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++Section One: News.
+01: A “tax on accessible books”:
mixed emotions at Marrakesh Treaty progress.
The latest agreement in the process of implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, which aims to help end the ‘book famine’ faced by blind and visually impaired people, has been met with a mixture of praise and frustration.
The treaty aims to increase the availability of books in accessible formats, such as Braille and e-books, by relaxing copyright laws which make it difficult or time-consuming to share accessible books across different countries (read e-Access Bulletin’s previous coverage of the Marrakesh Treaty at the following link: http://eab.li/6j ).
Work on implementing the Treaty has been taking place since its initial adoption in 2013, and earlier this month another milestone was reached with an agreement between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union.
The latest agreement on the text of the Treaty – currently still in draft form – states that accessible format books for use by blind and visually impaired persons can be shared across countries – as originally planned – and that further accessible book versions can be produced without needing to ask permission from the book’s copyright holder.
This initially seemed like a cause for celebration by the many organisations that have been campaigning for increased accessible book access. However, one aspect of the agreement has proved a cause for concern. Part of the agreement is a compromise, whereby EU member state countries can choose to ask for financial ‘compensation’ from organisations and libraries that distribute accessible books, in order to protect the interests of those that hold the copyright to the book.
One of many organisations unhappy at this aspect of the Treaty is the European Blind Union (EBU). David Hammerstein, EU advocate for the World Blind Union (the EBU is one of six regional bodies of the World Blind Union), told e-Access Bulletin that although the EBU is pleased with the main agreement, which represents “an important step toward ending the ‘book famine’” faced by visually impaired people, the EBU “actively opposes” the compensation element, labelling it a “tax on accessible books”.
Explaining the compensation aspect, Hammerstein said: “It increases costs for blind persons’ organisations and creates legal uncertainty for cross-border exchange, because book providers need to know the law in other countries. It also means that there will be no unified, harmonised rule in the European Union, creating confusion and complexity. It is false to call [this aspect] ‘compensation schemes’, because there is no economic loss to be compensated and governments have never shown any substantial damage done to publishers by accessible formatted works.”
These ‘compensation schemes’ are optional, and countries do not have to use them, but Hammerstein said that a number of EU member states have already announced their decision to try and use them.
To apply the compensation element, the Treaty says that there must be proof that distributing accessible format versions of a book causes more than “minimal damage” to the book’s rightsholder. In a press release on the decision, the EBU state that they will fight compensation schemes which do not present this proof: “[If this happens] we shall take legal action against member states for violation of this Directive and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”
A joint statement by the International Federation of Library Associations and the European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations also opposes the compensation schemes, calling it a “major mistake”. The statement claims that, “Such schemes will reduce the ability of libraries and charities to serve print disabled people … It cynically disregards broader social and human rights objectives and does specific damage to the interests of print-disabled people and the institutions that serve them.”
In order for these measures to be enforced, the European Parliament must approve this latest Treaty agreement in a plenary session. EU member states then have 12 months to “transpose the legislation into their laws,” Hammerstein said. Additionally, “the Council of the EU and the European Parliament must still ratify the Treaty,” Hammerstein said.
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/6s .
+02: New Accessible Atm App Points Users In The Right Direction.
A new app that helps blind and visually impaired users track down accessible ATMs has been launched.
The free LINK ATM Locator lets users search for cash machines that have a range of usability features, including: audio assistance; wheelchair access; free-to-use ATMs; £5 note dispensing; mobile phone top-up facilities; and PIN number management.
The app then tells users where to find the nearest ATM based on their requirements and guides them to the machine through Google and Apple Maps, via a walking, driving or public transport route.
ATM network operator LINK and sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust developed the app together after the Trust approached LINK in 2016 to discuss the idea. LINK confirmed that it was already looking into such an app and began working with the Trust.
Thomas Pocklington Trust then carried out user-testing with blind and visually impaired users, to ensure the app’s accessibility with Apple and Android screen-readers.
Mary Buffee, Head of Consumer Affairs at LINK, told e-Access Bulletin more about how the app works with these screen-readers: “Certain adaptations have been made to the app when VoiceOver or TalkBack are switched on. For example, a list view of ATMs is created and read aloud, starting with the ATM nearest to the user, as opposed to a map with icons that is displayed for sighted users.”
As well as locating their nearest ATMs, users can also search for cash machines in a different area and report machines that don’t work properly or fail to provide stated accessibility features.
Speaking about the feedback function, Buffee said: “There are a range of areas customers can give feedback on, from ATM location to the safety and security of the machines … LINK will listen to feedback from customers and consumer groups about the app, and will look to develop it in the future if there is a specific consumer need.”
Users can also leave positive feedback and save specific ATMs to a ‘favourites’ list. The LINK Locator app then alerts users when they pass a favourite ATM.
Marsha de Cordova, Engagement and Advocacy Director at Thomas Pocklington Trust, told e-Access Bulletin that the Trust was thrilled to work with LINK on the app. She said: “It is vital that technology is accessible. LINK involved the Trust at every stage of development, ensuring that accessibility remained a priority, and they have been open to all of our suggestions and feedback. We hope that other organisations follow in LINK’s footsteps to make sure apps are accessible to all.”
Download the app for Apple devices at the Apple Store: http://eab.li/6d .
Download the app for Android devices at the Google Play Store: http://eab.li/6c .
Read more about Thomas Pocklington Trust at the charity’s website: http://eab.li/6e .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/6r .
+03: ‘Smart Cities’ Are Not Inclusive – But They Can Be, New Researchclaims.
‘Smart cities’ are not serving the needs of people with disabilities and older people, and risk deepening an existing digital divide, according to new, in-depth research.
Smart cities are loosely defined as cities that integrate digital technologies into their infrastructure to transform and improve the lives of citizens and landscapes.
In 2016, G3ict (the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs) and non-profit initiative World Enabled (which works to protect the rights of people with disabilities) launched a research project to assess ICT accessibility in smart cities around the world. Over 250 experts and smart city program managers were surveyed and interviewed, with around 60% claiming that smart cities were failing people with disabilities. Only 18% of respondents knew of a smart city that uses ICT accessibility standards
As a result of the findings, G3ict and World Enabled have just launched a Smart Cities for All Toolkit, featuring four digital tools to help those involved in city planning to make future technology projects more inclusive.
James Thurston, Vice President for Global Strategy and Development at G3ict, told e-Access Bulletin that the toolkit was developed specifically to address the key barriers to digital inclusion within smart cities. He said: “Smart cities are positioning themselves as more competitive, more inclusive, and more ‘liveable.’ However, we want to make sure that they don’t leave our one out of seven city residents that may live with a disability.”
Dr. Victor Pineda, President and Founder of World Enabled, told e-Access Bulletin about some of the biggest barriers that people with disabilities and older people face in smart cities projects: “User interface is a big problem, but so is the lack of data being generated on or by persons with disabilities. Both are problems we know must be addressed.”
The Smart Cities for All toolkit contains the following documents: a guide to implementing priority ICT accessibility standards; a guide to adopting an ICT accessibility procurement policy; advice on communicating the case for stronger commitment to digital inclusion in cities; and, a database of solutions for digital inclusion in cities.
Dr. Pineda explained how these tools can be used to increase digital inclusion within cities: “We created a communications tool to help city leaders promote or upsell digital accessibility within the IT departments and generate more buy-in for digital inclusion and accessibility. This tool helps make the case for digital inclusion from both a human rights and a business perspective.”
Crucially, smart cities and the technologies used in them represent a huge opportunity to benefit citizens with disabilities and older citizens. “There is no reason why the newly built digital infrastructure cities are deploying should be leaving people behind,” Dr. Pineda said.
A summary of the research on the G3ict site further explains how smart city digital services can be made more accessible: “Content can be made available in multiple formats and languages, services can be offered remotely to home-bound or geographically isolated citizens, digital formats can serve multiple disabilities, and interact with a broad range of assistive technologies.”
The next steps for the project involve building a ‘digital inclusion maturity model’. Thurston said: “With this new tool, cities will be able to assess where they currently stand on ICT accessibility and digital inclusion and then build a roadmap for improvement.”
Additionally, the tools are being translated into different languages to allow increased use across the world. “Just recently we released the tools in Portuguese because we see so much innovative work on smart cities in Brazil and Portugal,” Dr. Pineda said.
Read more about the Smart Cities for All project and toolkit at the link below: http://eab.li/6l .
Find out more about G3ict at the link below: http://eab.li/6m .
Find out more about World Enabled at the link below: http://eab.li/6n .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/6q .
++News in Brief:
+04: Tokyo Standards:
All websites of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic and Olympic Games “must meet W3C [the World Wide Web Consortium] Accessibility Guidelines,” according to official accessibility standards released by the Games’ Organising Committee. The guidance also states that web content should be checked as standards are updated, and that audio versions of any official Olympic publications should be specially created and released on “W3C compatible websites”, or as podcasts or MP3 files, as well as offering Braille and large-print versions.
Read more about website accessibility for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic and Olympic Games: http://eab.li/6h .
+05: Cultural Shift:
Increasing the digital accessibility of cultural institutions, creating accessible e-books and “disability as a driver of creativity” are all topics to be discussed at the eleventh European e-Accessibility Forum, held in Paris on June 19. The theme for the Forum is “e-Accessible Culture” and the event will explore how technology can make cultural and artistic services, venues and products more inclusive. Speakers include, Sandrine Sophys-Véret from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and Alex Bernier, Director of BrailleNet. Further details and information on registration can be found at the link below.
Read more about the eleventh European e-Accessibility Forum at the event website: http://eab.li/6i .
+06: Airborne Inclusion:
An in-flight entertainment system designed for passengers who are blind or visually impaired has been launched by Virgin Australia Airlines on two models of aircraft from its fleet. The new interface includes voice prompts, simplified screen layouts and larger icons, as well as allowing visually impaired passengers to easily access flight information, such as the time and distance remaining to their destination.
Read more about the new in-flight system at Virgin Australia’s website: http://eab.li/6f .
[Section One ends].
++ Notice: Thomas Pocklington Trust.
E-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 .
++Section Two: The Inbox - Readers’ Forum.
Please email all questions, comments and responses to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
+07: iPlayer Access:
Regular Bulletin correspondent Brian Gaff gets in touch with a query about using audio description in the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up television service:
“In the new-look BBC iPlayer, does anyone have any idea how a person selects audio description before the content starts to play and drowns out a screen-reader? If there was somebody at the BBC who could be emailed, it would be very helpful.”
Please send any advice or solutions to: email@example.com .
[Section Two ends].
++ Notice: RNIB Connect Radio and e-Access Bulletin.
e-Access Bulletin will be appearing on RNIB Connect Radio each month on The Early Edition programme. Hear more about the bulletin and upcoming content appearing in each issue, as we discuss the latest accessible technology news and readers’ questions with Allan Russell.
Episodes will be available after broadcast as podcasts from the RNIB Connect Radio site. Listen to RNIB Connect Radio online, or via television, smartphone or radio. Listening details at the following link: http://eab.li/3e .
Find out more at the RNIB Connect Radio website: http://eab.li/1h .
++Section Three: Analysis. - EU accessibility legislation.
+08: Keeping The Public Sector Accessible.
By Carine Marzin.
The EU directive on making the websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies more accessible was adopted at the end of 2016 and is the very first piece of EU legislation on digital accessibility. It will benefit over 500 million European citizens, including an estimated 80 million Europeans living with a disability, by making digital content from the public sector across Europe more accessible.
Governments will have to check that public sector bodies consistently adhere to the accessibility standards and there will be a new enforcement procedure, making it easier for members of the public to complain about inaccessible content and get the situation resolved.
(For background information on the directive, read e-Access Bulletin’s coverage in previous issues at the following link: http://eab.li/6k .)
This is a ‘minimum harmonisation’ directive, setting out minimum accessibility requirements for websites and mobile apps that all public sector bodies in all 28 EU member states must meet. Governments are able and encouraged to go above and beyond these minimum requirements.
- When will the directive be in force?
The directive has to be transposed into national law in all EU member states by September 23, 2018. All websites created after that date will have to be accessible by September 23, 2019. Existing websites will have to comply by September 23, 2020. All mobile applications will have to be accessible by June 23, 2021.
The directive applies to state, regional and local authorities, but also to bodies ‘governed by public law’ such as hospitals or universities. Importantly, governments can extend the accessibility requirements in the directive to private companies offering facilities and services to the public, such as transport, utilities, electronic communication services and postal services.
- Accessibility requirements and exemptions.
The European Commission will publish the technical specifications that public sector bodies will have to meet by December 23, 2018. In the meantime, the public sector will need to comply with clauses from an existing European standard on procuring accessible ICT.
The directive does not apply to websites and mobile applications of public service broadcasters and their subsidiaries.
Some types of content are temporarily excluded from the scope of the directive if they are not needed for administrative processes. Examples include: office file formats (such as PDF documents) published before September 23, 2018; pre-recorded time-based media (such as audio-only and video-only) if published before September 23, 2020; and the content of archived websites. However, public sector bodies will still have to make this content accessible on request.
Content of extranets and intranets published before September 23, 2019 is also excluded from the new accessibility directive, unless a substantial revision of the systems takes place.
Permanent exclusions to the directive include live, time-based media, plus online maps and mapping services (as long as essential information is provided, such as a postal address or information about nearby public transport). Other exclusions include some third-party content. For example, user-generated content, such as a photo without alternative text or a video without captions posted on a forum – these examples would both be exempt from the directive’s accessibility requirements, but the forum itself would have to be accessible.
The directive also includes a provision explaining that delivering accessibility requirements should not impose a “disproportionate burden” for public sector bodies. However, the right to invoke this principle is limited. For example, lack of priority, time or knowledge will not be accepted as legitimate reasons.
It is important to note that the requirements in this directive are in addition to accessibility requirements in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as requirements introduced by new EU legislation on public procurement in 2016. The latter of these makes accessibility a mandatory criterion for all public procurement intended for use by the general public, or staff of any contracting authority, and is a powerful lever to deliver more accessibility.
- Keeping updated and public feedback.
Governments will have to ensure that public sector bodies provide and regularly update a detailed, comprehensive and clear accessibility statement on their websites and mobile applications. Furthermore, a feedback mechanism will enable anyone to notify a public sector organisation if a website or mobile application is inaccessible, and to request accessible content instead. Public sector bodies will be required to give an “adequate response” to these notifications or requests “within a reasonable period of time,” as well as providing information about the enforcement procedure.
Governments have to ensure that there is an “adequate and effective enforcement procedure” for the directive – this will be defined at national level. Governments will also have to designate a national authority to monitor and enforce the new rules. In many countries, such as the UK, going to court was, until now, the only way to seek a solution to inaccessible public sector digital content, and for most people, the cost of litigation was a barrier. The new enforcement procedure will give everyone an alternative, non-judicial avenue to seek a solution, by submitting complaints to a national authority.
Additionally, governments will have to promote and facilitate training programmes on website and mobile app accessibility for relevant stakeholders. Governments will also monitor compliance with the accessibility requirements in the directive. Experts are currently working with the European Commission to develop a monitoring methodology.
- Carine Marzin is a Consultant and Member of the European Disability Forum - ICT Expert Group. Follow Carine on Twitter: @CarineMarzin .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/6o .
[Section Three ends].
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Editor: Tristan Parker Technical Director: Jake Jellinek Accessibility Advisor: Dr. Nick Freear
[Issue 190 ends].