+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 98, February 2008.

Access To Technology For All, Regardless Of Ability

A Headstar Publication. http://www.headstar.com/eab/ .

Sponsored by: Ford Motor Company ( http://www.ford.co.uk ).

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 98 Contents.

  1. 01: Work Begins on British Standard for Accessible Websites - Exclusive: technical committee formed to develop guidance.
  2. 02: Public Bodies 'Face Assistive Technology Legal Action' - Analyst warns organisations can no longer afford not to act.
  3. 03: Kurzweil Unveils Smallest Text Scanner and Converter - mobile phone camera and software allows portable text recognition.
  4. News in Brief:
  5. 04: Audio Awareness - TV description campaign;
  6. 05: Better Accessed - council websites supplement; 06:
  7. 06: Checker List - free online accessibility tester tools.
  8. Section Two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' Forum.
  9. 07: Flash Encouragement - Adobe urged to educate developers; 08: Poor Show - employers criticised over pdf implementation; 09: Leopard Displays - Apple and Braille.
  10. Section Three: News Analysis - Web Accessibility Standards.
  11. 08: Raising the Standard: The British Standards Institution is to move towards development of a full British Standard for the development of accessible websites, E-Access Bulletin has learned. Dan Jellinek interviews Julie Howell, the driving force behind the project.
  12. Section Four: Conference Report - Dyslexia and the Civil Service.
  13. 09: Premonitions of Judgment Day: Dyslexia is a problem for many people, and employers must act to ensure their staff have the assistive technology they need. If they do not they could fall foul of the courts sooner rather than later, since the evidence of what helps is now widespread and the solutions are low-cost, the conference heard.

[Contents ends].

++Special Notice: E-Access '08- The Accessibility Event of the Year - 23 April, Central London http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess08/

Contents.

E-Access Bulletin's fourth annual conference and exhibition on access to technology by people with disabilities is on 23 April, sponsored by Fortune Cookie and supported by E-Access Bulletin, RNIB and Ability Magazine.

A fantastic line-up will look at issues surrounding access to the web; e- learning and education; digital TV switchover; accessible books; and employment issues. This is the place for all organisations in all sectors to find out how to comply with the law and how to make the best use of the talents of all your staff, students and service users.

Delegate rates are just 195 for public sector, 295 for private sector and 165 for small charities and non-profits (turnover under 150k). Book today to guarantee your place, at: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess08/

And for information about sponsoring or exhibiting please email Will Knox on: will.knox@headstar.com or call him on 01273 267974.

[Special Notice ends].

++Section One: News.

Contents.

+01: Work Begins On British Standard For Accessible Websites.

Work has begun on the development of a full British Standard for developing accessible websites, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The move follows the publication by the British Standards Institution (BSi) in March 2006 of initial guidance known as a 'PAS' or 'Publicly Available Specification'. This was 'PAS 78: a guide to good practice in commissioning accessible websites'.

A new technical committee IST/45 is now being assembled to oversee the development of a full standard, of which the chair elect is PAS78 lead author Julie Howell, former RNIB digital access campaigner and currently head of accessibility at the digital agency Fortune Cookie. Other members of the committee are likely to be drawn from organisations represented on the PAS78 steering group such as the British Computer Society; Cabinet Office; and the former Disability Rights Commission (DRC), now part of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

When finished, the British Standard will be available for purchase from the BSi at a price comparable with other standards, usually between 30 and 100. PAS78 was made available for free download by DRC, which sponsored its development and bought a distribution licence, though this type of arrangement is not possible for full standards. The PAS has been downloaded more than 54,000 times to date.

The new standard will relate to procurement or development of accessible websites. It will not set out the technical requirements of accessibility, but will outline a process developers can follow to ensure they are taking all the right actions to make their websites and services as inclusive as possible. In an exclusive interview with E-Access Bulletin published in this issue, Julie Howell says BSi would like the standard to be based on PAS78 but she is also keen to widen it to embrace some of the new types of web service such as social networking. Other issues to be revisited from the PAS include the need for user testing of websites by disabled people; and the need for organisations to produce an accessibility policy.

The standard is likely to be published in the first quarter of 2009, Howell says, and the committee IST/45 could eventually produce other work such as leaflets and training materials, some of which might be made available without charge.

NOTE: For the full interview with Julie Howell see Section Three, this issue.

+02: Public Bodies 'Face Assistive Technology Legal Action'.

An increasing amount of research showing that large numbers of staff with dyslexia and other disabilities can benefit from assistive technology mean that public sector bodies face the likelihood of legal action this year or next under the Disability Discrimination Act, a leading analyst said this month.

David Evans, Education development manager at computer access firm Microlink PC (http://www.microlinkpc.co.uk/ ), told the Dyslexia and the Civil Service conference in London that research carried out by his company in schools had found that some 28% of pupils could benefit from assistive software.

A large amount of similar research, coupled with ever-falling costs of assistive technologies such as screen filters, text to speech and voice recognition tools, mean it is only a matter of time before public sector employers are forced to implement assistive technology through legal action, Evans said.

Under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act public sector employers must make "reasonable" adjustments to facilities to allow access by all staff, he said. "So what information is available to employers at the moment? We know at least 10% of the workforce is dyslexic. We know there is a truckload of technology out there that can help, for probably less than 1% of the employment costs of the individual. So the information is there, it is public knowledge, the resources are there and they know people will benefit.

"So the judge will say - yes, that was reasonable, why wasn't it done? There are going to be some landmark cases, this year or next year."

NOTE: For a full conference report see Section Four, this issue.

+03: Kurzweil Unveils Smallest Text Scanner And Converter.

The smallest ever portable device allowing users to scan printed text and convert it to speech has been unveiled by KNFB Reading Technology. The KNFB Reader uses software installed on a Nokia N82 multi-function mobile phone handset weighing only 114 grams (http://www.knfbreader.com/ ).

The device allows users to take pictures of printed materials using the phone's integrated camera while the KNFB software, which includes intelligent imaging and character recognition, allows the text to be resized, tracked and highlighted on-screen or converted into synthetic speech. In addition the screen reader software can help a visually impaired user to access more of the phone's features which include a calendar, internet access, music player, voice recorder, GPS navigation and PDF viewer.

KNFB is a partnership of the National Federation of the Blind in the US and Kurzweil Technologies, the company set up by celebrated inventor and futurologist Raymond Kurzweil, pioneer of Optical Character Recognition and text-to-speech technology in the 1970s.

The software is available in the UK for 1,080 pounds, with a package including software, a Nokia handset and half a day of training available for 1,725 pounds.

In May Kurzweil will be further enhancing his reputation as a man of the future when he appears as an interactive hologram to be the keynote speaker at a charity dinner. The Children's Vision Awards Dinner is organised by the Association for Retinopathy of Prematurity and Related Diseases (http://www.ropard.org/ ) and Kurzweil's hologram will use 'digital teleportation' technology developed by Teleportec (http://www.teleportec.com/ ).

++News in Brief:

Contents.

+04: Audio Awareness:

A publicity campaign to raise awareness of audio description services for television programmes is being launched this month by RNIB. The ads will highlight the benefits that audio description can provide to visually impaired people and the increasing availability of the services on digital TV. In addition a new symbol has been created for broadcasters and retailers which will make audio description services easier to identify. The series of adverts will run for six weeks, reaching 80% of the UK population: http://www.audiodescription.org.uk/ .

+05: Better Accessed:

A new supplement on accessibility will be published alongside March's annual 'Better Connected' report on the state of UK council websites, from the local government Society of IT Management. The report - now in its tenth year -has always covered accessibility but growing awareness of the complexity of these issues has prompted the decision to publish an in-depth supplement: http://www.socitm.gov.uk .

+06: Checker List:

A list of 25 free online website accessibility checkers has been posted online at the blog Virtualhosting.com: http://fastlink.headstar.com/vh1 .

[Section One ends].

++Sponsored Notice: The Age Agenda Conference 2008- The complete picture on public policy and older people - Tuesday 26 February 2008, London, W1

Contents.

Age Concern England's annual conference provides an overview of the policies affecting older people today. Chaired by Angela Rippon, the conference features an impressive line up of speakers including three government ministers: Ivan Lewis MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Care Services; Mike O'Brien MP, Minister of State for Pensions Reform and Baroness Andrews, Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State.

Other plenary speakers include David Willets MP, Baroness Sally Greengross, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Katie Ghose, British Institute of Human Rights and Andrew Haldenby, Reform.

For a full programme and booking details please visit: www.ageconcern.org.uk/ageagendaconference .

[Sponsored notice ends].

++Sponsored notice: Access by Design Journal- National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) Spring Conference.

Contents.

The National Register of Access Consultants (NRAC) is holding its Spring Conference on 12 March 2008 at the Lowry, Manchester. Topics under discussion include:

- How to get listed building consent; - Changing Places; - Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order and meeting the needs of disabled people; - The difficulties in establishing the law relating to disability discrimination; - Design of Home Zones as researched by DPTAC; - An update from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (tbc).

For a full conference overview, and to book a place, visit the NRAC website at: http://www.nrac.org.uk .

[Sponsored notice ends].

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

Contents.

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

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

Contents.

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

+07: Flash Encouragement:

Julie Howell, Director of Accessibility at Fortune Cookie (and interviewee elsewhere in this issue of E-Access Bulletin for her work on a British Standard for developing accessible websites), writes in with feedback on last month's articles on the accessibility of Adobe Flash web multimedia technology. She says: "Your report on accessible Flash was extremely encouraging. Many of us remember the days when a Flash site was an inaccessible site.

"But how many Flash developers are aware that they can make the Flash they code more accessible? For its efforts to produce real success, Adobe must invest energy in educating web developers in how to create accessible Flash.

"I also hope that Adobe will do more outreach with blind and partially sighted web users, many of whom remember the dark days of Flash only too well and who will need a bit of encouragement (training and persuasion!) to give it another go. I've lost count of the number of times I've heard blind web users say 'That site's not accessible to me because it's in Flash,' without actually trying to access it.

"The stigma that still surrounds Flash must be challenged. I hope Adobe will extend its outreach activities beyond Techshare, so blind and partially sighted people will understand that a Flash site can be an accessible site.

"Adobe's accessibility heroes (Andrew Kirkpatrick and Greg Pisocky) are based in the USA. Perhaps Adobe should consider recruiting an outreach person for the UK and Europe. Even a short burst of effort would help to bring all those who live in 'Flash accessibility limbo' up to speed.

"The hard work of making Flash accessible has been done. The task before Adobe now is in encouraging blind and partially sighted people to use it: a win for Adobe, a win for Flash developers, a win for any company that has a Flash web site and a win for blind and partially sighted web users."

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com].

+08: Poor Show:

Also on the topic of Flash, Jude DaShiell, a computer programmer in the US civil service from Lexington Park, Maryland, had an indignant reaction: "No! At least not the way it gets implemented by whoever prepares mandatory training using it for my employer. So far there's one persistent problem. Buttons you have to click on keep getting put on slides. Screen readers see these slides as single graphic objects so it takes sighted assistance to do the clicking whenever this happens.

"My employer is now using alternative media solutions for presentations for screen reader users the problem is so bad. What they're using are pdf files but at least you can get the text extracted out of that trash then delete those files. My employer continues guzzling that Adobe Kool-Aid though and until that stops and the employer figures out how to prise its data out of the forms it used it's going to continue losing the taxpayer's money. But after all who cares so long as it's the taxpayer's money not management's salaries that get lost?"

[Editor's note: for non-US readers, Jude's reference to 'guzzling that Kool-Aid' adapts the American expression, 'drinking the Kool-Aid', meaning to blindly following a belief.]

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com].

+09: Leopard Displays:

Our tireless correspondent, Jude DaShiell, has also written in this month to continue our discussion about support for refreshable Braille displays by the new Apple operating system 'Leopard'.

Jude provides a link to a list of supported displays, from Apple's own website: http://fastlink.headstar.com/apple1 .

And Jude also forwarded a relevant notice from earlier this month:

"Today, Apple released the Braille Display Update 1.0 for VoiceOver in Leopard. VoiceOver, part of the Universal Access family of accessibility tech, allows blind or visually impaired users to hear what's on the screen. Via the new update, when you connect a compatible Braille display, "VoiceOver automatically detects it and sends it information about what is displayed on the screen."

"This update adds new support for certain Braille displays, including the HandyTech Braille Star 8, GW Micro BrailleSense, and more. This update is available for users of Mac OS X Leopard by using Software Update (Apple menu > Software Update) or by downloading the installer package from the Apple support downloads site. If you're currently using a Braille screenreader under Leopard - or you were waiting for support for your screenreader via this update - drop us a comment to let us know if the update makes a difference for you."

The download is available at: http://fastlink.headstar.com/apple2 .

[Further comments please to inbox@headstar.com].

[Inbox ends].

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

Contents.

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: http://www.fortunecookie.co.uk

Julie Howell is our Director of Accessibility. Email Julie at: Julie.Howell@fortunecookie.co.uk .

[Sponsored Notice ends].

++Sponsored Notice:- The British Computer Association of the Blind.

Contents.

The British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB) is a committed organisation that focuses on computer related issues for visually impaired people of all skill levels and interests. Our membership ranges from computer professionals working in the field, to people taking their first steps in computing.

We offer training, discussion, help and support on a variety of computer related topics. With four different membership packages to choose from and a growing choice of member benefits, there's something to suit everyone. Visit our website for more information or to join online: http://www.bcab.org.uk/ .

[Sponsored notice ends].

++Section Three: News Analysis- Web Accessibility Standards.

Contents.

+10: Raising The Standardby Dan Jellinek.

Although awareness of the importance of web accessibility is now relatively high after years of struggle by disability campaigners, website owners and developers still face a confusing task in trying to ascertain exactly what they should do to make their sites accessible.

There are a variety of guidelines and standards, and the main recognised international standard, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) from the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI), is now outdated. A new version - WCAG 2.0 - might appear next year, but no-one is holding their breath since already almost a decade of wrangling and delays has passed since the appearance of WCAG version 1.0.

Into this minefield strides the British Standards Institution (BSi), the UK's national standards body, now in the process of establishing a new technical standards committee to oversee the development of a standard which all organisations will be able to follow in procuring or developing an accessible website. It will not in itself set out in detail the technical requirements of accessibility, but it will aim to outline a thorough process developers can follow to ensure they are taking all the right actions at the right time to make their websites and services as inclusive as possible.

The work will build on BSi's existing 'PAS 78', where 'PAS' stands for 'Publicly Available Specification'. A PAS is an initial specification, developed in a consultative manner, which marks the first step on the way to a full British Standard, and indeed many members of the team which developed the PAS for BSi will join the new technical committee. Chief among these is Julie Howell, head of accessibility at web design agency Fortune Cookie and long-term web accessibility campaigner on behalf of RNIB and others. Howell drafted PAS 78 and is chair elect of the new technical committee 'IST/45'.

The work will be the culmination of almost a decade of hard work, Howell told E-Access Bulletin in an exclusive interview to announce the new project.

"The story starts back in 1999, when four things happened," Howell says. "WAI published the first draft of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines; the UK government published its white paper 'Modernising government', with targets for moving public services online; I was appointed internet campaigns officer at RNIB; and Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) came into force, which extended the act's provisions to services and service providers, including websites.

"So there was quite a lot going on: noise was being made in Whitehall, things were starting to happen."

The work was taken up by the UK's then Disability Rights Commission - now part of the expanded Equality and Human Rights Commission - which issued a code of practice on the DDA in 2002 expanding on its application to websites and then, in 2004, launched a formal investigation into web accessibility in the UK.

The commission engaged City University to undertake research into 1,000 UK websites, published later that same year as 'Disabled people and the web'. The research found that only 19% of websites met level 'A' of WCAG 1.0, says Howell, and that a significant percentage of problems experienced by disabled people could not be met by WCAG.

"Through the research the commission found there was a gap - that there was a high level of goodwill to people with disabilities, but a failure to act," she says. In all the report made 16 recommendations, of which one was the production of new guidance to bridge a gap in understanding.

"Another was to launch a public awareness campaign, which it never has," she says.

It was in relation to the recommendation on guidance that DRC was approached by BSi, which said it had a product and a process that could help. The results was that DRC sponsored the process of creating PAS78 - a PAS is always sponsored, though full standards are funded and owned by BSi itself - and the commission turned to Howell for advice and support in forming a steering group and drawing up the specification.

"A PAS is part way on the journey to a standard, but it does not require consensus, so it can be published quickly," Howell says. "It was consultative, we consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, but did not require consensus like the WCAG revision process, so it was possible to produce within a year."

To begin with, Howell had to assess what role the PAS would play in a field where guidelines already existed. "I was the one with a blank sheet of paper, who decided what it should include. BSi and DRC had drawn up the scope, but the steering group changed it, because it had been intended for developers, and it became obvious to us that we already had technical guidelines - WCAG - and what was needed was guidance on procurement."

As the PAS was developed - and there were strict BSi rules to be followed, including the Kafkaesque BS0, the standard for writing standards - it was redrafted twice by a steering group which had representation from a variety of organisations: AbilityNet; BBC; British Computer Society; Cabinet Office; DRC; IBM; RNIB; Tesco.com; University College London; and the Usability Professionals Association.

At the end of this process, it set out a robust generic process for creating an accessible site, emphasising site testing by disabled people; the need for organisations to produce an accessibility policy for internal use; and publication of an accessibility statement on each website site for the benefit of users with disabilities.

After a wider consultation process with more than 100 stakeholder organisations such as Adobe and WAI, the PAS was launched in March 2006. Although the specification was made available by BSi for a 30 download charge, DRC bought a licence for open publication so the PAS could be made available for free public download from its own website (now the website if its successor body, the Equality and Human Rights Commission), resulting in a rush of interest that has led to download figures of some 54,000 to date.

BSi rules state that after two years a PAS has to be reviewed with a view to becoming a full standard, though Howell says that at first, when this deadline was approaching and the institution contacted her with the next step in mind, she and her fellow committee members were not sure if the time was yet right to move towards a full standard.

"With the two-year mark is approaching, at first we were resistant to talk of it becoming a standard. I felt not enough had been done when the PAS was published to promote awareness of it. To have 54,000 downloads is not bad, but my fear was that we had released something that had been downloaded and that was all. It was not necessarily being used.

"On the other hand, with a PAS you always have to explain to everyone what a PAS is, whereas people have heard of a British Standard. So I was persuaded, but at the same time daunted - while the creation of a PAS does not require full consensus, a BS does. There is an awful lot of work to be done."

The fledgling new committee IST/45 will be charged with looking at the area of web accessibility in general, including e-commerce and social networking sites, with other work beyond the initial BS also possible, Howell says. "There might also be leaflets and training materials." She is currently in the process of finalising initial membership of the committee, with representation confirmed from many of the bodies involved with drawing up PAS 78, and others invited. Further members will be co-opted to advise the committee on an ad-hoc basis as its work progresses, Howell says.

But the committee's chief task, and its first piece of work, will be to draw up the British Standard. Initially to be drafted by a sub-group of a few committee members, Howell says BSi would like the standard to be based on PAS78 but she is also keen to widen it to embrace some of the new types of web service that were not around just a couple of years ago when the PAS was drawn up.

"PAS78 was before Web 2.0, before social networks, before rich internet applications. We will have to look at these."

As with all British Standards, the completed standard will be wholly owned by BSi, and therefore, unlike with the DRC-sponsored PAS78, there will be a price attached to it, Howell says. But it will be aimed at a fairly specialised, professional audience who should be able to afford the price, and the committee will also be likely to produce other more general materials that might be free, such as additional documentation and training.

The committee's aim is to get the BS out within a year - in the first quarter of 2009 - a far swifter process than the seemingly endless debate over the creation of WCAG 2.0.

"We've all agreed this has to be fast - I don't want it to be so collaborative and consultative that it takes a decade," Howell says. "BSi will not let it drag on, and I will not let it drag on. I am a disability campaigner. I want to see change."

NOTE: For more information on the work of the new BSi technical committee, readers may contact Julie Howell on Julie.Howell@fortunecookie.co.uk . Julie will also be speaking at Headstar's annual event E-Access '08, on 23 April in central London: http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess08 .

[Section Three ends].

++Special Notice: Web Accessibility Forum.

Contents.

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: http://www.accessifyforum.com .

[Special notice ends].

++Section Four: Conference Report- Dyslexia and the Civil Service.

Contents.

+11: Premonitions Of Judgment Dayby Dan Jellinek.

It is impossible to state a definitive number for the percentage of people who suffer from dyslexia because there is no single definition of dyslexia, delegates heard at this month's conference on Dyslexia and the Civil Service.

"It is a spectrum, a continuum," Rachel Davies, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), told the conference, hosted by the Adult Dyslexia Organisation.

"If you set the bar low, 40% may have some indications, but the most commonly quoted figures are around 4% for severe dyslexia and around 10% for mild and severe dyslexia," Davies said.

"But it's also important to remember that lots of people who don't have dyslexia will find the adjustments that you make useful."

David Evans, Education development manager at specialist computer access firm Microlink PC (http://www.microlinkpc.co.uk/ ), said some 74% of disability recorded in the UK is dyslexia-related, making dyslexia by far the biggest single disability issue.

Evans said that research carried out by his company in schools had found that the average take-up of software designed to help people with dyslexia was around 28% of pupils per day. "I don't know if it was the same 28% - we will test for that next time - so the true figure of total pupils helped could be even higher. But schools actually only budget for about 4% of pupils who need assistance."

Other factors which could increase the number of people benefiting from software designed to help people with dyslexia include people with English as their second language (about 18% of entrants to the workforce, many of these suffering from dyslexia in their own language as well); attention deficit disorder sufferers; people with impaired vision; and people who prefer to learn in a more visual way.

"My inclination is that the true proportion of people who could be helped by access software is probably closer to 40%," Evans said. "But even if we accept that only approximately 10% of the UK workforce can understand and present data much more quickly than they can read or write, it is clear that much talent is being wasted."

One practical definition of dyslexia is simply the condition whereby people are able to understand spoken information faster than they are able to absorb it through reading or set it down in writing, he said. I know one extremely bright individual at Cardiff university who will get a first class degree, got three As at 'A' level, and can mentally process around 700 words a minute, but can only manage six words a minute reading, and even less writing. The average for dyslexia is around 20 words a minute.

"But we can harness technology to enable people to access data at a speed which reflects their ability to process and absorb it," Evans said. "Technology can help get data into your mind, and out of your head and onto paper, at speed."

Low-cost solutions that can help people with dyslexia use computers include colour overlays to alter the colour and contrast of text and background. "The difference they can make is stunning", Evans said. "A digital one is free, if you want it profiled it is still very cheap."

Text to speech software including screen-readers has also become cheaper, better quality and easier to use in the past few years, he said. And voice recognition software, which can be of enormous assistance to people with dyslexia as well as those with impaired vision, has taken a giant leap forwards with the latest version of 'Dragon' software.

"When Dragon version 9 came out it was as if we had jumped from version 8 to version 80 - it now has 90% accuracy. It actually works better the faster you talk," Evans said. "Its processing power is awesome, though it needs a good computer to use it. At around 120 for the basic version, it's affordable, and it can be used with digital note-takers such as the Olympus DS-40. I'm not dyslexic, but I use it every day."

Other software tools that can be useful include 'mind-mapping' tools that help portray ideas and build documents in 3-D visual diagrams rather than as linear notes. "Some of the new mind-mapping tools are fantastic, and they can convert back to a nice linear structure at the press of a button," he said. "And they are not as conspicuous for someone to use as a screen-reader, it is not as obvious that they have a disability."

With all these low-cost technology options available and a growing body of research showing how many people could benefit, it is only a matter of time before more employers are forced to implement far more technology through legal action, Evans said.

Under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act public sector employers must make "reasonable" adjustments to facilities to allow access by all staff. "What is 'reasonable adjustment'? The reactive definition in common law is retrospective - it is what a judge believes was reasonable given the circumstances and the information that was available," Evans said. "So what information is available to employers at the moment? We know at least 10% of the workforce is dyslexic. We know there is a truckload of technology out there that can help, for probably less than 1% of the employment costs of the individual. So the information is there, it is public knowledge, the resources are there and they know people will benefit.

"So the judge will say - yes, that was reasonable, why wasn't it done? There are going to be some landmark cases, this year or next year."

Some public bodies may say that the money to make adjustments is not there in their budgets, but they could go and bid for it from the centre.

"There must be a cost-benefit analysis, could be technology for 100 that increases productivity by 20%. It will only take a strong test case to change people's attitudes."

Ultimately, the strongest reason for employers and educational institutions to start to make wider use of assistive technology is not simply to avoid legal action or to comply with regulations but to make the best use of their employees' or learners' talent, improving their productivity, Evans said.

"In my experience, more than 90% of assessments in the workplace are compliance driven. It wasn't 'how can we harness this person's talent?' It was 'How quickly can we tick a box?'"

But being 'employee-centred' does not just mean reacting to individual problems, he said. "An individual-centred approach is not about compliance, employers should be saying 'We ought to do this, because we will get more from our staff. It is active talent management."

In a lot of organisations, it will be a lot easier to take a decision based on this kind of high level approach, he said. Research from the University of Southampton has identified that nearly 90% of people using assistive technologies reported an improvement in their performance. "Go back to your unions, begin to ask questions."

As part of his session, Evans told the story of one 15-year-old student whose experiences were both inspirational and sobering. "I was there at a school and we were doing some testing with screen filters and this boy just went mad. He went crazy, we had to pull him down off the ceiling. But he wasn't angry because it didn't work - he was angry because a free colour contrast tool did work, and it was so easy After 20 minutes of using it, he could read.

"And he said, why has it taken so long to find this? He was angry at the time that had been wasted."

[Section Four ends].

++Special Notice: Braille Translations.

Contents.

Braille Translations provides a fast, cost-effective, high quality service of translating any document into Braille. We are able to provide Braille menus, public leaflets and business cards in Braille and help make you compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. We can translate from large print, audio tape or audio CD.

We can also help with premises accessibility including Braille Tactile Signs for toilets and other doors.

All work is proof-read before dispatch and we are able to provide an express 24-hour service. Please call our offices for an immediate quotation or for further information on Freephone number 08000 190 946; Mobile: 07903 996533; email ghow@brailletranslations.co.uk or see: http://www.brailletranslations.co.uk .

++End Notes.

Contents.

+H

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+Personnel:

  • Editor - Dan Jellinek
  • Reporter: Majeed Saleh
  • Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey
  • Marketing Executive - Claire Clinton
  • Sales and Marketing - Jo Knell, Will Knox.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue 98 ends].