+++E-Access Bulletin- Issue 93, September 2007.

A Headstar publication.

Technology news for people with vision impairment ( http://www.headstar.com/eab/ ). Sponsored by: Ford Motor Company ( http://www.ford.co.uk ).

NOTE: Please forward this free bulletin to others (subscription details at the end). We conform to the accessible Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard: http://www.headstar.com/ten/ .

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


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

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

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

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

[Special notice ends].

++Special Notice: e-Democracy '07 Early Bird Offer- 08 November 2007, London - http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy07 .


Dot.com entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox; Demos founder and former Prime Ministerial advisor Geoff Mulgan; UK Parliament webmaster Dominic Tinley; and shadow Leader of the House of Commons Theresa May are among the unrivalled speaker line-up at e-Democracy '07, Headstar's annual conference on the use of the internet and other new technologies to improve the workings of democracy.

Back for our third year, the event is set to be the UK's largest ever dedicated e-democracy conference and exhibition, focusing this year on local e-democracy; a look at e-democracy in New Zealand; 10 Downing Street's e-petitions; and the role of social networking and virtual worlds in e-democracy.

Sponsors and supporters to date include ICELE (the International Centre for Excellence in Local E-Democracy); Cisco; the Hansard Society; MySociety.org and Prospect.

Delegates who register before the end of September will receive a discount of 20 pounds. For details and to register see: http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy07 . For sponsorship or exhibiting opportunities, please contact: Claire Clinton on: claire@headstar.com .

[Special Notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: 'Pay By Touch' Bank Cards Launched In London.

Wireless-enabled bank cards tested in London this month will pave the way for a new system of cashless payments, enabling small purchases to be made in pharmacies, newsagents, and snack bars without providing a PIN number or a signature.

The system is to be tested by around 1,000 retailers located in and around rail and bus stations across the capital. For items costing up to 10 pounds, users will pay by simply touching a reader device located at the cash till with new credit and debit cards issued by Barclaycard, Visa, or Mastercard. The cards use a short-range wireless technology known as Near Field Communication to exchange data with the reader device, which emits an audible "beep" when the transaction is completed.

By the end of 2007 it is hoped that 2,000 outlets will be involved in the scheme, Barclaycard told E-Access Bulletin. "At this stage it's a 'chicken and egg' situation. We need interest from consumers before retailers will take an interest. That's the reason we're concentrating on London to start with. In the long term - and it's difficult to say how long this will take - we expect most retailers will move over to the new system," said the spokesperson.

In future, this way of making purchases will also be available from vending machines located in places such as pubs or in the street, and also from devices such as parking meters, said Barclaycard. "The big retailers such as high street supermarkets will almost certainly take a longer time, because their existing till systems are a significant investment which has to be recouped before they think about new technology," said Barclaycard.

Fear of fraud shouldn't deter people from using the new cards, said Barclaycard. "Most card fraud is organised and involves larger sums. But if a bank notices a pattern of unusual transactions it can request a PIN number or signature before a transaction is processed," said Barclaycard. The trial in London is part of much wider plans for the technology, Visa told E-Access Bulletin. "This is also being tested by Visa in France, Turkey, and Switzerland," said a spokesperson.

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

+02: Rnib Disability Benefit Campaign Seeks Voices.

Severely vision impaired people in England, Scotland and Wales are being asked to keep audio diaries of the daily barriers they encounter due to mobility impairment, as part of an RNIB campaign for blind people to be able to claim the same level of state disability benefit as wheelchair users.

The move is the latest phase of the 'Taken for a ride' campaign ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/rnibcam ), to ensure that the mobility needs of severely vision impaired people are recognised by the Government.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a means-tested tax free benefit comprised of two parts: a care component - paid at three rates; and a mobility component, paid at two. Currently, severely vision impaired residents of England, Scotland and Wales are not entitled to the higher level mobility component of DLA.

"We wanted people with severe sight loss to be able to explain to their MP the real day to day difference that being able to claim the higher rate mobility component would make to the quality of their lives. An audio diary seemed to fit the bill," said RNIB Campaigns Officer Helen Dearman.

Participants are asked to record examples of what they could do, were they eligible for the higher rate of DLA mobility allowance. They are also asked to document incidents where, for example, they have been unable to attend hospital appointments or afford the costs incurred by shopping independently, visiting friends or joining classes.

In December, audio diaries, recorded onto standard audio tapes, will be presented to each campaign supporter's local MP along with a text transcription. A compilation of excerpts from all diaries will be presented to a parliamentary reception and the RNIB's Campaigns Department will send each campaign supporter's full audio diary to their local MP, encouraging them to continue to support the campaign and take the issue forward in the new session of Parliament.

The Campaign has previously seen supporters writing to their MPs asking them to sign a supporting Early Day Motion ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/rnibcamedm ); which 248 MPs have now signed; and the largest ever lobby of Parliament by blind and partially sighted people in December 2005. Supporters are asked to make their last diary entry by 7 October.

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

+03: 'Ovi' Portal From Nokia To Launch In 2007.

Before the end of 2007 Nokia customers will be able to subscribe to Ovi, a portal that brings together online services such as navigation, music, games, and online communities. The portal enables personalised online services to be accessed via both mobile phones and personal computers for the first time.

Ovi includes a navigation system that contains data on 30 countries. When connected to a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite receiver a mobile phone can provide the user with audio street by street directions to a destination, says the company. Other services include the Nokia Music Store, which enables users to browse, buy, download and stream music tracks; and 'N-Gage' a store of online games for single and multiple users.

According to Nokia, further services and applications will be added to Ovi through 2008 ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/ovi ), with English language versions launched first, and other languages, which have yet to be announced, following. Overall, the aim is to provide access to richer, more engaging content while on the move from a range of devices and so the services are designed to be accessed via a PC as well as internet-enabled mobile phones.

At present, the Ovi services are compatible with N95 handset, and the soon to be launched N81. The latter has been designed specifically with Ovi services in mind, including dedicated gaming keys on the pad. Both these handsets run the Symbian operating system, and so should be compatible with text to speech conversion products such as Talks, developed by Nuance.

++News in Brief:


+04: Switchover Access:

+05: Aussie Rules:

The inability to locate and activate accessibility features on electronic programme guides, and concerns about the lack of audio description are among problems highlighted by the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology in the US in a report to the Federal Communications Commission. In the US, the switchover from analogue TV to digital takes place in February 2009: http://fastlink.headstar.com/usdigtv .

+06: Well Rounded:

Vision impaired people in eight regions across Australia are invited to participate in an e-voting trial ahead of the country's federal election. Small groups are invited to designated centres on 4, 10, 13 and 14 September for a demonstration of the system by appointment, every half hour. Federal elections will take place before 19 January 2008: http://fastlink.headstar.com/ozvote .

A voice activated personal organiser has gone on the market that can store up to 30 memos and 60 names in its contacts directory. The TapMemo, round in shape, has just three buttons and is sold with an earphones jack, battery recharger and a CD containing the user manual. The device, from Israel based company Nistec, is available in Europe from Cobalt Systems for 89.95 pounds: http://www.tapmemo.com/ .

[Section One ends].

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


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

+07: Site Searching:

Terry Robinson, director of Describe Online ( http://www.describe-online.com ) writes to The Inbox in response to Suzette Keith's query in the last issue. She was looking for examples of websites of small and medium sized companies for her research project at University of Middlesex. Terry writes: "I'll recommend my own site, an information providing site, giving wayfinding instructions to and around public venues, written by a blind person, for blind people and all else who can benefit from it. Please contact me if we can assist with your study. Cheers for now."

And David Rosser of the Torbay Care Trust's Sensory Team in Devon, UK writes: "This website: http://www.devonblind.org.uk/ is worth a look, as I feel it is particularly good for many reasons such as accessibility and colour contrast when used with Supernova speech and magnification software. [further responses to inbox@headstar.com].

+08: Talking Pictures:

Derek Brandon of 'Your Local Cinema.com' ( http://www.yourlocalcinema.com/ad.html ) writes in to comment on a feature published in the last issue, 'Breaking The Circle,' by Derek Parkinson: "Mr Parkinson states: 'An example of a mass market service which also brings great benefits to vision impaired people is the cinema listings service provided by network operator Orange.' I have to disagree. The only cinema listings service that caters for visually impaired people is Your Local Cinema.com: that service provides details of audio described cinema and DVD. The Orange service does not. I hope you can make that clear to your readers!"

E-Access Bulletin Editor Dan Jellinek responds: "I would point out that our reporter was highlighting 'an example' of a mainstream audio service that might be of use to people with impaired vision not by specific design, but as a coincidence. Your own extremely useful service is specifically designed to offer information of use to people with impaired vision. I hope that both are worth a mention!

[further responses to inbox@headstar.com].

+09: iPod Question: New subscriber John Turley from Glasgow writes:"I am looking for some help concerning the Apple iPod. Less than a year ago I could see the screen. Now I cannot, due to further deterioration in sight. My question is, is there a way that the iPod screen information can be made audible so that it can be accessible to someone like me who has sight loss? I would appreciate any feedback you could provide." [please send responses to inbox@headstar.com].

[Inbox ends].

++Section Three - International- Digital Divide.


+10: The Distance Between Rights And Realityby Julie Howell.

Whether you're a 25 year-old banker in the City of London or a 55 year-old farmer in a remote area of China, full and equal access to the internet will help you do better business. However, while an increasing number of people in the UK can enjoy full and equal access to the web, many millions of people around the world have limited, if any, access at all.

I recently travelled to Beijing as a member of a European Union delegation to China. The Sino European Systems Usability Network ( http://www.sesun-usability.org/ ) is an EU-funded project that aims to link European and Chinese IT practitioners and academics interested in software usability, user- centred design, accessibility and human-computer interaction. The conference, entitled 'Citizen Centric Information Society', was inaugurated by senior representatives from both the EU delegation in Beijing and China's Ministry for Information Industry.

The purpose of the conference was to formally include usability in the development of a citizen-centric information society in China. There are three main aims to this work: delivering public services through electronic means; integrating the rural poor into the information society; and providing better user experiences to citizens.

I was asked to make a keynote speech about the legal requirement for web accessibility in the UK. This is a subject I have presented to conferences around the world many times before. The main thrust of my talk was how the UK people recognize that disabled people have rights to full and equal participation in society and that we extend this to right of access to online information. I explained how our Disability Discrimination Act seeks to protect the rights of disabled people and pointed out its weaknesses, stressing that the business case and excellent prospects for high return-on-investment can be a stronger incentive to UK businesses than the law.

It's a cliché, but I suspect that much of my presentation was lost in translation. The conference facilities included simultaneous translation from Mandarin into English and vice versa. However, I strongly suspect that a great deal of what the Chinese presenters were saying was not fully translated, and I wonder how much of my presentation made it into Mandarin, despite my effort to keep my language clear and simple.

Immediately following my presentation, CUI Huipin, from the China Disabled Persons' Federation (CDPF) described an impressive range of Chinese Government initiatives that aim to provide China's disabled people with full and equal access to the growing digital economy. The rhetoric ('a more beautiful tomorrow for disabled people') was eloquent and delivered with such confidence that for a brief moment I wondered why the Chinese government needed advice from the UK.

However, I've learned to read between the lines of Government rhetoric. A long list of initiatives is of little value unless backed with action. Initiatives can only be measured in terms of their impact on the lives of the disabled people they seek to support. Without testimony from disabled people themselves it is very difficult to gauge how far- reaching China's initiatives have been. One particular statistic quoted in CUI Huipin's presentation caught my attention. In fact, it set alarm bells ringing. We were informed that 82 million Chinese people are disabled. This may sound like a large number of people and it is, but it only amounts to just over six per cent of the Chinese population. This figure is too low.

Generally, 10 to 15 per cent of any population is disabled. I am concerned that large numbers of China's poor, rural, disabled population are not being reached by the exciting initiatives, and that the official government rhetoric belies the vast digital divide that exists in China. This fact doesn't set China apart, however. We have precisely the same issue in the UK.

UK official government statistics on the numbers of disabled people in this country - 8.2 million - are far lower than the estimates - generally in excess of 10 million - made by organisations representing disabled people and the Disability Rights Commission. Like China, we need to match our rhetoric with initiatives that bring positive changes to the lives of all our disabled people, not just those we find it easy to count.

The UK differs from China in so many ways, language and culture being the most obvious. But when it comes to empowering our poorer and disabled people, similar challenges lie ahead of us. Before my trip to China, I had thought that the 'support' would be one-way. However, if the Chinese Government can match its rhetoric with initiatives that lift its disabled people out of the digital divide, then we have something important to learn from them.

NOTE: Julie Howell is Director of Accessibility at web consultancy Fortune Cookie. She worked for 12 years campaigning for web accessibility at RNIB.

[Section Three ends].

++Section Four - FocusEducation.


+11: An International Hothouse Of Ideasby Adrian Higginbotham.

The International Camp on Communication and Computers (ICC) 2007 in Finland was the brainchild of the University of Karlsruhe Germany and the University of Linz, Austria, each with centres supporting visually impaired students in integrated higher education.

ICC camps give students the chance to develop the essential skills and experience they will need to succeed in independent study while mixing with peers from around Europe. Now in its fourteenth year, the ICC began in Austria in 1994 where it was hosted for four years before beginning roaming around Europe, playing host to as many as 150 students from up to 30 countries for two weeks each summer.

This year the camp was held at the Arla institute, a post-16 vocational college for vision impaired and disabled people in Finland. Students between the ages of 14 and 21 attended, along with volunteer staff from each participating country who took part in half-day workshops on more than 50 subjects.

This year, as previously, topics were wide ranging, from sports to running an internet radio station, from crafts such as pottery and macramé to word processing and website building, from satellite navigation systems to multimedia players for work and leisure. And of course, we learned about the traditions of Finnish Sauna.

This was my first camp and although I had heard of ICC previously, I knew very little about the overall aims and even less of what to expect. My role was as a volunteer member of staff, running timetabled workshops on blogging and accessing a computer when away from home and your usual assistive technology. The workshops, lead by two tutors for groups of six students, were hard enough work in themselves, but the challenges and the rewards came outside the classroom - chatting to students at the barbecue evenings, playing Showdown in the games room or taking part in the online games tournaments.

Comparing notes with teachers and staff from other countries at meal times and finding out about education systems and provision of technology was very interesting. Did you know, for example, that all pupils in the Netherlands are taught Braille from an early age and are given computers with Braille displays for both home and school?

One fruitful outcome of such a conversation was an impromptu workshop on using Microsoft Powerpoint to create presentations with a screen reader which the French tutor of the course on Powerpoint for screen magnifiers and I presented. She hadn't been able to offer the course as she didn't have time to translate her notes into English - the language of the camp - and I was already running two other workshops. By working together though, we took five students through most of what is usually a two-day course in little more three hours.

Each country's participants at the camp are supported by a local sponsor, which for the UK is LOOK ( http://www.look-uk.org/ ), the 'National federation of families with visually impaired children.' Check the LOOK website for news of next year's ICC camp or to find out about previous ICC camps and contacts in other countries: http://www.ICC-camp.info .

NOTE: Adrian Higginbotham is Education Content Accessibility Manager at the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta - http://www.becta.org.uk/ ).

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

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends].