+++E-Access Bulletin. - Issue 176, February 2016.

Access to technology for all, regardless of ability

A Headstar Publication, produced with the support of Thomas Pocklington Trust: http://www.pocklington-trust.org.uk .

To forward this free publication to others, use our forward link underneath the end of the bulletin, instead of using your email application’s ‘forward’ button. Please encourage others to subscribe by visiting our sign-up page: http://lists.headstar.com .

Subscription details are repeated at the end, but for queries, email: eaccessbulletin@gmail.com .

E-Access Bulletin conforms to the accessible Text Email Newsletter (TEN) Standard. Visit the TEN Standard website: http://www.headstar.com/ten .

++Section One: Editorial note.


+01: Welcome Back To E-Access Bulletin.As Many Readers Will Now Know, The Bulletin Has Been On Hiatus Since Mid-2015. Initially This Was Due To Publishing Logistics, But Later That Year, Dan Jellinek, E-Access Bulletin’S Founder And Editor, Passed Away Suddenly And Unexpectedly. This Was, And Continues To Be, A Horrific Shock For Everyone Who Knew Dan And The Countless People Who Appreciated His Work.

Dan was a wonderful, talented, kind individual, who was passionate about the issues he believed in, as readers of e-Access Bulletin will know. Though he worked successfully in many areas, he was also a superb journalist and editor, and contributed a great deal to digital accessibility at a time when coverage of the sector was still in its infancy.

Deciding to continue the bulletin without Dan was not an easy task. His knowledge, abilities and creative flair were present in every issue, and the thought of continuing the bulletin without him is, frankly, an intimidating one, as well as incredibly sad on a personal level for me. I always saw Dan as a friend, as well as a colleague and my editor for a number of years.

E-Access Bulletin was and always will be Dan’s publication. He poured so much thought, care and energy into it, and worked extremely hard to keep it going since its launch in 2000. He did all this because he knew how useful the bulletin was to people in informing them about accessibility issues. I can only hope to continue keeping readers informed about those issues, and hopefully pay tribute to Dan’s great work along the way.

Thanks to the following people for their help and support in relaunching the bulletin: Gillian Fraser, Roger Clifton, Thomas Pocklington Trust, Derek Parkinson, John Neame, Kevin Carey, and in particular, Jake Jellinek. Without Jake’s technical expertise, patience and invaluable assistance at every turn, it simply wouldn’t have been possible to publish the bulletin again. Thanks also to all those readers who have already expressed their support for the bulletin and sadness at the awful news about Dan.

The next issue of e-Access Bulletin will feature a special tribute to Dan and his work in the e-accessibility sector, with contributions from those who knew and worked with him.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading e-Access Bulletin again.

Tristan Parker.

[Section One ends].

++Section Two: News.


+02: Survey Puts A Price On Frustrated Shoppers ‘Clicking Away’.

Widespread research will find out how much money UK businesses are losing by failing to make their websites accessible to users with disabilities.

The Click-Away Pound survey (CAP) asks internet users with disabilities about their online shopping experiences across a range of sectors, including banking, supermarkets and travel. Rick Williams, managing director of disability consultancy Freeney Williams, came up with the idea after 15 years of assessing and auditing poorly designed websites through his work.

Williams was inspired to create CAP by the Business Disability Forum’s Walkaway Pound Report (link to report: http://bit.ly/1PL9p8c ) in 2015, which found that over 75% of people with disabilities had left a shop or business because of its poor awareness of disability. He wanted to find out if these negative shopping experiences were mirrored online.

The CAP survey was co-designed by Williams and Steve Brownlow of ICT accessibility company Frabjous Day Ltd, and is being supported by a number of organisations, including the Business Disability Forum, Business Disability International and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).

Speaking to e-Access Bulletin, Williams claimed that over 70% of websites his company has assessed have a “significant” commercial and legal risk due to inaccessibility. Williams said: “There is a law, of course [the Equality Act 2010], but 20 years of legislation hasn’t really made much of an impact.”

Williams also explained his motivation for creating the CAP survey: “Businesses need to understand that they ignore disabled shoppers at the risk of their bottom line, and those who do make their websites accessible will get the business. If we can demonstrate to businesses the lost opportunities in hard cash, then maybe they will feel more inclined to change.”

Purchasing goods and services online can be a notoriously difficult experience for shoppers with disabilities, particularly when using assistive technology such as screen-readers. The transactional sections of many websites are often not designed to accommodate this technology, meaning that users can find it difficult or impossible to complete a purchase through these sites.

Initial research by Freeney Williams before launching the survey found that over 70% of disabled people regularly encounter inaccessible websites. The common reaction was to simply ‘click away’ and find a more user-friendly site, the research shows.

A closing date for the Click-Away Pound survey hasn’t yet been decided, as Williams is keen to gather as many submissions as possible, but results will eventually be published a few months after CAP closes.

Williams encourages any online users with disabilities to complete the survey, which is open now and can be found at the links to the Click-Away Pound website below. Results are anonymous and it takes around ten minutes to complete.

Short link to the Click-Away Pound website: http://bit.ly/1PDOjZs .

Full link to the Click-Away Pound website: http://www.clickawaypound.com .

Comment on this story, at E-Access Bulletin Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=1105 .

+03: Video Gaming Charity Expands Its Reach By Delivering Bonus Packs.

A gaming charity has begun giving out ‘Expansion Packs’ containing assistive technology and video games to specialist care homes and organisations working with individuals with disabilities around the United States.

The AbleGamers Foundation gives video game fans with disabilities the chance to play games and connect with others, through what it claims is the largest community for gamers with disabilities in the world. The Expansion Packs project is a way of providing games and assistive equipment on a larger scale, says the charity.

Launched in 2004, AbleGamers has been working with large companies from the gaming industry (including Electronic Arts and SteelSeries) to create the packs for distribution across the US. The packs will be tailored to suit the needs of individuals at each organisation, and AbleGamers will train staff at each location to set up the gaming equipment and assistive technology. A ‘troubleshooting’ service will also be offered to solve any issues after the set-up.

The first Expansion Pack was given to Pediatric Speciality Care in Pennsylvania, which offers long-term care for children with disabilities. The second pack will be given to a centre in Boston.

AbleGamers also offers resources and advice. The charity has produced guidelines for developers on designing accessible video games, and it also supplies assistive technology grants for gamers with disabilities. An upcoming portal on the AbleGamers website will provide information for those caring for someone with a disability, advising on suitable games and the assistive technology needed to play them.

Read more about the AbleGamers Foundation at the links below.

Short link to the AbleGamers website: http://bit.ly/1SVI5YS .

Full link to the AbleGamers website: http://www.ablegamers.com .

Comment on this story, at E-Access Bulletin Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=1109 .

+04: Uk-Wide Digital Champions Network Launches, Backed By £2 Million.

Home-based digital skills training will be given to elderly people and those with disabilities in a newly launched project.

One Digital is a UK initiative to improve digital literacy around the country, led by a consortium of six charities and training organisations, funded through £2 million from grant-giving organisation the Big Lottery Fund. These partner organisations will work on separate projects, but all will be involved with training digital champions to pass on their skills.

After plans for the scheme were announced in September last year, One Digital was launched in Edinburgh earlier this month, and its work is now underway.

One strand of the funding has gone to skills organisation Digital Unite. Assistive technology charity AbilityNet and housing association Affinity Sutton will work in partnership with Digital Unite to build a network of digital champions.

AbilityNet will support volunteers in becoming champions, who will then provide help to approximately 1,000 digitally excluded elderly and disabled people in their homes. Skills being passed on will include sending emails, using search engines, and online shopping and banking.

Other members of the One Digital consortium include Age UK, Citizens Online and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).

In a blog post celebrating the launch, programme director and chief executive of Digital Unite, Emma Weston, wrote: “One Digital is really profoundly different from digital skills projects that have gone before it”. Weston went on to highlight the crucial role that digital champions will play in the project, connecting with some of the 12 million people around the UK who do not use the internet.

There will also be a One Digital ‘support network’ with resources to help the digital champions in their work. The aim is for the project to recruit and train a total of 1,400 digital champions during 2016, who will then work with 9,500 digitally excluded people. Read more about One Digital below.

Short link to the One Digital website: http://bit.ly/20WJtie .

Full link to the One Digital website: http://www.digitalchampionsnetwork.com/one-digital-programme .

Comment on this story, at E-Access Bulletin Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=1111 .

++News in Brief:


+05: Directive Action:

The European Blind Union (EBU) is campaigning for a proposed European Parliament directive on website accessibility to be more expansive. The directive sets out steps to make digital content on public sector sites more accessible for users with visual impairments, but a number of exceptions have been added since an earlier version of the text was proposed in 2014. The EBU says that these exceptions would limit how visually impaired users can access intranet systems, existing downloadable documents and third-party content.

Short link to the EBU website: http://bit.ly/1oI0JGF .

Full link to the EBU website: http://www.euroblind.org/news/nr/2813 .

+06: Paralympic Prep:

The new website of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic and Olympic Games has been launched. The site will provide information on Paralympic sporting events, both at the 2020 Games and in a wider context, and will be viewable and accessible on a range of devices, for users with differing impairments. The website also complies with standards developed by Japan’s Web Accessibility Infrastructure Committee.

Short link to Tokyo 2020 website: http://bit.ly/1Ua9gOR .

Full link to Tokyo 2020 website: https://tokyo2020.jp/en/ .

+07: Tech4Good 2016:

Entry for the latest Tech4Good Awards opens next month, March 15, for individuals and organisations within the UK. Now in its sixth year, the event celebrates innovative uses of technology that encourage positive social change. Winning projects from 2015 included 3D-printed bionic limbs, an app to connect homeless people with support services, and a technology education programme for young people. Entry details are at the links below.

Short link to Tech4Good website: http://bit.ly/212Ddpp .

Full link to Tech4Good website: http://www.tech4goodawards.com .

[Section Two ends].

++ Notice: Thomas Pocklington Truste-Access Bulletin is brought to you with the kind support of Thomas Pocklington Trust, a national charity delivering positive change for people with sight loss. Find out more about the work of Thomas Pocklington Trust by visiting their website: http://www.pocklington-trust.org.uk .


[Notice ends].

Section Three: Special report: - How accessible is WordPress?

+08: Pressing Issues.By Graham Armfield.

WordPress is the world's most popular content management system (CMS). It now powers over 20% of the world's websites, and that figure is steadily rising. People choose WordPress for its flexibility as a web platform, and because it can be used to create a stylish website extremely quickly, using freely available themes (or templates) and plugins. But how accessible are the websites produced with WordPress and the admin screens used to manage those sites?

WordPress is a true open source project. It has been created and amended over ten years by literally hundreds of developers. Sadly, many of these developers had little or no knowledge or experience of accessibility, meaning that many inaccessible practices were baked into WordPress themes, plugins and admin screens.

- Admin screens and accessibility. In 2011, accessibility of the WordPress admin screens was pretty dire and many of the screens were unusable to anyone relying on assistive technology or keyboard interaction. Isolated accessibility initiatives had previously been undertaken, but they weren't always easy to find.

Since then, however, the Make WordPress Accessible Team (MWAT) has made a significant difference. MWAT is a small group of volunteers committed to improving accessibility. The situation is now a lot better, thanks to MWAT talking about accessibility at WordPress meetups, raising bug tickets, and in some cases, actually submitting improved code.

Now, all new functionality introduced into the admin area goes through an accessibility review by MWAT volunteers. Existing inaccessible components like the Media Library and Theme Customizer have also been vastly improved.

However, amending or adding new pages or blog posts can still be a little fraught for screen-reader users. Keyboard shortcuts do exist to speed up editing and formatting of pages and blog posts, but they are not readily advertised.

- Themes and accessibility. WordPress themes provide the template for the parts of a WordPress website that the world sees. Off-the-shelf themes are freely available, and any PHP developer can easily create a bespoke theme for a business or charity.

Thanks to the Make WordPress Accessible Team, there is now an extra, optional, accessibility audit built into the theme review process. So when theme developers submit their themes to WordPress, they can apply for an 'accessibility-ready' tag. People searching for an accessible off-the-peg theme can use this tag to narrow their search. In October 2015 there were 69 free themes that carried this tag.

That may not sound like many, but it is significant considering there are currently over 3,000 themes available from WordPress. Three recent default themes also have a high level of accessibility, and it is hoped that one day this accessibility audit will be included in the review of all new themes.

Because of past accessibility reviews, there is now nothing in the WordPress core functionality that will prevent the development of a fully accessible website – assuming that an accessibility-ready theme or an accessible bespoke theme is chosen.

- Accessibility of WordPress plugins. Plugins provide useful or desirable extra functionality for websites, such as spam blocking, SEO (search engine optimisation), Twitter feeds, contact forms, lightboxes and carousels. While some areas within WordPress are moving in the right direction, the situation around plugins isn't.

Like themes, plugins can be submitted by anyone, and although each plugin also goes through a review process, there is no accessibility aspect to that review. Sadly, that means that many plugins can and do compromise the accessibility of a WordPress website, even if an accessible theme is being used and the content authors know their stuff when it comes to accessibility.

Issues here include: contact form generators where labels are not linked to input fields; lightbox plugins where keyboard interaction is not possible and where focus management is poor; and carousels that break with keyboard interaction or with movement that can't be stopped.

- How can the situation improve? As mentioned above, the Make WordPress Accessible Team is small, and all members fit their WordPress accessibility work around other paid assignments. The team needs more people to take part in regular accessibility testing sessions, and to transform results into bug tickets for developers to fix.

Each new version of WordPress contains new accessible functionality and various accessibility fixes – there just needs to be more emphasis on it to increase the rate of change.

- Would you like to join in? Read more about the Make WordPress Accessible Team and help them with their work at the links below:

Short link to the WordPress Accessibility blog: http://bit.ly/1WAO6rN .

Full link to the WordPress Accessibility blog: https://make.wordpress.org/accessibility .

Comment on this story now, at E-Access Bulletin Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=1113 .

[Section Three ends].

++End Notes.



To subscribe or unsubscribe to this free monthly bulletin, visit: http://lists.headstar.com . Please encourage others to sign-up!

Send comments on coverage or leads to: eaccessbulletin@gmail.com .

Previous issues of E-Access Bulletin can be viewed in text or HTML format at the following online archive: http://www.headstar.com/eab/archive.html .

Copyright 2016 Headstar Ltd: http://www.headstar.com . E-Access 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 the website address below is also cited: http://www.headstar.com/eablive .


  • Editor: Tristan Parker.

ISSN 1476-6337.

[Issue 176 ends].