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From: <Julie.Howell@rnib.org.uk>
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 17:21:42 +0100
Message-ID: <E990ED521862D411B36200508BAE7B29010DFC3E@londonlocal.rnib.org.uk>
To: w3c-wai-eo@w3.org
Hi everyone
This press release is doing the rounds in the UK.  RNIB has not been
involved in this and does not endorse it in any way. Would be interested in
your thoughts on the product.  It's a very long message - I haven't read it
all and you may not wish to either. Instead just skip to the site at
Kind regards
Julie Howell
Campaigns Officer (Internet)
Royal National Institute for the Blind
224 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5AA, UK
Tel. +44 (0)20 7391 2191
Fax. +44 (0)20 7391 2104

2 million people in the UK experience sight loss or blindness.
Poor design prevents many disabled people from getting the most from the
Support RNIB's campaign for better Web design!

Ask me for our campaign video: 'Web sites that work'
Ask me for our campaign report: 'Get the message online'
Join the campaign mailing list:   

From: Mac Leckie [mailto:mac@justvanilla.com]
Sent: 27 June 2001 13:20
To: RNIB Education & Employment Information Service
Subject: New Service for Blind\Visually Impaired\Dyslexic\Deaf Blind

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simply by outdated, or in many cases not having access to a computer.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 

 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 

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.


 Journalists wishing to use and review the site free of charge should log 
on to:

This facility will be available for a trial period of one month for 
For further information and pictures (print or mail attachment) please 
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
JustVanilla Ltd., Manor House, Toftrees, Fakenham, Norfolk, NR21 7DZ


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.

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
Received on Wednesday, 27 June 2001 12:21:40 UTC

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