to move among the choices, the cursor keys to control levels and the space bar to select 'mute' or 'not mute.' [Further responses please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+13: Tinier URL:

In response to John Loader's recommendation in our last issue of the free 'Tinyurl' service to create shorter web addresses, Chris McMillan of charity China Vision ( http://www.chinavision.org.uk/ ) recommends as an alternative 'snipurl': http://snipurl.com . She points out however that she is using magnification: "I can't guarantee that the site works with speech." [Further responses please to inbox@headstar.com ].

[Inbox ends].

++Section Three: Focus- Training.


+13: A Career Ladder With Broken Rungsby Derek Parkinson.

Sam Latif is serious about getting on in her career as an IT manager with Procter and Gamble, the world's largest consumer goods company. So when the company agreed to fund her and six other colleagues to study for a project management qualification that is recognised across the world, Sam felt she had taken a major step forward in her career.

The 'Project Management Professional' qualification is awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a non-profit organisation based in Baltimore, USA. With around 200,000 members worldwide, PMI requires candidates to complete a course of distance learning that typically lasts around nine months. "The PMI qualification is one of the best. It's the "gold standard" for the industry," Latif says.

The final examination fort he qualification involves answering 200 multiple choice questions, some of which include complex graphs and charts, delivered to candidates through computer terminals at one of 15 test centres in the UK. Candidates are given four hours to complete the exam, and must score at least 137 to pass.

Latif is blind, but although much of the learning and examination materials are delivered from a distance, at this stage she saw no reason why she should have a problem with it, being both IT-literate and equipped with the latest JAWS 6.0 screen reader software. She began the course in September 2004 and formed a study circle with her colleagues, so they could swap ideas and insights about the course work.

The first hint of the problems ahead came when she tried to find an accessible version of the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK). PMBOK puts in one place a comprehensive guide to good practice drawn from the knowledge and experience of project management practitioners, and it was strongly recommended that students read it.

Having only started to learn Braille at the age of 16 Latif is not a proficient Braille reader, and so depended on finding the book in an accessible electronic format. It seemed reasonable to expect that a global organisation focused on distance learning would be able to address her needs. What actually followed was eight weeks of phone calls and email requests to PMI offices in the US and Europe, and the sense that she was getting nowhere, while the clock ticked on towards the final exam date. "It was very frustrating. I felt I was just being passed from person to person around the organisation," she says.

Finally, an electronic copy of PMBOK arrived in her inbox, but it was encoded in Adobe's Portable Document Format and was inaccessible to her screen reader. Then she was sent a version in Microsoft Word which she could read, but not navigate around easily, making it difficult to jump between different sections of the book. She turned to the RNIB for help, and the organisation transcribed parts of PMBOK into the DAISY standard electronic book format for her. Latif had made progress, but she was still unable to read the complex charts and graphs.

"I put in a lot more time and effort than maybe I needed to," she says. To help make up for lost time Latif paid a student to read the course materials to her for three hours every Tuesday and Thursday between February and August, in preparation for her final deadline to take the exam, September 2005.

Having experienced these difficulties in finding accessible course materials, she was beginning to worry about what might await her in the exam room. To make special arrangements for her, PMI requested proof of Latif's vision impairment, but refused to accept the registration card issued by her local authority.

"The final straw was when I sent PMI an email telling them what I needed in order to do the exam," Latif says. "They replied that either I could sit a version on paper with a human reader for assistance, or not at all," she says. Worse, PMI insisted that it would supply the reader, and Latif would meet the person for the first time just half an hour before the exam started.

She passed the exam and gained her 'Project Management Professional' qualification, but after thinking further about her experiences and how she had been treated, she decided to take the matter further with legal action against PMI under the UK's Disability Discrimination Act.

It is a battle which continues today: although Latif won a partial victory with an initial ruling in an employment tribunal which found she had suffered discrimination in relation to the final examination, the organisation is appealing the decision (see Story 01, News section, this issue). Whatever happens one senses that Latif, fuelled by a sense of indignation at finding herself apparently ignored, will not give up the struggle lightly.

"One of the reasons this has got to where it has is that no-one at PMI took responsibility," she says. "I was just passed around, and it was so frustrating".

[Section Three ends].

++Section Four: Focus- User testing.


+14: Taking Testing Off The Back Burnerby Mel Poluck.

Before a new website, software or digital device is released on the market, it is tested for accessibility and usability to ensure it can be used by the maximum amount of customers - in theory.

In practice, this may not always be the case and even if testing does take place, standards are inconsistent. Indeed, there are no international standards across Europe relating to this important component of the development process. And there is no legal requirement to carry out testing, let alone laws relating to how organisations should carry it out. So whether or not a new service or product is tested and evaluated is usually down to the company that creates or supplies it.

A recently published report (http://www.tiresias.org/cost219ter/wg3_questionnaire_report.htm ) however, has bolstered the case for further work in this vital area. Undertaken by the EU-funded technology access research organisation COST 219-ter ( http://www.tiresias.org/cost219ter/ ), the report surveyed disability organisations across Europe.

It concludes little attention has been paid to the actual methods used for testing electronic products and services with diverse user groups including disabled users. And while there are guidelines to follow such as those from the international Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI - http://www.w3.org/WAI/eval/ ), there is an unsystematic approach to conducting user testing across Europe, the report found.

The number of methods for testing used in respondents' organisations varied from three to 14 and include, among others: task analysis, "cognitive walkthroughs," laboratory observations, expert groups, expert panels, focus groups, questionnaires, interviews and diary- keeping.

Some respondents said they test on an ad-hoc basis while others apply strict methodical testing techniques for everything they or other companies produce. One respondent said: "We mostly perform evaluations, not actual testing, when we think it's appropriate. We try to collect as much information as we can and discuss the use and usability with experts in the specific fields of interest. The result is a 'point-of-view' that we publish on our website and in other publications on paper."

At the other end of the spectrum, there are still many companies undertaking minimal or no user testing at all on their products and services at all. According to Dr John Gill, RNIB's Chief Scientist, the speed of development of an electronic service or product nowadays is such that testing and evaluation by people with a disability gets knocked off the 'to-do' list in the rush for the market release. "Particularly in telecommunications, the development time is short, the marketing time is short, and they want to get there before the competition," Gill says.

But time need not be a barrier. Companies such as The Usability Exchange, for example, offer short testing turnaround times. "It's no excuse to say there's no time," says director Stefan Hasselwimmer. "[Testing] should happen at the beginning and there should be lots of little tests all the way through the process. A lot of people do it at the end then don't want to hear if there's anything wrong."

The report also found it is vital to harmonise the different national testing methodologies that exist in Europe. The answer to this may be to create standards, but this in itself can bring problems according to some. "There is a danger that you end up creating another set of lengthy documents akin to WAI standards that people have difficulty using and that distract people from the important job of simply talking to disabled users more," says Hasselwimmer.

"What is much more important than printed standards is actual standardised processes and systems," he says. "There is scope for 'rolling standards' that are evidence based, geared towards specific sectors and updated regularly. These would be based on conducting extensive disabled user testing in particular areas."

"With things to do with measuring and testing, one tends to focus on what's easy to measure, like in school exams," the RNIB's John Gill told E-Access Bulletin. "This does not necessarily give you the whole picture."

[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 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
  • Deputy editor - Derek Parkinson
  • Senior reporter - Mel Poluck
  • Technical advisor - Nick Apostolidis
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends].