+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 112, April 2009.

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: E-Access '09: Technology For All- Access To All Technologies By People With Disabilities - Fifth Annual Conference And Exhibition - Event Runs Thursday - Sign Up While Places Remain! http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess09/ .


In an ageing population, and in tough economic times, ensuring all your customers, service users and staff are included in everything you do is more vital than ever, from your externally-facing websites to internal IT systems.

E-Access Bulletin's fifth annual conference and exhibition on access to technology by people with disabilities is taking place on 23rd April 2009 at Olympia Conference Centre in London. Our keynote speaker is Bill Thompson, technology critic and broadcaster. Other speakers include Graeme Whippy, Senior Manager, Lloyds TSB IT Accessibility Group; and Shadi Abou-Zahra, of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, on the new international web access guidelines WCAG 2.0.

Places cost just £195 +VAT for public sector delegates; £295 +VAT for private sector; and £165 + VAT for small charities and non-profits (turnover less than £150k a year). To find out more and sign up today, visit: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess09/

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Disability Redefined As E-Learning 'Mismatch'.

An attempt to redefine or reframe the term 'disability', in the context of online learning as a mismatch between a learner's needs and the education process delivered, is enshrined in a new international e- learning standard.

ISO/IEC 24751:2008, 'Information technology - individualised adaptability and accessibility in e-learning, education and training' ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/iso3 ) has been published by the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

The standard says it views disability as "a consequence of a mismatch between the learner's needs (or preferences) and the education or learning experience delivered.

"For example, an individual who is blind is not disabled when the lesson is delivered in audio. However, an individual who does not have the necessary background knowledge to understand the lesson, or who is listening to the lesson in a noisy environment, is disabled.

"Thus, the needs and preferences of a user may arise from the user's context or environment, the technical requirements of the user's device, the tools available (e.g. assistive technologies such as Braille devices, voice recognition systems, alternative keyboards, etc.), the user's background, or a disability in the traditional sense.

"Given this reframing of the meaning of "disability", a learning environment is deemed as "accessible" when learner needs can be addressed or matched."

The new standard is published in three parts. Part 1 offers a framework and reference model to describe and specify learner needs and preferences and the corresponding description of the digital learning resources. Part 2 sets out "access for all" criteria on personal needs and preferences, including how they can be ranked by priority. Finally, Part 3 provides a 'digital resource description', a common language for describing aspects of a computer system to facilitate their being matched to learners' needs and preferences.

The standard or individual parts are available at a charge from ISO national member institutes such as the British Standards Institution, or from the ISO Central Secretariat.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=273

+02: Concerns Raised Over Australian Mobile News Service.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has failed to adequately address accessibility problems with its new mobile web news service, one of the country's leading accessibility analysts has told E-Access Bulletin.

Tom Worthington, a senior lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University, examined 'ABC Mobile' ( http://www.abc.net.au/innovation/mobile/ ) for accessibility on its launch. In a report posted to his blog, he said: "The home page does not appear to have been designed in accordance with guidelines for web accessibility for the disabled, and may be unlawful. The site also fails several mobile phone and other web guidelines." One of the key faults had been with a lack of proper alternative text tags for information conveyed as images, he said.

Following Worthington's initial comments, the ABC took action to address accessibility concerns. In a public response to Worthington's comments, the corporation's Chris Winter said his organisation was working to comply with WAI guidelines, and had updated the home page with alt tags integrated so text-to-speech software can now recognise most images for visually impaired people.

Worthington's original comments and the ABC response can be read on his blog at: http://fastlink.headstar.com/abc3 .

However, Worthington has now told E-Access Bulletin the changes do not go far enough. "If anything, the web site appears to be less compliant than it was when first released," he said. "Senior management need to make sure they get advice from competent staff. The ABC has competent web designers, as shown by their main web site. But these staff do not appear to have been consulted on the mobile web site."

Much of the academic's concern centres around the potential of mobile news services to act as early warning systems in major emergencies, such as the recent Australian bushfires. But in a recent talk on the subject Worthington warned that if services were not accessible they could not act as effective emergency warnings: http://fastlink.headstar.com/tomw1 .

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=275

+03: Finnish Trial For Touch-Screen Braille On Mobiles.

A method for presenting Braille characters as a sequence of strong and weak pulses on the touch-screen of a mobile device has been developed by a research team at the University of Tampere in Finland.

The most successful method tested by the team involved sending sequences of pulses about a third of a second apart to a single point of the screen of a Nokia 770 Internet Tablet. Almost all participants could accurately recognise individual characters sent in this way, though faster speeds reduced the recognition rate.

Further studies are needed to evaluate how well people can recognise a series of multiple characters forming words, the team says. The full research paper is available from the international technology standards and research organisation IEEE at a cost of 29 US Dollars: http://fastlink.headstar.com/ieee1 .

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=279

++News in Brief:


+04: Outstanding Contribution:

Graeme Whippy, Senior IT Accessibility Manager at the high street bank Lloyds TSB and prominent accessibility standards campaigner, has won the 'Outstanding contribution to the industry' prize at this year's prestigious Financial Sector Technology Awards: http://www.fstech.co.uk/awards/winners09.htm Whippy is among the plenary speaker's at this year's E-Access '09, hosted on 23 April by E-Access Bulletin: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess09

+05: London Calling:

A survey to gather information to help make London more accessible ahead of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is being conducted by the office of the Mayor of London. The research aims to highlight areas in need of immediate improvement including access to restaurants, hotels and tourist attractions by people with mobility issues including disabled people, older people and parents with small children. Take part until 31 May by telephoning 01344 360 101 or online at the web address below: http://fastlink.headstar.com/london8 .

+06: BlackBerry Speech:

The first text-to-speech screenreader for BlackBerry smartphones has been released by access technology specialist HumanWare. 'Orator' is based around software developed by technology partner Code Factory and supports multiple languages: http://fastlink.headstar.com/blackberry1 .

+07: Our Survey:

Anyone involved in using or selecting accessibility tools for their organisation is invited to participate in a survey to find out how seriously organisations take accessibility issues. The study is being conducted by Bloor Research, who are partners at Headstar's annual conference on the topic, E-Access '09, on 23 April. Take part now at: http://fastlink.headstar.com/bloor1 And the E-Access '09 website is at: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess09/ .

[Section One ends].

++Sponsored Notice: BrowseAloud - E-Access '09 Preview


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[Sponsored notice ends].

++Special 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.

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[Special notice ends].

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


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

+08: Discrimination Complaint:

In a comment left on our website on last issue's article 'Row Brewing Over E-Book Speech Function Removal' ( http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=244 ), reader Dave Garside raises some questions about the apparent inequity behind a refusal to allow text-to-speech automation for electronic books.

"When a paper book is purchased a royalty is paid and it is not an issue whether the book is read by sight, a second person out loud or by mechanical means," he says. "With an e-book the royalty has also been paid.

"Are the objections because those who prefer an audio copy are being ripped off by paying a higher royalty fee? Or is it not a royalty but a profit issue?

"Either way, it forces the blind to pay extra for a service that could be supplied at the same price as to a sighted customer, and that is a discrimination issue."

Further responses please via the web link above or to inbox@headstar.com .

+09: Permission Pending:

Mary Watkins, Director of Communications and Outreach of the Media Access Group at the Boston-based public service broadcaster WGBH ( http://access.wgbh.org ), writes in following a request in our last issue for information about online databases of movies in audio formats (see 'Movie Vaults', Inbox, March 2009).

Mary points out that the 'DVS' format for films in audio form combining soundtracks with audio description as MP3 files is the property of WGBH and is not currently licensed for free circulation.

"The movies and TV shows the Media Access Group at WGBH describe are protected by both the movie/TV studios' copyrights as well as our own for the description, and no permission has been granted for internet or any other form of distribution," she says.

"WGBH is working to migrate this described content to additional outlets, including online distribution."

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

+10: Second Guess:

Gustaw Kon, a reader living in Germany, writes in to question the reasons behind Julie Howell's recent decision to step down as chair of a committee developing a British Standard on web accessibility. He writes: "Julie Howell has resigned as chair of a British Standards Institution committee on web accessibility. She is rather knowledgeable on the matter, and we were not told why she left.

"If I am wrong in thinking that it was because of the convoluted failure to progress, I apologise to Julie Howell for second-guessing her."

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

[Section Two ends].

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[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section Three: Special ReportWeb Accessibility Statements.


+11: The Best Of Intentions, Clearly Stated.

Just 10 per cent of accessibility statements on local government websites are 'excellent', with a further 37 per cent deemed 'satisfactory', according to new research from the Society of IT Management (Socitm http://www.socitm.gov.uk ).

The research is published this week as a special supplement to Better Connected 2009, the society's annual snapshot review of all UK council websites.

The accessibility statement is seen as central to having a website that is accessible to all users, including people with disabilities, the report says. However, despite the low level of excellent practice found, local authority sites fare well when compared with the private sector, it says. No private sector statements were found to be excellent, and just 16 per cent were satisfactory.

A much higher percentage of local authority websites (79 per cent) have a link on their home page to an accessibility statement than private sector websites (44 per cent). On a number of other points about facilities on the home page (such as changing text size), local authorities are significantly better than the private sector, Socitm says.

Taken together, the results of the survey show that local government has a much stronger awareness of accessibility policy and implementation than the private sector, it says.

Central Office of Information guidance states that website accessibility statements should contain four features, the report says.

The first feature is a clear statement that demonstrates the organisation's commitment to web accessibility. The percentage of sites that show this commitment from those that have accessibility statements is very high, the new report finds, and more or less the same across the two sectors.

The second feature is information about any areas of the website that do not yet conform with the overall accessibility targets of the website. Here, the percentage is low in both cases, at no more than 10 per cent.

The third feature concerns contact details for people wishing to report problems with the website. On this feature there is some differentiation between the two sectors with local government (60%) much more likely than the private sector (43%) to provide contact information.

Finally, Socitm tested for a link to an accessibility policy. Just four councils and no private sector website tested featured such a link.

The researchers then looked at other types of accessibility practice, starting with ways of making the site more flexible to use by people with disabilities.

Local authority websites are much more flexible (71 per cent) than private sector websites (25 per cent) in offering an option to change text size on web pages. Many organisations provide information for visitors on how to change text size in their browser. However, many also made it easier by offering links from the home page which increase text size. Some provided both options.

Similarly, local authority websites are more flexible (41 per cent) than private sector websites (11 per cent) in offering an option to change colour contrast, but in both cases this option is less common than changing text size. A 'Yes' answer counted if there was information on how to change colours, or if there was a link to an external site such as 'MyWebMyWay' in context.

Overall, the Socitm research recommends that an accessibility statement should be central to an organisation's commitment to an accessible website. It is no surprise that having an accessibility statement increases the likelihood of having an accessible website (by 23 per cent according to this research), but it is no guarantee of having one, as the intention has to be matched with the practice, the report finds.

It concludes with three recommendations for website owners: to review their accessibility statements against best practice criteria; to redevelop statements according to the findings of that review; and to adopt the best practices for implementing the intentions set out in the statement.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=281

[Section Three 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].

++End Notes.


+How to Receive the Bulletin.

+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 2009 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.
  • Reporter: Tristan Parker.
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337.

[Issue 112 ends].