+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 102, June 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 24 June, 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: Accessibility Deadlines Set For Uk Government Websites.

All new UK public sector websites must conform to at least 'AA' accessibility standards as specified by the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, according to guidance published this month by the Cabinet Office.

Existing central government department websites must conform to 'AA' by December 2009 and all other government agencies and non- departmental bodies by March 2011, according to the guidance, 'Delivering inclusive websites' ( http://www.coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=129 ).

The guidance allows public bodies a little more breathing space than was proposed in a draft published last autumn (see http://www.headstar.com/egblive/?p=55 ). This had called for compliance for all sites by December 2008.

The final guidance - which is not mandated by law - also tones down the severity of its warning of repercussions for non-compliant bodies, compared with last year's draft.

The draft had threatened to switch off non-compliant websites altogether, warning: "websites which fail to meet the mandated level of conformance shall be subject to the withdrawal process for .gov.uk domain names". The final guidance issues a similar warning, but using the softer formula 'may be at risk' instead of 'shall be subject to': "Government website owners are reminded to follow the conditions of use for a .gov.uk name (Registering .gov.uk domain names (TG114)). Websites which fail to meet the .gov.uk accessibility requirements may be at risk of having their domain name withdrawn".

The conditions of use for .gov.uk domains referenced here, document TG114, do not spell out in clear terms what precise actions government websites need to take to be accessible. Instead they state in general terms: "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.Abuse of [sic] will result in the name being withdrawn" (see http://fastlink.headstar.com/caboff1 ).

Other areas covered by the new guidance includes a requirement for bodies to produce website accessibility policies; and advice on assessment of accessibility through the use of user testing and other methods.

+02: Major Employers Launch Accessibility Taskforce.

A taskforce to help businesses provide accessible technology to employees and customers has been launched by the UK's Employers' Forum on Disability (EFD - http://www.efd.org.uk ), a body whose members include some of the country's largest corporations and public agencies.

The aim of the forum's Business Taskforce on Accessible Technology is to "make accessibility and usability as fundamental to IT as security

is now," said Steve Lamey, Chief Operating Officer of HM Revenue & Customs and chair of the new group.

Some parts of the business community are still failing to see the benefits of improving accessibility, the forum says. Accordingly, one of the most important jobs of the new taskforce will be to promote awareness of the strong business case for engaging with disabled people as both colleagues and customers.

Accessibility adjustment can be simple and inexpensive, such as making better use of accessibility options in MS Office, and can lead to

major benefits, the forum says. For example, accessible recruitment would open the door to another 1.3 million potential employees in the UK, it says. And accessible websites can be up to 75 per cent smaller, making them quicker to load and reducing infrastructure demand. Legal and General's new accessible website increased online sales by 90,000 pounds and reduced costs by over 200,000 per annum, the forum says.

Taskforce members include representatives of leading global brands such as Goldman Sachs and Sainsbury's. It will help members share tips and advice; encourage suppliers to deliver more accessible products; and try to improve training in the provision of accessible IT solutions.

NOTE: For a full background report on the Employers' Forum on Disability see 'Organisation in the Spotlight', Section Four, this issue.

+03: Charity Embraces Social Networks And Second Life.

A leading charity is using a wide range of social networking and multimedia sites - Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, YouTube and iTunes - to provide support and information to parents of disabled children and help them contact each other.

Contact a Family (http://www.cafamily.org.uk/ ), which runs a parent networking website called Making Contact (http://www.makingcontact.org/ ), says parents of disabled children often feel isolated because they don't know anybody in the same situation. But mothers, who are often the primary carers for children with disabilities, are now among the biggest users of social networking sites, it says.

Srabani Sen, Chief Executive of Contact a Family says: "Mums exhausted by night after night of broken sleep and restricted from leaving the house because of their intensive caring roles are turning to

social networking sites for emotional support and information about their child's condition."

The charity has also set up a 'virtual library' in the online world Second Life, which has welcomed around 100 visitors since its launch in May. The virtual library is manned every Wednesday from 10am - 4pm when 'Advisor Somerflek', the charity's avatar or virtual persona, is on hand to talk to visitors courtesy of a real-world parent adviser. For those in the know, the office is located at the co-ordinates Aloft Island 19.40.22 .

The charity is by no means the first to set up in Second Life and the virtual world's owners, Linden Labs, offer special discounts to non- profit bodies (http://secondlifegrid.net/programs/nonprofit ). A notable example is Save the Children who collected money to provide animals for Tibetan peasants by selling virtual Yaks.

++ News in Brief:


+04: September Draft:

The British Standards Institution is to issue a draft of its planned standard for accessible website development in September, E-Access Bulletin has learned. Julie Howell, chair of the BSi's technical committee IST45/Web Accessibility which is responsible for drawing up the new standard, said the group is currently finalising the structure of the document and drafting will follow for September consultation. The standard itself, which has now been allocated the number BS8878, is expected to be published in April 2009: http://www.bsi-global.com .

+05: European Prize:

A set of awards aimed at inspiring progress towards fighting digital exclusion has been announced by the European Commission. The European e-Inclusion Awards will be awarded to individuals, organisations and companies in seven categories including e-accessibility. Entries close on 12 September, with winners announced in December, and a special briefing session on the project will be held in Brussels on 27 June: http://www.e-inclusionawards.eu/ .

Queen's Speech: National Talking Newspapers and Magazines, a Sussex-based charity making newspapers available in accessible formats for blind and print-disabled people, has won the prestigious Queen's Award for Voluntary Service. Since 1984 the charity has been providing newspapers and magazines in a variety of formats including tape, audio CD, DAISY format talking book CD and audio download. The charity produces more than 200 newspaper and magazine titles each year and delivers 1 million tapes and CDs: http://www.queensawardvoluntary.gov.uk/

[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: Inbox- Readers' Forum.


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

++07: Editor's Note - Technical Problems: Owing to technical problems, we have unfortunately lost some of our email including the most recent submissions to our Inbox section.


We apologise for this, which has never happened before, and will do our best to ensure it never happens again. In the meantime, if you have sent in a message or response to Inbox since last month's issue, we would appreciate it if you could resend it to the usual address - inbox@headstar.com - and we will publish the missing messages next month.

Do also send in any new queries or comments you may have on our coverage or on any issue relating to access to technology by all, and we

will also publish any new messages.

Best regards, Dan Jellinek, Editor, E-Access Bulletin.

[Section Two ends].

++Section Three: Organisation in the Spotlight- The Employers' Forum on Disability.


+08: Blue Chip Accessby Dan Jellinek And James Scott.

The creation of the Employers' Forum on Disability (EFD) Business Taskforce on Accessible Technology (see News, this issue) is a sign that the UK's and the world's largest companies and organisations are beginning to take accessibility seriously.

The taskforce aims to help global ICT suppliers and regulators understand what organisations need from IT products and standards if they are to employ and do business with disabled people.

So what kind of body is the EFD?

The forum claims to be the largest and most active organisation of its kind in the world. It has campaigned since 1991 for more accessible and inclusive workplaces, collaborating with disabled people, government and businesses to help make it easier for firms to employ disabled people and serve disabled customers.

It has published numerous guidelines advising its members on how to improve provisions for the disabled, on topics such as employment, customer care, IT, e-commerce, e-recruitment, the built environment, product development, corporate responsibility, procurement, health and safety, occupational health, marketing and communications.

Among its highest profile projects is the Disability Standard, which the

EFD claims is the only management tool available that allows organisations to accurately measure their performance on disability, including access to IT. In 2007, some 116 UK and global private and public sector employers used the standard.

The forum also sponsors the Great Place to Work Institute's Disability Excellence Award, which has been won three times in a row by the investment bank Lehman Brothers. The bank's exemplary measures include some innovation with technology such as an intranet sites for disabled employees and a scheme whereby hearing-impaired employees are given a Blackberry portable email device to carry at work, which is activated via pre-set alert information in case of emergency evacuation from a lift or building.

The EFD says it has been promoting the benefits of accessible IT in several ways for many years prior to the establishment of its new taskforce, including the publication of a practical guide to accessible web design and the delivery of accessibility training events. Despite these services, however, the body acknowledges that poor practice does continue among UK businesses.

"Poor practice relating to access to technology has been well publicised, such as the 2004 Disability Rights Commission report on Access and Inclusion for Disabled People," EFD spokesperson Liz Nightingale told E-Access Bulletin. "Since this report was published a number of organisations including EFD members like Legal and General and Lloyds TSB, have been working hard to demonstrate best practice around accessible IT."

Despite the progress, the forum knows there is still plenty of work to be done if it is to achieve its ultimate stated goal of completely outlawing discrimination in the workplace. Nevertheless, its founder and chief executive Susan Scott-Parker is determined that this objective will be achieved.

Scott-Parker, a Canadian who has lived in Britain for 25 years, established the forum in 1991. Since then it has grown rapidly to its current size of 400 members including 120 global companies, which between them employ eight million people, or some 20 per cent of the UK's workforce. Members include Barclays, whose group CEO John Varley is current EFD president; and Royal Mail Group, whose CEO Adam Crozier is chair. And the forum's prestigious 'President's group' read like a who's who of British business, from Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy to BT's chief Ben Verwaayen. The purpose of such a senior grouping is to signal to colleagues, customers, and government that disability is a strategic business and societal priority, the forum says.

Scott-Parker has also been involved in many international projects in the disability arena including helping the International Labour Organisation ILO establish the Sri Lankan employers' network on disability and pioneering the world's first leadership program for people with disabilities, in partnership with consultants The Coverdale Organisation. In 2000 she was honoured with an OBE.

It is a sign of how seriously the forum now takes accessibility therefore that Scott-Parker has stepped forward to chair the new taskforce herself.

"The taskforce is a continuation of our work around accessible IT and our long-term goal is to develop guidance to help our members confidently measure and improve the accessibility of internal systems and external services," says Liz Nightingale. "We are also pleased to be represented on IST/45, the British Standards Institution committee responsible for creating BS8878, the first British standard on web accessibility. This is due to be published in the first quarter of 2009.

"One of the biggest objectives for the taskforce this year is to engage with key players in the IT industry and we are delighted that representatives from some of these organisations are meeting with taskforce members in the middle of June to informally discuss the business case for disability. We see this as the beginning of a very exciting and meaningful collaboration which will result in barrier free IT for all employees".

Ultimately, the goal of all the forum's work could be summed up by a phrase which appears in its citation to the three-time winner of its disability excellence awards, Lehman Brothers - 'disability confidence'.

"We are looking for an approach to disability that is above and beyond legal compliance," says Rhiannon Suter, research and innovations manager at EFD. "We are looking for 'disability confidence,' meaning that the company understands the benefits and has the flexibility to remove barriers for groups of disabled people, but also make adjustments that enable individuals to contribute."

If the new taskforce can achieve this for the use of technology in the workplace and its development for the consumer, all its goals will have been achieved.

[Section Three ends].

++Section Four: Opinion- Web Accessibility.


+09: Life In The Post-Guideline Age.By Julie Howell.

Joe Clark, the Canadian web accessibility expert, has said that he believes we now live in a post-guideline era.

What might Joe mean by this?

To date, talk about making websites usable by disabled people has usually featured the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative Web Accessibility Guidelines as a key aspect. This is absolutely appropriate

and remains the crucial foundation of every website.

However research, such as that undertaken by the Disability Rights Commission in 2004, has suggested that even those organisations that believe they have applied accessibility guidelines when designing their sites are not always producing websites that disabled people can use with sufficient degrees of success.

This would seem to point to a gap in understanding between web developers and the guidelines. It may be that developers fully understand the technical aspects of the guidelines but are failing to address disabled people's user experiences. An accessible website that is unusable is of little help to disabled people, so in order to create web experiences that are meaningful for disabled people perhaps it's time we began to think beyond technical guidelines and put stronger focus on usability for disabled people.

It is crucial to understand that thinking around web usability for disabled people is maturing year by year. Technology improves and our understanding of how disabled people use the web improves.

In the past, accessibility advocates have promoted the 'design for all' and 'one size fits all' approaches to web design, where a single version

of the site is designed to be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability or disability. However, personalisation is now a very common web design practice where everyone who visits a site (be they disabled or not) is served a version of the content and design that is optimised according to their individual needs and preferences.

In the 'real' world we are naturally opposed to alternative entrances to

buildings or different levels of service provision for disabled people, as 'alternative' and 'different' in this context often means 'segregated' and 'poorer quality'. However, online personalisation really means 'better quality' with web experiences optimised to better suit every individual.

This does not mean text-only versions of sites for disabled people. But it can mean optimised content that is easier and quicker to navigate if you are using a screenreader (for example).

I cite as an example Tesco.com. Tesco has - after extensive user testing

with screenreader users - created an optimised version of its e-grocery service to give screenreader users a better quality, faster shopping experience with access to its full product range. Some screenreader users feel this is unacceptable, believing one version of the site should cater for everyone's needs, while others are happier to use a site that is optimised for screenreader use.

A few years ago I would have agreed that creating an 'alternative' version of a website is not acceptable. But today, with everyone receiving an online experience that is virtually tailored for them individually, the optimised approach seems to offer greater benefits. The UK's Disability Discrimination Act requires equality of service provision. Does this mean blind people should use the same version of a website even if it greatly slows them down, or is an optimised version that allows a faster, better quality user experience preferable,

so long as the standard of service is equal to that received by people who are not disabled? If you think in terms of excellent user experiences for disabled people, optimisation and personalisation would seem to have more to offer.

We need to keep our eyes on web trends and recognise trends that actually help to improve disabled people's experience of the web. Arguably, personalisation is a trend that actually helps as its focus is on sites' best possible performance for every user and is a great deal more

effective that the 'one site for all' approach.

Guidance is changing. Watch out for version 2.0 of WCAG, which should be published in 2009, and the new British Standard for web accessibility (BS8878) that should appear next April. There is a shift of emphasis towards including user testing by disabled people that encourages web developers to be mindful of disabled people's online experiences.

The new approach will also appeal to businesses and this is also very good news for disabled web users. The aim of any website is to convert its visitors into customers. Businesses are now investing a good deal more time and money into optimising 'user journeys' to ensure that the people using their sites find the route to making a purchase (or finding

the information they are looking for) as quick, easy and enjoyable as possible.

I think of this as a pyramid. Web accessibility is the foundation. Usability by disabled people is the next layer. And both of these underpin the ultimate goal: excellent user experiences by disabled people (and everyone).

If we really want equality on the web, it strikes me that we must adopt the language that businesses are using when they talk about creating websites that maximise profit. Right now, businesses are really interested in how the web can quickly deliver return on investment through increased sales. They are looking to web usability techniques to achieve the creation of excellent user experiences for everyone because they know this leads to increased sales. We need to make sure that businesses understand that disabled people have a right to excellent user experiences too and to view disabled people as simply another target audience. If we can do this, our goal of online inclusion

and equality really could become reality.

NOTE: Julie Howell delivered the keynote speech at this year's E- Access '08 conference, hosted by E-Access Bulletin (http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess08 ). Julie is Director of Accessibility at Fortune Cookie and chairs the British Standards Institution's committee on web accessibility (see also News in brief, this issue).

[Section Four 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].

++End Notes.



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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

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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 102 ends].