+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 109, January 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: Visual Memory Is Key To Use Of Graphic Interfaces.

New research has found it is easier for blind computer programmers to use and develop graphical user interfaces (GUIs) when they have previously been sighted and retain some visual memory. This memory helps programmers to visually represent GUIs, even if the interfaces themselves were designed after they had lost their sight, it found.

The research, termed the 'Combine project' ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/hayhoe1 ), was conducted by Dr. Simon Hayhoe, editor of the 'Eco' collaborative website on blindness and the arts.

GUIs are rapidly replacing older text-based mainframe systems. These text-based systems were preferred by programmers who had no visual memory and so had never experienced GUIs.

Hayhoe told delegates at last week's BETT 09 educational technology conference in London that social and cultural factors have also influenced opinion on blind people, often causing them to be underestimated and limiting educational opportunities. There are also generational and educational factors in how blind people work with new technologies. "We can't think of blindness as just a perceptive problem", he said.

The ongoing research project surveyed a group of computer programmers registered as blind; those born blind; those with assimilated blindness (someone who went blind during the period of 4- 18-years-old); and those with visual memory (people going blind in adulthood).

Participants were asked whether they used text-based programming environments or GUIs, and for the latter, how these were represented or imagined by the individual, for example with the use of visual metaphors to navigate the system.

The work could help inform future interface design, Hayhoe said. Areas he hopes to address in a second phase of the study include the motivations of blind students who become programmers, and whether it is common for programmers with visual memory to reject the use of Braille. This last point arises after the case studies of those with visual memory showed that they preferred to use suitably adapted mainstream methods to understand programming languages.

+02: Tech Industry Slams 'Fragmented' Eu Inclusion Policy.

The lack of a coherent approach to boosting technology accessibility across European nations has been attacked by a leading technology industry spokesman.

Mark McGann, Director General of the European Information, Communications and Consumer Electronics Technology Industry Association (EICTA), told the recent European Commission Vienna conference on digital inclusion that the lack of a cohesive approach in this field has been "a massive failure".

He said the situation with accessibility was similar to that found with the switchover to digital television, which has happened in a fragmented fashion across Europe. "Too often we don't have one Europe, a single market. We have been advocating a single European approach to switchover for years."

Governments need to set a regulatory framework for accessibility, McGann said, but "we don't want 27 policies" - policies should be unified and co-ordinated at a European level.

Both the unified and national policies should focus on the goals of accessibility, not the specific means of attaining them, he said. "We do not recommend that individual governments go into technologies or try to choose a technological winner, that would fail. [But] now more than ever, governments have an obligation to show leadership in this domain."

On the other hand, there were positive signs, McGann said. With digital TV, for example, once the policy side becomes more co- ordinated, the technology itself "will be much more accessible than analogue ever was."

+03: Sign Language Videos And Virtual Tours Win Cultural Awards.

The National Trust, the British Museum and the V&A are among the recipients of last month's annual Jodi awards for excellence in accessible cultural websites and digital media ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/jodi2 ).

The British Museum won the Excellence in Web Accessibility Award for its BSL Schools Web Project ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/bm1 ). The museum worked with the Frank Barnes Primary School for deaf children in London to produce videos for some of the exhibits in British Sign Language (BSL).

The Excellence in Accessible Digital Media Award was scooped up by the National Trust for a series of accessible virtual tours. Some 14 tours are currently active and a further eight are still in development by the Trust's partner in the project Corvidae ( http://corvidae.co.uk/panoramas/ ).

The Victoria and Albert museum picked up the Excellence for People with a Learning Disability Award for a series of art-based educational workshops for people with learning difficulties which is now in its third year. The project is called Outside Pathways ( http://www.outsideinpathways.org.uk/ ).

++News in Brief:


+04: Driving Innovation:

An accessible examination system to allow disabled people to study for basic computer user qualifications, including the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL), has been developed by the British Computer Society. The Multi Accessible Test System allows candidates to sit the ECDL with a text-only option or with video clips showing sign language interpretation or synthetic narration accompaniment: http://fastlink.headstar.com/bcs4

+05: Future Build:

Local IT accessibility and special educational needs experts and professionals must be allowed to be involved closely with local council's projects to build new schools under the government's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, the charity AbilityNet has warned. In a statement released at this month's education technology conference BETT 09, AbiltyNet said BSF was a wonderful opportunity, but it also presented "huge potential pitfalls" if the needs of pupils with disabilities and SEN are overlooked in the planning stages of school building projects: http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/edu_bsf .

+06: Language Access:

A new version of the 'Talklets' talking web page system from Textic includes real-time spoken translation of English text into French, Spanish, German, Polish or Chinese. The system - which embeds code into participating websites to access software on the company's servers - uses the Google translation feature to create a written translation and then converts this into speech. Word and pdf documents can also be translated into foreign speech, and further languages are promised in 'the near future': http://www.textic.com .

[Section One ends].

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


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Julie Howell is our Director of Accessibility. Email Julie at: Julie.Howell@fortunecookie.co.uk .

[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: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.


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


Tedd Sperling, a freelance programmer based in the US and frequent correspondent to E-Access Bulletin on the inaccessibility of most 'CAPTCHA' tools (the distorted visual or audio codes users of some websites must decode to register).

Further to the report in our November issue of a talk given by Robin Christopherson of AbilityNet, referring to problems with registering on the Google website, Tedd writes: "As you may remember, I've given the CAPTCHA 'need' quite a bit of thought and investigation over the years. I've written all sorts of CAPTCHAs, including an audio one.

"However, my current solution is simply an automated double-opt-in method for anyone wanting to post a comment, as can be demonstrated here: http://sperling.com/four-things-clients-should-know.php .

"I don't think this method is too much to ask of users and I don't think it is inaccessible. Additionally, this method throws the burden of banning posters onto my shoulders and not on the user by making them pass a CAPTCHA test.

"A double opt-in list is simply an email confirmation process that must be completed before allowing a person to post to a site. If a person wants to make a comment, they first submit their email address to the form at the bottom of any article. The form then records the email address given in a database; and emails a 'token' (a unique string of numbers and letters) to the user as part of a link.

If the user clicks the link they are taken back to the web site and their email address is confirmed. After that, whenever they want to post, they can do so without hindrance.

If a spammer wants to post something, then they don't normally go through the confirmation process. However, if they do and I don't like the post, then I simply ban the IP [internet address]. Thus far, it's worked for me."

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


Diana Monahan of Moor End Technology College, Huddersfield, writes in to describe a problem she has encountered in attempting to use a website offering free accessible web browser style sheets to download, that has been mentioned in the past in E-Access Bulletin.

"This may not be in your remit, but perhaps through the bulletin we can find a solution or an alternative," writes Diana. "In the past I have used the website http://www.oneformat.com/ to decide which style sheet to use with my visually impaired pupils. I went to the site recently and was told by the school software that "Virus/spyware Troj/Comic-Fam has been detected in [the site]".

"Is there any way of getting the problem sorted as this was a very useful website and I don't know of an alternative?"

We have tried to contact the site's owner, but so far without success. If he or any reader is able to advise whether this is a problem with the site or might rather be a problem with Diana's local computer, their responses would be most welcome, 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].

++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 Three: Special Report- Access To The Web.


+09: Quality, Not Quantity.- By Dan Jellinek.

Voluntary guidelines on web accessibility are all very well, but there is nothing like a law for ensuring everyone falls into line. Such was the message to emerge from last month's European Commission conference on digital inclusion held in Vienna.

Alexander Fase, Web Guidelines Project Manager at the Dutch government ICT agency ICTU, told delegates that his organisation had developed a non-technical, 'quality' approach to accessibility standards which focused on ensuring all information could be accessed through any channel, now and in the future.

Such an approach was vital in an ageing society, he said: it was estimated for example that the number of people in Holland aged over 55 would double by 2030, and the number of people with some level of impaired vision would double by 2020.

"Old-school websites are only re-usable in a limited way - they are technologically complicated, and you had to redesign for a new corporate identity," Fase said. By contrast, the quality approach tries to ensure information will be available in the future, regardless of the emergence of new browsers and access devices. The approach is based around 125 quality requirements including keeping structure and design as separate as possible; and building websites according to the principle of 'layered design' (see http://www.webguidelines.nl ). His unit is also working on a business case for accessibility, to be published in 2009, Fase said.

One of the most powerful statistics offered by Fase was that of the increase in accessibility of central government websites in Holland since it became a legal requirement. "Now web guidelines are mandatory, the score on accessibility is 10 times better than average," he said.

Matt May, Accessibility Engineer with Adobe Systems, agreed that the increasing use of multiple channels and devices to access web content meant that the basic requirements of what has been seen as accessibility for people with sensory impairments or disabilities are actually important for everybody.

"I'm using a small notebook with a limited display so adjustment of text size is a universal issue now."

It is also vital to realise that most people creating web pages do not actually use HTML, but rather intermediary 'authoring tools' such as Dreamweaver or Microsoft Word; programming tools; database- backed tools; or user-generated content, May said. "Today, many people are creating web content but may have never seen the code," he said.

This means that the World Wide Web Consortium's 'ATAG' guidelines on the accessibility of web authoring tools are just as important as the consortium's better-known web content accessibility guidelines, (WCAG) he said. "As an industry, standards are very important to us, because we can take them to our developers."

One case study of a major European retail website which was given an accessibility overhaul found that even the largest and busiest sites can be improved without major disruption.

Voyages-SNCF, the ticket purchasing website of the French national railway, is the leading online retailer in France, turning over 1.86 billion euros of revenue in 2007 from some 700,000 daily users.

Christelle Lortet, e-Accessibility Project Officer at Voyages-SNCF, told the conference that accessibility had been a goal for the site for several years, with improvements made steadily as parts of the site entered their natural upgrade cycle. The organisation also funded accessibility training for everyone involved, including web developers, graphic designers and Lortet herself, as project manager.

There were three main reasons for the move: "It was our desire, and the law, and a competitive advantage."

Lortet had a powerful message for those who think that making a website accessible means that one has to change its look and feel to something less sophisticated: on two slides, she showed what the Voyages-SNCF website looked like before its accessibility overhaul, and what it looked like afterwards. The two pages looked almost identical, with some small colour changes to improve contrast: the huge majority of changes are hidden in the code, she said. "This should convince any CEO who thinks that accessibility would force a company to change the design of its web page," she said.

[Section Three 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
  • Reporters: Tristan Parker, Majeed Saleh,
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue 109 ends].