+++E-Access Bulletin- Issue 90, June 2007.

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

++Special Notice - Building the Perfect Council Website- 12 July 2007. - Olympia 2, London http://headstar-events.com/council07/ .


Following the huge success of last year's conference, we present this second annual event on how to create the perfect local authority website: easy to use, compelling and engaging.

A partnership between Headstar and the local government Society of IT Management (Socitm), the event will draw on the collected wisdom of eight years of Socitm's annual 'Better Connected' review of all UK council websites.

Speakers include Donna Smillie, Senior Web Accessibility Consultant, RNIB; Dominic Tinley, Editor-In-Chief of the UK Parliament website and Mary Reid, Mayor, Kingston upon Thames and Board Member, ICELE. Interactive workshops will cover issues in detail including usability, and the use of third party software. For details and to register see: http://headstar-events.com/council07/ .

[Special Notice ends].

Section One: News.

+01: Software 'Accessibility Passport' Gains Stamp Of Approval.

Successful trials have been completed of an "accessibility passport" for educational software which provides far more detailed information about a product than current accessibility standards, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

Rather than simply stating that a product complies with a recognised accessibility standard, the passport system would include a description of what a product is and how it can be used, possibly including assessments by teachers and developers.

A logo or kitemark could be used to indicate that a product has an accessibility passport, but wouldn't necessarily specify all the detail it contains, according to said Adrian Higginbotham, Accessibility Content Manager at the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency ( BECTA - http://www.becta.org.uk/ ). Users could be directed to a central repository such as a website where all this information is held, said Higginbotham.

In addition to Becta, the pilot also included Teachers Evaluating Educational Multimedia ( TEEM - http://www.teem.org.uk/ ), which provides independent assessment of products, and around 40 software developers, he said. The concept of the passport grew out of work by TechDis, the government-funded agency for technology and disability in education, said Higginbotham.

The passport proposal reflects growing interest in the concept of the "flexibility" of a product, as distinct from its accessibility. Flexibility reflects how a product can be adjusted to meet a specific need, rather than the typical standards-based approach, which tests compliance with rigidly defined criteria. "It's early, we're only just starting to ask ourselves questions about flexibility," Higginbotham told delegates at E-Access '07, a conference organised by Headstar, publisher of E- Access Bulletin.

People interested in the accessibility passport idea and want to make suggestions, receive more information, or participate in further trials should contact John Sewell, Senior Advisor with TechDis at john@techdis.ac.uk .

+02: Eu Accessibility Laws Reach "Critical Moment", Says Mep.

The EU is set to step up its activities to ensure digital technologies are more accessible to citizens with disabilities, according to MEP Richard Howitt, president of the European Parliament's All-Party Disability Intergroup.

By the end of the year, the European Commission will publish three key pieces of legislation, Howitt told delegates at E-Access '07, the annual conference organised by Headstar, publisher of E-Access Bulletin. This summer, a new framework policy will be published under the inclusion strand of the EU's 'i2010' information society action plan that is expected to shift accessibility requirements more in favour of the end user, he said.

Until now, EU policy on accessibility has focused more on providers of content and services rather than end users, said Howitt. "It doesn't make sense if content is accessible, but terminals are not," he said. "2007 is a critical moment in the EU in terms of addressing access to technology," said Howitt.

In addition a new communication on digital inclusion will be published by the Commission, and a revised anti-discrimination directive is due by the end of the year, Howitt told delegates. These new EU policies will tighten up the requirements on private sector suppliers, possibly including a new certification scheme for accessibility; and widen the accessibility requirements on public sector procurement, Howitt told delegates.

However, we must not be complacent, said Howitt. He urged delegates and readers to show public support for improved EU anti- discrimination law by signing up to an online petition organised by the European Disability Forum: http://fastlink.headstar.com/edf1 .

During the final keynote session, Dr Paul Timmers, head of the eInclusion Unit at the European Commission also invited public participation. To be effective, EU policy must be effective and efficient, complete and coherent, future-proof and technology-neutral, he said. "We're going through an assessment of all these issues now," said Dr Paul Timmers, head of the eInclusion Unit at the European Commission. "I invite everybody to get involved in the discussion," he said. A dedicated website has been set up for this purpose, he said: http://www.ipolicy.eu/

NOTE: For a full report on Mr Howitt's speech to e-Access '07 see Section Three, this issue.

+03: Online Library Services Inspired By 'Amazon' Stores.

Ordering accessible books held by public libraries and charities such as the RNIB could become as simple as the "one-click" services offered by online bookstores such as Amazon, according to plans being co- ordinated by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The vision of a simpler way to order accessible library books is being explored as part of a plan to integrate catalogues from the RNIB and the former National Library for the Blind (NLB) with new search facilities for public libraries, according to Sarah Wilkie, Programme Manager at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council ( MLA - http://www.mla.gov.uk/ ).

"At this stage it is still a vision, but we think that ordering a library book should become more like using a service like Amazon," Wilkie told E-Access Bulletin. "We think there would be interest in a range of services. A library user could be offered a range of options such as having it delivered to a local library, or possibly direct to their home for a fee. They may also be offered the opportunity to buy a book," she said.

The first big milestone on the way to achieving this will come in early 2008 when UnityUK, an online catalogue system for public lending libraries, is relaunched on a new technology platform that is more accessible than used at present. "It will be machine-readable, and compatible with screen readers. It will also have clear fonts, magnification features, and alternative text where necessary," said Wilkie.

Between now and then a significant amount of work also needs to be done on the content of the UnityUK, Wilkie said. "At the moment, records just say if a title is accessible but don't say how specifically - whether it's an audio book, large print, or Braille," for example," she said. In addition, library services managed by RNIB, including Revealweb, a service originally launched by the former NLB, will be integrated into one system. RNIB took over the running of all NLB services at the end of 2006.

++News in Brief:


+04: Desktop Guides:

Free guides for using JAWS and screen magnification software with applications such as Audacity and Windows Media Player 11 are now available at the VIP Software Guides website. The software guides were written by Chorlton Workshop as part of computer classes held at Henshaws Society For Blind People: http://vip.chowo.co.uk/ .

+05: Creepy Castles:

PCS Games, who claim to "make games that tickle your ears," have released 'Sarah and the Castle of Witchcraft and Wizardry', a new accessible game inspired by the books of JK Rowling. The game transports players into a world of fantasy filled with secret passageways and hidden chambers. You are challenged to explore the castle searching for magical items and fighting creepy creatures. More information is available at: http://www.pcsgames.net .

+06: News Talk:

Seattle-based speech technology company AudioDizer has launched a product that converts text from news websites into high quality podcasts. According to the company, AudioDizer converts text into MP3 files that can be read by male or female voices that sound similar to radio broadcasts. Apparently, it can deliver a variety of accents so that if a story originates from India, an Indian voice reads it, or if it comes from the UK, a British voice is used: http://www.audiodizer.com/ .

+07: Silver Radio:

Insight Radio, formerly known as VIPonair, has scooped the Silver prize at the national Sony Radio Academy Awards for the category of best Internet programme. Insight Radio broadcasts to blind and partially sighted people across the UK and overseas. As well as broadcasting online, the station broadcasts to Glasgow and the surrounding areas on 101 FM: http://www.insightradio.co.uk .

[Section One ends].

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


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

+08: Abuse Action:

Action for Blind People is currently looking into the issues of verbal and physical abuse towards blind and partially sighted people and would welcome your opinions on this subject. Readers are invited to take a few minutes to fill out the website survey: http://fastlink.headstar.com/action1 . And if you have any comments or questions about the survey, please contact Debbie Flatley on 0207 635 4921 or email: debbie.flatley@actionforblindpeople.org.uk .

+09: Programmer Power:

Tedd Sperling has some thoughts to offer about our recent feature article 'Overcoming The Barriers To Accessible Websites,' published in the May edition of E-Access Bulletin. Tedd writes: "Your article and comments are right on the mark. We do need to convince senior management of the need for accessibility in web sites. However, there is an additional aspect to consider, and that is educating programmers as to "best" practices.

I am often employed as a programmer by companies to design, develop, and make functional web sites and applications. In doing so, I quietly add accessibility as best I can. Often, I find that there is no additional work that must be conducted to make a site accessible and meet the client's needs at the same time. In fact, my most recent client's needs were met more efficiently by providing an element of accessibility.

Certainly, there are new cool things that catch their eye, but it is a challenge to meet the new thing with an accessible solution. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it doesn't. But the point is that I don't belabor the client with accessibility concerns, I just deal with them and the more I know about accessibility needs, the better I can change my way of doing things to accommodate both accessibility and client needs without degrading either.

So, as I see it, the more educated the programmer is to accessibility concerns, the better." [Further responses please to: inbox@headstar.com]

+10: Tube Stop:

A website providing details of facilities for disabled people at stations on the London Underground network, available at Direct Enquiries ( http://www.directenquiries.com/ ), is of limited value to vision impaired travellers, writes Lynn Holdsworth.

"Whoever came up with the idea of the London Underground guide was thinking along the right lines, but as a guide dog user who would have liked "turn left after going through the ticket gates" type directions, and specific information about alternatives to escalators, it didn't give me the information I was looking for," she says. [Responses please to: inbox@headstar.com]

+11: Design Course:

Norman Waddington writes on behalf of an acquaintance looking for a web design course suitable for a blind person with additional disabilities. Norman writes: "He is looking for a suitable course for web page design which would be accessible to him using a screen reader. He has nearly got his proficiency back with Braille reading but any additional material I am sure would be an advantage to him." [Responses please to: inbox@headstar.com]

[Inbox ends].

++Section Three: Focus- EU Policy.


+12: An Opportunity That Must Be Seizedby Derek Parkinson.

"When people hear the word 'Directive' their eyes tend to glaze over," admitted Richard Howitt MEP, a leading campaigner for disability rights in the European Parliament. "Too often, decisions made in Brussels can seem remote," he told delegates at E-Access '07, the annual conference organised by Headstar, publisher of E-Access Bulletin.

In fact, policy at an EU level has helped to bring about real changes, ensuring that the benefits of new technologies are made available to all, said Howitt, who is president of the All-Party Disability Intergroup, the main campaign group for disability issues in the European Parliament. "Technology should be a beacon of hope," he said. However, all too often, advances in technology place more barriers in the way of people with disabilities, he said.

EU policies aimed at these issues include the 2002 framework policy on electronic communications ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/2002 ), which paved the way for increased awareness of accessibility among private sector suppliers, he said. Since 2004, the EU directive on public procurement ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/2004 ) has helped to ensure that accessibility is taken into account when public money is spent on IT, he said.

Two years later, in 2006, changes were made to EU policy on structural funds and research ( http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/home_en.html ), ensuring that accessibility is a higher priority, he said. "Forty per cent of the EU budget is now covered by some form of anti-discrimination legislation," said Howitt.

The momentum is set to increase in the near future, particularly with a new policy on digital TV in place since the end of 2006, a new framework policy and a communication on digital inclusion due in the summer of 2007, and a revised anti-discrimination directive due by the end of the year, he said. The Audio Visual Media Services Directive (AVMS), adopted in 2006, is a significant move towards widening disabled access to TV, said Howitt. "Since the 1970s there has been voluntary commitment to this, but it is now a requirement to have specific quotas, and to report progress," he said.

In many countries voluntary commitments don't appear to be working, he said. "About 0.7 per cent of programmes in Germany are audio- described, it is around one film per week in Portugal, and one film per month in France," he told delegates.

Howitt hopes that the communication on digital inclusion, due this summer, will include proposals for a certification scheme for digital technologies, and that requirements for accessibility in public procurement will be strengthened. There are two main hurdles for accessibility campaigners, he said. Many of the recommendations about digital inclusion contained in EU policies such as i2010 ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/i2010 ) are optional, not mandatory, said Howitt. In addition, accessibility is treated as a social or market-related issue, rather than an access issue. "It doesn't make sense if content is accessible, but terminals are not. That amounts to a policy failure," he said.

In the final keynote for the day, Dr Paul Timmers, head of the eInclusion Unit at the European Commission, agreed that a market- based approach will not solve all our problems, although it will make an important contribution. "There is a digital opportunity as well as a divide. With an aging population there is an opportunity to make e- accessibility mainstream. But there will always be some things that markets cannot address or solve," he said.

Part of the problem with new technologies is that they don't always fit well into the overall structure of EU policy, said Timmers. The economy, or social cohesion and quality of life issues are the main drivers for EU policy, and access to technology often gets split between several policy areas. "The outcome is that issues such as web accessibility aren't covered at the European level," he said.

Broadly there are three separate challenges for EU policy on access to technology, he said. To be effective and efficient, anti-discrimination law must be tested and refined by case law, but this can be a slow, piecemeal process. EU policy should be complete and coherent, but there is a danger that the public sector will leave the private sector lagging behind. Finally, EU policy should be future-proof and technology-neutral, and achieving this requires regular updates, said Timmers.

"We're going through an assessment of all these issues now," said Timmers. "I invite everybody to get involved in the discussion," he said. A dedicated website has been set up for this purpose, he said: http://www.ipolicy.eu/

[Section Three ends].

++Section Four: Focus- Second Life.


+13: Outside The Gates Of Second Lifeby Peter Verhoeven.

Is a virtual world a venue for entertainment, a game, or a public place to meet others? Should it be accessible to everyone? Why doesn't any screen reader or screen magnifier let you access Second Life?

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today has wet up accounts set up for more than 5 million people around the world. I am one of those 5 million people and never could log in, because of Second Life's lack of accessibility. Most of those 5 million accounts are never used.

On the subject of accessibility, Joshua Linden from Linden Labs, one of the folks who help create the Second Life platform, has written: "The world, of course, is created by the residents. We are deeply committed to making Second Life usable by everyone. A large number of Second Life residents have 'First Life' disabilities and enjoy the freedoms that a virtual world offers from communication to movement. However, we're still a very small company and have limited development resources, so we have not been able to do everything we want to yet!"

I think that it is very difficult to make the current client viewer of Second Life accessible. With my free Desktopzoom magnifier, I could magnify the login screen, enter my log in name and password, but after logging in, magnification was turned off and I couldn't bring it up again.

If you launch the Second Life viewer with a screen magnifier such as ZoomText, Lunar or iZoom, magnification will be turned off. If you access the Second Life viewer with a screen reader like Hal, Jaws or Window-Eyes, nothing will be spoken aloud, and nothing will appear on your Braille line.

A programmer at Desktopzoom ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/desk1 ) told me that the Second Life viewer and Desktopzoom conflict with each other. That is the reason you see the flickering of the login screen in Second Life client viewer, while running Desktopzoom.

Linden Labs has made the Second Life client viewer open source. This means that it is at least possible to program other interfaces that integrate with Second Life. You can for example think about a virtual world with more sound instead of 3-D effects or speech support and audio description of 3-D effects.

Dolphin Computer Access (http://www.yourdolphin.com/ ) has also highlighted the inaccessibility of Second Life. A spokesperson said: "Unfortunately Second Life will not work with [Dolphin's screen reader and magnifier] Supernova at this time. The problem that you face with trying to run Second Life with magnification software is that the game will call up the extended functions of the video card.

"In order to create magnification, the Dolphin software intercepts information passing to the video card. While under normal conditions this poses no problem, the extended functions of the video card being called by the game cannot get intercepted and therefore will not be magnified.If the situation with Second Life changes I will let you know, as I know a number of clients who have enquired about this." Sometimes I have the impression that every day there are more articles written about Second Life, than there are visitors. But all this makes me curious and I cannot wait until an accessible client becomes available!

NOTE: Peter Verhoeven provides an online resource containing guidance and advice about magnifier technology at: http://www.magnifiers.org/

[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].