+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 119, November 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).

++Special Notice: Designing For All: Two for One Training Offer- An inclusive approach to web, print and electronic publishing - Tuesday 8 December, Central London http://www.headstar-events.com/dfa/


This December, we invite you and a colleague to book onto our accessible communications training day on a two-for-one offer. So two people booking onto this course from the same organisation on the same day will only pay once.

Combining practical workshops with in depth and detailed advice on how to make print, web and electronic materials more accessible, Designing For All is a must have training experience for anyone wishing to improve their skills in accessible communications. Trainer: Katie Grant, former publications manager, Disability Rights Commission.

Places are £395 plus VAT. See the website for more and when registering with a colleague, use promotional code on both registrations '2FOR1-DEC' to receive free place. See: http://www.headstar-events.com/dfa/

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Us Universities Reject 'Inaccessible' Kindle E-Book.

Two American universities have rejected the market-leading Kindle DX electronic book reader as a textbook replacement due to its inaccessibility for blind students. Both Syracuse University in New York State and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have chosen not to use the Kindle - manufactured by Amazon.com - as a teaching-aid, after their own trials found it was not fully accessible.

The institutions' decision was "applauded" by the US National Federation of the Blind ( NFB: http://bit.ly/gBnAC ), which said that although the reader contains a text-to-speech feature, "the menus of the device are not accessible to the blind", meaning that blind users cannot purchase books from Amazon's Kindle store, select which book to read, or even activate the device's text-to-speech feature.

Ken Frazier, director of libraries for the University of Wisconsin- Madison, said in a statement that the DX's lack of accessibility had been a "big disappointment", and that Amazon had "missed the mark" with this version of the device, after the university trialled the e-book format for assigned reading in a history seminar.

Since the two bodies' announcement a third US university, the University of Illinois, has also issued a statement announcing its commitment to purchasing fully accessible e-book technology. "Like our colleagues at Wisconsin and Syracuse, we recognize the groundbreaking potential that read-aloud features have for making textbooks accessible to students with disabilities", the university said. "Sadly, that potential can't be realized until vendors of e-book readers, like the Kindle, add accessible read-aloud menus and basic navigation to their products."

The NFB told E-Access Bulletin this month that if fully accessible, e- textbooks can benefit blind and visually impaired students. "If e-books are accessible, then there will be no need for the expensive and time- consuming process of converting a printed textbook into Braille, audio, or electronic form. Blind students will have access to the same book at the same time and at the same price as their sighted peers", said Chris Danielsen, director of public relations for the NFB.

Danielsen said that Amazon could increase the accessibility of the Kindle DX by "making the menus speak and/or by allowing the functions of the device to be controlled by keystrokes from the keyboard."

Amazon has already courted controversy in this area by allowing publishers to remove the text-to-speech function altogether on a previous version of the Kindle (see story in the March issue of E- Access Bulletin, http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=244 ).

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=357

+02: 'Podcasts From Past' On Cultural Access Prize Shortlist.

A Museum of London project recruiting and training unemployed people to describe objects in its collections and relay historical information into a series of podcasts, opening up some of the museum's collections to visually impaired visitors, is among shortlisted nominees for the 2009 Jodi Awards, which recognise best use of digital technology for disabled people in the arts, cultural and heritage sectors.

'Podcasts from the past' ( http://bit.ly/2IO1cw ) is joined on the shortlist by (among others) Leeds Library and Information Service, for its 'Across the Board' project ( http://bit.ly/8doq1F ). The library offers a series of services and digital communication tools for autistic children and their parents, making it a more natural environment for those affected by autism.

Nominated websites are subject to user testing and automated testing to assess their value, while disabled assessors will visit shortlisted 'onsite' projects. Marcus Weisen, director of the Jodi Mattes Trust, told E-Access Bulletin that this year's nominations were "unusually strong and varied". Speaking about the International Award, he said: "An impressive project on the shortlist . is Aangepast Lezen ( http://www.aangepast-lezen.nl/ ), a Dutch project, which is a European pioneer for accessible digital libraries for print-impaired people."

The annual awards are named in honour of Jodi Mattes, who worked at the British Museum and the Royal National Institute of Blind People, championing wider cultural access for disabled people. The 2009 Jodi Awards will be presented by Martha Lane Fox, the government's champion for digital inclusion, on 2 December at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=360

+03: First Internet Web Radio Launched For Blind Users.

A new internet radio set has been developed for blind and visually impaired listeners, allowing people to listen online to audio books, podcasts, talking newspapers and audio catalogues, as well as internet radio stations from around the world.

Manufactured by the charity British Wireless for the Blind Fund ( http://www.blind.org.uk ), the 'Sonata' radio - claimed to be the first of its kind - was launched earlier this month, and allows users to listen to any streamable, unlicensed internet audio feed.

Designed to be as simple as possible to use, the Sonata is controlled entirely with five buttons. When connected to broadband internet, the radio contacts a server in Holland to allow readers to choose from a current list of available radio stations and podcasts.

Although built primarily for blind and visually impaired users and available to such users on free permanent loan, the Sonata is also suitable for other users, said Fiona Fountain, head of fundraising and information for the BWBF. "It's so simple to use that anybody who has limited mobility - for example, older people with poor manual dexterity - or people who may not use computers can use it", she said.

Fountain said the radio has other potential applications, as it has the potential to broadcast messages to other Sonata users such as news of other radio services. "The BWBF could record its own message to tell people about a new service on Sonata," said Fountain. "This means we can do it live, without having to write a letter, get it Brailled, or use large print or CD format, and then post it out, as we've had to do in past."

The concept for the Sonata originates from Holland, where churches used the system to enable the home-bound to listen in to their local church service. The company responsible for developing the product, Solutions Radio, realised it had wider applications and approached the BWBF to develop it for the UK market. For those not qualifying for a loan, the Sonata costs £299 with a further one-off activation charge of £52.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=363

++News in Brief:


+04: Benchmark Concern:

Only 44% of organisations believe their websites and other electronic communications channels are accessible to people with disabilities, and the issue remains a "serious concern", according to a report by the Employers' Forum on Disability. 'The Disability Standard 2009 Benchmark Summary' surveyed 109 organisations over a range of performance factors, including IT systems and e-commerce: http://www.efd.org.uk/disability/disability-standard

+05: Tuning Up:

Guidelines for helping people create accessible media for the 'iTunes U' - a free part of the Apple iTunes Store featuring free audio and video educational resources such as lectures, language lessons and audiobooks - have been published by the US-based National Center for Accessible Media. The guidelines cover features such as audio descriptions, subtitles and accessible PDFs, and also contain links to audio and video clips which demonstrate accessible solutions in practice: http://ncam.wgbh.org/news/itunesu.html

+06: Cookie Monster:

Accessibility problems could soon be created for many websites following an amendment to a European telecoms bill, the 2003 Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, which requires that sites ask visitors' permission to store and access 'cookies', pieces of data that identify a particular user or computer to a site. However, both the main methods used by sites to request this permission - separate 'landing' pages that appear without warning, and 'pop-up' pages - could potentially breach the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, according to analysts 'The Pickards Information Services'. The amendment will be passed this month, but will not come into force for a further 18 months: http://bit.ly/3hjhH

[Section One ends].

++Special Notice: Future Democracy '09- UK's Leading E-Democracy Conference Is Back - 25 November, Central London http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy09/


The UK's leading annual conference on all aspects of e-democracy is back, covering e-campaigning, e-petitions and e-voting as well as all aspects of the use of the internet and new technologies in the policy cycle; democratic activity and engagement. We are proud to now be in our sixth year.

A very strong speaker line-up is taking shape: have a look at the latest agenda online today. Our supporters and partners include The Hansard Society, MySociety, PEP-NET and the RSA, and our media partner this year is Total Politics.

Registration costs just £195 + VAT for delegates from public sector, educational and voluntary bodies and £295 + VAT for private sector. For more see: http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy09/

[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- Disability and Virtual Worlds.


+07: Universal Lifeby Kel Smith.

Many of us use and enjoy virtual worlds such as Second Life for work and play, and there is a vital demographic of virtual world participants with a wide range of disabilities: visual impairments, motor skill disorders, degenerative illness, limited mobility, and cognitive difficulties.

Many of these people use virtual technology to great social and therapeutic benefit. For these users, avatar-driven 3D environments serve as more than a game. Virtual worlds operate as a form of augmented reality, one where it's possible to transcend a user's physiological or cognitive challenges into something extraordinary.

August 2008 marked the launch of Virtual Ability Island, an environment in Second Life created by the Alliance Library System (ALS) and Virtual Ability, Inc. (VAI) to help residents with disabilities become acquainted with the platform. Funded by a grant from the National Library of Medicine, the island provides a place for residents to find fellowship, training and education on topics related to physical disability, cognitive impairments or other chronic health concerns.

The island was designed visually and experientially to offer the best benefit to users with disabilities, fully available to adaptive services and developed in accordance with Universal Design principles. The island contains the following features: wide ramps scalable for avatars in wheelchairs; bright high-contrast signage more easily trackable by users with visual impairments; smoothly landscaped walkways to accommodate many types of users; and training offered in small sets to decrease fatigue.

Testing was performed in stages, with the first challenge being how to best present signage. Signs needed to be readable by the default camera view, which is angled downward at roughly 15 degrees from eye level, so all signs in the island's Orientation Centre were compensated for the height of avatars using wheelchairs. The standard view in Second life includes the avatar in the frame, so signs were placed high off the ground. Paths and walkways were designed with as few stairways as possible, with no bumps that would make an avatar trip while walking. The surrounding land was modelled to meet the paths as closely as possible.

The question could be asked: why is it necessary to implement such strict accessibility features in a virtual world? After all, no avatar in Second Life is actually physically disabled - why depict an avatar with a wheelchair or guide dog? Why emphasise such physical attributes in an environment as ramps and wide paths?

From a development standpoint, creating specification guidelines with universal design principles in mind has several benefits. It ensures a baseline modality for such tasks as listening to audio playback, viewing visual material, comprehending written information or interpreting the context of an event. One might argue that immersive environments should be governed by the same principles as other web- based media as governed by the W3C (The World Wide Web Consortium) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0); they need to be perceivable, intuitive, flexible, robust and extensible in use. If media is designed to accommodate users with challenges, the overall experience will be holistically improved for all users.

It is also important to realise that all digital applications, including virtual world environments, should be built to consider best practices in interface usability. Many first-time avatars have difficulty navigating virtual worlds with a mouse and keyboard, even with relatively minor hand and arm issues.

Anything that can make the screen easier to read or the cursor easier to move can benefit the user experience. For those who rely on voice recognition software or alternative input devices, a larger or brighter avatar on the screen can be more precisely controlled. Game interfaces are frequently designed to accommodate customisation; interface malleability is often programmed into the console to remap functions at the player's whim, and this personalisation is often extended to the presentation layer itself.

We must also consider the ways in which users of virtual worlds approach their disability. For some, it is largely a matter of respect. The appearance of accessibility is very important to many disabled users, who view their disability as an integral part of their identity. Simon Stevens, owner of a well-known disability consultancy in Coventry, UK, and a Second Life avatar named Simon Walsh, chooses to present himself in-world with a wheelchair.

"I don't know how to be non-disabled and I've never wanted to be," he told the Times Online in March 2008. "It's important that people know; it's part of who I am, plus I'm a disability consultant in Second Life, too, so I've got to look the part."

Depicting oneself with a disability can also be an issue of comfort resolved through personal customisation. People who have had an impairment since birth consider it a part of how they perceive themselves, and some prefer to have their avatar appear that way.

Creating a virtual world with universal design principles in mind serves as a visual reminder to help users better understand the needs of the disabled. The appearance of accessibility in a physical space, either in a virtual world or in real life, will make a person more likely to use the service. For someone with a physical disability, extra space on a path provides a means of easy navigation from which all users may benefit.

Furthermore, inclusive behaviours leverage the uniqueness of different viewpoints and experiences to provide a form of awareness on behalf of learners of all abilities. As an educational platform, virtual environments offer a synchronous, engaging vehicle to cultivate empathy, thus depreciating the concept that people with disabilities are societal outsiders.

NOTE: Kel Smith is Principal at Anikto LLC ( http://www.anikto.com/ ), a consultancy, research and training company supporting the creation of barrier-free digital experiences spanning multiple disciplines, markets and contexts.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=366

[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].

++Sponsored Notice: Accessify Forum- Six Years of Accessibility Discussion.


Accessify Forum has been the number one destination for accessibility discussion on the web for nearly six years. Celebrating our sixth birthday next month, you'll find discussion of accessibility at all levels, from beginner to guru.

The site has recently been redesigned and the forum system improved. This is still ongoing and you can join in the discussions.

So whether you're looking to learn more about accessibility, want to help others and improve on your own knowledge, or just to browse the archives, come and join us at: http://www.accessifyforum.com/

[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 119 ends].