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media:Fw: New web service for blind and visually impaired

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@home.com>
Date: Sat, 23 Jun 2001 13:09:27 -0400
Message-ID: <004801c0fc07$42ea5d00$2cf60141@mtgmry1.md.home.com>
To: "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

   PRESS INFORMATION
   16th June 2001-For Immediate release

   New and innovative web service to improve social inclusion for all
users
   of the www.

   JustVanilla Ltd. announces a new web service with unparalleled
usability
   and accessibility features. Now, Internet users can have a web
based,
   rather than a browser based, ability to personalise the way in which
web
   content appears on their screens. For the first time users can store
their
   preferences on the web creating freedom of movement.  As a result,
the
www
   can be made easier to use, faster, more inclusive and highly
portable.
The
   design aim, which focussed on simplicity, usability and ease of
access,
   will now allow new users of all ages and lifestyles to be able to
access
   and use the www. The availability of this new service is one of the
   greatest practical contributions to the issues of social inclusion
and
   reduction of the 'digital divide'.

   Amongst the many that will benefit from the new service are:

    Those who use the Internet every day for work including
teleworkers,
   students, school pupils, businesses, journalists and researchers.

    People whose use of the Internet is restricted by social
disadvantage
   simply by outdated, or in many cases not having access to a
computer.

    Those with disabilities such as visual impairment, dyslexia,
learning
   difficulties and reduced mobility.

    Carers, parents and professional support staff of people with
   disabilities.

    People and businesses located in remote rural areas with poor
   infrastructure and slow telecommunications services.

    The many elderly and other users to whom new technologies can seem
   intimidating.

   There are over thirty (30) accessibility features incorporated into
the
   service providing a choice of billions of combinations that may be
   configured to meet the diverse requirements of Internet users. For
   instance, over 40 colours (specially selected to provide a good
range of
   contrasts for those with colour vision impairment) can be applied to
   screen background, text and hyperlinks in any combination. Font type
can
   be varied and size increased/decreased dynamically on screen. Extra
   spacing can be inserted between words or even between individual
letters
   within words. Paragraphs can be indented, all text transformed into
   capitals, and underlining removed from hyperlinks, which can also be
made
   to glow. A narrow page option can be set, 'pop up' windows disabled,
and
   flashing text and animations removed. All these and many more
features
   give the user the power to control and adapt the appearance of any
   information delivered to them. Once set, these preferences are
maintained
   for future use whilst browsing the JustVanilla site. Furthermore,
they
can
   then be applied to the contents of the entire Internet.





   The power of the JustVanilla service is further enhanced by an
'access
   gateway' which can optionally strip out graphics from any website,
   disable/enable frames, tables, scripts, and more. Virtually the
entire
   contents of any web site can be delivered in text format at high
speed
   with all the users preferences maintained. This 'access gateway',
although
   designed specifically for blind and visually impaired users to
disentangle
   complex web designs (which often prevent them from accessing and
using
   many websites) can also bring major benefits to other web users.

   Each JustVanilla user is allocated their own unique URL and four
pages
   containing 'default' bookmarks for home, work, learning and shopping
use.
   These 'default' settings may be changed at any time to reflect their
own
   requirements and changing interests.

   A powerful Research Zone contains over 6000 important hyperlinks.
The
Zone
   supports new Internet users and focuses on sources of information
and
   tutorial support. Current affairs are a major focus and over 300
news
   feeds are directly available. Searching the web is a major
preoccupation
   often denied to people with disabilities. With JustVanilla, access
to
'the
   Open Directory' is provided with results being returned in the
user's
   preferences. The popular Google search engine and Xrefer, the
powerful
   information cross referencing product, are also provided and can
deliver
   results in the user's preferences through the 'access gateway'. Once
   located any website can be viewed in the user preferences by going
through
   the 'access gateway'

   The site also provides a comprehensive set of 'community features'
such
as
   web-based email, chat rooms, forum, classified advertisements,
tutorials,
   and technical support. All these can be delivered according to the
user's
   preferences. The designers believe that this will enable many to
   participate for the first time in a truly open and equal environment
   irrespective of their personal circumstances.

   Many people with a disability suffer considerably from reduced
freedom of
   movement. Portability has therefore featured prominently in the
designers'
   minds.  Because the JustVanilla service is web based the user's
settings
   are always available to them wherever and whenever they access and
use
the
   Internet e.g. from public libraries, Internet cafes and kiosks.

   Privacy and security also have played a significant part in the
   development of the site; i.e. cookies are not used, and may not be
served
   by third parties from our site. Access to chat and forums is
available
   only to registered users under their actual registered user name for
which
   we hold the physical address.

   The JustVanilla site has taken two years to develop. Throughout that
time
   constant assessments have been carried out against the W3C
accessibility
   guidelines and the site is 'Bobby' approved. The JustVanilla design
does
   not slavishly follow standards, many of which are sadly not matched
by
   browsers, but follows a strictly pragmatic solution. The site is
very
   accessible even to old browsers because features such as cookies,
Java,
   JavaScript, Flash, plug-ins etc, are not used.

   The site contains no banner adverts and is available on an
individual
   subscription basis. The Annual Subscription is 19.95 and there is a
once
   only 20.00 set up fee. International subscribers will pay the same
rates
   in their local currencies. In addition to revenue from
subscriptions,
   areas on the site are being offered for corporate sponsorship and a
   shopping mall is planned for people with disabilities, which will be
a
   further source of revenue.



   The address of the site is http://www.justvanilla.com and it will
open to
   the public from 1300 hrs GMT on Monday 25th June 2001.

-Ends-


************************************************************************
**
   **************
   PLEASE NOTE:
    Journalists wishing to use and review the site free of charge
should log
   on to:
   http://www.justvanilla.com/cgibin/start/tpc1/index.html

   This facility will be available for a trial period of one month for

journalists.

************************************************************************
**
   *************************
   For further information and pictures (print or mail attachment)
please
   contact:
   General press enquiries to:
   Mac Leckie, Marketing  Director.
   Tel: 01328 853 300
   or 01328 855 033
   Fax: 01328 855 865
   Email: mac@justvanilla.com

   Technical enquiries to:
   Mike Hough, Managing Director.
   Tel: 01362 683 790
   Fax: 01328 855 865
   Email: mike@justvanilla.com

   Offices:
   JustVanilla Ltd., Manor House, Toftrees, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 7DZ

   BACKGROUND AND PROFILE OF THE FOUNDERS OF JUSTVANILLA LTD.

   The challenge to develop JustVannila arose out of the founders'
research
   into ways of improving Internet performance for small businesses and
   teleworkers situated in remote and rural parts of the country. Both
   founders of JustVanilla, Mike Hough and Mac Leckie, live in rural
North
   Norfolk, an area of the country where there are scattered
communities
   dispersed over a wide area with little public transport and poor
   communications. Broadband services are unlikely to reach such areas
in
the
   UK for some time. This condemns both individuals and rural
businesses to
   higher costs and slower communications, which place them at a
disadvantage
   to those who, enjoy better services in urban locations. By being
   uncompromising over setting and delivering a goal of simplicity in
design
   over other factors, it was seen that additional markets could be
   addressed, particularly to many disadvantaged people and those who
are
   disabled around the world.

   Mike Hough, Managing Director.
   Following time at Hull, Wolverhamton and Bath Universities, where he
   gained two first degrees and a masters, all in science disciplines,
Mike
   Hough went on the become head of R&D at a major UK seed company.
Seeking
   to expand his entrepreneurial skills he founded his own
biotechnology
   company in 1978. Within a few years production was taking place on
four
   continents and sales were worldwide. Compound turnover increase
averaged
   40% and a profitability growth of 229% was achieved. Considerable
   experience of the start up, and high growth, process was gained and
   successful negotiations completed for subsequent funding from: The
   National Research and Development Corporation, the British
Technology
   Group, 3i, and various other venture capital organisations. More
recently,
   as Mike Hough Associates, he has been carrying out consultancy work
for
   client companies including the DTI and FCO.  During this time branch
   offices in Romania and Portugal were established and, of necessity,
he
   became a committed teleworker.

   Mac Leckie, Marketing Director.
   Mac Leckie has over 40 years experience in the international IT and
   telecommunications industries. During his career, he has worked in
senior
   marketing, planning and management roles at ICL, Nortel and Groupe
Bull.
   He has served on the Council of the British Computer Society (BCS),
and
   was for many years Business Papers editor of the BCS Journal. He was
a
   member of the DTI's Asia Pacific Advisory Group. Before devoting his
   efforts full time to developing JustVanilla Ltd., Mac ran his own
   management and marketing consultancy advising small businesses on IT
   applications including the implementation of e-business systems.  He
   writes regularly on e-business matters for a local magazine. He is
married
   with two daughters and has lived in North Norfolk for many years.

   THE DISABILITY MARKET
   Although the number of people impacted by inaccessible computer and
   software design is difficult to calculate precisely worldwide as
many as
   500 million people have disabilities. In the US, that number is
about 54
   million or one in five Americans. In the European Union alone, at
least
   12% of the population have disabilities and may therefore face
   difficulties using conventional equipment. Furthermore, it is
estimated
   that 45-65% of the EU's disabled population is of working ages
(15-64
   years). In the UK, there are approximately 8.3 million disabled
people
   with a spending power of 40 billion.

   "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone
   regardless of disability is an essential aspect."

   Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

   Please reply to:
   Mac Leckie,
   JustVanilla Ltd.,
   Manor House, Toftrees, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 7DZ.
   Tel: 01328 855 033  Fax:01328 855 865
   Email: mac@justvanilla.com
Received on Saturday, 23 June 2001 13:09:00 GMT

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