+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 110, February 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/ .

++E-Access '09: Technology For All- Access To All Technologies By People With Disabilities - Fifth Annual Conference And Exhibition 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, who will explore the day's key themes.

Other speakers include Graeme Whippy, Senior Manager, Lloyds TSB IT Accessibility Group; Shadi Abou-Zahra, of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, on the new international web access guidelines WCAG 2.0; Julie Howell, Chair of the committee developing a new British Standard for web accessibility BS8878; and Damon Rose, Editor of the award-winning BCC disability website 'Ouch', on the future of accessibility.

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: More Workplace Assistance Needed With It, Guide Warns.

Employers should do more to help disabled people with their IT workplace needs, according to a new guide from the Employers' Forum on Disability (EFD).

The 'Reasonable adjustments - line manager guide' ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/efd1 ) advises employers to ensure they procure the correct equipment to ensure disabled workers can work to their full potential, including voice-activated software; adapted keyboards; and chairs which support the back and neck.

The guide includes example scenarios with solutions to common problems associated with disabilities in the workplace. One of the scenarios explores the difficulties that can occur from using IT equipment incorrectly including back and neck pain, and swollen wrists. Proposed solutions include an adaptor keyboard to place less strain on the user's wrists, a mouse which does not need to be grasped tightly and a chair adapted to suit the sitter's position.

Though focused on those with disabilities, the guide aims to maximise the potential of all employees, by increasing understanding of and adapting to the needs of disabled workers. It also sets out legal guidelines and helps employers identify what can and cannot be classed as a disability.

The EFD is a UK membership organisation helping businesses and companies to recruit disabled workers and providing services and products geared towards making the workplace more accessible.

+02: Lost Weekend Spawns Accessible Facebook.

A tool to make the social networking site Facebook more accessible to visually impaired users has been created by Project:Possibility ( http://www.projectpossibility.org/ , a group of not-for-profit software developers in the US. The application ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/pp2 ) allows visually impaired users to log in, navigate and use the site by combining screen reader technology with other coding techniques.

Brian D'Souza, a team member who worked on the project, explained: "We leveraged an existing technology developed by Google called AxsJax (accessibility + AJAX) which combines use of screen readers and java script and navigation methods to make navigation and modification of content of webpages easier. It provides a lot of value for a blind person."

Facebook's popularity has risen dramatically in recent years, with more than 150 million users worldwide. However some users claim it does not fully support assistive tools, with several groups active on the site itself pressing for a more accessible service, such as The Official Petition for a More Accessible Facebook ( http://en-gb.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2384051749 ), which contains almost 1,500 members. Some measures have already been taken by Facebook to accommodate the needs of disabled users, such as releasing screen reader-friendly versions of some of its applications.

The Facebook tool was one of a series of projects created at the recent UCLA SS12, an annual 'code-a-thon' held at the University of California, Los Angeles. Software developers spend a weekend working on projects for disabled people.

Other projects developed by the same team at this year's SS12 included Project AWE ( http://projectpossibility.org/projects/handicapannotate/ ), a 'website accessibility tagging tool', which allows users and third parties to rate the accessibility of web pages. Ratings are automatically retrieving when the disabled user visits the page, allowing them to immediately gain an idea of how easy the page will be to navigate.

+03: Navigational Device Wins International Research Prize.

A device installed in mobile phones to help blind and visually impaired people navigate from place to place has won the fifth International Research and Development Award in New Technologies for the Blind and Visually Impaired from ONCE (Spanish National Organisation of the Blind).

The prize of 240,000 Euros to help fund further research was won by the Shinobu Project, developed by the Human Communication and Interaction Research Group http://www.hci-rg.com/ at the University of Oviedo in Spain.

The device allows users to choose the best path to their destination using public transport networks, by supplying information about the route as they travel. This includes live information about train and bus connections and details of possible points of interest to visit along a choice of alternative routes. The information is relayed to the user's mobile phone in real time.

ONCE received 58 applications for the latest award, from projects in 14 different countries worldwide.


++News in Brief:


+04: Linux Package:

A version of the open source computer operating system Linux has been released for users with visual impairments. Vinux (a customisation of the popular Ubuntu distribution of Linux) automatically activates a screen reader, detects USB Braille displays and provides full screen magnification. The system was developed by Anthony Sales of the Royal National College for the Blind: http://vinux.org.uk/ .

+05: Room Rights:

Wheelchair-friendly hotel rooms can now be reserved online through two of the largest travel websites, signalling the end of a two-year lawsuit. Expedia.com and Hotels.com have agreed to include a search function for accessible accommodation on their sites, following legal action by public interest law firm Disability Rights Advocates, which had claimed the lack of such an option violated civil rights: http://fastlink.headstar.com/hotel1 .

+06: June Prizes:

ICT projects which promote social inclusion can be entered in the 'Reaching the digitally excluded' category at the National eWell-Being Awards 2009. The awards promote innovative uses of ICT for environmental, social and economic benefits, with the winners announced in June: http://www.sustainitawards.co.uk/ .

[Section One ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Designing For All:- An Inclusive Approach To Web, Print And Electronic Publishing - A Practical, One-day Training Course and Document Clinic - Tuesday 17 March, Central London http://www.headstar-events.com/dfa/


Trainer: Katie Grant, former publications manager, Disability Rights Commission.

Our 'Designing for all' course 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 and people with disabilities.

In a society which now includes a large proportion of disabled people, people for whom English is not their first language and an ageing population, it is imperative that all your organisation's information is written and designed as accessibly and inclusively as possible. This includes both traditional media such as leaflets and reports, and new media such as the web.

Designing for all makes good business sense - boosting online sales and improving recruitment and retention; good ethical sense; and good legal sense.

Our course help you assess your current design and content of information - please bring examples to our document clinic. Registration costs £395 + VAT. Find out more and register online today, at: http://www.headstar-events.com/dfa/ .

[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Adept Transcription- Alternative Formats At Affordable Prices.


When you want alternative formats for disabled colleagues, customers and staff, call Adept.

Formats we produce include audio, audio description, Braille, BSL, Easy Read, e-docs for websites, large print, Makaton, Moon and sub- titles, at prices from a penny a word.

Whether handling a newsletter, training DVD, equality scheme, public service leaflet, contract or consultation, we provide: - One-stop shop for all formats - Products quality-checked by users - Corporate presentation including your house style - Fast turnaround of one document or thousands - Multi-format discounts - Accessible packaging

Contact us at: Tel: 0208 133 5418 (precede with 18001 for typetalk) Email transcription@adept-uk.org

[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section Two: Focus- Web 2.0.


+07: Licence To Tweet- By Gez Lemon.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Twitter is a 'microblogging' system that allows people to supply a feed of very short messages, or 'tweets' - just 140 characters long, to whoever subscribes to their feed. Subscribers can then reply openly with their own messages, or use the system to send private messages in reply. However, despite the fact that it is such a simple concept (and leaving aside for the moment the question of who has time to use it), the service raises various accessibility issues. Here, blogger Gez Lemon offers one innovative solution.]

Considering the standard Twitter website is so basic, it's surprising it is so inaccessible.

There are many accessibility problems with Twitter, but by far the biggest issue is the use of various links that can only be activated using a mouse. The links for making a particular tweet a favourite; the links for replying to a particular tweet; and the links to delete a tweet or direct message can only be activated using the mouse on the standard Twitter website. The favourite, reply and delete links are revealed when the user hovers the mouse over a tweet.

Hiding actions and only revealing them when the user moves the mouse results in a very poor user experience for everyone, since many mouse users will be unaware that the functionality exists at all. But for keyboard-only users, the situation is far worse, as they could never possibly know the functionality exists.

Twitter also offers a set of commands to use with Twitter updates, including an '@username' command to send a reply to a particular user. However, use of these commands from the keyboard does not offer the full functionality available to mouse users, who can click on function buttons.

The syntax for the manual command is '@username message you want to send to the user'. While useful, there are two significant difficulties with this syntax.

First, the reply is associated with the last tweet the user sent. If the user has sent tweets since the particular message a user intends to reply to, the reply is associated with the wrong tweet. By contrast, the reply is always associated with the correct tweet when using the mouse- operated reply button.

Second, the user has to physically type the username. As usernames aren't always simple to remember, the user sometimes has to copy and paste them. By contrast, the name is automatically put into the reply box with the correct syntax, and associated with the correct tweet, when a user hits the reply button.

So overall, using commands to manually send replies is not an equivalent for a button that does everything for the user.

There is also a manual 'FAV' command to make a tweet a favourite. The syntax is 'FAV username', which will make the last tweet by the user a favourite. But as with replies, the FAV command assumes you are talking about the very last tweet from a user, which may or may not be the case, and once again requires the user to type the username.

Keyboard-only users also cannot delete tweets or direct messages, as there are no manual commands for deletion.

So how to solve these problems?

In fact, there are so many accessibility issues with Twitter that I originally wanted to build an entire new accessible application for using Twitter. The problem is that I wouldn't have the bandwidth to run a server-side Twitter application, and Twitter doesn't currently use 'OAuth', an open authorisation system that allows other applications to interact with it, without which I would have to ask users to trust me directly with their usernames and passwords.

When discussing this on Twitter, one correspondent Derek Feather suggested using 'Greasemonkey', a plug-in for the Firefox web browser that allows users to install scripts to change web pages. This was a good idea, as it at least allowed the biggest accessibility problems to be addressed immediately.

So it was that I wrote the 'Focus Twitter Greasemonkey' script. The script reveals Favorite, Reply and Delete links when appropriate for each tweet in the timeline. The link phrases have contextual information for assistive technology, but hidden visually, as the links are clearly grouped with the tweet to which they belong. I also removed the avatar from the keyboard tab order to reduce the number of redundant links for keyboard-only users, as the name immediately by the side of the avatar activates the same link. I have left the link in place so that mouse users have a larger target area, as they can click on the avatar.

If you don't already have Greasemonkey installed, you will first need to install Greasemonkey in Firefox first. After installing the extension, select the Focus Twitter Greasemonkey script, and you will be prompted to install the script. From then on, you will have access to reply, favourite and delete links using the keyboard.

This goes to show what's possible, but more needs to be done. Web 2.0 has great promise, offering software developers the ability to get rich applications out to a wide audience on multiple platforms, but basic usability principles are often overlooked. Software developers have a responsibility to ensure their applications are accessible and usable by everyone, regardless of ability.

Gez Lemon runs Juicy Studio: http://juicystudio.com/ .

[Section Two 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.

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 .

[Special notice ends].

++End Notes.


+How to Receive the Bulletin.

+How to Receive the Bulletin.

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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 110 ends].