+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 150, July 2012.

Access To Technology For All, Regardless Of Ability

A Headstar Publication. http://www.headstar.com/eab/ .

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++Section One: News.


+01: Final Draft Of Mandate 376 Set For Review.

The latest and final draft of a new European Standard for the accessibility of ICT products and services procured by the public sector – known as “Mandate 376” – is to be placed online next week, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

Users, developers, manufacturers, public bodies and procurers will have until October to offer feedback on the standard and associated documents before formal work begins on legislation this autumn.

The work, co-funded by the European Commission, is being carried out by European standards organisations. It aims to harmonise accessibility requirements for public procurement of ICT across Europe, and to provide a set of tools for the use of procurers.

“Informal feedback on the draft standard is urgently needed before it is submitted to the formal – and lengthy – standards- making process”, said Dave Sawdon of TRE Projects, who is working on the project for the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

Sawdon said the commission hopes the finished standard will “promote the procurement of accessible ICT products and services by public bodies and hence promote the general development and adoption of more accessible ICT.

“In support of this and to build a coherent EU-US market it is hoped to maximise commonality between the emerging EU standard and the ongoing refresh of Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act.” Section 508 is a US law requiring public bodies to ensure the ICT systems they buy are accessible.

The new draft will be published at: http://www.mandate376.eu

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=753

+02: “Georgie” Apps Make Smartphones Smarter.

A new series of apps has been developed to enhance accessibility features for Android-enabled smartphones for blind and visually impaired users.

The “Georgie” apps allow blind and visually impaired users to perform a number of functions additional to ‘standard’ phone features, including recording and broadcasting audio blogs; photographing text and having it read out to them, using an optical character recognition feature; and audio tagging images with sound clips. It will also read aloud screen text when users touch the screen, and voice recognition software enables users to speak the content for text messages into the phone.

Although all these features are already available from other providers, Georgie collects them into one place for the first time. It was designed by husband and wife founders of assistive technology company Screenreader, Roger and Margaret Wilson-Hinds, who are themselves blind, alongside software architect Alan Kemp.

The fact the system was developed by blind users is key to its power, Roger Wilson-Hinds told E-Access Bulletin. “We’re not second guessing what blind users want. Georgie is not retrofitted to software that’s been designed for sighted users. Apple and Google both have accessibility settings that are a great start, but the intricate and cluttered screens are very difficult to navigate around and find the correct button, even if it’s being read out.”

The software is available ready to use and pre-installed on a Samsung Galaxy Y smartphone handset for £299, or can be downloaded separately onto any existing Android-based phone for £149.

Georgie’s core features help users send text messages; scroll through phone book contacts; make phone calls; and configure the phone. Three additional bundles of apps (at £24.99 each) cover ‘travel’; ‘lifestyle’; and ‘communicate’.

These additional bundles feature apps that can, for example, help users navigate around hazards on a daily route, by allowing users to mark known dangers – such as potholes and low-hanging branches – on a map, which then reminds the user of the obstacle during their journey.

Georgie is being distributed through Sight and Sound Technology: http://bit.ly/NwA1Lp

Earlier this year, the One Voice for Accessible ICT Coalition – an umbrella group of organisations promoting access to technology – published a report on apps that can help disabled people, and access to apps and smartphones in general. See: http://bit.ly/yBTdwo

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=751

+03: Dyslexia Spelling Checker Wins Techology4good Award.

A piece of software that can correct spelling as the user types into any programme – hugely valuable for people with dyslexia – has won the accessibility award at the second annual Technology4Good awards, presented in London this month.

“Global AutoCorrect” ( http://www.lexable.com/GlobalAutoCorrect ) is the brainchild of Neil Cottrell, a 24-year-old graduate who is himself severely dyslexic.

Other finalists for the accessibility award were Panasonic Corporation, for a range of “talking TVs” designed with the RNIB (as discussed in recent issues of this newsletter – see: http://bit.ly/HmjoAD ); Therapy Box, for a range of of apps supporting people with communication disabilities; and satellite TV company BSkyB, for embedding accessibility across its products and services, including a talking electronic programme guide.

Also shortlisted for an innovation award was MyChoicePad, a Makaton language app for the iPad making Makaton signs and symbols much easier and cheaper to use for children and adults with special communication needs.

An AbilityNet Excellence in Accessibility Award went to the celebrated physicist Professor Stephen Hawking, who has motor neurone disease. Professor Hawking was not able to attend the awards ceremony but recorded a message using his electronic voice synthesiser, which he operates by twitching his cheek.

He said: “I am delighted to accept this award as recognition for all the truly great things that disabled people can achieve when technology has given them the chance to shine.

“I was lucky to be born in the computer age. Without computers my life would have been miserable, and my scientific career impossible.

“...the Technology4Good awards remind us that technology is a vital part of human existence. They show us that the right tools, in the right hands, can help everyone, regardless of our frailties, to achieve our true potential and advance as a civilisation. And I hope that the Technology4Good awards will inspire people to think about the needs of everyone around them and make sure they can all benefit from the power of computers and the internet to change their lives for the better.”

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=749

++News in Brief:


+04: IQ Guidance:

A new online hub of resources to help developers create accessible websites has been launched by non-profit organisation Media Access Australia. The website, Access iQ, features advice and guidance on creating accessible content, accessibility news, event listings, and a ‘marketplace’ listing services, products and jobs within the sector.

Quick link: http://www.accessiq.org/

+05: Improving Interfaces:

The barriers faced by disabled and elderly people when using interfaces and control systems for common technologies such as bank cash machines and computer equipment are examined in a new report, ‘Accessible user interfaces: priorities for research’. The report was written by John Gill and Julio Abascal of the Cardiac project to support and carry out research in accessible and assistive ICT. Its recommendations include increased European support for research in this field; and better dissemination of knowledge about accessible interface designs that do not make it all the way to a product stage.

Quick link: http://bit.ly/jtxaxc

+06: Pledging Change:

Businesses are being asked to pledge their commitment to a minimum standard of accessibility for their company website and smartphone apps, by following five key design criteria. The 180-Day WebSight Pledge campaign, launched by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and PC Pro magazine, will ask companies to adjust their site or app over a period of six months to make it easier to use for blind and visually impaired users. The five elements of the pledge include: avoiding fixed-size fonts; making sites/apps screen-reader compatible; using a constant interface; ensuring keyboard-alone accessibility; and testing the site/app with blind and visually impaired users. RNIB will offer advice and consultancy to the companies throughout the campaign.

Quick link: http://bit.ly/OMwLXZ

+07: Job-Share Politics:

John McDonnell MP, Labour representative for Hayes and Harlington, has recorded a video message asking for evidence from people with disabilities who might like to become MPs if it were possible to job-share in Parliament, Job-shares are not currently allowed for MPs, something Mr McDonnell and others feel is one cause of under-representation of disabled people and women in Parliament. E-Access Bulletin readers are invited to respond:

Quick link: http://bit.ly/LuofRq

[Section One ends].

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


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

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


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

+08: TV Trouble:

Following our mention last issue of accessible TV set top boxes manufactured by British firm TVonics, our regular correspondent Brian Gaff, who is on the committee of the Kingston upon Thames Association for the Blind, writes in to say: “Are you aware that TVonics has been in administration since 12 June? Though the RNIB say the box is still available they won’t be drawn on whether it will continue to be produced. I guess we must hope that the software is generic enough to run on other makes of box in the future with minimal conversion.”

In response Tara Alexander, Senior Manager – Innovation at RNIB who had initially written in about TVonics, acknowledged this “unfortunate situation”, and said: “I can confirm that we still have stock of the DTR-HD500 set top box and are still selling and supporting that box.”

She also forwarded a holding statement on TVonics going into administration from Steve Tyler, Head of Innovation and Development at RNIB, which said: “We learned today that TVonics has gone into administration. The company has been a great support in our bid to bring about a sea change in accessibility in the area of TV and related products and services.

“We are unable to comment further until we receive more information from TVonics; however the set top box is still available via the RNIB shop and our customers are able to call our Helpline if they need support.”

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

+09: Northern Voice:

The same reader Brian Gaff has also corrected a claim made in our last issue by the makers of the “TechDis Jill”, who thought the voice was the first text-to- speech tool to possess a Northern English accent.

Brian notes that the voice synthesiser software eSpeak, as used by the free open source screenreader software NVDA, has had a Northern English voice “for ages” alongside its main English and American English voices, as well as a West Midlands voice and an old-fashioned Received Pronunciation (RP) voice!

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

+10: Airline Struggles:

Further to our reporting last issue of a legal settlement between the budget airline bmibaby and RNIB over the inaccessibility of the airline’s website, regular reader Gustaw Kon writes in to say the settlement was: “Doubtless a kind of success but since bmibaby is in some kind of terminal state (as it looks), not very useful.

“Much more useful would be if RNIB ensured that Ryanair and Easyjet were more accessible. I used to find Easyjet easy to access but they have changed their layout and their website is unsatisfactorily accessible. Ryanair are a waste of time.

“And, while we are about it, what about the big boys... British Airways are totally inaccessible. Like practically every airline, they use the wonderful idea of presenting a map from which you can find and book flights, together with splendid graphical representations of timetables. Try hammering them into shape.”

[Comments please to inbox@headstar.com ].

+11: Opera Blocked:

Reader Stephanie Leven has contacted E- Access Bulletin to describe an experience she had recently in attempting to receive a digital text copy of English translation “supertitles” due to be displayed during a performance of Puccini's Italian language opera la bohème she was due to attend at Glyndebourne opera house in Sussex.

As she knew her sight is not good enough to follow these surtitles live, Leven contacted Glyndebourne to ask for an electronic copy to be emailed her so she could access it in advance or convert it into a better format.

Glyndebourne Productions replied that it was unable to send her the supertitle script as it is copyrighted material, but suggested an alternative free English language libretto to the opera which she could access online.

Leven says she does appreciate staff were trying to help, but feels the copyright law must be changed as soon as possible to allow access to this kind of material for disabled people.

She has since written to the Minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller MP, to say: “Management should by now be able to circumvent the ‘copyright’ excuse, when it is clear of the purpose of the request.

“Although it is now too late for me for Glyndebourne I hope we can find a way to move forward so that this does not happen to the next visually impaired person. After all, a ticket of £215 should include access to the words of the opera in a suitable format.”

[Comments please to inbox@headstar.com ].

[Section Two ends].

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++Section Three: Special Report- Paralympics Broadcasting


12: Winning The Accessible Games, Live and Online.

For Channel 4, being the official broadcaster of the 2012 Paralympic Games comes with a lot of prestige, but there are also significant accessibility challenges. If the website and other digital services of this event were not accessible to disabled people, it would be absurd – not to mention catastrophic from a PR perspective.

However, rising to these challenges have helped improve the overall standard and awareness of digital accessibility within the channel, says Paul Edwards, Channel 4’s online programme manager for the Paralympics 2012.

“The fact that we’ve got the Paralympics means that the importance of accessibility internally, within the company, has been raised. So, people who previously didn’t have much knowledge of the challenges of different accessibility needs are now learning about it”, Edwards told E-Access Bulletin.

Edwards explained to the recent eAccess ’12 conference in London ( http://www.headstar.com/eaccess12/ ) how the Paralympics have provided a driver for a number of Channel 4’s separate divisions to come together to improve accessibility.

Although Channel 4 did already have a corporate accessibility programme including role-specific training, and a requirement that all its projects be independently reviewed before going live to ensure they meet accessibility requirements, one of the initial challenges of the Paralympics project was considering the different levels of accessibility experience within different parts of the organisation, said Edwards.

“In TV, the whole issue of accessibility is often something commissioners and producers don’t have to worry about,” he said. “It’s something that’s done once a programme is made, and they can then get it subtitled or add audio description. That’s obviously not case with the web, where accessibility has to be considered from day one.”

Additionally, for Channel 4’s online operations, a significant number of external agencies are used for development work, which presents a further challenge dealing with varying levels of understanding about creating accessible content.

“In the past, we’ve discovered that there’s a big difference between people saying ‘Yes, we understand accessibility’, and having their knowledge properly questioned during a selection process,” Edwards said. “Now, all prospective suppliers have to provide their understanding of accessibility requirements as part of the selection process.”

In broadcasting the Paralympics, Channel 4 will be providing more than 400 hours of live sports coverage – more than ever before in the channel’s history. As part of this task, Edwards and his team have created a number of online platforms specifically for Paralympic content.

Firstly, a Channel 4 Paralympics website has been designed ( http://bit.ly/lhBGdx ) featuring schedules, results and live video throughout the Games. The site is supported by mobile apps on iOS and Android systems, all of which have been reviewed by the Digital Accessibility Centre, a non-profit accessibility consultancy, alongside testing by disabled users.

A series of short video features have also been created, including over 200 video diaries from Paralympic athletes and individuals involved with the games, showing their build-up to the event and “60-second guides” to Paralympic sports. Both of these video series are available with closed captions and subtitles.

Several accessible online game-simulations of Paralympic sports have been developed for the site, including boccia, an event which sees players in wheelchairs competing to throw leather balls as close as possible to a ‘jack’ ball on a court, and wheelchair rugby.

Finally, the online video player used to broadcast live sporting events has presented a major challenge for text access. “Live video for sport is a real challenge when it comes to commentary and subtitles, and the accuracy of live captions in this area has been derided for some time”, said Edwards. “The speed at which live sport moves often means it’s unfeasible to produce accurate captions. People have suggested putting a delay in the broadcast, but this is often not acceptable to many viewers, particularly if there’s an equivalent radio broadcast going on at same time.”

To tackle the problem, Edwards and his team have created an online video platform to support text commentary on the right- hand side of the screen. “This won’t necessarily be as comprehensive as full subtitles, but we’re trying to provide a context for what’s happening within the games, while at the same time trying to provide a really good viewer experience”, said Edwards. “I’ll hold my hands up and say that it’s an experiment, but I think it works better than live subtitles for a very fast sport like wheelchair rugby. The challenge is to balance reporting of every piece of action in a sport with the pace of the narrative. We’ve done a lot of tests on that, and we’re getting pretty close.”

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=746

[Section Three ends].

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++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 2012 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 150 ends].