+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 124, April 2010.

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: e-Access '10: Technology For All- 13 July, Olympia 2, London - Co-Hosted by OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition.


E-Access Bulletin's sixth annual conference and exhibition on access to technology by people with disabilities, is taking place on 13th July 2010 at Olympia Conference Centre in London.

This year we welcome as co-hosts OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition, the UK's leading umbrella body uniting a range of organisations in the joint cause of access for all. Members include AbilityNet, BCS, Intellect and the Society for IT Management (Socitm).

Our programme this year covers the business, legal and ethical drivers for accessibility, and the path to success for organisations of all sizes, whatever their track record so far. Technologies covered include everything from the web to smartphones and cloud computing.

For more information and to register today, please visit: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess10/

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.


+01: Campaigning Peer Blocks Weakening Of Web Access Law.

A campaigning peer has ensured that the new Equality Act, an update of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), includes a commitment to online accessibility, by successfully moving an amendment as the law passed through the House of Lords.

Lord Low of Dalston, vice president and former chairman of the Royal National Institute of Blind People and himself blind, moved a change of wording to the Act to state that when providing information, organisations' processes should "include steps for ensuring that. the information is provided in an accessible format."

The Act ( http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2009- 10/equality/documents.html ) passed into law last week after being rushed back through the Commons without a vote in the 'wash-up' period before this week's dissolution of Parliament for the General Election.

Lord Low said the change would allow for easier regulation by enforcement authorities such as the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). The EHRC has separately released a draft code of practice on the law ( http://bit.ly/aN8W5i ) which refers to website accessibility: "As well as giving rise to an obligation to make a reasonable adjustment to their website, [failure to make a website accessible to those with visual impairments] will be unlawful (unless they can justify it)."

However, the Equality Act has been criticised for its complex language and ambiguity. Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons and editor of legal news website Out-Law.com ( http://www.out-law.com/ ), told E-Access Bulletin that parts of the new law are "borderline impenetrable".

"For me, the biggest disappointment about the Equality Act is that for an act on accessibility, it's difficult to access," said Robertson. "That's unfortunate, because one of the great things about the DDA was that it was easy to identify the duties that people were under".

Robertson said that although the new Equality Act as amended may provide clarification on web accessibility for some businesses, the law remains broadly the same as its predecessor, the DDA. "The differences are quite subtle and it will not have a material impact on the state of accessibility of website across the UK," he said.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=415

+02: Us Government Helps Job Applicants With Disabilities.

The Obama administration is undertaking two major exercises to help people with disabilities apply for government jobs, delegates heard at last month's California State University Northridge (CSUN) Technologies and Persons with Disabilities Conference.

Employment was the central topic at CSUN, the largest assistive technology event in the world, this year celebrating its 25th anniversary. Less than a third of blind people of working age in the US have a job, delegates heard.

On 26 April, federal agencies will be interviewing an estimated 600 disabled people selected from around 4,000 applicants to a special 'hiring fair' in Washington organised by the Office of Personnel Management and the Labor Department's Office of Disability Policy ( http://www.usajobs.gov/DisabilityHiringEvent.asp ).

The US government is also set to overhaul Section 508 of the country's Rehabilitation Act, the law that obliges federal agencies to buy accessible equipment for disabled employees including computers, photocopiers and telephones.

At CSUN the government held a public hearing at which delegates were able to respond to proposals to refresh Section 508 to include newer technology such as mobile technology and electronic books. The overwhelming message was that change should come as quickly as possible. Further comments are invited by June 21: http://www.access-board.gov/news/ict-draft-rule.htm

The Access Board also proposes to supplement its ADA Accessibility Guidelines, which cover access to facilities, to broaden coverage to include certain types of interactive transaction machines such as point-of-sale machines and self- service kiosks.

NOTE: This month's E-Access Bulletin carries exclusive reporting from CSUN from Ability Magazine editor John Lamb. See Section Two.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=418

+03: E-Book Guide Highlights Benefits And Obstacles.

A guide to the accessibility benefits and obstacles of major electronic book formats, including technical formats, e-book readers and reader software, has been published by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

E-book readers covered by the document ( http://www.rnib.org.uk/livingwithsightloss/readingwriting/ebo oks/ ) include dedicated e-book readers; e-book reading software; and e-book readers for mobile phones.

Dedicated readers include the Amazon Kindle (benefits include text-to-speech; obstacles are that text-to-speech currently applies to book content only, though Amazon have announced it will have audible menus by mid-2010); plus the Bookeen Cybook Gen 3, Sony Pocket and Sony Touch (benefits of all three include various text size options; obstacles include no text-to-speech feature).

The guide also provides a list of retailers and websites from which e-books and readers can be purchased or downloaded.

E-books are becoming more widespread in public libraries around the UK, with many branches embracing the lending of digital books, a model already widely adopted in the US. According to a report in a recent issue of E-Access Bulletin's sister publication, E-Government Bulletin, the new breed of library will not only make an ever-wider range of research and searchable reference information available over the web to their users, but promote the temporary lending of electronic books of all kinds: http://www.headstar.com/egblive/?p=433 .

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=421

++News in Brief:


+04: One Voice:

A report on the business case and other drivers for accessible IT, 'Accessible ICT: Benefits to business and society', has been published online in accessible PDF format by the OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition: http://www.onevoiceict.org/tools/tr-tools.asp OneVoice, an umbrella group of charities, businesses and professional associations, will this year be co-hosting E- Access Bulletin publisher Headstar's annual conference on access to technology by people with disabilities, e-Access '10: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess10/

+05: Instant Messages:

A text-to-speech application that reads emails and text messages aloud from a BlackBerry smartphone, developed as a 'hands free' safety aid for motorists, could benefit blind and visually impaired users, say the Royal National Institute of Blind People. The SafeReader from Vlingo, developers of voice-activated interfaces for mobile devices, is operated by voice commands and reads all text messages and emails received to the user: http://www.vlingo.com/safereader/

+06: Digital Consolidation:

The government's Digital Inclusion Taskforce, charged with bringing online the millions of people who have never used the internet, has been merged into the Digital Participation Consortium of broadcasting and telecommunications regulator Ofcom. The taskforce, a team of experts on education, health, government and social inclusion including RNIB Chairman Kevin Carey, lost its home as advisory team to former Digital Inclusion Champion Martha Lane Fox when Lane Fox's role was broadened to that of the government's overall 'Digital Champion': http://www.digitalparticipation.com/

[Section One ends].

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[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Section Two: Conference ReportCSUN 2010, San Diego


+Tby John Lamb.

Gatherings of technologists always have an atmosphere of excitement about them whether it's generated by the thrill of discovering the next big thing or just catching up on the gossip about what's hot and what's not.

But there is an even more special buzz to the California State University Northridge (CSUN) Technologies and Persons with Disabilities Conference, the largest assistive technology event in the international calendar and this year celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Some 5,000 people thronged the massive towers of the Manchester Hyatt Hotel in San Diego at the end of March, many of them vision-impaired. Some 200 hotel staff had received special training in disability awareness from the university, not that those walking flat out across the lobby with a white cane in front of them looked as though they needed much help.

Harry Murphy was the man who started it all back in 1985. He was working with deaf students at the time. "I kept getting questions such as 'what are you doing for students with learning disabilities, or what are you doing for students with computers?'" he recalls.

Initially, Murphy envisaged a conference of 200 people from Southern California, but 600 turned up from around the world. "It was like having a tiger by the tail: you can't stop swinging or it will bite you. We ended up occupying two hotels at Los Angeles airport."

The setting up of Northridge's own Center on Disability grew out of the event. "People just kept asking what sort of technology we had in our university, so we raised $300,000 to establish a computer contact center."

This year's central topic was employment. The keynote speech was delivered by Captain Ivan Castro, the only serving blind person in the US Special Forces, who highlighted the fact that less than a third of blind people of working age in the US have a job, a situation that the feisty Dinah Cohen is keen to rectify.

"The problems are huge but it isn't a hidden issue anymore. Best practice doesn't work; we are looking for next practice," said Cohen, who is director of the Computer and Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP).

Her organisation provides training and equipment to disabled federal employees and disabled service people. Over the past 20 years CAP has provided assistive technology to over 85,000 civil servants, including 14,000 wounded service personnel.

However, with disabled people representing a decreasing proportion of the government workforce, CAP is involved in educating federal officials on how to hire more of them. At the end of April, federal agencies will be interviewing 600 disabled people in a single day for jobs.

"People want to see Federal Government walk the walk rather than just talking about it. People without evident disabilities are ignored, we want to breakdown the silos in government and work together," said Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy and another of the star speakers at this year's CSUN.

Martinez, who is blind, had just completed a six-city listening tour to gather information on barriers and best practices relating to the employment of people with disabilities.

One lever in promoting disabled employment is Section 508, the law that obliges federal agencies to buy accessible equipment for disabled employees. The legislation requires suppliers to adapt office equipment such as computers, photocopiers and telephones.

At CSUN the legislators held a public hearing at which delegates were able to respond to proposals to refresh Section 508. The US Access Board aims to update the legislation to include newer technology such as real time text, ATMs, mobile technology, electronic books, video and voice texts. The overwhelming message was that change should come as quickly as possible.

Not everyone was so keen, however. Book publishers are arguing for exemptions to Section 508 to preserve digital rights management to protect copyright, potentially preventing the creation of machine-readable copies of texts accessible by people with reading difficulties.

This is one issue that will go on generating excitement long after the Hyatt Hotel has put away its CSUN guide-dog water bowls for another year.

NOTE: John Lamb is editor of Ability magazine http://www.abilitymagazine.org.uk/

[Section Two ends].

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=424

[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 124 ends].