+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 108, December 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/ .

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


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[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Inaccessible Recruitment Websites 'An Emerging Scandal'.

The inaccessibility of job advertising websites to people with disabilities is an "emerging scandal" which could expose companies to legal challenge, according to the head of one of the world's leading bodies promoting equal opportunities in the workplace.

Susan Scott-Parker, founder and chief executive of the Employers' Forum on Disability (http://www.efd.org.uk/ ), said this month that inaccessible recruitment sites pose a "huge problem" to jobseekers with disabilities, particularly since many employers were now recruiting exclusively online.

Speaking at the e-Inclusion Ministerial Conference hosted in Vienna by the European Commission earlier, Scott-Parker cited inaccessible online psychometric tests and internet job application forms as two examples of features that could exclude jobseekers with disabilities.

"If you put a sign up saying no disabled people need apply, people would get cross. But thousands of jobs are like that. Surely if an employer chooses not to allow a disabled person to apply online, this is an employment rights issue?"

Companies need to ensure they provide alternative routes to job application that are taken as seriously as applications received online, Scott-Parker said. It was no good providing alternatives if applications received via those routes are perceived as second-class, she said.

NOTE: For a full interview with Susan Scott-Parker about ICT accessibility and employment see Section Three, this issue.

Comment on this story now on E-Access Bulletin Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=216

+02: Guidelines Create Landmark Month For Web Accessibility.

The long-anticipated publication of new international web accessibility standard WCAG 2.0 has coincided with the release of a draft British Standard for managing web accessibility, in a landmark month for internet inclusion.

WCAG 2.0 ( http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ ) is the new version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), accepted as the main benchmark for ensuring web content is usable by people with disabilities

The new 'recommendation' - the consortium's term for a full standard - was finally released on 11 December 2008, nine years and seven months after the adoption of its predecessor WCAG 1.0. The delay was caused by the W3C's desire to consult as widely as possible on every stage of the complex guidelines' development; and to ensure the standard is as generic and flexible as possible so it will remain relevant as web technologies develop.

A wide range of implementation and explanatory guidance has been published alongside the new guidelines, and W3C says websites which met the WCAG 1.0 guidelines should need little or no adjustment to meet WCAG 2.0.

Speaking to E-Access Bulletin shortly after publication, Judy Brewer, director of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, said one of the keys to WCAG 2.0 was improved flexibility, and an approach which emphasises generic outcomes rather than specific technical checkpoints. "They apply to all web technologies - we wanted developers to have fewer constraints in areas like scripting, and to be able to innovate," Brewer said.

Meanwhile the consultation draft of a new British Standard for developing accessible websites has been published on the website of BSI, the UK's national standards body ( http://drafts.bsigroup.com/?i=245 ).

The eventual standard BS 8878, entitled 'Web accessibility - building accessible experiences for disabled people', will be based on the previous Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 78 (see E-Access Bulletin issue 98 - http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=159 )

It will not set technical specifications for accessibility, instead offering recommendations on upholding existing specifications, notably WCAG 2.0, and involving disabled people in developing and testing websites.

Julie Howell, chair of the BSI technical committee IST/45 which produced the draft, said: "This standard will be a fantastic tool for organisations wishing to understand their responsibilities in enabling disabled people to use web content."

Ironically, many of the comments posted on the draft to date have focused on the relative inaccessibility and inflexibility of the document itself, and on difficulties with the registration process. Consultation continues to 31 January and the release of BS 8878 is expected in summer 2009.

Comment on this story now on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=218

+03: Global Online Accessibility Resource Set For 2009 Launch.

An online resource of open source, royalty-free assistive technology tools, accessible and usable at any time and across the world, is to be launched next year by a consortium of more than 30 US and European IT and disability organisations and leaders, the European Commission e-Inclusion conference heard this month.

Addressing the Vienna conference Dr Gregg Vanderheiden, director of the Trace Research and Development Centre at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (http://trace.wisc.edu/ ), said the rationale for the project was to ensure that the societies of the future did not create a global disconnected underclass.

"Tomorrow will not look like today. IT will be like electricity is today - you won't be able to find a place, a room, a vehicle where it is not available," Vanderheiden said. "It is like the electric light switch - people used to have to carry their light with them, to carry lantern into a room. They would have laughed if you had said to them in the future you won't have to, there will be light in every room," he said.

So the world will be one of IT convenience, Vanderheiden said, "Unless we have a disability that prevents us from using the default interfaces provided, or they are too complicated for us to understand. Then we won't be able to operate in the world as it is designed...somehow we have to figure out a way that we can economically deliver accessibility to a wide variety of interfaces...to build accessibility into the internet."

The 'Raising the Floor' project will seek to address this problem by creating a collaborative, international virtual community of businesses, public sector agencies, charities and others to create a bank of open source virtual assistive technologies, he said. Tools would be "localisation-friendly, and culturally open and agnostic," and offline access would be possible for those who cannot afford to get or stay online, for example using e-book readers downloaded to mobile phones.

The initiative received its first grant in October from the US Department of Education and will have its formal launch at the UN next year, Vanderheiden said. For a link to a copy of his Vienna presentation see: http://fastlink.headstar.com/vdh1 .

Comment on this story now on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=217

++News in Brief:


+04: Inclusion Solutions:

A new database of projects supporting digital inclusion, including access to technology by people with disabilities, has been launched by the UK's Department for Communities and Local Government, in partnership with De Montfort University and others. Case studies from the UK and elsewhere can be searched and browsed by category including all 198 national indicators used by government to assess council performance: http://www.esd.org.uk/solutions4Inclusion/ .

+05: Robo Prize:

The online text conversion service RoboBraille has won the eAccessibility category at the European e-inclusion awards, hosted by the European Commission in Vienna this month. Created by the Danish Centre for Visual Impairment, RoboBraille automatically converts text sent by email in Danish, English, Italian, Greek or Portuguese into either Braille or speech: http://www.e-inclusionawards.eu/ .

+06: Deafblind Companion:

A new, multi-function portable communication device for deafblind people has been launched by the leading access technology firm Humanware. The DeafBlind Communicator includes a telephone typewriter with Braille display that enables two deafblind people to communicate with each other and also a portable companion phone which connects with the typewriter via Bluetooth and allows the user to communicate with sighted or hearing people face-to-face: http://www.humanware.com/deafblind_communicator

+07: Portable Tools:

A set of accessibility tools which can work on most computers, carried on a portable USB flash drive, has been released by disability charity AbilityNet. The 'AccessAT' device includes a choice of screenreaders, a virtual magnifying glass and a screen 'tinter' to improve contrast. A similar device containing accessible games and entertainment software has also been released, entitled AccessFun: http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/newsarticle72

[Section One 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].

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


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

+08: Recession Buster:

Mike Paciello, founder of the leading US-based accessibility consultancy The Paciello Group ( http://www.paciellogroup.com ), has posted onto the E-Access Bulletin Live blog in response to our piece on a paper by Ted Page of PWS web services, 'Recession is poor excuse for exclusion'.

Paciello writes: "Great article and well stated. Business affected by the recession should use accessibility as a business value proposition. Laws that require accessibility are business opportunities. Use them to create customer value propositions.

"From my perspective, the corporate world strictly sees accessibility and government mandates (such as US Section 508, UK Disability Discrimination Act and so on) as additional line item costs. Businesses (in general) have not figured out how to take the accessibility laws and turn them into profitable opportunity, much like they have with alternative energy."

[Further comments please to the blog http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=209 or email inbox@headstar.com ].

+09: Automatic Captcha:

Open source accessibility specialist Steve Lee of Fullmeasure.co.uk writes in to contribute to our long-running discussion about the inaccessibility of website 'captcha' devices that require people to recognise letters and numbers in a distorted visual graphic.

Steve writes: "FYI, webvisum provides an automatic captcha-solving service: http://www.webvisum.com/

"I must admit I did not find it obvious how to use the keys etc but looking at the add-on settings and right click menu worked for me but I'm sighted. If you could not easily work out how to use it then I'm sure they'd appreciate feedback."

He also sends a link to a very positive review of the Webvisum service by fellow accessibility blogger Marco Zehe from Mozilla: http://eduspaces.net/stevelee/weblog/508709.html

Following Steve's note, E-Access Bulletin contacted Webvisum to see if its service really was a fully automated way of making captchas accessible to all. The company sent an intriguing response: "The system is truly automated and you are welcome to try it for yourself. We cannot go into the detail on how exactly we do captchas, as that is sensitive information."

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com].

[Section Two Ends]

++Special Notice: Opportunities and risks of open source software inthe public sector. -A Headstar Training/Positive Internet Masterclass Thursday 05 February 2009, Central London http://www.headstar-training.com/Open/


Free and open source software have revolutionised ICT. In the public sector, an increasing number of bodies are making use of these technologies.

Cost is the main driver, since open source software has few of the costs and licensing restrictions of traditional software. However, the area is complex, and the savings analysis - taking into account training, full cost of ownership, and other issues - can lead to confusion.

Our masterclass can help. In our unique open source software overview training course aimed at the public sector, Nick Mailer unpicks the major controversies and myths surrounding free and open source software.

Nick will illustrate how you can leverage this software into your ICT environment, and move on safely to larger scale deployments. He shows how best to get support, advice and maintenance, and how best to secure your investment. To book a place visit: http://www.headstar-training.com/Open/ .

[Special notice ends].

++Section Three: Interview- Susan Scott-Parker OBE.


+10: Fighting Talk From Taskforce Commander by Dan Jellinek.

The inaccessibility of job advertising websites to people with disabilities is an "emerging scandal," delegates heard earlier this month at the e-Inclusion Ministerial Conference hosted in Vienna by the European Commission.

The source of this stinging rebuke was Susan Scott-Parker OBE, founder and chief executive of the Employers' Forum on Disability (http://www.efd.org.uk/ ). In a world where, increasingly, employers are choosing to advertise positions solely online, inaccessible recruitment sites pose a "huge problem" to jobseekers with disabilities, Scott-Parker said.

"We see inaccessible psychometric tests, application forms that don't work if you have dyslexia. If you put a sign up saying no disabled people need apply, people would get cross. But thousands of jobs are like that. Surely if an employer chooses not to allow a disabled person to apply online, this is an employment rights issue?"

Combative words, but from a surprising source perhaps? After all the EFD, which Scott-Parker founded in 1991, is funded by and serves the very companies she appeared to be excoriating. Its 400 current members between them employ eight million people, or some 20 per cent of the UK's workforce, including many global players such as Barclays, whose group CEO John Varley is current EFD president.

Speaking to E-Access Bulletin a short while after delivering her Vienna speech, however, Scott-Parker said it was in her members' interests to realise the scale of this problem and take corrective action.

"We'd like to tip off members that there might be legal challenges," she said. "It is best practice, if millions of people are not being excluded. Firms need to require people like online psychometric testers to prove they are accessible before they use them, particularly where they insist people can only apply for jobs online, which is increasingly the case, even for jobs that don't require computer literacy."

Companies need to ensure they provide alternative routes to job application that are taken as seriously as applications received online, Scott-Parker said. It was no good providing alternatives if applications received via those routes are perceived as second-class, she said.

Use of inaccessible recruitment sites were not the only corporate IT failures to come under fire from Scott-Parker in Vienna. Another was a failure by some organisations to make proper and timely adjustments to internal IT systems for employees with disabilities or who became disabled through the process of ageing or accidents.

This represented a costly waste of resources: "All the investment in the individual fails if employers choose not to make adjustments, and the employee moves onto benefits instead of remaining at work," Scott- Parker said.

A third key issue was a failure by employers and the IT industry to train IT staffing accessibility issues and the use of assistive technology, she said. "People shouldn't be accredited: how can you be accredited as an IT professional if you can't adapt a system so everyone can use it? And if you've got assistive technology but the IT department doesn't know about it, there is no point."

Training costs could be controlled by building it into the existing regular retraining programmes undergone by programmer and technicians, Scott-Parker said.

"In each course they do, there needs to be something about adapting for the human. I don't think it would cost much for Microsoft to put on [their training] curriculum how their technology could be adapted so everybody could use it.

"We'll never crack this if the IT profession don't know how to use accessible technology. All we'll do is have better and better kit that just sits there."

Technology companies have a double responsibility, to be suppliers of accessible technology and to be accessible employers, Scott-Parker said. And in today's tight financial climate, an integrated approach to accessibility could give ICT suppliers a competitive edge, she said. "I would like to see the ICT industry itself an exemplar of employing disabled people. The timing is now right, because the more disabled people you employ inside an IT giant, the better understanding you have of the needs of a client such as Lloyds TSB, which employs hundreds of disabled people."

Although the EFD works across all aspects of employment, IT accessibility has been placed among its top priorities recently, with the creation of a Business Taskforce on Accessible Technology (see E- Access Bulletin, issue 102, June 2008).

To date the taskforce has met three times, and is still building its membership, which stands at around 20 organisations including Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline, HM Revenue and Customs, the BBC and Sainsbury's Supermarkets.

The group is working with accessibility charity AbilityNet to collect examples of the benefits to business of an accessible approach, "We are trying to produce a compelling rationale for businesses," Scott- Parker said.

Also in the pipeline, though still in its infancy, is a paper-based audit tool allowing major organisations to check where they are on a scale of 1-5 in terms of their current ICT accessibility practices.

"It will be a maturity model, from nowhere to excellent, looking at business processes and governance systems," Scott-Parker said. "If an organisation is at level 1-2, they could face legal exposure. We would not expect anyone at level 5 yet: I would fall over."

Comment on this story now on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=219

[Section Three ends].

++End Notes.


+How to Receive the Bulletin.

To subscribe to this free monthly bulletin, email eab-subs@headstar.com with 'subscribe eab' in the subject header. You can list other email addresses to subscribe in the body of the message. Please encourage all your colleagues to sign up! To unsubscribe at any time, put 'unsubscribe eab' in the subject header.

Please send comments on coverage or leads to Dan Jellinek at: dan@headstar.com .

Copyright 2008 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
  • Reporters: Majeed Saleh, Tristan Parker.
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue 108 ends].