+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 104, August 2008.

Access To Technology For All, Regardless Of Ability

A Headstar Publication. http://www.headstar.com/eab/ .

Sponsored by: Ford Motor Company ( http://www.ford.co.uk ).

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: Designing for all: an inclusive approach to web, print and electronic publishing - A practical, one-day training course and document clinic - Tuesday 16 September, Central London http://www.headstar-training.com/dfa/


Trainer: Katie Grant, former publications manager, Disability Rights Commission.

'Designing for all' is a practical seminar designed to introduce organisations to the importance of designing accessible, easy to read information for a range of different audiences including older people, people with disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language.

It will help you assess current design and content of information - please bring examples to our document clinic - and follow an inclusive model to improve accessibility across your communications mix.

The course will be of interest to anyone who is involved in the design and delivery of information in print, electronic and web formats including web content managers; content teams; marketing and communications officers; and publications staff. To book a place see: http://www.headstar-training.com/dfa/

[Special Notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Beijing Games Website Inaccessible On Multiple Counts.

The website for the Beijing Olympics is not accessible to people with disabilities, a leading accessibility expert has told E-Access Bulletin.

With the games in full swing this month, their official website which include a full results service could be among the most visited sites in the world (http://en.beijing2008.cn/ ). But Henny Swan, senior web accessibility consultant at the RNIB, said the service is inaccessible in a number of key ways.

"There are.no text alternatives for multimedia which means many people, including mobile users, will be locked out of content. New windows also seem to open from within Flash movies, which is not only an accessibility but also a usability issue." Other findings include instances of animation that fails to stop moving after three seconds, she said. "This can be a distraction for people with reading problems or people with low vision.

Last year Swan undertook an initial advance study of the accessibility of the Beijing Olympics site, then still under development. While the findings of her work were not all negative, the indications at that time were that various improvements were needed before the website would meet even the basic level of compliance with international Web Content Accessibility Guideline.

Returning to the site this month, she said there had been some improvements, although "where one issue may have been fixed, others have taken its place." Overall her findings indicate that the organising committee for the Beijing games seem not to have developed a clear accessibility plan for the website.

Olympic websites have a mixed history in terms of accessibility. The site for the 2004 games in Athens raised few complaints, but the organisers of the 2000 Sydney Olympics were successfully sued for failure to make their website comply with accessibility standards.

NOTE: For our full report on the accessibility of the Beijing 2008 Olympics website see section three, this issue.

+02: Mobile Browsing Barriers Linked To Accessibility.

Two new draft documents relating to accessibility and the future of the web have been published in the past month the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C - http://www.w3.org/ ).

The first, 'Shared web experiences: barriers common to mobile device users and people with disabilities', notes that many of the barriers faced by internet browsers on mobile devices are the same as those experienced by people with disabilities. The document provides examples of the barriers of access to web content for both sets of users (http://www.w3.org/WAI/mobile/experiences ).

The second draft forms part of a series of guidelines from the consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative, the 'Accessible Rich Internet Applications suite', covering accessibility of advanced website functionality for disabled users.

The draft provides an "abstract model" for accessible interfaces which can be used to improve the accessibility and interoperability of web content and applications (http://www.w3.org/TR/wai-aria/ ).

W3C is the body which produces standards which govern the web, including the main international measures for accessibility, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. The consortium will now refine the new drafts before publication in their final version.

+03: Publishers Back Accessible Learning Materials Database.

A web database helping UK education institutions to obtain learning materials from publishing houses in accessible formats has been launched by educational IT access agency TechDis.

TechDis is funded by JISC, the education sector's Joint Information Systems Committee, to support the sector in achieving greater technology inclusion. In an audio interview or 'podcast' published on the JISC website, TechDis director Sal Cooke said the Publisher Lookup UK service (http://www.publisherlookup.org.uk ) had been developed in partnership with the Publishers Association.

The website allows people to search an online database in which publishers have entered a single point of contact for library staff or other staff seeking to support students with learning difficulties to obtain alternative formats. It is thought to be the first resource of its kind in Europe, Cooke said, though a similar service already exists in the US (http://www.publisherlookup.org/ ).

"It's been quite hard for library teams to be able to know who in a publisher is the right person to speak to, how the library staff should request their materials, is it reasonable to ask for example for a word document, or what are the sorts of things they can ask for," Cooke said.

Help in accessing materials in different formats would not only benefit people with learning difficulties or disabilities but a wide range of other students such as those with different learning styles or those who do not have English as first language and may prefer to listen to a text, she said. The podcast can be accessed at: http://fastlink.headstar.com/jisc1 .

++ News in Brief:


+04: Help Anywhere:

A free web-based screenreader that can be used to browse the internet from any computer has been launched by students at Washington State University. 'WebAnywhere' is designed to help those using public PCs such as those in a library or internet café; and people who cannot afford an expensive portable screen reader. Visiting the website automatically loads the device and from there users are able to browse to other sites: http://webanywhere.cs.washington.edu/

+05: Sports Highlights:

A YouTube channel has been created by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to promote paralympic sports. The channel will show a regularly updated selection of videos from the IPC's internet television channel paralympicsport.tv, plus daily updates from September's Paralympic Games in Beijing: http://www.youtube.com/ParalympicSportTV

+06: One-Stop Trial:

A trial one-stop-shop for disability related information and advice on the web has been created by Leonard Cheshire Disability, the largest voluntary sector provider of services to disabled people in the UK. The Disability Information Portal (DIP) is set to be launched in 2009, but a test phase is underway to enable interested parties to help shape the site before it goes live: http://www.dip-online.org/

[Section One ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Fortune Cookie - Web Sites That Really Work.


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Legal & General, Kuoni, Diabetes UK, FT Business - just some of the big name brands on Fortune Cookie's client list.

Every business can benefit from making its web site more accessible. If you'd like to know what accessibility can do for your business, talk to Fortune Cookie.

Visit our web site at: http://www.fortunecookie.co.uk

Julie Howell is our Director of Accessibility. Email Julie at: Julie.Howell@fortunecookie.co.uk .

[Sponsored Notice ends].

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


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

+07: Moodle Point:

Cheryl Edmonds, Executive Director of CANnect.org, writes following our coverage of the accessibility work on the popular Moodle open source e-learning platform (Issue 94, October 2007).

She asks: "Do you know who is leading the charge around an exemplary version of Moodle that has been tailored for vision loss students? Is it Open University?

"Can you help me connect with others who are working to create a Moodle experience for people with vision loss?"

[Answers please to inbox@headstar.com]

+08: Apple Support:

Several readers wrote in to offer support to our reader Estelita Clayton, who asked for tips on contacting other Apple Mac users with impaired vision.

Mark Magennis of the Centre for Inclusive Technology in Ireland and Craig F. Spurrell of BMO Financial Group both wrote in to recommend the macvisionaries website as a good place to get in touch with other blind Mac users, through a series of resources including discussion lists.

The website is at: http://www.macvisionaries.com/ And to join the lists, see: http://www.macvisionaries.com/mailinglists.php

Estelita would like us to pass her thanks on to all those who responded.

+09: Further CAPTCHA:

Discussion is still ongoing on our E-Access Bulletin Live blog about the use of inaccessible 'CAPTCHA' anti-spam tools by some websites.

Stuart Harrison of Lichfield District Council wrote: "We had loads of problems with spam on our contact form - some of it quite offensive, and, as some of it was going directly to frontline staff with considerably thinner skin than me, I had to do something about it."

The solution Stuart came up with was not to use a traditional CAPTCHA, but to use PHP to generate two numbers, one between 1 and 50, and another between 1 and 5, and ask users to write down the total of the two added together when they submit the form.

"The second number of the first number never goes beyond 5, so the sum's answer never goes beyond the next 10 digit range (to make the sum easier)", he says. "This is all wrapped in a label, so screenreader users can see the link between the question and the form, and I've never had another bit of spam since!

"The only thing that worries me is that this might lock out users with poor numeracy - am I being too cautious? Here's the form for reference": http://www.lichfielddc.gov.uk/site/custom_scripts/feedback2.php

Henry French from Access Journal at RNIB responds: "Should the whole idea of CAPTCHAs as a concept be abandoned? It seems that few web designers know about alternatives, especially for blind and partially sighted people. But even if we attempt to educate more designers about alternative CAPTCHAs, is spam software not going to soon improve to the point that it is too smart for CAPTCHAs anyway?

"My understanding has always been.that the standard CAPTCHA - obscure letters on a busy background - was introduced to beat software that could read standard text and 'know' how to fill in a form based on replicating a piece of text. This is why web designers do not use alt text tags - the same software could read that alt text and fill in a form.

"But I thought that artificial intelligence was moving forward quickly, including in the abilities of programs to understand images and audio. Stuart above seems to have found a good idea, but I wonder whether programs will soon be able to 'think' around this solution, or failing that, bombard developers like him with every potential solution to a question CAPTCHA.

"Am I being crazily futuristic? Or should we look forward to a future in which we are all - regardless of ability to interact with CAPTCHAs - left waiting for hours or days for a human to authenticate online forms? I could ask if there will be programs in the future which forge online forms and then interact with authenticators, over the phone for example. But that's crazy talk."

To join the discussion, see our 'E-Access Bulletin Live' blog: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=183#comments We will track further comments in this section of the newsletter.

[Inbox ends].

++Section Three: Web Accessibility - Beijing Olympics.


+10: Revisiting The Errors Of The Past By Majeed Saleh.

The Olympic Games are currently being followed avidly by sports fans, journalists and politicians worldwide, many of them using the official Beijing 2008 website (http://en.beijing2008.cn/ ), the most comprehensive source of information on events.

Given the huge global interest the Olympics always stimulates, the demands and expectations on the Games website are high, and designing a site to please everyone is always going to be tough. Where accessibility for people with disabilities is concerned, however, previous organisers have not always got it right.

In one of the most celebrated legal cases ever to take place in any nation concerned with web accessibility, Bruce Maguire, a blind Australian web user, successfully sued the organisers of the 2000 Sydney Games for not only failing to produce an accessible website but for refusing to make the changes required that would have enabled him and other blind users to use the website.

In a damning indictment, the Australian Human Right and Equal Opportunities Commission said the Sydney Games organising committee SOCOG "never seriously considered the issue and only when the hearing was imminent did it attempt to support its rejection of the complainant's complaint by resort to a process which was both inadequate and unconvincing." The committee was ordered to pay Maguire 20,000 Australian Dollars (for our reports on this important case see E-Access Bulletins issues 9-11, September to November 2000; plus issue 17, May 2001. These is a also an excellent report on the affair on web access expert Joe Clark's archive website at http://contenu.nu/socog.html ).

Four years later, with the Greek organisers eager not to fall into the same trap, the site for the 2004 games in Athens was designed with accessibility to the fore, and few complaints were raised. But now the spotlight has turned on China, and the signs are that the Beijing organisers have taken a less thorough approach, and failed to heed the lessons of the past.

Last year Henny Swan, senior web accessibility consultant at the RNIB, conducted an initial study of the accessibility of the official Beijing Olympics website. At the time the site was far from reaching its final state and while the signs for accessibility were not all bad, the indications were that a range of improvements would be needed before the site would meet even the basic level of compliance with the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0.

Among the positives picked up last year, Swan cited an attempt to provide ALT text to images and a fairly logical heading structure. But the site also displayed many accessibility failures such as overuse of animated images; some missing ALT text; lack of alternatives for multimedia; inadequately described links, for example using just the one word 'more'; poor mark-up of data tables; inaccessible animated Flash objects; fixed font sizes; and extensive use of JavaScript without alternatives (see http://fastlink.headstar.com/beijing1 ).

So how far has the site been improved in the intervening period?

Swan told E-Access Bulletin this week that, in the year since her initial assessment of the site, some of these issues have been corrected. For example, it is now possible to adjust the font size on pages. However, she said: "where one issue may have been fixed, others have taken its place."

"There is still a lot of animation that fails to stop moving after three seconds," she said. "This can be a distraction for people with reading problems or people with low vision. There are still no text alternatives for multimedia which means many people, including mobile users, will be locked out of content. New windows also seem to open from within Flash movies, which is not only an accessibility but also a usability issue."

These issues could have a wider impact than the restriction of access for people with disabilities, Swan said. "Many of the issues that adversely affect people with disabilities also affect many other users such as mobile users, users on dial up or older browsers. Had accessibility advice been followed the site would have opened up to significantly more people."

There are signs that the Beijing organising committee, BOCOG, may have concluded that web accessibility would not be as much of an issue for the Olympic Games as for the Paralympics, which are set to take place from 6 to 17 September. Though neither site has an accessibility statement, unlike the website for the Olympics the website for the Paralympics does claim in press releases to have been designed according to international accessibility guidelines, and the site is visibly more simply designed ( http://en.paralympic.beijing2008.cn/ ).

In July a press release on the Paralympics site (http://fastlink.headstar.com/para1 ) announced that China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the Ministry of Science and Technology had launched some 'improvements' to both the official BOCOG site (http://en.olympic.cn/ ) and the website of the Chinese Disabled Persons Federation (http://www.cdpf.org.cn/english/ ).

According to the press release - these modifications include automatic text resizing; an automatic sign language system for deaf users; and a free 'speech broadcasting' system in English and Chinese.

Attempts to find out more about the 'speech broadcasting' features meet with confused and patchy results, however. There is no sign of this system on the front page of the Beijing2008 site or indeed any of the other official English language Olympics sites, including the BOCOG site mentioned in the press release, nor does it materialise in any site search of the Olympic pages.

The Chinese Disabled Persons Federation, which was mentioned in the same release, does have a 'voice' link at the top of its page which takes to the user to stripped down version of the site and reads out text using the mouse pointer. However this body has no obvious connection with the Olympics and it is unclear why it was mentioned at all.

There is a link to a different 'Easy Web Browsing' (EWB) system through a banner advertisement on the Paralympics website (http://fastlink.headstar.com/beijing2 ). This section tells users that the system is designed to help the illiterate, visually impaired, elderly, those with learning difficulties and those not used to computers. The system can speak in several languages including Chinese, Japanese, French, English, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and Italian and is able to detect the language of the page automatically.

However the EWB does not quite live up to its name. To use the system, the user must download a programme which only works with Microsoft Internet Explorer.

To operate it the user must move his or her mouse pointer over a paragraph of text which is then magnified and read aloud. However, the program stops reading at the end of each paragraph and to continue to the next paragraph the user must reposition the mouse. Such a system could not benefit somebody unable to effectively operate a mouse, including blind people and those with poor motor control.

Overall, Swan said it seems likely that BOCOG did not produce a clear accessibility plan for the website. "It is disappointing that lessons from the legal case against the Sydney Olympic website have not been learned."

[Section Three ends].

++End Notes.



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  • Editor - Dan Jellinek
  • Reporter: Majeed Saleh
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey
  • Marketing Executive - Claire Clinton

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue 104 ends].