+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 114, June 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: 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 expert in the field who has worked 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 review of all UK council websites. Have a look today to see the latest programme details, and book your place: http://www.headstar-events.com/councilwebsites09/

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Ofcom Report Uncovers Major Accessibility Research Gap.

Communications, technology and broadcasting companies are currently carrying out "very little research" into the accessibility requirements of consumers and the needs of disabled people, a new report has found.

The report, based on interviews with 20 companies, was prepared by i2 media research for the Advisory Committee on Older and Disabled People (ACOD), a sub-group of the communications industry regulator Ofcom.

The report ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/of1 ) found companies are carrying out very limited user research into usability and accessibility, and even less into the specific needs of those people that required accessible products. Of the research that was conducted, most of it was "small-scale", based around company workers, or family and friends, due to ease of access.

Reasons for the failure included higher priority being afforded to other technical issues, the report found: "One reason repeatedly given for the lack of user research was that technical issues took higher priority, to get products and services working. Usability and accessibility were referred to as secondary priorities."

Other findings of the report included that senior level support of accessibility issues was often important to addressing disabled consumers' needs, and that some companies had not considered accessibility needs at all, as they did not see disabled users as included in their target audience.

NOTE: For full details of the Ofcom study see section three, this issue.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=295

+02: Interactive Media Association Chair To Prioritise Accessibility.

Accessibility is to become a key priority for the British Interactive Media Association (BIMA - http://www.bima.co.uk/ ), the body representing the interactive and digital content sector, incoming chair Justin Cooke has told E-Access Bulletin.

Cooke is managing director of web design agency Fortune Cookie, which has a track record of creating accessible websites for clients such as Legal and General. He has been elected chair of BIMA for three years, heading an executive board that also includes senior representatives of leading ad agencies, national newspaper websites, digital agencies and recruitment and skills firms.

"In order for something to be interactive - to allow people to engage, interact and transact - it has to be accessible," Cooke told the bulletin in an exclusive interview the week after his appointment. "Accessibility needs to be a key principle in developing interactive work. It is about removing barriers - by removing barriers for everybody, accessibility in a purer sense can be taken care of."

Cooke said he will recommend that BIMA create a set of simple, clear guidelines on accessibility for its members as part of a 100-day plan to create measurable proposals for improvement. "We will not create our own standards, but I want to showcase how you create accessible experiences and promote best practice."

He said he will also look at introducing accessibility as a key part of the education work BiMA carries out with schools, colleges and universities, aimed at boosting skills and bringing talented recruits into the industry.

Ultimately, the key point for the interactive media industry is that accessible products will be a bigger commercial success, Cooke said. "Accessibility isn't just about compliance, it's about return on investment," he said. "If a product is more accessible, you are going to make more money. But there is still some education to be done in this area."

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=298 .

+03: Public Procurement Enlisted To Improve Equality.

Public sector procurement should be used to improve equality for people with disabilities, including the development of more accessible IT systems, according to a government bill passing through Parliament.

The Equality Bill ( http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2008-09/equality.html ), introduced to the Commons on 24 April and currently undergoing its committee stages, aims to reform and harmonise equality law. Notes accompanying the bill say: "With an annual expenditure of around £175 billion every year on goods and services, the public sector has an important opportunity to use its purchasing power to promote equality where possible."

Aimed at replacing previous legislation on inequality, including the Disability Discrimination Act, the bill calls for selective procurement to ensure public services reflect the skills and needs of a diverse society. "It is right that public money is spent on goods and services in a way that advances the government's public policy objectives on equality," the notes say.

Examples of how this strategy could be implemented are outlined, including the use of pre-qualification questionnaires for assessing the suitability of potential suppliers, with a possible requirement to disclose any previous breaches of equality legislation.

The Employers' Forum on Disability has welcomed the bill. Speaking to E-Access Bulletin about procurement of accessible ICT equipment, Vanessa Hardy, EFD's Campaigns Manager, said: "We know that many disabled employees are still faced with inaccessible non-web based legacy in the workplace. However, [suppliers] are starting to understand the mutual benefits to business and disabled people of delivering accessible and usable products."

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=300 .

++News in Brief:


+04: Screen Award:

A free, open source screen-reader which enables users to access the Microsoft Windows operating system has won a 'Making A Difference' award from Vision Australia, an organisation helping blind and visually impaired people. The NVDA (NonVisual Desktop Access) system, developed by NV Access, uses synthetic speech and Braille, and can be run without installation from a USB drive: http://fastlink.headstar.com/nvda1 .

+05: Learning Link:

The rise of e-learning and its impact on accessibility and education for people with disabilities is the subject of a feature in E-Access Bulletin's sister publication, E-Government Bulletin. Written by learning design consultant Andrew Hooley, the full article can be accessed here: http://www.headstar.com/egblive/?p=223

+06: Audio Food:

Audio menus have been installed in a pub in the Yorkshire Dales National Park by DotSix Brailling Services using 'Boombox' technology. The menus are more accessible than others produced using Braille or large print, DotSix says, and can be produced for a small cost and maintained using free software: http://www.dotsix.co.uk/

[Section One ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Media Trust Seminars, July


Introduction to accessible publications: - how to ensure your pamphlets and brochures are accessible to older and disabled people London: 28 July 2009, 10am to 1pm,

Can everyone read your organisation's leaflets, brochures and posters, or is poor legibility getting in their way? What about Braille, large print and audio? Does the design of your publications take into account age, literacy and the varying needs of disabled people, and are you meeting the requirements of the government and funders? In this session you will gain confidence in producing publications that everyone can read.

Introduction to digital inclusion: - how to ensure your web content is accessible London: 28 July 2009, 2pm to 5pm,

You've designed a website but can everyone use it? In this session you will discover how good web design impacts disabled and older people, through interactive demonstrations including the latest eye-tracking technology.

Price per seminar: Private companies £118.75 + VAT; Not-for- profits/charities £95 + VAT. To book visit: http://fastlink.headstar.com/mt3 .

[Sponsored notice ends].

++Section Two: 'The Inbox'


- Readers' Forum.

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

+07: Readers' Rights:

It is always a delight to receive letters from our readers across the globe, and this month we have two. Asim Rauf from Pakistan writes in to contribute to our ongoing debate about the right of blind people to have audio access to electronic books, in the wake of news stories describing the removal of a speech function from some electronic book readers in a dispute over audio licensing.

"I am reading the discussion regarding disabling text-to-speech of e- books," writes Asim. "If it is a right to buy and read books, similarly, it is also a right to have access to books purchased by blind people. If a person buys a book, and he is unable to read the same, then his right is violated.

"I am therefore of the view, that the text-to-speech characteristic at the web should not be disabled. Otherwise, it will amount to depriving visually impaired people of their right to read books. Second, can anyone help me in finding free e-book sites, from where I can read good books?"

Responses please to inbox@headstar.com .

+08: BBC Hitch:

Meanwhile Rakesh Chand, a reader and past correspondent from the beautiful Pacific island nation of Fiji, writes in to report problems accessing one of the services on the BBC News website using a screen-reader. The service in question is the site's handy facility of being able to email a news story to a friend or colleague via a pop-up window.

"I just visited the BBC website, and discovered that JAWS won't speak on certain fields if I was posting the story to somebody else," Rakesh writes. "It's pretty bothersome, as there are some fields where JAWS would become silent. So, I couldn't tell if it was the cc area or subject-line.

"I would appreciate you having a look and advocating how it may be fixed."

Any input from readers - especially those from the BBC - much appreciated, to inbox@headstar.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].

Section Three: Ofcom report - Acces barriers.

+09: Communication Breakdown?By Tristan Parker.

"The more this gets talked about, the better", says one interviewee in a new report on access to communications, broadcasting and IT by older people and people with disabilities.

It sounds simple enough, but it's a key point: tackling barriers to accessibility is not an insurmountable task, but the starting points are realising the issues, airing them, and discussing them: all sadly still quite rare in modern organisations.

The report, 'Exploring how manufacturers, suppliers and retailers address the needs of older and disabled people: what are the barriers and drivers?' ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/of1 ), was undertaken by i2 media research for the Advisory Committee on Older and Disabled People (ACOD - http://fastlink.headstar.com/acod1 ), a sub-group of communications and broadcasting industry regulator Ofcom. Its findings were based on interviews with senior figures from 20 companies, representing a cross-section of the broadcasting, telecommunications and online sectors.

The interviewee responses pinpoint a number of barriers preventing their respective industries from better addressing the needs of disabled people. Lack of user research into usability and accessibility was found to be a common barrier, and this was also found to be true even in larger companies that carry out substantial consumer research on other topics.

There was found to be a reliance in some organisations on "gut feeling and expertise" to address customer needs, rather than specialist research. Tellingly, one interviewee said: "If we always did what the customer wants, we wouldn't move forward at all." This apparent knowledge gap might help explain why some participants also reported that they found it difficult to build a business case for more accessible products.

As well as uncovering obstacles to progress, a key objective of the report was to identify what could be done to improve the current situation and overcome obstructive barriers. Several common themes emerged in this respect, including - unsurprisingly, given the 'gut feeling' finding - calls for greater availability of current research on the needs of disabled people.

Other ideas for improvement included using the procurement process to demand more accessible products, and better consumer communications. In fact, several interviewees said consumers currently "do not have sufficiently high expectations of the usability and accessibility of media products and services." This is a problem, since if customer feedback about accessibility and usability is not present, it will be even harder for companies to encourage developments in this area, the report finds.

The report's primary conclusion was that despite finding evidence of support of accessibility issues in some companies, other pressures often took priority. These often included commercial considerations: "If companies do not believe they will benefit financially from addressing the needs of older and disabled people . and if there is no external requirement or incentive for them to do so . there is little reason to envisage a change to the status quo."

The report warns of a potentially bleak future for accessibility should this external encouragement not be supplied: "The current economic downturn and competing commercial pressures are likely to limit the extent to which industry is able to better address the needs of older and disabled people."

It was also concluded that a more collaborative approach across the industry was needed, as well as better co-operation between the industry and stakeholders. Many companies were happy to address accessibility and usability issues, but wanted to do so through an inclusive method - potentially through communication with charities and government - rather than being "lobbied or pressurised" into doing so.

On the positive side, the report does suggest that most companies are willing to explore accessibility issues, providing that certain criteria are met, and that they are certain the need exists in the first place. Which brings us neatly back to our opening remark: the more accessibility is openly discussed, and the need for action is firmly established, the better for all concerned.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=303 .

[Section Three ends].

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


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[Sponsored 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 114 ends].