+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 117, September 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 20 October, 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: Google Recaptcha Purchase Boosts Accessibility Potential.

The purchase by Google of reCAPTCHA, the most widely used 'CAPTCHA' system on the internet, could lead to significant improvements in the system's accessibility, a leading analyst has told E-Access Bulletin.

'CAPTCHAs' are tests used to block 'robots' or automated tools from accessing websites by posing a task that only humans can complete. These tests are usually visual, such as interpreting and keying in distorted letters and numbers, but audio CAPTCHAs - where letters are read out for the user to input - are crucial for visually impaired users. The reCAPTCHA system includes audio tasks.

Lainey Feingold ( http://lflegal.com/ ), a disability rights lawyer in the US, told E-Access Bulletin that with its considerable resources, Google - which itself already uses audio CAPTCHA tests on some features - have a prime opportunity to improve reCAPTCHA's accessibility. "There is no excuse for the company not improving the reCAPTCHA audio features and making this the most accessible CAPTCHA on the internet today. Google also knows how to harness public opinion and end-user expertise, which they definitely should do here", she said.

To make these improvements, Google should create a focus group of end users who cannot use a visual CAPTCHA, said Feingold. The company should "get extensive feedback from this group and implement the feedback - then get more feedback and implement that," she said.

In a joint statement on the official Google blog, Luis von Ahn, co- founder of reCAPTCHA and Will Cathcart, Google product manager, said: "Improving the availability and accessibility of all the information on the internet is really important to us, so we're looking forward to advancing this technology with the reCAPTCHA team."

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=331

+02: Bbc Opens Up Iplayer To Audio Description.

The BBC's hugely popular iPlayer software will now carry approximately 25 hours per week of the broadcaster's audio described TV programmes, giving visually impaired users access to a range of well-known shows including 'Dr Who', 'Little Britain' and some children's programmes.

Audio descriptions assist vision-impaired people by using gaps between dialogue to describe what is happening in a programme. Until now none of the BBC's audio described output has been available on the iPlayer but there are now plans to make all such programmes available on the system over the next few months, storing them in a new category on the iPlayer site ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/categories/audiodescribed ).

Jonathan Hassell, head of audience experience and usability at the BBC, told E-Access Bulletin: "The whole point of iPlayer is to allow our audiences to consume our programmes however, wherever and whenever they want. So for us to leave blind people out of this revolution in how people watch TV would go against our fundamental aim to make our content and services available to all licence fee payers, regardless of their age, abilities or disabilities."

The Royal National Institute of Blind People has described the move as "a major breakthrough and great leap forward for blind and partially sighted people".

Earlier this month, the iPlayer also won the ACCESS-IT@Home award ( http://www.access-it-events.org/2009_access_it_awards.php ) for best ICT-based project, product or service that advances independent living for people with disabilities or the elderly.

NOTE: See also 'BBC Defence', Story 9, 'Inbox', Section Two, this issue.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=334

+03: Australian Web Accessibility Reviews Open To All.

An online forum allowing anyone to become involved in accessibility reviews of major government and corporate websites has been launched in Australia.

No technical or specialist knowledge is needed to participate in the Australian Web Access Review (AWARe: http://www.aware.org.au/ ), which asks volunteers to evaluate the accessibility of prominent Australian websites by answering 13 questions, based around WCAG 2.0 (the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines).

Set up by Media Access Australia (MAA: http://www.mediaaccess.org.au/ ), a not-for-profit organisation that provides information on technology access issues, AWARe posts review results on its website, which are then used to drive change within industry and government. MAA say it will "actively pursue websites highlighted as inaccessible by AWARe reviews".

MAA new media manager Scott Hollier told E-Access Bulletin that AWARe provides a way for anybody to comment on website accessibility. "In the past this has been difficult due to the technical nature of accessibility audits, the cost involved in obtaining an audit or the fear of trying to approach a large organisation with an inaccessible website. AWARe addresses these concerns by giving people who face accessibility issues the opportunity to directly review them online, and discuss the issues in the forums", he said.

Although the forum only reviews Australian websites, anyone from any country can participate in AWARe, which has already reviewed five government websites, including a disability services site, Centrelink (rated as only "somewhat accessible"); a flu pandemic information site; and a digital TV switchover site.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=338

++News in Brief:


+04: Healthy Apple?

Computer giant Apple has been recognised for its accessibility achievements in the National Federation of the Blind's first web accessibility day, held in the US earlier this month. Electronics store Newegg.com and General Electric were also recognised for their continued commitment to accessible web services. The day also featured workshops on creating accessible, legislation- compliant web content: https://www.nfb.org/nfb/web_accessibility_day.asp

+05: Electric Vision:

A portable device that allows blind users a degree of 'vision' through gentle electrical stimulation of the tongue looks set to be released by the end of the year by US company Wicab. The 'BrainPort' translates pixelated information from a digital video camera into a tactile stimulation pattern which is 'painted' on the tongue. First unveiled in 2006, the BrainPort is now awaiting approval from the Food and Drug Administration, after which it will be released commercially for around 10,000 US Dollars: http://fastlink.headstar.com/bport1

+06: Sign Online:

A real-time online sign language interpretation service, originally created for the recent Deaf Olympics or 'Deaflympics' in Taiwan, has been developed by IBM and the Chinese Deaf Association. Users install an application onto a laptop with wireless internet and a webcam, and can connect to the service when communicating with someone who doesn't know sign language. An interpreter from the web-based service centre then uses a webcam to sign: http://fastlink.headstar.com/signon1

[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 .

+07: Council Gripe:

A Scottish local government worker, David Thomas, has posted onto our 'E-Access Bulletin Live' blog to respond to last issue's article: 'Survey uncovers depressing picture for employees', which reported on poor internal ICT systems for staff in both public and private sector bodies.

David wrote: "As a visually-impaired employee of a local authority within Ayrshire, I have to agree that accessible applications are given very little consideration. My council uses several applications within their customer service contact and IT department that are not accessible, and even when they updated their software packages no consideration was given to purchasing applications that were accessible.

"Even within social services, steps have not been taken to give visually impaired employees access to our client information system 'CareFirst', despite the fact that CareFirst is and has been accessible since version 4. People like myself are therefore denied any opportunity of promotion because of such poor attitude towards the needs of disabled employees."

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com or online at: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=324 ].

+08: Perplexing Piece:

In last issue's web research feature 'Adaptability Versus Accessibility: Time To Be Flexible' (issue 116, August 2009), Brian Kelly argued that in the real world a more flexible approach to accessibility is needed than slavishly following guidelines.

Sailesh Panchang, a web accessibility specialist from Virginia in the US, wrote in to say the article left him "perplexed". He wrote: "Consider this sentence from the piece: 'The key aim in this instance would be to ensure that the learning objectives are made accessible and not necessarily the e-learning resources themselves'. This is like saying knowledge must be made accessible, but not the library (physical resource) that houses it.

"The WAI (international Web Accessibility Initiative) recommendations are just guidelines, and they do not purport to be 'inflexible rules'. The techniques are also not exhaustive and only illustrate what are known to work with current versions of browsers and assistive technologies. The web is an 'environment' too: it also presents attitudinal and environmental barriers for users with disabilities. One might understandably expect WAI to limit itself to recommendations that govern the accessibility of this environment. In doing so it must recognise the functional limitations faced by individuals with different types of disabilities so that it might make appropriate recommendations. And it does just that.

"It is also unfair to say the medical model of disability 'underpins the WAI approach'. People with disabilities are active in various working groups of the WAI and fully understand that disability is a social construct. In promoting accessibility of web content, authoring tools and browsers and assistive technologies used for web access, WAI is trying to ensure that the web environment will have fewer hurdles and more choices for users with disabilities. One can adapt better if the surrounding environment and resources are accessible, right?"

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com or online at: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=327 ].

09: Twitter Chatter: Another reader, 'Lucas', commented online on our article about 'Accessible Twitter', a tool to improve access to the popular micro-blogging service. He said: "I am using Twitter since two months ago. My first impression of the service was interesting, and I didn't find anything so inaccessible. When I saw the Accessible Twitter I was curious to see what they changed in this version, and when I tried it, it was uncomfortable.

"The fact is: when you open your Twitter page, what you want to see are your friends' updates . . . Sometimes, you have a lot of tweets to read, so, a good interface is all you want to help you in this case. On Twitter, the first link will show you the name of the person, the second link will show you the account of the person (it's important to send them direct messages) . . . and then, finally, their tweets. The Accessible Twitter turned this simple thing [into] a strange presentation of the message. All the tweets are marked with a block quote, making you slow in the time you are reading the tweets. The information where on Twitter were organised in one line to show you the hour when this tweet was posted, how the person was posting it and so on, are separated by a lot of lines, making, again, you slow in the time you are reading your tweets.

"For me, I like the original Twitter, and I will keep using that."

However the Accessible Twitter application's creator, US-based web developer and accessibility advocate Dennis Lembree, responded shortly afterwards to defend his creation, saying: "Accessible Twitter fixes [the following] issues (and more) in Twitter.com: the navigation is inconsistent, doesn't display username of account signed in, the Favorite and Reply links are STILL not keyboard accessible, JavaScript is required, doesn't work in Lynx browser, may be illegible due to custom colours, code is not standards-compliant, and so on.

"Tweets are marked up as block quotes because they are block quotes; this is proper semantic coding. The rendering of that code is up to the user-agent (browser). There is more to do on Twitter than just post and read tweets. For example, Accessible Twitter provides a Trends page, a Popular Links page, and previews for images linked in tweets."

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com or online at 'Application Opens Up Twitter To Disabled Users': http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=321 ].

10: Rotten Apple? Dan TeVelde posted a comment online on the article from our July issue: 'RNIB Team Welcomes Off-The-Shelf iPhone Accessibility', which covered the new iPhone's 'gesture-based' screen-reader, a 'world first'.

He said: "I appreciate the article about the new phone but I wish Apple would enhance its technical support for its products. I couldn't get a live person when I called Apple directly. I also contacted my local Apple store and a clerk actually told me that the phone wasn't very accessible and that it might not be the best phone for me as a totally blind person. Apple needs to communicate more effectively with the blind community."

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com or online at: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=306 ].

+11: Audio Research:

Last month Ken Ingham, President of Amazability in Waban, Massachusetts, wrote in trying to track down a piece of UK research on how many people like to listen to audiobooks. Karen Hannah, Social Inclusion Manager for Libraries and Arts at Gateshead Council, writes in to respond: "You could try the RNIB National Library on 0845 766 9999; email: helpline@rnib.org.uk or see: http://www.rnib.org.uk/reading

"There is also the Reading Through Audio Alliance at http://www.readingthroughaudio.org.uk , I'm pretty sure they will have commissioned research around reading in the past."

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

+12: BBC Defence:

Last issue James Wright, a reader from the West Midlands, UK, wrote in to complain that the BBC iPlayer was tricky for blind people to use. Since then two other readers have contacted us to say that they had not personally experienced any similar problems with iPlayer, and Roger Wilson-Hinds, director of the free screen- reader pioneer Screenreader.net, said: "I was saddened to hear that a person who could not see was having such difficulty with the BBC iPlayer. I can't see what is on the screen either but I do enjoy the iPlayer every day and have no trouble getting round it. I use a free accessible 'WebbIE' browser from: http://www.webbie.org.uk .

"There is a radio and a TV option all working from the keyboard. It is totally free and, so far as I know, it works well without or with all screen-reader packages. We support the software with Braille or clear print manuals and there is a telephone helpline too."

[Responses please to inbox@headstar.com].

[Section Two ends].

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[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section Three: Publications'Doing IT Differently'.


13: The Road To Achievement by Katherine Ledger.

A practical guide to help people overcome barriers to using IT and live an independent life, inexpensively, has been published by the Royal Association for Disability Rights (RADAR), the UK's leading pan- disability organisation. 'Doing IT Differently: Enabling everyone to use computer and information technology' is sponsored by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (now the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), AbilityNet, Microlink and the Information Technologists Company.

Part of a series of self-help publications called Doing Life Differently, the booklet is for everybody at all levels of experience and ages who has problems accessing IT, so it is totally inclusive. It guides the reader through a host of jargon on how to choose and use personal computers, desktops, laptops, mobile phones, smartphones and TVs.

Mastering IT can help you improve job prospects, access training and education, shop, bank, save money, communicate with friends, have fun and be more independent.

Tony, 35, is one of several people with disabilities in our book who tells his story about how IT has helped him. "I have a genetic condition which means my sight is steadily worsening. These days I really can't see anything at all. But I knew this was coming and learned to touch type in my teens. Over the years I've gone through every stage of the adaptation process. I began with changes of colour, character size, font choices and so on, using built-in options. Then I got an electronic magnifier so that I could use printed text and books in my studies and early work. Then I moved to a software magnification package with some output speech. Then, when my sight was no longer practical or efficient but was still possible, I moved to a screen reader. What do I do? I work as an IT consultant. Yes, deteriorating conditions can be handled efficiently these days.

"I do most of my work remotely so I'm pretty sure that most of my contacts and customers - those who have not met my guide dog anyway - have no idea that I'm blind."

Joan, 73, similarly overcame her fear of computers. "The trouble was that I was scared to touch it, in case I did something wrong and you can't ever learn anything without actually practising it. Going to a course at the local library really helped. I learned a lot but the main lesson I learned was that it is very difficult to do something seriously wrong. You can 'undo' or revert to the last version you saved."

Liz Sayce, RADAR CEO, says: "There is no advice more useful than the tips that come from others who have trod the same road before. Whether it's getting or keeping a job, managing your money or getting online, doing life differently because of ill-health, injury or disability doesn't mean doing it less well."

NOTE: This book and others in the series can be ordered at: http://radar-shop.org.uk/ or call 0207 250 3222. For bulk discounts contact katherine.ledger@radar.org.uk .

Nominate a person or organisation you think is worthy of a 'Doing IT Differently' award at RADAR's People of the Year Awards, for those who have made a difference to disability equality, at: http://www.radar.org.uk/awards-2009/ .

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=341

[Section Three 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.

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 117 ends].