+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 118, October 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/ .

++Special Notice: Designing for all: an inclusive approach to web,print and electronic publishing - A practical, one-day training course and document clinic - Tuesday 8 December, Central London http://www.headstar-events.com/dfa/


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

'Designing for all' 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, people with disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language.

This course will help assess specific audience needs, identifying methods of accessible communication, and see how different formats and styles work for different audiences. It will be of value to anyone involved in the design and delivery of information in print, electronic and web formats, including web content managers; content teams; marketing and communications officers; and publications staff.

The course runs on 20 October in central London and the training fee is £395 + VAT. To book your place, see: http://www.headstar-events.com/dfa/

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Ec Proposes Law To Address 'Fragmented' Accessibility Rules.

A 'European Disability Act' has been proposed by the European Commission to standardise guidelines on web accessibility for disabled people.

In a speech in Brussels earlier this month, Viviane Reding - commissioner for information society and media - said approaches need to be harmonised throughout Europe. "We cannot achieve the single market by leaving aside certain parts of our population", said Reding. "I am talking about e-accessibility: 15% of our population is disabled, and our rules on accessibility are still fragmented."

Reding also urged Europe-wide adoption of the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines created by the World Wide Web Consortium standards body (WCAG: http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG20/ ), saying a new disability law is the most effective way of achieving this. "We should do it together and in step so that . users get a decent and reliable framework. I believe the way we should do this is to develop together with stakeholders a European Disability Act", she said.

In her speech - entitled 'The Digital Single Market: a key to unlock the potential of the knowledge based economy' ( http://bit.ly/A6JHv ) - Reding said the current fragmentation of accessibility laws is leading to EU member states approaching the subject from different directions, damaging the effectiveness of current legislation: "We have to consider that this is costly for industry because they have to respond to a wide range of fragmented national standards. It also leaves disabled people without a consistent level of service that they can expect", she said.

Currently, the UK Disability Discrimination Act requires UK websites to be accessible for those with disabilities, including visual and hearing impairments, though there are no specific guidelines in the act itself as to what this constitutes.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=346

+02: Access Information Absent From Tv Set Maker Websites.

One of the UK's leading experts on accessible technology has called for TV set manufacturers to provide better information on their websites about access to their products by people with disabilities.

Adrian Higginbotham, manager of cutting edge research at the UK's education technology agency Becta, made the comments after his own attempts to buy an accessible TV set which supported audio description (AD) were hampered repeatedly by poor information online.

Speaking to E-Access Bulletin this month in a personal capacity, he said the best source of information he had found had been announcements on the independent 'TV Help' guidance website ( http://www.tvhelp.org.uk/audes/ ) that all new Panasonic models; nearly 40 Sony sets; six Toshiba sets and a few sets from Philips would be audio description-ready. But when he had looked for accessibility information on the websites of the manufacturers themselves, there had been almost nothing of use.

On the Panasonic website, there had been no relevant information at all, even though "It didn't seem like the sort of thing they would leave out, given the level of technical detail they went into," Higginbotham said. The Sony website mentioned audio description features in an online glossary of terms, but not on most model descriptions.

Following an online query from Higginbotham earlier as to which current models supported AD, Sony UK's Customer Information Centre replied: "No details of the products due for launch in the future or their specifications are made available or published prior to their launch. I regret therefore that I am unable to provide you with any information at this time."

Higginbotham next pointed out his question was not about future models but currently available products, and asked: "Is your rather vague message of earlier today trying to tell me that Sony has taken a strategic decision to backtrack on the support which it has previously offered to visually impaired customers?"

This led to a second reply which was "the complete opposite" of the first, stating all current models did in fact support AD. While this did indeed turn out to be the case, Higginbotham said, "I didn't in the end buy a Sony, or even look at many of their models because the whole experience of dealing with the customer centre didn't particularly make me feel like giving them the benefit of my business."

Manufacturers that make their sets accessible are to be commended, he said, but unless they make the information available there is not much point. "I wouldn't expect all customer support staff to know about it or staff in high street shops, but it should be on their own website."

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=348

+03: Ict Data Gap 'Hindering Disabled Business Owners'.

A lack of reliable data about the use of ICT by people with disabilities is making it harder for disabled entrepreneurs to succeed, delegates heard at a recent debate hosted by the Information Technologists' Company, a livery company of the City of London.

The debate was on the motion: "This House believes that it is harder for disabled entrepreneurs to compete in the fast-moving digital age".

Nick Goss, managing director of Goss Consultancy ( http://www.gossconsultancy.co.uk/ ), said a lack of knowledge on the subject was a major barrier: "How do we know how many disabled people are using IT, how do we know what needs and support disabled people may need when it comes to providing accessible IT?", he said.

Penny Melville-Brown from Disability Dynamics ( http://www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk/ ) said inaccessible technology itself was also holding back disabled people. "If the technology is not capable of supporting you, you are on the back foot, competitively . Technology at the moment has very little concept of accessibility and actually puts disabled entrepreneurs like me and many others in this country at a significant disadvantage".

However Andrew Thomson, director of Sign-now.com ( http://sign-now.com/ ), said technology has "enhanced quality of life" for disabled people, and can benefit those running their own business if the right equipment is used. "Technology has given us access to the mainstream world", Thomson said. In a close vote, the motion was ultimately defeated by 28 votes to 23.

NOTE: For a full report on the debate, see section four, this issue.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=354

++News in Brief:


+04: Model Employers:

Public and private sector organisations demonstrating good practice in supporting employees with disabilities are being recognised at an awards ceremony later this week organised by the Employers' Forum on Disability. Nominees for the Disability Standard 2009 Awards on 28 October include the BBC and the Home Office: http://www.disabilitystandard.com/awards/entry_2009/

+05: TV Opinions:

Responses to a review of its code of television access services are being invited by the Office of Communications (Ofcom), for submission before November 12. An executive summary of the code, which includes an examination of whether audio description quotas should be increased, can be found at: http://bit.ly/1K26mG And the Royal National Institute of Blind People has produced online guidance on responding to the consultation, at: http://bit.ly/gLlzw

+06: Good Form:

Help for older people with completing complex online forms for key services such as a housing benefit application or buying a train ticket is being developed by an EU-funded research project, Delivering Inclusive Access to Disabled and Elderly Members of the community (DIADEM). Researchers in three countries (the UK, Norway and Italy) have developed web-based technology which can simplify the path taken to complete the online activity and provide other assistance including audio help. The project is holding a free workshop in London on 28 October: for information contact Dr Senaka Fernando on mailto:senaka.fernando@brunel.ac.uk or telephone 01895267556. The project website is at: http://www.project-diadem.eu/

+07: Windows Guide:

A guide to developing accessible software is being offered for free download by Microsoft. 'Engineering software for accessibility' addresses key issues facing software developers and explains some of the accessibility processes used by Microsoft in creating the brand new 'Windows 7' operating system, released last week: http://bit.ly/2Wj9sB

[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].

++Section Two: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.


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

+08: Book Barriers:

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes in with a query about barriers to downloading accessible electronic books thrown up by international copyright laws.

"Due to copyright laws, many DAISY books [created using the international DAISY standard http://www.daisy.org ] can't be purchased by individuals living outside the country in which they are produced," he says. "For example, if RNIB produces a book in Braille and DAISY, they can sell me the Braille book but not the DAISY title, as I live outside the UK. Likewise with the US. However, I can purchase commercial audio books from Amazon or subscribe to Audible.com but can't access titles on Bookshare.org [a US service offering accessible books for free download for qualifying people in the US only].

"A good supply of books is OverDrive [a leading online digital book distributor: http://www.overdrive.com ]. Unfortunately, most of the titles can only be played on players that support the protected Windows media format, DRM (Digital Rights Management). The issue with this format is that from what I understand, none of the Blindness-specific players support it. My Zen Stone [an audio MP3 player from Creative] does, but it is limited in storage and functionality.

"OverDrive also supports MP3 and iPods, but I understand there are fewer titles to choose from. I have made some enquiries, and understand that none of the blindness-specific players supports the DRM format due to the costs in licensing.

"So in this age of downloadable this and that, for some of us, especially in smaller countries, access to accessible information is still limited. So I guess my questions are: are there ways that one can purchase or download DAISY books if you don't live in the originating country? Is there a way to play protected file types on non-standard players, and if not, what can we do to convince Microsoft or the producers of such players to play these formats? I have asked the companies concerned but I got the impression that this wasn't high on their list for upgrading their players."

Separately, our reader would also like to know: "Has any reader heard if anyone is working on software for playing DAISY books on the new iPod Nano?"

[Responses to any of these questions please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+09: Accountability Concern:

Concern about how far small businesses with few resources might be expected to go to make their online services accessible is expressed in a blog comment from a reader who runs an online shop selling baby pushchairs, prams and buggies ( http://www.pushchairsonline.com ).

Our correspondent writes: "We haven't really accounted for blind or disabled access, mainly as we are a small outfit. We have tried to use reader-friendly fonts etc, [but] anything more would cost us plenty of money we don't have.

"At what point can on online presence be held accountable for its access?"

[Responses please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+10: Format Reassurance:

In our January 2009 issue, Diana Monahan of Moor End Technology College, Huddersfield, wrote in to describe a problem she encountered in attempting to use the 'Oneformat.com' website, which offers useful free accessible web browser style sheets to download, and is the subject of past coverage in E-Access Bulletin. Diana had said: "I went to the site recently and was told by the school software that 'Virus/spyware Troj/Comic-Fam has been detected.'"

The site's creator, Daljit Singh, has now responded to reassure readers that: "The issue is the computer software on the machine in question. Try turning off the web shield on the anti-virus program while using Oneformat.com. There are no issues with the website itself, other than my needing to revise the feedback and contact pages.

"Please do not hesitate to contact myself if there are any other problems. I am glad that folk are still finding the site to be useful."

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

[Section Two ends].

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[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section Three: Debate report- Technology and disabled entrepreneurship.


+11: Open For Business?By Tristan Parker.

Few businesses in the modern world do not make use of digital technology. But how does this affect the half a million disabled people running their own businesses in the UK? This was the question posed earlier this month by the Information Technologists' Company (ITC) as they debated the motion: "This House believes that it is harder for disabled entrepreneurs to compete in the fast-moving digital age."

Speaking in support of the motion was Penny Melville-Brown, senior consultant at Disability Dynamics ( http://www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk/ ), an organisation offering equality training and consultancy. She argued that as well as poor access to technology, the technology itself was also holding back disabled people in business.

Citing a study from the Office for Disability Issues, Melville-Brown said internet use by disabled people is around 25% lower than the rest of the population. Additionally, she said, disabled people have generally lower skills than the rest of the population, with 50% of disabled people having no qualifications at all, meaning that IT skills will also be lower. "There is very little . . . accessible training and accessible learning around IT", she said.

Data from the Office for National Statistics indicates that disabled people are more likely to be self-employed than non-disabled people, but this statistic reveals only half the picture, she said. Although starting one's own business offers various benefits such as flexible and home working, and easier use of personal accessibility equipment, disabled people are often forced into this position because of difficulties in gaining or retaining employment in other areas, said Melville-Brown.

"Disabled people are really pushed towards self-employment because they still face such incredible discrimination when they're trying to get jobs," she said. It is often the case that they have no other option than to set up for themselves because they want to work".

Even with some technology literacy, such as the ability to send emails, many people with disabilities remain unable to perform basic IT functions such as creating spreadsheets and downloading attachments, she said. This puts businesses run by disabled people at a huge disadvantage. Many businesses of today would struggle if they were forced to use paper invoices for all work, or had PowerPoint taken away from them, said Melville-Brown - problems which apply to many disabled business owners. "There is absolutely no question that technology at the moment has very little concept of accessibility and actually puts disabled entrepreneurs like me at a significant disadvantage".

Opposing the motion was Andrew Thomson, Director of Sign- now.com ( http://sign-now.com/ ), a web-based translation service enabling easier communication between deaf and hearing people. Technology can be of huge benefit to disabled people in business, and is often unfairly labelled as prohibitive to employment, Thomson said.

"As a disabled person, the reason I'm against [the motion] is technology actually cannot speak for itself", he said. "Technology is created by man, and you can change it to meet your needs. Technology doesn't stop disabled people gaining employment, I think it's attitude that stops employment - society's attitude."

Any technology must suit the needs of the user for its potential to be fully exploited, and different assistive technologies will be appropriate for different people, Thomson said. "Technology has to meet your needs individually. For example, the cochlear implant [providing a sense of sound to some deaf people] - that's technology, it's fantastic. It meets the needs of mainstream society and it's appropriate for people who acquired speech and English as their first language. But for me, I actually sign through videophones and interact with other deaf people."

Overall, new technologies have enhanced quality of life for people with disabilities and have "given us access to the mainstream world", said Thomson. "It is a powerful tool and we should embrace it, not criticise it."

Ben Fletcher, a consultant at IBM, agreed, saying that given the choice between living as a deaf person 20 years ago and living in the present, he would choose the present: "20 years ago there wasn't email, there wasn't Facebook - access at that time for me as a deaf person would have been much harder. I would have been at home unable to engage. Now I can contact clients directly and make social contact."

However, Fletcher also agreed with Melville-Brown that barriers remained: "We need to campaign to try and change technology at the same time as we're using it and see how it can help us achieve what it is we want to achieve."

Gary Macfarlane, founder of BlueBadge Finder ( http://www.bluebadgefinder.com/ ), a service allowing people to find nearby disabled parking and other services via their mobile device, said the technology industry needs help to improve. "We have to try and assist the industry", said Macfarlane. "It's not always their fault. They don't know why, how, or what equipment disabled people are using, and I think sometimes the disabled community can give feedback to make them more aware."

Nick Goss, managing director of Goss Consultancy ( http://www.gossconsultancy.co.uk/ ), said a lack of knowledge about what kinds of accessible technology were being used was a further barrier for disabled people in business. "How do we know how many disabled people are using IT, how do we know what needs and support disabled people may need when it comes to providing accessible IT?", he said. What was needed, said Goss, was "credible data" about what kinds of IT disabled people are using and how they are using it.

Goss also highlighted another major obstacle for many disabled entrepreneurs - funding. Acquiring funding was seen as a barrier to running a successful business, including the government's Access to Work scheme ( http://bit.ly/3cUeb2 ), which many criticise for being difficult to negotiate, he said.

Speaking from the floor, one delegate said Access to Work was fine in itself, but was insufficiently publicised. "[The cost of accessible technology] is high, but the government is quite generous with its Access to Work funding, especially for entrepreneurs. But that's a best-kept secret by the government. They never publicise it", he said.

Kevin Carey, Chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, said disabled people had "benefited absolutely" from information technology, but had also been "disadvantaged comparatively", since despite individual successes, the gap between disabled and non- disabled people was increasing.

"If disabled people are going to hope to be entrepreneurs in a competitive global market," said Carey, "we have to be much more careful about what markets we want to put these people into, instead of thinking there's some sort of global technology solution that would work for everybody if only the prejudice would go away and the engineers could do their job."

So, after all the opinions had been advanced and exposed to heated discussion, what was the outcome? A vote among all those present revealed that technology was seen overall as more of a help than a hindrance, albeit narrowly, with the motion being defeated by 28 votes to 23.

Even most of those who had supported this position, however, agreed that further improvements can and should be made. A key message to emerge was that although there is much accessible technology available, most of it is created on a 'specialist' basis, suggesting the industry still refuses to accept the premise that accessible technology can be beneficial to all users, not just those with disabilities. The debate continues.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=350

[Section Three ends].

++Special 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 .

[Special notice ends].

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


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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.

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 118 ends].