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FW: E-Access Bulletin: January 2004

From: P.H.Lauke <P.H.Lauke@salford.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2004 11:22:12 -0000
Message-ID: <3A1D23A330416E4FADC5B6C08CC252B98A448B@misnts6.mis.salford.ac.uk>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>



-----Original Message-----
From: Dan Jellinek [mailto:dan@headstar.com]
Sent: 23 January 2004 10:43
To: eaccess@headstar.com
Subject: E-Access Bulletin: January 2004


+++E-ACCESS BULLETIN.
- ISSUE 49, JANUARY 2004.

Technology news for people with vision impairment
(http://www.headstar.com/eab).
Sponsored by RNIB (http://www.rnib.org.uk).

NOTE: 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 .


++ISSUE 49 CONTENTS.

01: Italian web law pulls down barriers
- but rules strongest for public sector sites.

02: 'Global garden' showcases accessible animation
- rare example of 'Flash' children's game allowing text access.

03: Long-awaited breakthrough for talking TV
- Freeview launches affordable audio description.

04: RNIB leads on progressive procurement policy
- draft strategy examined by major government departments.

News in brief: 05: Registration numbers - blindness statistics for 
England; 06: Views welcome - education consultation; 07: 
Maintaining momentum - European rallying cry. 08: Commission 
investigation - ombudsman lays down the law.

Section two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' forum. 
09: Font wisdom - typeface query; 10: Musical resources - scores and 
dots; 11: Welsh voice - language products; 12: Talking phones - 
handset compatibility; 13: Screen correction - magnifier usability.

Section three: Interview - Janina Sajka.
14: One-woman army targets 'add-on' access culture: Mel Poluck talks 
to the American Foundation of the Blind's prolific research director 
about how technology firms have it all backwards; and the liberating 
potential of open source software. 

Section four: Conference report - Techshare 2003.
15: Technology - help or hindrance? Adaptive products can be costly 
to buy and maintain, and that's before the costs and headaches of 
training are taken into account. Derek Parkinson reports on a lively 
debate at the recent international RNIB event.

[Contents ends].


++SECTION ONE: NEWS.

+01: ITALIAN WEB LAW 'PULLS DOWN BARRIERS'.

The Italian government has passed new legislation designed to give 
people with disabilities greater access to online services. The so-called 
'Stanca law', which forces all Italian government agencies to make 
their web sites fully accessible and will develop non-compulsory 
access standards for private sector sites, was unanimously approved by 
the country's Parliament in December. 
 
According to a statement by Lucio Stanca, the Italian Minister for 
Innovation and Technologies, the new requirements will "help to pull 
down digital barriers and create opportunities for more than three 
million Italian disabled people to study, work and actively participate 
in society." He said that lack of ICT access for Italy's disabled people 
caused social marginalisation and democratic and economic 
disadvantage. 
 
In 1999, an Italian government circular was sent out encouraging local 
and central government agencies to ensure their web services were 
accessible. But the new law has gone much further by introducing 
disciplinary sanctions for public sector managers who don't comply. 
The law also provides for the cancellation of web site contracts if they 
fail to meet the Stanca requirements, in an echo of the US government 
web accessibility law known as 'section 508.' 
 
Citizens groups have welcomed the law, while expressing regret that 
its provisions are non-mandatory for private firms. "The law represents 
a real turning point," said a spokeswoman for the Citizens Defence 
Movement (Movimento Difesa del Citadino  - http://www.mdc.it). 
"However, it should be followed up with economic incentives for 
private web sites to be made fully accessible." 
 
The Italian government now plans to draft regulations defining the new 
accessibility criteria by March 2004 in co-operation with disability 
organisations and technology suppliers.


+02: 'GLOBAL GARDEN' SHOWCASES ACCESSIBLE 
ANIMATION.

A ground-breaking children's web site which has been created using 
accessible 'Flash' web animation could set a new trend for accessible 
games and cartoons, according to the RNIB (http://www.rnib.org.uk).

'Our Global Garden' is a collaboration between Eureka! 
(http://www.eureka.org.uk), a children's museum in Halifax, and 
'showme' (http://www.show.me.uk), the children's section of the 
government's online cultural resource the 24-Hour Museum 
(http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk). The site mirrors a current 
exhibition at Eureka! By allowing children aged between four and 
seven to explore and compare six different global environments. 

The game was built using a combination of HTML and accessible web 
animation software Flash MX 2004, developed by Macromedia 
(http://www.macromedia.com). The software allows access to 
descriptive text within an animation file which can be interpreted by 
assistive devices such as screen readers. 

"This is an exciting development," says Julie Howell, digital policy 
development officer at the RNIB. "Over the past few years, 
Macromedia has modified its software tools to make them more 
accessible [see for example E-Access Bulletin, issue 10, October 
2000]. However, best practice examples of using accessible flash to 
create web sites are few and far between."

Howell hopes that projects such as this will help galvanise the web 
design community to experiment with the technology. "It is easy for 
web designers to think that accessibility means creating uninspiring, 
text-only sites. However, this project proves that this isn't the case. We 
need web designers to start experimenting with accessible Flash, 
sharing their learning experiences and creating best practice examples 
of accessible, interactive web development."


+03: LONG-AWAITED BREAKTHROUGH FOR TALKING TV.

Accessible digital TV in the UK took a leap forward this month with 
the release of an affordable set-top box that provides audio description 
for Freeview, the popular free-to-air digital service used by terrestrial 
broadcasters ITV and the BBC.

Audio description is the verbal description of scenes that occur 
between periods of dialogue, which can be carried as a separate sound-
track on digital television or in specially adapted cinemas. Until now, it 
has only been commercially available through the Sky digital satellite 
service. It is not supported at all by cable TV and was only previously 
available on Freeview to just 45 households as part of a pilot project.

The Netgem i-Player product costs 125 pounds and provides access to 
all audio described programmes available on six BBC channels; ITV1 
and ITV2; Channel 4; and Channel 5. "At last! This is very good news 
and something for which we've been campaigning for a long time," 
said Jill Whitehead, broadcasting and talking images officer at the 
RNIB.

The Freeview service offers users more choice because it enables users 
to adjust the volume of the audio description track independently of the 
programme's main soundtrack, unlike the Sky system. The Netgem 
box also speaks the name of each channel automatically, and will soon 
be available with a headphone adaptor so users have the option of 
listening to audio description in privacy. In addition, the box provides a 
link to the RNIB website so that users can check programme times.

At present, the Netgem i-Player is not available in shops and must be 
ordered from the manufacturer by calling the freephone number 0800 
015 3092.


+04: RNIB LEADS ON PROGRESSIVE PROCUREMENT POLICY. 

The RNIB has drafted a policy setting out standards for organisations 
and companies to procure IT systems fully accessible to employees 
with vision impairments, and has adapted the policy for its own 
procurement practice, the institute announced this month. 

The policy says accessibility must be taken into account when 
procuring corporate IT systems and emphasises the business benefit to 
the supplier. "The RNIB want to people to use best practise when 
procuring IT so employees with a disability can use it," RNIB's senior 
ICT development officer Ruth Loebl told E-Access Bulletin.

Under the policy, the RNIB is using International Standard 
Organisation ISO standard 16071 (http://fastlink.headstar.com/iso1) to 
test a corporate IT system about to be rolled out to users within the 
RNIB to check its accessibility, such as the ability to perform tasks 
from the keyboard. A report will then be made of problems 
encountered before negotiating with the supplier to ensure they act on 
the problems, Loebl says. 

In an effort to encourage other large organisations to develop similar 
policies, the RNIB and several other disability organisations including 
AbilityNet, RNID and Scope met before Christmas with 
representatives of a number of government departments, including the 
Department of Work and Pensions and the Department of Trade and 
Industry.

Following this meeting, an online discussion group "IT-include" 
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IT-include/) was established to discuss 
setting up a framework for accessible IT procurement in all sectors and 
recommending testing and evaluation methods. Further talks have 
taken place this week with the government procurement agency the 
Office of Government Commerce.

Up until now, no standards have been in place for ensuring the 
accessibility of corporate IT systems, although according to Loebl, if a 
system needs adapting to suit a disabled employee, the Employment 
Service's 'Access to work' scheme pays for the work. However, an 
accessible IT procurement policy is important because, unlike with a 
web site, improving inaccessible hardware after it is purchased is often 
difficult and expensive.


++NEWS IN BRIEF:

+05: REGISTRATION NUMBERS: There are 157,000 blind and 
partially sighted people registered with English local councils, 
according to the latest figures from the Department of Health. The 
figures represent an increase of four per cent since last year, and 100 
per cent over the past 20 years: 
http://www.doh.gov.uk/public/blindpartiallysighted03.pdf .

+06: VIEWS WELCOME: A draft equality and diversity strategy for 
2004-07 that aims to challenge discrimination in education and 
learning has been published for consultation by the Learning and Skills 
Council. Interested parties have until 30 March to comment: 
http://fastlink.headstar.com/lsc1 .

+07: MAINTAINING MOMENTUM: The European Parliament 
member and disability campaigner Liz Lynn has said too many EU 
countries have not yet complied with legislation protecting people with 
disabilities against discrimination in the workplace. She has urged the 
Irish government, which currently holds the European presidency, to 
exert pressure on laggard nations in an effort to maintain the ideals of 
the 2003 European Year of People with Disabilities:
http://www.lizlynne.org.uk/story.php?id=175 .

+08: COMMISSION INVESTIGATION: The European ombudsman 
P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, who has independent powers to 
investigate alleged maladministration by European institutions, has 
launched an investigation into the European Commission's compliance 
with European disability law. The Commission must now respond by 
29 February with details of actions it has taken or proposes to take:
http://www.euro-ombudsman.eu.int/disabilities/en .

[Section one ends].


++SPECIAL NOTICE: USABILITY TESTERS WANTED

Headstar, the publishers of E-Access Bulletin, is seeking 
computer users who use special access or adaptive technologies 
such as screen readers, for paid web site testing work.

The occasional work would involve visiting web sites and filling 
in a simple questionnaire about your experiences (we can provide 
questionnaires in any preferred digital or other format).

If you might be interested in this kind of work, please email 
usability@headstar.com with details of the access technology or 
technologies that you use to browse the web, and we will contact 
you with further information.

[Special notice ends].


++SECTION TWO: 'THE INBOX'
- READERS' FORUM.

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

+09: FONT WISDOM: John Conway, Disability Officer at the Royal 
Agricultural College, has a query about the best fonts to use for 
readable text. "I understood that for visually impaired people one 
should use a sans serif font - I'm about to try and introduce that 
standard here, and I've got my computer set to Arial as default font, but 
your accessible text email newsletter (TEN) standard document 
(http://www.headstar.com/ten) opened in Times New Roman." Do any 
of our readers have any comments on this topic? [Responses please to 
inbox@headstar.com].

 
+10: MUSICAL RESOURCES: Last issue Scott Rae of the Highland 
Society for Blind wrote in to ask about technology that would help 
young people with impaired vision read sheet music.

Our tireless correspondent Chris McMillan has three further 
suggestions for useful resources. The first is the Netherlands-based 
Talking Music project, which runs the excellent Accessible Music 
Newsletter:
http://projects.fnb.nl/Talking%20Music/ . 

The second is the Visually Impaired Musicians Association (VIMA), 
an organisation of blind and partially sighted musicians and music 
lovers - in the UK telephone 0208 3666019 or see: 
http://fastlink.headstar.com/vima1 .
 
And the third is Share Music, an organisation which arranges 
residential and non-residential courses in music, theatre and dance for 
people with physical disabilities or sensory impairments aged 16 or 
over:
http://www.sharemusic.org.uk .

Bill McCann, Founder and President of Dancing Dots Braille Music 
Technology, further responded: "Of course, Louis Braille himself 
invented his code for music as well as literary and mathematics 
Braille (try getting all of that done by the time you're 20 years old!).  

"In 1997 Dancing Dots published the world's first Braille music 
translator software, GOODFEEL, which has numerous transcription 
options including a set of UK formatting options that apply UK 
variations to the Braille output. We publish a few courses on Braille 
music reading and our UK distributor, Techno-Vision Systems, is to 
release a new Braille music course for UK readers.  
 
"Our Sibelius Speaking product gives the JAWS user premium access 
to the 
Sibelius music notation software, allowing a blind person to navigate 
through the score and hear musical and verbal descriptions of score 
elements or create a new score. Students might also be interested to 
create their own sound recordings 
with our access solution for Cakewalk SONAR which we call 
CakeTalking.

"For further information on all these products see 
http://www.dancingdots.com and to contact Techno-Vision email 
info@techno-vision.co.uk ."

Another reader, Chris Towers, adds: "Have you tried using the 
software Cubase from Steinberg (http://www.steinberg.net/en/start)? I 
used it when doing my degree and it was excellent. I am partially-
sighted and it enabled me to enlarge music, and read off screen or print 
it out."


+11: WELSH VOICE: Rebecca Redmile, a daily living skills instructor 
and community access facilitator at the non-profit organisation 
BALANCE in Toronto (http://www.balancetoronto.org), has a question 
following from our article last month on new synthetic speech 
technology allowing access to magazines and newspapers (see 
'Revolutionary speech technology to launch', story 01, E-Access 
Bulletin issue 48, December 2003).

She writes: "I certainly applaud the British reading services. North 
America is a little behind in this area. [However] I have a very specific 
question which you may be able to answer.

"I have been looking for software, or an external screen reader which 
will read Welsh properly. Would you know who might be able to 
recommend some?" [Responses to inbox@headstar.com].


+12: TALKING PHONES: Clare Page writes in to ask for more 
information on talking mobile phones: "Within the past few months I 
have noticed that the new Talx software, which brings speech output to 
mobile phones, has been mentioned in the bulletin more than once. I 
live in France, and have bought a mobile phone here, but of course 
with modern mobile phones there are some features visually impaired 
people like me cannot use without some adaptation. So I was 
wondering - is Talx compatible with all mobile phones, or only with 
certain models? And if it can be used with any phone, might it be 
possible to obtain it outside the UK?

"I have only recently bought a new mobile phone, a Sagem 
(http://www.sagem.com/en) with a lot of modern features but without 
some means of adding speech to the phone I cannot use them all. In 
France I have only heard of one program that seems to be similar to 
Talx, called Mobile Accessibility, but it is only compatible with certain 
Siemens and Nokia phones." Please send advice or information to 
inbox@headstar.com .


+13: SCREEN CORRECTION: In our last issue we reported that Chris 
McMillan had used ZoomText with the TFT iiyama AS 4611 UT 18-
inch flat computer screen without encountering problems; in fact we 
should have said it was Lunar, not ZoomText, that she has used 
without difficulty with this screen. She has not tried using ZoomText 
with it.


[Section two ends].


++ SECTION THREE: INTERVIEW
- JANINA SAJKA.

+14: ONE-WOMAN ARMY TARGETS 'ADD-ON' ACCESS 
CULTURE.
by Mel Poluck mel@headstar.com .

Janina Sajka, director of research and development at the American 
Foundation of the Blind, is dismayed by the culture of "add-on" 
accessibility which prevails among technology companies that develop 
products that later have to be adapted for vision-impaired users.
 
"I firmly believe they have it backwards. By working with people with 
disabilities at the outset, they would end up making better products for 
themselves", she says. "I am increasingly concerned about how much 
further there is to go, how much accessibility is still ghettoised, how 
much it is not integrated into the mainstream flow of how services are 
supplied."

Sajka's work involves providing consultative support to and 
developing accessible technology standards for industry and 
governments worldwide, in the fields of emerging information systems 
and access technologies.  
 
One of the projects she is currently undertaking, is the development of 
a strategy for vision-impaired people in the US to be able to access 
medical information from mobile phones using technology from the 
DAISY talking books consortium (http://www.daisy.org), for whom 
Sajka also works.

The new medical information service would provide content similar to 
free pamphlets available in doctors' surgeries, such as how to obtain 
medicines or how to get more information, and uses existing 
technology - something Sajka feels passionately about. The concept 
has been proven she says, and all that remains is for her team to meet 
with the relevant government department to discuss implementation.

According to Sajka, there are some serious usability issues inherent in 
audio cassette recordings, the current method for vision-impaired 
patients to access this kind of information. With DAISY style 
recordings however, users can go directly to the relevant place without 
having to use the rewind and fast-forward buttons or listen to the lists 
and "shrieking beeps" that denote sections of an audio cassette, often 
requiring the user to remember multiple options. "Why have lists at 
all?" Sajka says. "Why not do it on a cellphone? It's snappy. It's a way 
to get the information you need now, comfortably and effectively". 
 
Sajka has fingers in many other pies. As well as advising the US 
government on accessibility law and helping it to develop a digital 
talking book standard (http://www.loc.gov/nls/z3986/), she also works 
for the world wide web consortium's web accessibility initiative (WAI 
- http://www.w3.org/WAI/).

And as if these projects were not enough, Sajka says for the next few 
years, she will be focusing her energy on chairing the Free Standards 
Group (FSG - http://www.freestandards.org) access work group, which 
aims to help develop accessibility standards for open source software. 
The group is set to be launched at the LinuxWorld conference on 27 
January in New York (http://www.linuxworldexpo.com/linuxworldny).

The potential of the open source movement to make the internet a more 
accessible place is one of Sajka's real passions. In a past interview with 
E-Access Bulletin (see issue 24, December 2001), Sajka said that 
thanks to the open source movement people with disabilities now 
"don't need advocates, we need engineers."

She still feels the same way: "With traditional proprietary systems, if 
the computer isn't working, you ask who manufactured it, call them 
and then sort out the problem," she says. "But open source invites the 
community in. Everything you need to change it is already there - you 
can scratch your own itch. And if someone wants to submit a standard 
or a patch and it works, it is likely that will be included in a future 
version of a piece of software."

Overall however, it is not access to computers which concerns her in 
trying to improve the daily lives of people with impaired vision but 
more basic, established technologies such as thermostats or security 
systems. "I'm not too worried about computers, but common devices 
are just not accessible." 
 
Typically, Sajka has a solution brewing. In the pipeline as part of her 
work with the International Committee for Information Technology 
Standards is the 'V2 Spec' (http://www.v2access.org). This is the 
specification for a universal device to be carried by disabled people to 
discover what other devices are in an area.

The 'Universal remote console', will detect and "negotiate" with a 
wide range of objects in the user's vicinity to return information about 
what is nearby, from TV and radio to lifts, roads or coffee pots. In 
future, the device may even be able to determine distance of other 
devices away from its user. To succeed, Sajka says, it will need to be 
attractive to mainstream industry. A specification is due to be released 
for public consultation in around a month.

Overall, Sajka says that what is needed to build a better technological 
environment for people with disabilities is simple: "A smarter way to 
use things we share with everybody else. We've made wheelchair 
ramps - we can do the same in e-space".

[Section three ends].


++SECTION FOUR: CONFERENCE REPORT
- TECHSHARE 2003.

+15: TECHNOLOGY - HELP OR HINDRANCE?
by Derek Parkinson

Most of us have pinned great hopes on technology at some time or 
another. It's easy to dream of gadgets that will dispatch boring tasks 
with the ruthless efficiency of The Terminator and be as user-friendly 
as a well-worn pair of shoes. Happily, sometimes things do turn out 
this way, but all too often the reality disappoints.

The topic of whether technology has helped or hindered people with 
impaired vision was therefore an excellent subject for the RNIB's 
November Techshare conference (http://www.rnib.org.uk/techshare) to 
have chosen for an open debate. According to keynote speaker Brian 
Charlson of the American Council of the Blind (ACB - 
http://www.acb.org), adaptive technology is often designed and built in 
a way that ignores the practical demands of everyday life. 

The effect of this is that adaptive technology often makes unreasonable 
demands of the user. "We're just regular schmoes like everyone else, 
but we have no choice but to master all this technology," he said. "It's 
well-known that many telephone operators were blind people, because 
this was one of the few jobs open to them. But what these people had 
to do was actually very difficult, operating a Braille output with one 
hand, a Braille input with the other, while listening to audio over the 
headphones at the same time," he said. 

It is difficult enough for many people to meet the cost of adaptive 
products, upgrades and maintenance, Charlson said, yet they also have 
to meet the cost and demands of training, not to mention finding decent 
training in the first place. "The cognitive load of adaptive technology is 
unreasonable," he said. 

The thought that technology only benefits a minority of people 
resurfaced during a lively debate chaired by Newsnight presenter 
Jeremy Paxman. "Many of us agree that we have benefited from 
technology, but who is this 'we'? This room is full of well-educated 
caucasian people," said Janina Sajka, Director of Technology Research 
and Development at the American Foundation for the Blind (see also 
section three, this issue for an interview with Sajka). 

According to Peter White, presenter of the BBC Radio 4 blindness 
issue programme 'In Touch', we often forget that technology is a means 
to an end. "People don't want technology, they want answers to 
problems," he said. White also argued that the momentum behind the 
implementation of new technology often has more to do with saving 
money than the needs of users. "It has been used to get rid of costs, in 
other words face-to-face contact between people," he said.

Charlson said that training for adaptive technology must be more 
affordable, useable and available, not only at the time of its original 
purchase but over the entire time it is in use. In his view, we have been 
slow to encourage development of alternatives to the face-to-face 
training model. "We have to ask whether online learning is part of the 
answer," he said. This is not to say that face-to-face training should be 
scrapped, rather that teaching resources could be targeted more wisely.

Training materials would also reach more end users if they were 
distributed to a broader cross-section of teachers, he said. "We need 
more training materials for teachers who aren't assistive technology 
specialists."

The theme of partnership featured strongly in a keynote presentation 
from Rob Lees, technology executive for Vodafone Global Products 
and Services. Lees was keen to highlight the mutual benefits to 
Vodafone and the RNIB of partnering to share expertise, and to 
illustrate how the organisations could pursue common aims in practice. 
He was quick to acknowledge that market share and profits are the 
main drivers for the mobile phone giant, but suggested that the 
community of people with impaired vision has much to gain too.

According to Lees this comes about because of the way markets tend 
to get split up by  retailers. For Vodafone, all people aged over 45 are 
lumped together as "mature users", a segment that remains under-
exploited yet tends to have a high disposable income. In addition, a 
high proportion of this age group have some kind of vision 
impairment. "So there is a strong demand for voice-enabled services, 
the sort of phone that can be customised to individual needs," said 
Lees. Consequently, Vodafone has consulted the RNIB for evaluation 
and feedback on such services, and is keen to use its power in the 
marketplace to ensure that handsets support them. "With 125 million 
customers we can put pressure on handset manufacturers," he said.

Such practical suggestions were typical of the Techshare meeting, 
which seems to gain strength each year and has already become far 
more than a showcase for new products and a rallying point for 
campaigners.

 [Section four ends].


++END NOTES.

+HOW TO RECEIVE THIS BULLETIN.

To subscribe to this free monthly bulletin, email
eab-subs@headstar.com with 'subscribe eab' in the subject header. 
You can list other email addresses to subscribe in the body of the 
message. Please encourage all your colleagues to sign up! To 
unsubscribe at any time, put 'unsubscribe eab' in the subject header.

Please send comments on coverage or leads to Dan Jellinek at:
dan@headstar.com .

Copyright 2004 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 report 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.

+PERSONNEL:
Editor - Dan Jellinek
Deputy editor - Derek Parkinson
Senior reporter - Mel Poluck
News reporter - Julie Hill
Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends.]
Received on Friday, 23 January 2004 06:25:56 UTC

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