blind_html [Fwd: [gui-talk] Fwd: E-Access Bulletin: Issue 111, March 2009]

  • From: Nimer <nimerjaber1@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: blind_html@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2009 07:55:17 -0600

"every time I say something they find hard to hear
they chalk it up to my anger
and never to their own fear"
Ani Difranco: I'm Not A Pretty Girl 1995

Nimer M. Jaber

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-------- Original Message --------
Subject:        [gui-talk] Fwd: E-Access Bulletin: Issue 111, March 2009
Date:   Fri, 20 Mar 2009 23:56:54 +1100
From:   Steve Pattison <srp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Reply-To:       NFBnet GUI Talk Mailing List <gui-talk@xxxxxxxxxx>
To:     Access L <access-l@xxxxxxxxxxxx>, VIP L <vip-l@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>

 From:    Dan Jellinek dan@xxxxxxxxxxxx
 To:      eaccess@xxxxxxxxxxxx

Access To Technology For All, Regardless Of Ability
- ISSUE 111, March 2009.

A Headstar Publication. .

Sponsored by:
Ford Motor Company
( ).

Please forward this free bulletin to others (subscription details at the
end). We conform to the accessible Text Email Newsletter (TEN)
Standard: .

++E-Access '09: Technology For All
- Access To All Technologies By People With Disabilities
- Fifth Annual Conference And Exhibition

In an ageing population, and in tough economic times, ensuring all
your customers, service users and staff are included in everything you
do is more vital than ever, from your externally-facing websites to
internal IT systems.

E-Access Bulletin's fifth annual conference and exhibition on access to
technology by people with disabilities is taking place on 23rd April
2009 at Olympia Conference Centre in London. Our keynote speaker is
Bill Thompson, technology critic and broadcaster. Other speakers
include Graeme Whippy, Senior Manager, Lloyds TSB IT
Accessibility Group; Shadi Abou-Zahra, of the W3C Web
Accessibility Initiative, on the new international web access guidelines
WCAG 2.0; and Damon Rose, Editor of the award-winning BBC
disability website 'Ouch', on the future of accessibility.

Places cost just £195 +VAT for public sector delegates; £295 +VAT
for private sector; and £165 + VAT for small charities and non-profits
(turnover less than £150k a year). To find out more and sign up today,

[Special notice ends].

++Issue 111 Contents.

01: Row Brewing Over E-Book Speech Function Removal
- Amazon bows to complaint over authors' rights.

02: 'Signed Stories' Treasure-House For Deaf Children
- ITV to create 'world's largest' specialist online library.

03: Private sector slow to address access queries
- 'Mystery shopper' email test finds local councils fare better.

News in Brief: 04: Standard Slips - committee chair changes; 05:
Readers' Rights - first chapter downloads; 06: Free Sinhala - Sri
Lankan software speech tool.

Section Two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' Forum.
07: Second Life - learning request; 08: Web accessibility - legal
guidelines required; 09: Movie vaults - film audio wanted

Section Three: News Analysis - Signed Stories.
10: The Music Of Signs: Dan Jellinek reports on the launch of Signed
Stories, an online collection of books for use by teachers, parents and
carers of deaf children. Developed by an accessibility agency within
the broadcaster ITV, it is hoped that the library will become the largest
collection of sign language children's books in the world.

Section Four: Focus - Council Website Accessibility.
11: Deja Vu All Over Again? Socitm's eleventh annual Better
Connected report, which reviews all local authority websites in the
UK, shows that despite some positives, the accessibility of council
websites still leave much to be desired, even after last year's
disappointing results. Tristan Parker investigates.

[Contents ends].

++Section One: News.

+01: Row Brewing Over E-Book Speech Function Removal.

A row has erupted over whether or not publishers should be allowed to
disable the text-to-speech function on electronic book readers, after
one US reader manufacturer bowed to requests from an authors' rights
group and made the speech function optional.

Manufacturer Amazon made the move with respect to its new Kindle 2
e-book reader following representation from the Authors Guild, which
had claimed that the automatic allowance of text-to-speech (TTS)
conversion effectively created an audiobook device, even though no
audio royalties were being paid.

Kindle 2 is marketed in the US (there are no immediate plans for a
European release) as a 'wireless reading device', allowing users to read
downloaded books, magazines, newspapers and blogs. Until now, all
text downloaded to the device could also be read using the TTS
function, but Amazon have now allowed the feature to be disabled if a
publisher or author so wishes. Though the function is not marketed as
an accessibility feature, and the Kindle 2 requires sight to navigate it
effectively, blindness groups are pressing for the inclusion of TTS
functionality by default.

Richard Orme, Head of Accessibility at the Royal National Institute of
Blind People, told E-Access Bulletin this month: "We want
manufacturers to make sure that text-to-speech is available for all
people who have a legitimate print disability. It is essential for people
using speech readers that they can access content which hasn't been
blocked. Synthetic speech is not the equivalent to speech by a human.
We refute that strongly."

However a spokesperson for Amazon said: "We believe that most
authors will decide that leaving text-to-speech enabled on their titles is
in their commercial interests, and will choose accordingly. So Kindle 2
will still provide an innovative option for handicapped customers."

In a statement, The Authors Guild says their objection to the audio
function is solely a royalties issue, and that they support accessible
technology. "[Some people] suggest that challenging Amazon's use of
this software challenges accessibility to the visually impaired. It
doesn't: Kindle 2 isn't designed for such use. The Guild continues to
support efforts to make works truly accessible to the visually

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: .

+02: ITV Unveils 'Signed Stories' Treasure-House For Deaf Children.

What is intended to become the world's largest online library of
contemporary children's books fully accessible in sign language,
sound, animation and text has been launched by the British broadcaster
ITV, for free use by teachers, parents and carers of deaf children.

Signed Stories (
has been created by ITV SignPost, the company's non-profit
accessibility agency. Around 25 stories are already available to view in
British Sign Language by streaming video alongside the other
complementary formats, with a plan to offer 150 stories by the end of
the year, and 300 or more by the end of 2010.

According to the site's creators, every major publisher approached has
agreed to hand over rights to use their books in this way, with those
signed up to date including Macmillan, Penguin, Hachette Children's
Books and Walker Books.

Eileen Young, Manager of ITV SignPost, told E-Access Bulletin her
team now wants the site to grow and eventually to become more
interactive, with possible future features including book reviews by
children; forums for deaf kids; and the ability for teenagers to
communicate with each other by signing using webcams.

Malcolm Wright, Managing Director of ITV SignPost, said the
initiative was born from a sense of deep frustration at a widening
inequality between deaf children and hearing children in an area -
reading stories - that might seem as if it presented no barrier for the

"The attainment gap was getting wider, and I was astonished that in a
caring, first world country this could be happening," Wright said. An
important subsidiary function of the website is its ability to provide
other information to those working with deaf kids, he said. "The back
end of the site contains a lot of advice and resources for deaf parents,
parents with deaf children and teachers of deaf children."

NOTE: For a full report on Signed Stories see Section Three, this

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live:

+03: Private Sector Slow To Address Access Queries.

A 'mystery shopper' test which sent emails to a range of UK local
council and private sector websites requesting information on their
accessibility to blind users has uncovered a pattern of poor responses,
with around one in five sites not bothering to respond at all.

The exercise, carried out by the local government Society of IT
Management as part of its annual 'Better Connected' review of council
websites ( ),
found local government websites performed better than sites in other

The test featured an anonymous email claiming to be from a blind
person who was having difficulty using the website, with a request for
help in accessing services. The same message was sent to all UK
councils, plus a sample of 20 household name companies from the
finance, travel and retail sectors.

Some 52% in local government sent back a satisfactory response,
compared with just 27% of websites from other sectors. Additionally,
in 13% of cases with websites from other sectors, an email address
could not even be found, while there were no instances of this with
local government sites. However, local government did perform
marginally worse or similar to the public sector in some regards: some
20% of council sites failed to reply at all, compared with 18% from
other sectors, and 43% of the other websites contacted sent a reply
within two days, compared to 42% of council sites.

The report claims that "Generally, the differences in the quality of
replies imply a lower level of awareness of website accessibility in
other sectors," although the large difference in sample sizes between
the two sectors (around 500 compared with just 20) should be taken
into account.

Elsewhere in the Socitm report, general accessibility testing found a
picture of low compliance with international standards, and little
improvement on accessibility levels found a year previously. For a full
report see Section Four, this issue.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live:

++News in Brief:

+04: Standard Slips: The chair of a British Standards Institution
committee responsible for drafting a standard on web accessibility,
Julie Howell of web design agency Fortune Cookie, has stepped down
from the voluntary position. The new acting chair of the committee in
charge of developing BS 8878, 'Web Accessibility - Building
Accessible Experiences for Disabled People', is BBC head of audience
experience and usability Jonathan Hassell. Publication of the standard
is now expected to be delayed beyond its original planned date of
summer 2009: .

+05: Readers' Rights: From April, visually impaired readers will be
offered first chapters of bestsellers for free from Read How You Want,
an internet bookshop specialising in accessible formats. The chapters
will be available from the website of accessible technology leaders
HumanWare, who are partners in the project: . .

+06: Free Sinhala: New software to translate Sri Lankan text into
speech for visually impaired people is to be made available to all, free
of charge, by the Sri Lanka Council for the Blind. The 'Nuwana
Sinhala text to speech' tool, developed by a division of the Sri Lanka
Institute of IT, will help users to read documents and type in Sinhala,
the most widely spoken language on the island: .

[Section One ends].

++Special Notice: Fortune Cookie
- Web Sites That Really Work.

Fortune Cookie's dedicated web accessibility team makes sure that
everyone finds the web sites we design easy to use. As well as being
accessible, Fortune Cookie sites are beautiful and deliver stunning
return-on-investment. They're award-winning too. In 2007, our work
was nominated for major web design awards 11 times.

Legal&  General, Kuoni, Diabetes UK, FT Business - just some of the
big name brands on Fortune Cookie's client list.

Every business can benefit from making its web site more accessible.
If you'd like to know what accessibility can do for your business, talk
to Fortune Cookie.

Visit our web site at:

Julie Howell is our Director of Accessibility. Email Julie at:
Julie.Howell@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx .

[Special notice ends]

++Section Two: 'The Inbox'
- Readers' Forum.

Please email all contributions or responses to:
inbox@xxxxxxxxxxxx .

+07: Karen Atkinson, Manager of the RNIB Resource Centre at the
University of East London, writes looking for advice on disability,
dyslexia and virtual worlds.

She says: "I have had a query from a colleague and wonder if you
could help. Here at the University of East London we have an island on
Second Life which is intended to support students in their learning. A
colleague at UEL Connect (the new name for our school of distance
learning and e-learning) is interested in knowing who might be able to
provide advice or to give a presentation on disability and dyslexia as
relating to virtual world environments like Second Life.

"Do you know of or have any contacts that you might be able to
suggest who could do something like this?"

Suggestions please to inbox@xxxxxxxxxxxx .

+08: A reader called David, who is visually impaired and works for the
NHS, is seeking legal advice about access to the web.

He writes: "I feel that everything relating to IT is geared around
sighted people, and it is becoming more and more difficult accessing
technology, especially when it is upgraded. The [NHS] website,
electronic patient records and more recently the email website is just
simply inaccessible for visually impaired people. [They] have limited
function, and appear to have been designed without disabled people
being considered. Simple features like being able to use the scroll
facility on the mouse simply do not work.

"I am aware that there are some excellent guidelines on creating
websites, however is there any legal policy to assist me in tackling this
access problem that only seems to be getting worse?"

Responses please to inbox@xxxxxxxxxxxx .

+09: Movie Vaults: Finally, a request from a film fan. Reader Dan
from Herefordshire asks: "This is a bit of a long shot, but do you know
of any sites on the internet other than the Blind Mice Movie Vault that
offer audio-described movies in mp3 format, which is the audio of the
movie and not the picture with audio description?"

Answers to inbox@xxxxxxxxxxxx .

[Section Two ends].

++Sponsored Notice: Adept Transcription
- Alternative Formats At Affordable Prices.

When you want alternative formats for disabled colleagues, customers
and staff, call Adept.

Formats we produce include audio, audio description, Braille, BSL,
Easy Read, e-docs for websites, large print, Makaton, Moon and sub-
titles, at prices from a penny a word.

Whether handling a newsletter, training DVD, equality scheme, public
service leaflet, contract or consultation, we provide:
- One-stop shop for all formats
- Products quality-checked by users
- Corporate presentation including your house style
- Fast turnaround of one document or thousands
- Multi-format discounts
- Accessible packaging

Contact us at:
Tel: 0208 133 5418 (precede with 18001 for typetalk)
Email transcription@xxxxxxxxxxxx

[Sponsored Notice ends]

++Section Three: News Analysis
- Signed Stories.

+10: The Music Of Signs
By Dan Jellinek.

At last month's launch of Signed Stories ( ),
an online treasure-house of children's stories in British Sign Language
created by broadcaster ITV for free use by teachers, parents and carers
of deaf children, the excitement was palpable.

G. P. Taylor, author of the best-selling 'Shadowmancer' series of
children's books, said the service was "the most exciting thing to
happen in children's reading since the invention of the book."

With first-hand experience of the communication and attainment gap
faced by deaf people, as the child of deaf parents, Taylor said the site
"hit on something all kids are in love with - the internet," and would
have enormous benefits for all involved.

The creators of Signed Stories, the non-profit accessibility agency
within ITV known as SignPost, hope it will grow into the largest
online library of contemporary children's books fully accessible in sign
language, sound, animation and text.

Around 25 stories are already available, with a plan to offer 150 by the
end of the year, and 300 or more by the end of 2010.

ITV is contributing funds, staff - including signers - and technical
facilities to the project, but the broadcaster is also looking for
sponsorship for individual stories, which cost around £5,000 each to
produce. The service will remain non-profit however, and will never
carry advertising.

Book publishers have been invited to contribute the rights for use of
their books on the service free of charge, and have responded
positively. Around a dozen major publishers have already signed up
including Macmillan, Penguin, Hachette Children's Books and Walker
Books, and the service has also gained support from charities and other
organisations including the National Literacy Trust and the National
Deaf Children's Society.

Eileen Young, Manager of ITV SignPost, told E-Access Bulletin that
"All major publishers we've approached have agreed to sign over
rights, though some are still working on the paperwork."

Young said her team now wants the site to grow and eventually to
become more interactive, with possible future features including book
reviews by children; forums for deaf kids; and the ability for teenagers
to communicate with each other by signing using webcams.

Technically the service does not demand a high specification of
computer to receive the video streams, Young said: although the files
cannot be downloaded for copyright reasons, they are streamed at four
different rates and the service will automatically optimise to suit the
computer used to access it.

Although there are problems to overcome with some schools - one
SignPost technician told E-Access Bulletin that getting around the
blocking of the service by the firewalls used by some schools was a
"major challenge" - the early feedback from those schools that are
using it is that they love it, Young said.

It is easy to see why: as well as being free, the service is valuable,
imaginative, creative and fun to use. Story categories include
'fairytales and folktales', 'families and friendships' and 'slimy scary',
and within each zone a 'story tree' with different coloured interactive
branches helps guide users through books by level of reading

The service has emerged from the combination of a few strands of
work by ITV SignPost over the past few years. ITV already runs an
online news service for deaf people in BSL. And the children's stories
project was first considered as a TV format, with a series of 'sign a
story' programmes mooted for broadcast over ordinary channels.

Within the emergence of the internet, however, online seemed the
logical home for it, allowing greater flexibility, interactivity and ease
of access.

Malcolm Wright, Managing Director of ITV SignPost, said the
initiative was born from a sense of deep frustration at a widening
inequality between deaf children and hearing children in an area -
reading stories - that might seem as if it presented no barrier for the

"The attainment gap was getting wider, and I was astonished that in a
caring, first world country this could be happening," Wright told the
launch. "It was clear that the biggest problem was one of literacy in
English - deaf children just don't read stories that much. So I went out
and bought the domain, and then wondered what on
Earth I was going to do with it."

What Wright eventually did was to assemble an eclectic and stellar
supporting cast of publishers, story-tellers and celebrities - stars
backing the project range from Children's Laureate Michael Rosen to
Dame Helen Mirren, Robbie Coltrane, Zoe Wanamaker and Sir Trevor

He said the site, which had its soft launch on 15 December last year, is
"Fantastically well-watched already by thousands of kids in schools,"
and that "by the end of 2011 I hope that Signed Stories will be a
repository of the best of children's literature not just for deaf children
but for all children."

An important subsidiary function of the website is its ability to provide
other information to those working with deaf kids, Wright said. "The
back end of the site contains a lot of advice and resources for deaf
parents, parents with deaf children and teachers of deaf children."

Asif Iqbal, Founder of Deaf Parenting UK
( ),
told the launch that some 90% of deaf and hard of hearing parents have
hearing children, a situation which presents further barriers and
parenting problems.

The new service "enables deaf parents to sit with their children, a
fantastic opportunity where all family members can access the stories
without barriers," he said.

David Lloyd, chairman of Walker Books
( ),
said the possibilities of story-telling through signs were about more
than just access to words, but had their own magic, and sense of
theatre, that was compelling for hearing as well as deaf readers. "It
turns the music of words into the physical music of signs. It's a
wonderful way to tell a story," he said.

"What an extraordinary medium it is - the internet - with such power
to include us all," said Walker. "But don't forget the book itself - made
out of trees and vegetable juices of all kinds and full of surprises, and it
lasts - but then I would say that, wouldn't I - I'm a publisher."

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live:

[Section Three ends].

++Special Notice: Web Accessibility Forum.

Accessify Forum is a discussion forum devoted to all topics relating to
web accessibility. Topics cover everything from 'Beginners' and 'Site
building and testing' through to projects such as the new accessibility
testing tool WaiZilla and the accessibility of the open source forum
software itself.

All you need to register is a working email address, so come along and
join in the fun at: .

[Special notice ends].

++Section Four: Focus
- Council Website Accessibility.

+11: Déjà Vu All Over Again?
By Tristan Parker.

Readers of the eleventh annual Better Connected report on UK council
websites, published last month by the local government Society of
Information Technology Management (Socitm), might be forgiven for
feeling that time has stood still.

Last year's report found that only 37 out of 464 council websites (8%)
attained the most basic level of accessibility, Level 'A' of the World
Wide Web consortium's (W3C) web content accessibility guidelines
(WCAG 1.0) ( ).

But Better Connected 2009 shows that little, if anything, has been done
to address the problem. Almost exactly the same  number of councils
surveyed (36) achieved a Level A rating, and for the second year
running, none have achieved Level AA or Level AAA - the highest
rating possible ( ).

This paints a gloomy picture, especially considering that all public
sector websites have been advised to meet a minimum accessibility
standard of Level AA by December 2009 in 'Delivering inclusive
websites', a 2008 publication from the Central Office of Information.
In fact, the original consultation process for 'Delivering inclusive
websites' in 2007 had suggested that government sites should have
their rights to use the '' web domain withdrawn unless they met
Level AA by December 2008, a recommendation which, luckily for the
public sector, was eventually watered down.

It is not all bad news this year, however. Some encouragement can be
drawn from the implementation of a new additional qualitative
assessment system, carried out for Socitm by the Royal National
Institute for the Blind (RNIB), and designed to give an overall picture
of council website accessibility. The system used its own 0-3 rating,
with 0 representing a frequent absence of accessibility and 3
representing a site that was functionally fully accessible. Under this
system, 136 councils (33%) were rated by the RNIB as satisfactory or
excellent; a far more encouraging statistic than the 8% who achieved
WCAG Level A.

Speaking to E-Access Bulletin following the publication of this year's
report, Socitm Insight Programme Manager Martin Greenwood said
the 2009 survey did not present a negative picture of council website
accessibility but said further advances should now be made. "In terms
of a strategic improvement, councils must make a commitment to
accessibility. Specifically, they must ensure that any new software
purchased is not inaccessible. There were some bad decisions made
four or five years ago regarding software procurement."

Greenwood also said councils can take rapid and effective action by
addressing a list of five common accessibility errors identified in the
report. As with Better Connected 2008, these errors accounted for a
large proportion (76%) of failures to meet the Level A guideline, he
said. The common errors were the presence of images without
alternative text; inappropriate use of JavaScript; simple data table
errors; complex data table errors; and a lack of accessible alternatives
to website features.

Greenwood also said that there was "no chance at all" of all public
sector websites achieving a Level AA rating by December 2009, as set
out in 'Delivering inclusive websites', but said that in any case this
target may now be superceded by the introduction of the revised
WCAG 2.0 guidelines from W3C in December 2008, while work on
Better Connected was ongoing.

The introduction of WCAG 2.0 represented a significant step forward,
Greenwood said, allowing for clearer guidelines and an approach that
is "more flexible in dealing with issues such as the impact of new
technology." However, websites that failed to achieve a Level A
accessibility rating under WCAG 1.0 will be unable to use the
'outdated' status of the older system as a get-out clause. The Socitm
report states: "Most websites that conform with WCAG 1.0 should not
require significant changes in order to conform with WCAG 2.0. Just
as importantly, for those that do not conform with WCAG 1.0, the task
is not likely to be much easier under WCAG 2.0."

The RNIB was also largely positive about the report's findings,
claiming that the figures do not necessarily represent a widespread lack
of accessibility. "In fact, we noticed a significant improvement in the
real accessibility of most of the websites we assessed. Unfortunately
that doesn't always show in a strict conformance check," said Bim
Egan, Senior Web Access Consultant at the RNIB.

Egan said there were also extraneous factors which contributed to
some of the websites failing to meet the guidelines: "Third party
content has a big part to play in the use of technologies that failed the
previous guidelines [WCAG 1.0]. We had to fail 263 sites for using
JavaScript, for instance, [but] in the majority of cases this was due to
providing benefits calculators and online payment services."

Better Connected 2009 also makes a series of accessibility
recommendations for councils to improve their sites, including
securing a commitment to accessible websites; building accessibility
into procurement criteria; supporting a programme of user education;
and carrying out user testing with groups of disabled people.

Councils can also draw encouragement from the feeling that they are
not alone in the struggle to become accessible online. According to a
separate Socitm study due to be published in full in April, local
government outperforms various other sectors in terms of website
accessibility, including FTSE 100 companies, finance companies and
the travel industry.

The opportunity is now here for the public sector to take the lead as it
works towards implementing WCAG 2.0.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live:

[Section Four ends].

++End Notes.

+How to Receive the Bulletin.

To subscribe to this free monthly bulletin, email
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@xxxxxxxxxxxx .

Copyright 2009 Headstar Ltd .
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 bulletin 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:
is also cited.

Editor - Dan Jellinek.
Reporter: Tristan Parker.
Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337.

[Issue 111 ends.]

Regards Steve
Email:  srp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
MSN Messenger:  internetuser383@xxxxxxxxxxx
Skype:  steve1963

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  • » blind_html [Fwd: [gui-talk] Fwd: E-Access Bulletin: Issue 111, March 2009] - Nimer