+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 103, July 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: British Standard For Web Access 'Aimed At Marketers'.

The forthcoming British Standard for accessible websites, BS8878, is to be aimed at marketing departments of major retailers and suppliers of consumer goods and services, it has emerged.

At an open planning meeting hosted this week by the British Standards Institution (BSi - http://www.bsi-global.com ), the committee charged with producing the standard consulted a range of other academic and technical bodies to ensure the new work will not repeat or compete with other guidelines.

Following the meeting, BSi technical committee chair Julie Howell told E-Access Bulletin that given the existence of other technical standards for web accessibility such as the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), it had been decided to shift the focus towards the marketing departments and marketers at major retailers and suppliers of goods and services to consumers. There had not yet been a great deal of information on accessibility targeted at that audience, Howell said.

"There was a strong feeling that we should produce the standard in a language that marketers can understand. So what we're doing will not be aimed at a technical level - we already have WCAG for that - but it will reference marketing techniques, since the marketing departments at major corporations are usually where the website budgets are."

The standard will not be aimed at public sector bodies, Howell said, since they were already served by various guidelines including recent ones issued by the Central Office of Information (see E-Access Bulletin, June 2008 and Section Three, this issue). A first draft of BS8878 will be published by the end of August and released for public comment in September and October. Publication of the final standard is due for April 2009.

+02: Charity Launches Manifesto For Digital Inclusion.

More help is needed to ensure the 'struggling seventh' - the most disadvantaged 15 per cent of UK society - are reached by the benefits of the information society, according to a 'Digital inclusion manifesto' published by specialist consultancy humanITy (http://www.humanity.org.uk ).

Contrary to expectation the so-called 'digital divide' has compounded exclusion among vulnerable groups, and while a lot of resources have been directed towards the improving the access of the 'final third', there is still more to be done for the most disadvantaged groups, the manifesto finds.

The poorest people in UK society are understandably sceptical about the benefits that they receive from new technology, it says. The government is focusing on online service provision but more than 80% of government transactions are undertaken by people who do not own a home computer.

The manifesto stresses the need for action across a range of technology platforms, from the home computer to mobile phones.

Often the IT skills that are provided to disadvantaged people are ones at the bottom of the scale which are becoming unnecessary due to the progress of automation, the manifesto says. A change in curriculum is required to correct this.

NOTE: For edited extracts from the manifesto see section four, this issue.

+03: Disability Body Blasts Eu Anti-Discrimination Draft.

A draft anti-discrimination directive from the European Commission has been criticised by a major disability lobby group for failing to cover technology accessibility standards.

The commission's proposal, 'Non-discrimination and equal opportunities: a renewed commitment', deals with discrimination against people on the basis of disability, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation and covers non-employment areas such as education, social security and health care (see http://fastlink.headstar.com/eur8 ).

In a statement European disability Forum (EDF) President Yannis Vardakastanis said the draft directive omits "important issues for persons with disabilities as the concept of universal design, the necessity of European and national accessibility standards and the right to services ensuring inclusion."

In addition the document "leaves room for interpretation and will create legal uncertainties", Vardakastanis said (see http://fastlink.headstar.com/edf2 ).

The EDF was created in 1996 to give a voice in the European Union to Europe's 50 million disabled people ( http://www.edf-feph.org ).

++ News in Brief:


+04: Inclusive Toolkit:

An online toolkit for producing policies promoting ICT accessibility has been launched by the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The resource will serve as a repository of policies and strategies and a platform for sharing experiences: http://fastlink.headstar.com/itu2 .

+05: Social Fix:

A service allowing blind users of screenreaders to report problems they encounter on web pages has been unveiled by IBM. The Social Accessibility Project is a collaborative system that allows visually impaired users to highlight web page faults such as missing metadata, using a shortcut key command. The system logs the reports on a central server and alerts sighted users known as 'supporters' who can then investigate the issue and help correct it for future users. A short video explaining the process is available at: http://fastlink.headstar.com/social1 . And the pilot software is at: http://services.alphaworks.ibm.com/socialaccessibility/ .

+06: Employer's Erratum:

In our last issue we incorrectly quoted the Employer's Forum on Disability as saying financial services company Legal and General reported an increase in online sales of �90,000 by making their website more accessible. In fact the firm reported a 90% increase in online sales by making the improvements. We apologise for this slip.

[Section One ends].

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


Fortune Cookie's dedicated web accessibility team makes sure that everyone finds the web sites we design easy to use. As well as being accessible, Fortune Cookie sites are beautiful and deliver stunning return-on-investment. They're award-winning too. In 2007, our work was nominated for major web design awards 11 times.

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: CAPTCHA Continues:

Discussion has continued on our E-Access Bulletin Live blog about the use of inaccessible 'CAPTCHA' anti- spam tools by some websites, following our recent feature on the five most common web accessibility errors by Robin Christopherson of Abilitynet (see E-Access Bulletin, April 2008).

Tedd Sperling, a freelance programmer based in the US, posted a link to a group of different types of 'CAPTCHA' tools he has created: http://webbytedd.com/aa/assorted-captcha/

Sperling says: "I realise that the first demo is not acceptable, but do any of the other examples work for those with disabilities? Granted some will not because they require sight, but blindness is only one of many different disabilities.

"Could a combination of different CAPTCHAs provide a solution, or is CAPTCHA just one of the things that cannot be resolved?"

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.

+08: Tag Precision:

James Coltham, Acting Intranet Development Officer in the Children and Families Department at City of Edinburgh Council, raises another point relating to the piece on the five most common web accessibility errors.

He says there is a slight inaccuracy in the original article, which said: "Make sure that all images that are also links or buttons describe what will happen when you click on them, e.g. alternative text as 'Marilyn Monroe - click to read her life story'."

But Coltham says: "This is not really correct. The alternative description of an image should be the exact equivalent of its appearance. So if it is a photo of Marilyn Monroe with no text in the image, it should just be 'Marilyn Monroe'. However, if that image is also a hyperlink, the title attribute of the link itself can be used to describe where the link goes to. I hope this might prove useful to your readers."

[Further responses lease to inbox@headstar.com].

+09: VoiceOver Buddies:

Reader Estelita Clayton writes in seeking fellow users of the Apple OSX operating system's built-in screen- reader software, VoiceOver.

She says: "I recently bought myself an iMac [running] OSX, and it has the integrated voice called VoiceOver. I admired the Apple Mac people for coming up with this brilliant idea to help us visually impaired computer users!

"I wish you also could develop an iPod with integrated voice as well. As a new Voice Over user, I'd like to get in touch to people who are using the same system to share ideas and knowledge."

[Responses please to inbox@headstar.com]

[Inbox ends].

++Special Notice: Building the Perfect Council Website - Major International Keynote Speaker for 2008 - 16 July, Olympia 2, Central London http://www.headstar-events.com/council08/ .


We are pleased to present our third annual event on how to create the perfect council website: a partnership between E-Government Bulletin and the Socitm Insight Programme.

Our keynote speaker this year is international web usability guru Gerry McGovern. An authority on creating effective web content, Gerry has been described by the Irish Times as one of the world's five leading web visionaries (alongside Tim Berners-Lee, Tim O'Reilly, Nicholas Negroponte and Vint Cerf).

Elsewhere, the event will draw on the collected wisdom of a decade of Socitm's annual 'Better Connected' review of all UK council websites. Workshops will cover issues in detail including boosting web service take-up. Secure your place today at: http://www.headstar-events.com/council08/

And for companies interested in exhibition spaces please contact Will Knox on will.knox@headstar.com or phone him on 01273 267974.

[Special notice ends].

++Section Three: News Focus - Public Sector Web Accessibility Guidelines.


+10: Buried Sticks And Mixed Messages By Dan Jellinek.

The new guidelines for UK public sector bodies on 'Delivering inclusive websites' (see E-Access Bulletin, June 2008) are a bewildering blend of the vague with the Draconian.

The guidance, published by the Central Office of Information (COI) under the reference number 'TG102' ( see http://www.coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=129 ), stipulates that all new UK public sector websites must conform to at least 'AA' accessibility standards as specified by the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Existing central government department websites must conform to 'AA' by December 2009. "This includes websites due to converge on Directgov or BusinessLink, unless convergence is scheduled before this date," the guidelines state. Sites of all other government agencies and non-departmental bodies must conform by March 2011.

The guidance is also strong and clear on the point of avoiding less accessible content formats wherever possible. Content formats not covered by WCAG 1.0 such as Flash, pdf and JavaScript "should only be used if it is determined that they are the most appropriate for the intended purpose. For example, this could be where the proposed content enhances the functionality or understanding for the intended audience."

Where such content formats are decided to be essential, "every attempt should be made to ensure that the accessibility features of the relevant authoring tool are used," the guidance states.

Other areas covered include a requirement for public bodies to submit website accessibility policies to the accessibility sub-group of the Digital People Network - a new forum set up by the COI for public sector managers working with digital media - by December 2008. The guidance also provides advice on planning, procurement, content design and maintenance and assessment of accessibility through the use of user testing and other methods.

So far, so comprehensive. But how strongly enforced will the guidelines be?

Though not mandated by law, the guidance warns that "Government websites owners are reminded to follow the conditions of use for a .gov.uk name (TG114). Websites which fail to meet the .gov.uk accessibility requirements may be at risk of having their domain name withdrawn."

This softens the warning contained in a previous draft version of the guidelines, which had used the stronger formulation: "websites which fail to meet the mandated level of conformance shall be subject to the withdrawal process for .gov.uk domain names".

Furthermore the 'conditions of use for .gov.uk name' referenced in the guidance, Cabinet Office document TG114, are vague on accessibility definitions.

They state: "Applications (web, email, etc) using a .gov.uk domain name must comply with current UK legislation and support channels that provide accessibility for disabled people, members of ethnic minorities and those at risk of social/digital exclusion. Legislation includes Copyright, Data Protection Act and Disability Discrimination Act. Abuse of [sic] will result in the name being withdrawn" (see http://fastlink.headstar.com/caboff1 ).

How useful is this paragraph? It seems redundant for an official document to specify that any form of government activity 'must comply with current UK legislation'. And the suggestion that websites must 'support channels that provide accessibility' also amounts to little, since 'channels' - presumably, meaning media or technologies - do not in themselves generally provide accessibility: this depends more on how channels are used.

Perhaps more usefully, the .gov.uk conditions go on to state: "When you are using a .gov.uk domain name to deliver a web presence you are reminded that websites should comply with the e-Government Interoperability Framework, the Guidelines for UK Government websites and Framework for Local Government particularly on such issues as use of metadata, PICS labelling, accessibility and security."

Following this increasingly convoluted trail to the 'e-Government Interoperability Framework' (e-GIF) referenced here - and last updated as version 6.1 in March of 2005 - we find a strikingly familiar phrase in paragraph 2.23: "Government information systems will be designed to meet UK legislation and to support channels that provide accessibility for disabled people, members of ethnic minorities and those at risk of social/digital exclusion."

With e-GIF, however, paragraph 6.25 contains some sterner warnings associated with a failure to comply, namely that: "If a system fails the test on any of the aspects listed above, then a migration strategy will need to be produced and agreed by the e-Government Unit.Failing to comply and the absence of an acceptable migration strategy will lead to the following courses of action:

"- compliance with the e-GIF is one of the criteria that will be used when assessing/evaluating departmental e-business strategies and deciding on the release of funding by the e-Government Unit and HM Treasury.

"- new systems failing to comply with the e-GIF will not get project approval or funding from the appropriate bodies within their organisations;

"- systems seeking to link to Directgov, the Government Gateway or the Knowledge Network and failing to comply with the e-GIF will be refused connection;

"- suppliers who are not prepared to meet the e-GIF specific requirements or equivalents.will not meet [procurement] specifications."

Clearly here, at last, are some hefty sticks with which to beat those creating inaccessible websites. It is a shame, however, that they are buried in a trail of paperwork two documents removed from 'inclusive websites'.

Some rationalisation of all this advice is likely to be needed if the laudably high accessibility levels stipulated in the new guidance are ever to come close to realisation.

[Section Three ends].

++Section Four: Opinion - Digital Inclusion Manifesto.


+11: Helping Hand For The 'Struggling Seventh'.

Last month the digital inclusion charity and consultancy HumanITy published its Digital Inclusion Manifesto (see also news, this issue). We reproduce below an edited summary of the document:

Contrary to many Utopian predictions in the mid 1990s, the growth in the ownership of digital technology has had a disappointing impact on the 'Final third' of less advantaged people in our society, and even more so on what could be termed the 'Struggling seventh', the most disadvantaged 15 per cent of the population.

This manifesto sets out a broad range of proposals for dealing with the major outstanding problems in e-inclusion, emphasising the necessary shift from consumption to production and the need for a multi-platform approach.

Often new, major technologies are regarded as panaceas but they frequently create or exacerbate socio-economic differentials. This expectation greeted cheap, personal computing but the evidence of its real effectiveness has been limited; it has not been fully used in its areas of key capacity such as the enablement of creativity and convergence with broadcasting. Policy makers were aware of a potential 'digital divide', but thought people could be 'trained out' of it. This strategy has failed, partly because of a lack of incentive and an emphasis on skills rendered redundant by automation at the expense of emerging skills such as digital photography.

Poorer citizens have been rightly sceptical of the internet's benefits, seeing it as 'top down' and not relevant to their needs. The concentration on the PC-based platform and the problems of usability and accessibility of e-government sites have been serious obstacles to users; more than 80% of government transactions are undertaken by people without a home PC.

A neglect of 'soft skills', an emphasis on autonomous consumption rather than collaborative creation and a limited vision of creativity have all held back the benefits of the digital society. Government needs help to understand these phenomena.

Although there has been some political concentration on the 'final third', we are left with the 'Struggling seventh' which needs its own, resource-intensive policy agenda.

Each of our recommendations below is matched by a proposed strategy or project, listed separately under humanITy's partnership agenda, which can be found within the full manifesto on the web.

- Government needs help to make its services more usable by the vast majority of its service users; this means abandoning its underlying bias in favour of the PC platform.

- Government needs help in understanding the limited impact of the information revolution on behaviour; its potential in the area of collaboration and creativity; and its effect on the education system.

- The current model of intellectual property which rates all products, regardless of their economic value, in the same way, needs radical reform.

- Government needs help to integrate the most difficult cases (the 'Struggling seventh' 15% of the population) but this will need a high concentration of effort beyond that reachable using government resources. This will require new ways of working with non- governmental organisations.

[Section Four ends].

++End Notes.



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  • Editor - Dan Jellinek
  • Reporter: Majeed Saleh
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey
  • Marketing Executive - Claire Clinton
  • Sales and Marketing - Jo Knell, Will Knox.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue 103 ends].