+++E-Access Bulletin- Issue 87, March 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, the RNID 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].

Section One: News.

+01: Assistive Products Gear Up Fast For Windows Vista.

Assistive technology manufacturers have responded more quickly to create versions of their products compatible with Microsoft's latest operating system Vista than with previous releases of Windows, E- Access Bulletin has learned.

Some assistive technology companies were ready with public beta versions of their products by the time that Microsoft released Vista to the retail market at the end of January.

"The assistive technology vendors have responded very quickly in bringing out updates to their software," RNIB regional technical officer Andy White told E-Access Bulletin. "Microsoft has designed Vista with assistive technology software in mind." Previously companies had to work harder to make their software work with Microsoft operating systems. "Every time a new one came out, they had to chase their tails to keep up," White said.

However Eric Damery, Vice President of Product Management Software at Freedom Scientific, developer of popular JAWS screen reader, told E-Access Bulletin the development process has not been simple. "We have to develop, test and support customers in so many different configurations, the challenges tend to be very high," said Damery. "Vista comes along and changes the technique we have used for capturing the screen data," said Damery. "We are forced to implement and test a new solution, without breaking the old.

"One of the biggest challenges was that [Vista] was a moving target for the last three years. It was not until the last six to nine months that we truly understood how Microsoft would expose the information." Freedom Scientific made their new version of JAWS available "within 30 days of the release of Vista," said Damery.

Of the popular assistive technologies for vision impaired people, compatible versions of the screen reader Thunder and magnifier Lightning from the non-profit software provider screenreader.net ( http://www.screenreader.net/ ) and screen reader Window-Eyes version 6.1 from US-based GW Micro were released to coincide with the Vista launch.

A Vista-compatible version of magnifier ZoomText from US company AiSquared was released two weeks after Vista's launch, and UK-based Dolphin, the assistive technology company that makes products for vision impaired people, has not yet launched its Vista-compatible version '8.1' of Supernova, a screen reader and magnifier with Braille support; Hal, a screen reader; and magnifiers Lunar and LunarPlus. Dolphin told E-Access Bulletin these will go on the market in April or May, with recent purchasers entitled to a free upgrade.

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

+02: Users Flock To Free Document Conversion Service.

A free service allowing people to convert documents automatically to and from Braille and synthetic speech, accessed by email, is receiving some 15,000 to 20,000 new requests per month, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The 'RoboBraille' ( http://www.robobraille.org/ ) Service, funded with 560,000 pounds from the European Commission, is run by an international consortium led by the Danish national body for young people and children with impaired vision, 'Organisation Synscenter Refsnaes'.

Users, who do not need to register, send in documents as email attachments in Word, rich text, html or plain text formats. A specialist piece of software translates the documents into contracted Braille or mp3 files in up to five languages. Documents are returned electronically and must then be rendered on a Braille embosser or displayed on a Braille display, where a Braille format is requested.

"We do not register users but expect to have a core user group of more than 1,000 people at present," RoboBraille co-ordinator Lars Ballieu Christensen told E-Access Bulletin. Languages currently handled are Danish; English; Greek; Italian; and Portuguese. The team also plans to add French, Lithuanian and Norwegian.

"RoboBraille was the logical next step after having developed Braille translation software for decades that users found very difficult to use," said Christensen. "With RoboBraille we are capable of automating processes that are otherwise rather complicated and at the same time maintain a system that is always up-to-date with the latest fixes."

The development consortium comprises The Royal National College for the Blind in the UK, the Associazone Nazionale Subvedenti in Italy, the National Council for the Blind of Ireland in Ireland, the National Association of Housing for the Visually Impaired in Ireland, Pagkypria Organozi Tyflon in Cyprus and the Centro de Inovacao para Deficientes (CIDEF) in Portugal.

The team plans to expand the service, enabling users to convert documents to DAISY books, Braille maths and Braille music; and introduce a service for banks and tax offices to send electronic documents to print-impaired customers.

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

+03: Reality Gap Widens For Councils' Web Accessibility Claims.

The gap between claims about website accessibility made by UK local authorities and the true picture of accessibility has widened since last year, a new report finds.

The annual 'Better Connected' review of council sites from the local government Society of IT Management (Socitm) found that this year some 29 per cent of councils are incorrectly claiming level 'A,' 'AA' or 'AAA' accessibility, up from 22 per cent of councils last year.

Claims are usually made by a site displaying the relevant official logo of the international World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative. Socitm commissions the blindness charity RNIB to independently check the claims, including manual tests which are more rigorous than the purely automated tests on which councils and their technology partners often rely.

"That gap between claim and reality must reflect a lack of awareness," said Martin Greenwood, head of Socitm's Insight Programme. "People are either doing it deliberately - and I'd like to think they're not - or they are prepared to believe what a third party supplier tells them."

Additionally, just 71 out of a total of 468 UK councils' web sites meet basic level 'A' web accessibility requirements, the survey finds, despite the fact the UK government specifies level 'AA' as a baseline.

"The fact that 27 sites have not even achieved level 'A' yet have claimed level AAA (the highest level). . . suggests some basic ignorance about the task in hand," the report says. To improve the situation, Socitm suggests councils aim to take a long-term view of accessibility and to "realise the scale of task in achieving level A standard."

+04: 'World'S First' Free, Accessible It Training Course Goes Live.

What is claimed to be the world's first free, accessible, online learning programme teaching people the basics of computer maintenance and networking has been launched in Australia. The course is open for anyone to apply, from anywhere in the world.

The course runs for two days per week over a one year period. Students learn the fundamentals of computer operating systems and network infrastructure, learning how to build a computer and install different versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system; how to maintain and use networking equipment; and how to install and run medium to large-sized networks. The course is endorsed by networking infrastructure company Cisco.

According to Iain Murray, course co-ordinator at the Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia, all of the content is accessible to a person with an internet connection and assistive equipment such as a screen reader or text magnifier. "We have made notes for JAWS users on accessing the online material but it works just as well with other products including VoiceOver on Apple machines," Murray told E-Access Bulletin. Live lectures are delivered using the 'Skype' internet telephone service, which has negligible cost, he said.

According to Murray, graphs, diagrams and mathematical notation have been made accessible. "The course is not overly mathematical but does include a significant amount of binary and hexadecimal conversions. For this we have developed a 'peg board'. It's a very simple device that consists of a piece of wood or plastic with three rows of 32 holes in it. This also allows the calculation of IP addresses and subnets. We ask that students attempt to get one of these made locally, but if that is not possible we ship one to them, at no charge," said Murray.

Prospective students can find out more by emailing Iain Murray on: i.murray@ece.curtin.edu.au .

++News in Brief:


+05: Signature Campaign:

An online petition calling for tougher European legislation on disability rights is aiming to collect over 1 million signatures from European citizens. The petition, from the European Disability Forum, is open until 3 October, after which it will be handed to the European Union and the European Parliament. If the target is met, the European Union is obliged to respond: http://www.1million4disability.eu/ .

+06: Thrilling Mission:

A free science fiction "shooter" audiogame for vision-impaired gamers has been launched for free online. Players control a character who is attacked by eight types of robot, on six game levels, with nine weapons at his disposal. The mission: to save a group of kidnapped scientists in a booby-trapped building. Technoshock has been developed by Russian accessible game developers Tiflocomp.ru: http://fastlink.headstar.com/techno1 .

+07: All Aboard:

Just 28 per cent of London bus passengers found a trial of Transport for London's on board 'next stop' digital signs and audio announcements useful for the journey they were making, new research finds. User groups comprised people with and without disabilities, schoolchildren and non-English speakers. Suggested improvements to the service, which will be launched across the capital next year, include adjusting the timing of announcements: http://fastlink.headstar.com/tfl2 .

[Section One ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Thunder screen reader- from screenreader.net CIC, a not-for-profit company.


Thunder is software that makes a modern computer talk. It is absolutely free for personal use at home. Download from: http://www.screenreader.net and enjoy.

Since its launch at the end of July 2006, there have been 10,000 downloads and we now have several commercial versions of Thunder available to organisations including Thunder on a memory stick and competitively priced licensing arrangements for colleges and universities.

We sell magnification software for partially sighted people and ClaroRead which has been designed for students with Dyslexia.

Email us at: ask@screenreader.net or call: 01733 234441 for further information.

[Sponsored Notice ends].

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


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

+08: Code Captcha:

Tedd Sperling from Australia has created an audio 'Captcha' tool, an accessible version of the security tools used on many websites that ask people to type in a displayed code, to prevent access by 'robot' spammer software. The accessible system speaks the code out loud. Sperling invites readers to test it at: http://www.sperling.com/examples/captcha/ . [Responses please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+09: Open Advice: In our last issue David Bates asked:

"Will files produced with open source software be accessible to users who do not have the appropriate operating system installed on their computers?"

David O'Brien responds: "It shouldn't matter what programme you use to create [a] website: as long as the HTML is written properly, JAWS should have no problem interpreting it. The 'universal translator' you mention already exists - it is valid, well-structured HTML.

"Web accessibility standards are set down by the Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

"The general idea is that web content created by an author who conforms to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) using an authoring tool that conforms to Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines (ATAG) which is read by a user agent that conforms to User Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) will be as widely accessible as it's possible to make it. You can find out more about the W3C's Web Accessibility Initiative at: http://www.w3.org/WAI/ but it does get a bit technical. The Web Standards Project (WASP) has a good summary of the case for standards at: http://fastlink.headstar.com/wasp1 .

"Unfortunately, very little web content is [accessible]. There are no authoring tools I know of that are fully ATAG conformant. Sloppy web design is rife, so most web pages fail even the most rudimentary level of WCAG. And user agents vary widely in their support for UAAG. Firefox is generally held to be pretty much standards compliant. Internet Explorer (IE) 5 and 6 had very poor compliance. The general picture with user agents is very much improved.

"I would also urge you to join the (often lively!) debates at accessifyforum.com if you'd like to know more."

And Sue Buckley writes with a link to a story in 'Computerworld' with news of software from Sun Microsystems that will translate between the file format in Microsoft Office 2003 suite and the open source OpenDocument Format: http://fastlink.headstar.com/trans4 . [Responses please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+10: Hal Gremlins: Angela Owen from Bradford writes:

"I have been using Version 5 of the Hal Screen Reader [from Dolphin Computer Access], mostly with Microsoft Word and Outlook, for many years with very few problems. When Versions 6 and 7 became available, I tried upgrading to both of these but, unfortunately, have been forced to revert to Version 5 due to experiencing various problems.

"These include increasingly slow running of the speech as a document lengthens, causing words to be missed or spoken incorrectly while typing; incorrect speaking of, or failure to read, selected objects, such as input fields in Word; reduced choice of voices and no setting for speech intonation, these being available in Version 5.

"I have discussed these issues with Dolphin several times, but we seem unable to progress the matter. I have tried their suggestion of switching to the "No Dom" MAP file in Word 2000, but this makes no difference. I wonder if anyone else has experienced similar problems and has any tips to share?" [Responses please to inbox@headstar.com ].

[Inbox ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Disabled Living Foundationhttp://www.dlf.org.uk .


DLF provides free, impartial advice about all types of products for older and disabled people. From stairlifts to walk-in baths, jar openers to tap turners, bath seats to walking sticks, wheelchairs to scooters, hoists to beds, the DLF can help you find solutions that enable you to stay active and independent.

We also offer free, impartial search and comparison website for walk- in baths, bath seats, showers, grab rails and other personal care products for older and disabled people. See: 'Bathing made easy' at: http://www.dlf.org.uk/bathing.

Helpline: 0845 130 9177 (Mon-Fri, 10am - 4pm) Textphone: 020 7432 8009 Email: advice@dlf.org.uk .

[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section Three: Focus- The Law.


+11: A Career Ladder With Broken Rungs, Part Twoby Derek Parkinson.

A courtroom can seem a daunting place, especially if you are taking on one of the largest law firms in the world. But this didn't stop IT manager Sam Latif setting out to establish how UK anti-discrimination law applies to electronic content.

Her journey to court began when she signed up for a distance learning course that prepared her for the 'Project Management Professional' qualification, awarded by the Project Management Institute (PMI), a not for profit organisation based in Baltimore, USA.

Soon after beginning the course in September 2004, Latif became frustrated with her struggle to obtain course material in an accessible electronic format from PMI, and the difficulties continued right up to the final examination, a year later. Although she went on to pass the exam, Latif decided early on to take legal action on the grounds that PMI infringed her rights under the Disability Discrimination Act (see E-Access Bulletin, February 2007).

Her first move was to seek advice from the Disability Rights Commission (DRC), a route that brought her up against new hurdles. "It was initially quite difficult to deal with the DRC. You get told to look at the DRC website for guidance, and when you ring up you get a different person and have to explain the situation again," she says. After a few weeks of persistent phoning, however, Latif was assigned a DRC case worker, and started to get to grips with the paperwork necessary for her legal case to proceed at an Employment Tribunal.

At this stage, although the DRC was providing assistance it hadn't formally backed her case, but Latif was already determined to press ahead. "I decided I was just going to do it by myself if I had to, but it was a lot more complicated than I thought" she tells E-Access Bulletin. "Towards the hearing the DRC decided to officially support me and helped me find a barrister, Paul Epstein, who has been brilliant," she says.

Like most people who aren't legal professionals, the formalities of court business were new to Latif. In works of fiction, court cases often take the form of a dramatic showdown between opponents, but like many cases in real life, hers was dealt with over a number of hearings and many months. Nevertheless there was a theatrical aspect to it, she says. "The first hearing was interesting because it was new to me and helped me understand what a barrister does. In some ways it was like a performance," Latif says. This hearing set out some of the basic aspects, such as whether the DDA applied to the case.

It wasn't until the second hearing that Latif was able to speak on her own behalf. She was the first to be cross-examined that day, but didn't realise that this would be her only chance to speak. "I didn't really understand the etiquette," she says. "It was really painful to have to sit and listen while people said things that I disagreed with," she says. However, her ability to touch-type proved to be valuable, as she was able to take notes and talk through the important points later with her barrister.

One aspect of the case that she was unprepared for was the PMI's strategy of calling in accessibility experts to support its own case. "That was one of the worst experiences, the one that hurt me the most," says Latif of the moment when Robin Christopherson, head of accessibility services at the widely respected charity AbilityNet, gave evidence in support of PMI.

After the hearings came to an end in June 2006, there was a long wait for the final verdict, which was delivered at the end of October. Instead of being delivered in a hushed courtroom, the news came via a simple email in her inbox. And the story doesn't end there: PMI has since decided to appeal against the verdict, a process that is likely to take another couple of months at least before it is resolved.

Looking back on her experience so far, Latif thinks she underestimated the impact that the case would have on her life. "There were certain times when it was very hard. My husband was probably the only one who understood this, because only he could see me studying so hard, and also preparing for the case," she says. But overall, Latif doesn't regret taking this route. "People don't normally bother. But unless they do, disabled people will be ignored," she says.

[Section Three ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Describe Online - Bringing Customers to You!- Providing Online Text Guides to Public Venues.


Our mission is that every public venue shall have a text guide which explains that it exists; where it is; how to get there via public transport; what's on offer and how to obtain and use it.

Our accessible website at: http://www.describe-online.com contains models of guides to a wide range of transport, civic, commercial and other venues. Our guides complement emerging technologies such as GPS and GIS systems.

Bring more customers to your venues through our service. Contact us on: 0141 423 2683 or: terry@describe-online.com .

[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section Four: Focus- Digital creativity.


+12: Image Crisisby Kevin Carey.

In November 2006 I wrote a piece about Web 2.0 and the challenges it poses for people with impaired vision; and in other places I have written about the need for us to focus on content creation as well as consumption.

The important thing about Web 2.0 will not be the millions of people who go on and on about nothing but the few who are distinctive. To be distinctive, however, means knowing a great deal about sameness and difference; and I think this will pose a challenge both for blind and visually impaired people and those who work with them. I am not thinking here about text-only blogs but about the challenges of self- expression in a multi media context.

This is a tricky and almost completely unexplored area.

There is an important distinction to be made at the outset between buying and making. Just as we buy clothes, furniture, glassware, pets, cars, food and entertainment as part of our self-identity, as a way of saying who we are, so we can also do this on the internet in virtual spaces like 'Second Life'.

In such spaces you can construct either a true-to-life or fantasy identity for yourself and live a parallel, virtual life. As in real (analogue or 'skin'), life, however, everything you do in a style obsessed world sends signals; so you can't afford accidents. There is a world of difference between wearing red trainers, blue jeans, a West African multi coloured top and a black velvet tail coat at a formal dinner party as a social and fashion statement and wearing this motley collection by accident thereby being mistaken for a highly self-conscious, rebellious poser instead of simply being careless or too lazy to bother.

The area of colour and style in solid items like clothes was difficult enough when there were rules which said when you had to wear a dinner jacket or could not possibly wear jeans; but all that is now loosening up into the melting pot of global do-it-yourself, pick-and- mix identity. The less rigid the rules, the more difficult it is to be your conscious self in a way that communicates to others what you want them to think and feel about you.

So, when you have built your composite style image (an iconic juxtaposition of words), how do you choose what behaviour to adopt in this DIY world? As a person of safe hands and sensible shoes you might want to match your new daring get-up with a dash of raunchy behaviour; but what is that really like and how will it be taken? Here we are in that very tricky area of credibility. Image construction is a usually benign form of lying; and there is nothing worse than a bad liar. There is a paradox about coherence and incoherence which people with impaired vision will find difficult: over-coherence is suspected of being false while messiness, paradoxically, is seen as more authentic but there are pitfalls in style construction.

If you think that this form of consumption and construction is difficult, wait until you get to the creation from scratch, the "I am me" multimedia piece involving no off-the-peg digital products. Here again, we don't want to be limited to endless text blogging, but how will the sector come to grips with image composition and movement? The simple and sad answer is that we don't have a clue.

The starting point would be to put together user requirements and then turn these in to specifications for content creation tools. Then we would have to persuade tool makers to listen and persuade curriculum designers to include this topic in the training of teachers and others who work with blind people. And if you think this is all just a little fantastic, you are probably right.

[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].