+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 115, July 2009.

Access To Technology For All, Regardless Of Ability

A Headstar Publication. http://www.headstar.com/eab/ .

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/ .

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[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Rnib Team Welcomes Off-The-Shelf Iphone Accessibility.

An advanced screen-reader and other accessibility features on a new version of Apple's iPhone represent an "extremely significant development" for a previously inaccessible technology, according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

'Off-the-shelf' features built into the iPhone 3GS allow blind and visually impaired users to send and receive text messages and emails, browse the internet, play music and make and receive phone calls.

The 'VoiceOver' screen-reader on the new phone also claims to be the world's first "gesture-based screen-reader", working with the iPhone's touch-screen to describe or read out whatever function or piece of text the user moves their finger over, in any of 21 different languages. This allows users to read emails or text messages, and a 'Speak Auto-text' function will speak out letters or words being typed on the phone, suggesting possible corrections as it proceeds.

A further gesture-based 'rotor' system activated with a circular motion of the fingers switches the screen-reader mode backwards and forwards between word-by-word speech and reading out individual characters. Additionally, a voice control function allows users to make and receive calls, play and control music through voice commands.

The RNIB says Apple has taken "a positive step" by building-in these features for free. "All too often, blind and partially sighted people have to rely on third-party assistive technology software and hardware in order to make mainstream devices such as mobile phones accessible", said Kiran Kaja, from the RNIB's digital accessibility team. "This involves an additional cost for the user. But with Apple providing a free VoiceOver screen-reader on all iPhone 3GS devices, blind and partially sighted customers can now benefit from an off-the-shelf accessible mobile phone at the same price as their sighted counterparts."

Other accessibility features on the 3GS include a zoom function that can dramatically magnify the entire screen of any application; an option to change the screen display to white on black, offering higher contrast; easily discernible tactile buttons to perform basic phone operations; and an option to use giant font sizes when reading emails.

While praising these features, Kaja said there were one or two areas where further improvements could yet be made. "While the iPhone 3GS includes very good accessibility features, RNIB would like Apple to continue to look at making the iPhone usable by those who may not be as technically savvy. They also have a role to encourage third-party application developers to make their applications compatible with VoiceOver."

On its website, Apple states that it is "working with iPhone software developers so they can make their applications VoiceOver compatible."

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=306

+02: Deafblind Web Users Engage With Social Media.

Social media users are being invited to think about the internet in terms of touch, taste and smell, to raise awareness of deafblindness and encourage deafblind people to use social networking sites, in a project from the deafblind charity Sense.

An online 'Sensehub' portal ( http://www.sensehub.org.uk/ ) has been created for Sense on a pro bono basis by advertising and digital agency RMG Connect, allowing visitors to link to sense-based channels on sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. On the Twitter channel, for example, visitors can view streams of Tweets which contain words like 'touch', 'taste' and 'smell', while the Facebook link takes visitors to a group which encourages people to tag their photos with sense- based words, rather than just people's names.

Alessandra Moscadelli, New Media Co-ordinator for Sense, said the Sensehub was created to "promote Deafblind Awareness Week to a young, traditionally reluctant audience, but also to draw attention to the fact that someone who is deafblind has extreme problems accessing a lot of the info on these websites."

As well as encouraging more deafblind communities to use social networking and pushing developers to create more accessible applications, Sense hopes that the Sensehub will also connect users. "We wanted to link individual web audiences with each other - the audience who already have experience of deafblindness to those who are discovering it for the first time, forming a community to encourage a sharing of content and experiences and further raising awareness", said Moscadelli.

The Sensehub interface has proved popular so far, receiving around 2,500 hits in ten days, as well as an increase in the hub's Facebook and Twitter channels. Though difficult to measure at such early stage, Moscadelli estimates that when group links and numbers of 'friends' and 'followers' on social media sites are considered, the Sensehub may have reached up to 64,000 people.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=309

+03: Outdated 'Legacy' Systems Hindering Accessibility.

A lack of accessibility in old ICT systems and lack of budget are the two main barriers preventing organisations from making their internal and external ICT systems more accessible for people with disabilities, according to the results of the new survey.

These factors were each cited by 40% of respondents as 'strong' or 'very strong' barriers to implementation of accessibility in a survey carried out by Bloor Research in conjunction with E-Access Bulletin's publisher Headstar and Ability Magazine. The finding suggests that providing tools for improving the accessibility of these 'legacy' systems could be an interesting business opportunity, say the survey's creators. Less than a quarter of respondents quoted lack of understanding of accessibility issues as a barrier to progress.

The survey, which questioned organisations from both the public and private sector, investigated the current and planned status of organisations' ICT systems and identified the drivers for accessibility; barriers to progress; and what needs to be done to remove these barriers.

Other findings included that "meeting legal requirements" and "enhancing corporate social responsibility" were the two main drivers behind ICT accessibility. The survey also revealed that, in general, the public sector is more committed to ICT accessibility than the private sector (as noted in E-Access Bulletin's sister publication, E- Government Bulletin: http://www.headstar.com/egblive/?p=226 ).

NOTE: For a full report on the survey, see section three, this issue.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=312

++News in Brief:


+04: Innovation Rewarded:

A 'Talking bus stops' project from Brighton and Hove City Council, in which live bus time information is spoken to users, is the overall winner at this year's National eWell- Being Awards hosted by the sustainability charity UK CEED. The Royal National College for the Blind won the 'Reaching the Digitally Excluded' category for its free 'RoboBraille' service, which automatically translates electronic documents sent by email into synthetic speech or Braille: http://www.sustainitawards.co.uk/

+05: Visionary Planning:

The establishment of local IT training programmes, IT helplines and ensuring that assistive technology is affordable are among measures proposed in the UK Vision Strategy implementation plan for England. The plan, published in June by a major partnership of charities, public bodies, educational bodies and others, sets out detailed aims for improving national eye care and sight- loss services. Further plans have been published for Northern Ireland and Scotland: http://fastlink.headstar.com/vision3 .

+06: Digital Opportunity:

The government's new Digital Britain strategy, aimed at boosting the UK's digital economy, is an opportunity to address digital access for deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK, says the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID). The report calls for an increase in broadband coverage and access to digital technology, which could "help reduce isolation, improve education tools and give deaf and hard of hearing people more opportunities", said Mark Downs, Executive Director of Science and Enterprise at RNID: http://fastlink.headstar.com/rnid1 .

[Section One ends].

++Special Notice: Building Perfect Council Websites '09- Accessibility On The Agenda At Headstar/Socitm Conference http://www.headstar-events.com/councilwebsites09/ .


Accessibility of pdfs and online forms; and implementation of the new international web access guidelines WCAG 2.0 are among workshops on the programme at Building Perfect Council Websites '09.

The conference, now in its fifth year, is the major annual meeting for local authority web professionals - around 300 attended last year. Facilitators of our accessibility sessions include Ted Page of PWS, a leading accessibility expert who has worked extensively with the BBC.

A partnership between E-Government Bulletin and the Socitm Insight Programme, this unique event draws on the collected wisdom of ten years of Socitm's annual 'Better Connected' review of all UK council websites. Have a look at our website today to see the latest programme details, and book your place: http://www.headstar-events.com/councilwebsites09/

[Special notice ends].

++Section Two: 'The Inbox'


- Readers' Forum.

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

+07: Brick Wall:

David Bates, a reader from Dudley in the West Midlands, UK, writes in to describe a frustrating experience he had recently in trying to access information on the website of a major company; British Telecom.

"Although I am now blind and use a JAWS screen-reader, I foolishly decided to access a short business article from a BT Business Newsletter," he writes. "The website pages were not accessible, so I moved to BT.com in order to report this problem.

"I imagine that there is an accessibility page somewhere which can be found by sighted people, but I couldn't find it because general accessibility was so poor. I then decided to enter my question in the help section, but asking a computer why it is not accessible seems to confuse it, and it asked for the question to be rephrased, several times. I was no match for the computer at this game, so I clicked on an email link which would allow me to send a message, or to unsubscribe. Apparently, the receiving computer does not read messages, so it was pleased to tell me that I would be unsubscribed.

"Not to be defeated, I then phoned 150, and after ten minutes of trawling through all of the options, I decided to take the deluxe experience of waiting to speak to a Real Person (apparently, BT have several of these).

"The lady was very helpful but she couldn't find anything about accessibility or give me a number for the people who operate the website. She then looked on BT.com but could find no helpline other than Emma, the computer who had failed to understand me an hour earlier.

"I presume that the BT web designers occasionally interrogate their website with a software programme, which awards them with the required number of Brownie points, which of course makes everything OK.

"And I suppose web designers want to create cool, exciting sites, and do not want to be hassled by blind people who are so inconsiderate as to try to run businesses, or to access websites - and then expect them to be accessible? Or am I misjudging British Telecom?"

[Responses or further comments please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+08: Readers' Rights:

Denise Dwyer, Access to Publishing Development Officer with RNIB, writes in to alert readers to a fascinating article on accessible book formats and access to publishing - the subject of much recent debate in this column - on the publishing news website BookBrunch. The piece laments a lack of progress in this field, and says everyone would benefit from book formats being more accessible.

Denise says the RNIB hopes to post a response to the piece shortly. To read the article, see: http://fastlink.headstar.com/book1

+09: Touchstone Tours:

Margot Whitfield of the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada writes in to say: "I have been trying to benchmark other institutions for tactile tours, particularly on the process for extending tactile collections in museums and on educational resources to accompany tactile tours.

"Basically, I just wanted to know if anyone has information or a good process at their organisation for extending their tactile collection (i.e. whether it is through some kind of special relationship with conservation, museum volunteers or curatorial).

"Also, I would like to know if any museum has a really nice package of tactile tours with special educational material."

[Responses please to inbox@headstar.com].

+10: TV Input:

Flávia Oliveira Machado, a masters degree student from Brazil, writes in to ask for input with her dissertation about audio description in Brazilian digital television.

If anyone has information on current research into use of audio description or works in this field and would be willing to get in touch with Flávia, please let us know.

[Responses please to inbox@headstar.com].

[Section Two ends].

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[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section Three: Research- Accessibility.


11: 'Just The Right Thing To Do' by Peter Abrahams

In the past year or two it has been possible to detect heightened awareness of the need for accessibility of ICT products and services. This has partly been brought about by court cases such as that filed against Target.com in the US, where the National Federation of the Blind claimed that the company's website was inaccessible and violated disability legislation ( http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=206 ).

Other factors increasing awareness of accessibility issues include new standards such as the updated Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0; increased pressure from governments to make e-government services accessible to all; and the ongoing ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities ( http://www.un.org/disabilities/convention/conventionfull.shtml ).

These drivers are complemented by the realisation that in the sluggish depths of the current economic slowdown, organisations need to reach out to as wide a customer base as possible. Two ways of doing this are to improve your brand image by being seen to take your social responsibilities seriously; and to make your products and services reach out to a wider audience by including the specific needs of groups such as the young, the old, the underprivileged, those with disabilities, and the cash-rich but time-poor.

In this light, accessibility is one significant part of a larger drive that comes under the title of inclusivity or design for all. If ICT systems are going to be available to the widest possible audience, then this must include making them accessible to people with disabilities.

It is also the case that the process of designing for people with disabilities will highlight requirements that will help a much wider audience. For example, ease of navigation of a web site is essential to a person using a screen-reader or a dictation system, but the extra care put into the structure of the site to benefit this group will benefit other groups such as those who have not used computers before or those who have time pressures.

With all these factors in mind, Bloor Research's Accessibility Practice, in conjunction with E-Access Bulletin's publisher Headstar and Ability Magazine, have just completed a survey of attitudes to ICT accessibility.

The survey investigated the current and planned status of organisations' ICT systems and identified the drivers for accessibility; the barriers that were slowing down the implementation of accessible systems; and the actions that need to be taken by the industry to remove these barriers.

The survey, which questioned organisations from both the public and private sector, shows that the level of commitment to accessibility across organisations varies dramatically, with the bottom fifth of respondents showing little interest in or future plans for accessibility. In general, the public sector was found to be more committed to accessibility and had plans to improve further. This is not surprising, as 'Section 508' accessibility legislation in the US and the Disability Equality Duty in the UK are aimed at the public sector's procurement of ICT. Furthermore, the public sector has a general duty to serve all the population and to be inclusive, whereas the private sector does not see accessibility as a duty.

Survey respondents were asked to state what they saw as the major drivers for accessibility within their organisations. Meeting legal requirements and enhancing corporate social responsibility were both rated strong or very strong drivers by 70% of the respondents, whereas only about 15% rated increased revenue or reduced cost as a driver. This suggests that further research is needed into the creation of business cases for accessibility.

The survey also asked for other suggestions for reasons or factors that might encourage accessibility. Among common themes emerging from this included that: "It is just the right thing to do", and that organisations should "lead by example". However, more pragmatic reasons also appeared, such as "makes test automation easier", and "improves search engine optimisation".

The survey then asked about barriers to implementation of accessibility. In response to this, 'legacy systems not being accessible' and 'lack of budget' were each cited by 40% of respondents as strong or very strong barriers. This suggests that providing tools for improving the accessibility of legacy systems could be an interesting business opportunity. Surprisingly, less than a quarter quoted lack of understanding or inadequacy of tools as a barrier.

Finally, the survey asked an open question: "Suggest one improvement to accessibility support"; a question also asked at Headstar's recent e- Access 09 conference ( http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess09/ ). Both conference and survey prompted many interesting suggestions, with one of the main themes being a need to increase awareness of the issues, barriers and benefits of accessibility across all the stakeholders (which includes users, procuring departments, and IT at all levels within an organisation). A quoted example of this problem involved a government department which was promoting accessible ICT to local businesses, while at the same time another department was promoting a non-accessible solution to the same businesses.

Other suggestions for accessibility support included better testing tools which are easier to use, and products that were accessible out-of-the- box.

The full results of the survey will be published on the Bloor website ( http://www.bloorresearch.com/ ) in early July.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=315

[Section Three ends].

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


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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.

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 115 ends].