+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 107, November 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 - Wednesday 3 December, RIBA, Central London http://www.headstar-training.com/dfa/ .


Trainer: Katie Grant, former publications manager, Disability Rights Commission. 'Designing for all' is a practical course 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. The course will be of interest to anyone who is involved in the design and delivery of information in print, electronic and web formats. To book a place see: http://www.headstar-training.com/dfa/

[Special notice 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 One: News.


+01: Democracy Websites 'Inaccessible To Audio Browsers'.

Many government, politics and news websites present significant barriers to web users with disabilities using special access technologies such as text to speech convertors, delegates heard at last week's E-Democracy '08 conference hosted by Headstar (http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy08/ ).

Robin Christopherson, head of accessibility at technology access charity AbilityNet, presented a live audio demonstration of many of the difficulties that blind web users experience.

Among the sites he examined was the recently revamped Number 10 Downing Street website, which while relatively accessible in many ways, still has various untagged links which read simply 'click here', offering the audio browser no clue as to what lies behind. The website also features auto-start videos, with unlabelled control buttons, so that blind users are confronted with video noise drowning out their own audio controls and cannot work out how to turn it off.

The use of 'Captcha' is an increasing problem for audio web users, Christopherson said (see our previous coverage at: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=183 ). Captcha seeks to prevent automated 'spam' software from registering accounts or filling in web forms by presenting a pattern of distorted letters and numbers that only sighted humans can decode.

Some captcha systems now offer 'audio captcha' alternatives for screen-reader users allowing blind users for example to hear a spoken code. Google is an example which uses an embedded QuickTime sound sequence to play a garbled numerical code over background noise which the listener is required to decipher in a similar way to the visual system (https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount?service=mail). However, these audio captcha files are also incomprehensible, as Christopherson demonstrated live to much amusement. In an attempt to foil audio recognition software, the sounds are so distorted that they cannot be recognised by humans either, he said.

A third option offered by Google to contact the site's owners directly for assistance did not work either: when Christopherson was eventually contacted two days after applying for this option he was informed that everyone had to register online.

+02: 'Digital Mentor' Trials Form Part Of Draft Inclusion Plan.

The government is to pilot a 'digital mentors' scheme to help people in deprived areas use technologies such as websites, podcasts and digital photography to make their voices heard, collaborate and improve access to services.

The initiative forms part of a new action plan for digital inclusion ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/action2 ), launched by Digital Inclusion minister Paul Murphy and the department of Communities and Local Government (CLG).

An estimated 17 million people over the age of 15 are not using computers and the internet, and there is a strong link between digital and social exclusion and disabled people with disabled people among those most excluded from the digital technologies at the heart of the developing knowledge economy, the plan says.

Referring to the findings of the disability rights commission in 2007 the consultation says that of all people in Britain without any formal qualifications, over one-third were disabled, and that of all people of working age out of work, 40 per cent had a disability.

A proposed new charter for digital inclusion aims to tackle the barriers to citizen engagement with technology including lack of confidence, awareness, skills and support and the availability of infrastructure.

One initiative referred to in the consultation is the government funded development of 'sign video', a deaf and sign language led social enterprise providing instant and high quality sign language interpreting via videophone (http://www.significant-online.co.uk/ ).

The consultation also examines the indirect benefits that can be gained from uses of technology by public bodies on behalf of the disadvantaged. It says there is a risk some parts of government are not fully exploiting the opportunities available including to integrate services across government to support complex needs and reduce the amount of contact citizens need to have with government.

In addition to the charter the consultation announces the government's intention to establish the position of a digital inclusion champion to work independently with a taskforce of experts to provide strategic leadership and expert advice across all sectors.

Consultation on the draft action plan runs until 19 January 2009, and CLG is separately inviting tenders for organisations and consortia interested in participating in the digital mentors scheme, hosting a workshop for those interested in London on 19 November ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/dm1 ).

+03: Paper Urges Better Integration For Assistive Technologies.

A range of emerging technologies integrated with existing solutions could offer blind people and others with disabilities new ways of solving their everyday problems, according to a paper from Kevin Carey, director of the digital inclusion charity humanITy (http://www.humanity.org.uk ).

The paper was presented at a recent inclusive digital economy conference at the University of York. In it Carey says: "There is enough technology to assist us with most of our problems but it is not integrated in the right way. If we spent more time, energy and money integrating rather than thinking up clever new, specialised and expensive assistive technologies, we would all be better off."

For example in the future, modular user interfaces "will allow us to couple a large, portable screen with a small mobile telephone, bring the sound of a television into a remote controller or cable-free ear phones, allow the use of a large screen to 'blow up' an image or show a small part of it in great detail."

And a combination of satellite and voluntary surveillance technologies such as webcam networks could be used "to transmit highly localised audio information, so that I can ask 'Where am I?' and receive an immediate answer," Carey says.

Other potentially useful new technologies include:

- hand-held devices to calculate whether it is safe to cross a street on the basis of the distance and speed of vehicles;

- 'Stereoscopic Lithographic Apparatus' (SLA) or 'fast prototyping' technologies [whereby objects are created or 'printed' live in three dimensions by building them up in layers of resin] to add a new dimension to tactile graphics and model making which will probably prove to be more valuable than the use of haptic force feedback;

- high definition data transmission through enhanced broadband and HDTV will transmit unmixed audio so that up to 32 parallel tracks can be differentiated, allowing more scope both to alter scale and deconstruct the layers of images.

For a copy of Carey's paper see: http://www.addw08.org/workshops.htm .

++News in Brief:



The winners of this year's European e- Inclusion awards will be announced at a ministerial e-incluson conference hosted by the European Commission in Vienna on 1-2 December. Six UK bodies are among the 35 finalists in seven categories. E-Access Bulletin editor Dan Jellinek has been invited to attend the conference and will be reporting back from Vienna in our December issue: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/events/e- inclusion/2008/index_en.htm


A survey to assess the status of accessibility awareness and practice in the UK ICT sector is being carried out by a consortium of nine accessibility organisations including AbilityNet, the British Computer Society, City University and the Employer's Forum on Disability. Results will be used to provide companies with guidance including an ICT accessibility business case and implementation plan. The survey is online to 18 November: http://cs.createsurvey.com/c/45/45/survey/507-Z0TuTA.html


Assistive technology company Dolphin has launched the latest version of its flagship software suite Supernova, Hal, Lunar and LunarPlus. Version 10 includes a set-up wizard to enable users to better configure the software to their needs and support for Mozilla Firefox 3.0: http://www.yourdolphin.com/

[Section One ends].

++Special Notice: Techno-Footprint: ICT and Sustainability in thePublic Sector 27 November 2008, New Connaught Rooms, London http://www.headstar-events.com/techno08/


The Cabinet Office's 'Greening Government IT' paper sets a deadline of January 2009 for central government to address the impact on carbon emissions of all new ICT procurement; and larger councils will face significant financial penalties if they fail to meet carbon reduction targets from 1 January 2010 onwards, when a carbon trading scheme comes into play.

Headstar's second annual conference and exhibition on ICT and Sustainability in the Public Sector is a must-attend event, offering practical advice on reducing your IT footprint. Our fantastic speaker line-up includes Caroline Lucas MEP, recently elected as the first ever leader of the Green Party; Catalina McGregor from the Ministry of Defence, a department spearheading environmental activity in IT; and Chris Head from Socitm Insight.

Registration costs £295 + VAT for public sector workers and £395 + VAT for private sector: http://www.headstar-events.com/techno08/

[Special notice 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 .


Roger Wilson-Hinds, Director of Screenreader.net, entrepreneur and long-time E-Access Bulletin reader, writes in to get some thoughts off his chest following last issue's report that older people with impaired vision are disadvantaged in the workplace.

"Sometimes I feel very frustrated. Many times during the current issue, I read that things must change. I also read that RNIB has discovered that older visually impaired people are more disadvantaged in the labour market.

"Well, there's a surprise! I worked in the Ministry of Labour in the 1960s and the same research discovered the same thing. Isn't it time we really made changes and stopped researching the bleeding obvious? Seeing is pretty useful at work and the reality is that very few jobs can be done totally without sight.

"It's kind of cosy to keep repeating the old clich�s every few years, but real change only comes when visually disabled individuals make a supreme effort to kick the cushy benefit trap and fight the battles of the work-place.

"I am as a statistic 68, hard of hearing and blind. As a person I work hard, enjoy every day and do a bit of good in the world too. My company delivers free talking software so that blind people anywhere can use a modern computer. And we have learned to fund it without whingeing and begging.

"Thankfully, there are many like me who just get on with it. I read the other day of a partially sighted couple who have launched Easy2See - greetings cards in a style which enabled older people with poor sight to be able to read the message and see the pictures. That's change and much better than the couple moaning and deploring the state of the labour market. OK. I feel less frustrated now and at least I have said something different."

[To join in the debate please email inbox@headstar.com].


Salvatore Lagati from Trento in Italy writes in with a request for information about accessible alarm clocks. He asks: "I need an alarm clock for a deafblind person - an alarm clock with a vibrator to put under the pillow, and the numbers of hours marked in Braille. Could you suggest where I might be able to find this?"

[Suggestions to Salvatore 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: Focus- Access To The 2012 Olympics.


+09: Running To Catch Upby Stephen Duckworth.

Planning for the 2012 Olympic games in London began some time ago, and there are many considerations that have been sadly ignored by previous hosts when it comes to making the games accessible to people with disabilities.

Accessibility issues relate not just to disabled spectators, but also disabled athletes. What are we doing for these groups? For example, is there technology that can help? I remember going to the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing and watching the blind sprinters running with their guides. When they had run the 100-metre race and crossed the finishing line, they didn't have a clue whether they had come first, second or third. Is there an electronic wrist band that they could have that would indicate to them where they had come as they crossed the line? Surely it is technically possible to let them know.

Of course, their guide was a few paces behind as they crossed the line, because those are the rules, and he or she would tell them, and you would see a sense of euphoria or disappointment depending on where they had come.

In relation to the other customers, the paying customer and a significantly large number of non-paying customers. They are known as the Olympic or Paralympic family. They are treated like gods by the organisation, because essentially, without them, the host city would not have got the event.

What I was surprised about - because I became a member of the Paralympic family when I went to Beijing because of my involvement with London 2012 - is the red-carpet treatment that you get if you happen to belong to that family, and how there's a lower standard of treatment if you remove that particular badge - as I did for one day - and try and get in as a bog-standard punter, as it were. The disparity of treatment between the two types of customer was quite appalling, and I hope that, in 2012, we can get it right for both customer groups.

It's critical really because, in Beijing, there were very few local Chinese disabled people attending events. I saw a couple of elderly Chinese people who looked fairly affluent compared to the people that you would see out on the street, but very few disabled people in China attended the events at the Paralympic Games, and I am told also the Olympic Games.

I think that, when the event comes to London, at least 50 per cent of the spectators will be London-based. The other spectators in Beijing, the other disabled spectators in Beijing, were other athletes. So we are going to see double the number of disabled spectators than we were seeing in Beijing.

Now, the way that China overcame the problem of accessibility to technology and other issues was through their volunteers. They had 1.2 million volunteers. We are looking at having roughly about 60 or 70,000 in this country. I am told, also, that of those volunteers approaching half of them were either police or the secret service! And they wore different-coloured hats, that's the way that you could tell.

In some Beijing venues, platform stair-lifts were required to enable disabled people to enter the facility. On at least one occasion the lift broke, so it did take an awful long time to get in and out of that building. The reason being is that I used quite a peculiarly heavy wheelchair, but as technology develops in wheelchair design, electric powered wheelchairs at least will become heavier and heavier. We are hoping not to require this sort of platform lift going up a flight of steps technology in London because we are designing it in as we go along.

What we need to do in everything that we think about is design out the disabling barriers. How do you do that? One example is that of chip and PIN technology. The British banking association commissioned my organisation to develop a system to consult with disabled people about how to make chip and PIN technology as accessible as possible. We ran 35 focus groups, with 10 disabled people in each group, all of different impairment types all over the country, 350 people in total, to consult about the design of chip and PIN technology. So remember what disability is. It's nothing to do with our impairment. It's to do with the way that engineers, architects and others have historically built in barriers that restrict our opportunities to participate as equal citizens. Barriers that we feel we have a right not to encounter.

Now when we design and develop technologies for people, we have heard talk already about the digital divide. So as well as thinking about the design and development of the new technologies we have got to think about ways in which we develop that technology, to encourage users who are at the bottom of the ditch to engage with it.

Because otherwise we're only going to develop technologies for the more motivated, active disabled people who are doing things. The vast majority of disabled people still stuck in their passive and medical mode of thinking will not gain access to opportunities. NOTE: Dr Stephen Duckworth OBE is Chief Executive of Disability Matters. This article is adapted from a talk given by Dr Duckworth at the 'Designs on the Games' conference in October 2008 organised by charity PhoneAbility and the Institution of Engineering. For more details including transcripts visit: http://www.tiresias.org/phoneability/games/

[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 107 ends].