+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 101, May 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/ .

++Special Notice: Designing for all: an inclusive approach to web,print and electronic publishing - A practical, one-day training course and document clinic - Tuesday 24 June, Central London http://www.headstar-training.com/dfa/

Contents.

Trainer: Katie Grant, former publications manager, Disability Rights Commission.

'Designing for all' is a practical seminar designed to introduce organisations to the importance of designing accessible, easy to read information for a range of different audiences including older people, people with disabilities and people for whom English is not their first language.

It will help you assess current design and content of information - please bring examples to our document clinic - and follow an inclusive model to improve accessibility across your communications mix.

The course will be of interest to anyone who is involved in the design and delivery of information in print, electronic and web formats including web content managers; content teams; marketing and communications officers; and publications staff. To book a place see: http://www.headstar-training.com/dfa/

[Special notice ends].

++Section One: News.

Contents.

+01: Digital Tv Switchover Help Scheme Package 'Misunderstood'.

A lack of understanding of the digital TV switchover help scheme package for the elderly and disabled has been found in the official report into the first live UK digital switchover in Whitehaven in Cumbria.

The Whitehaven report ( http://fastlink.headstar.com/copeland1 ) is published by Digital UK, the broadcaster-funded body charged with overseeing the switchover from analogue to digital TV signals across the UK between now and 2012.

It found that on the whole Whitehaven residents were well informed about switchover when it took place last November, with 95% of people in the area aware of the process a year before it happened.

However, while many were also aware of the existence of the help scheme which provides a digital set-top box and installation assistance, the system of charging for help was not well understood.

The help scheme is offered free to those on certain benefits and to other eligible TV users for a payment of 40 pounds. However many people did not realise that the 40 pound charge is subsidised, and provides a range of assistance worth far more than the charge including an accessible set-top box; installation and advice; and, where necessary, the installation of a new aerial (which alone can cost more than 80 pounds).

The misunderstanding of the scheme's value could help explain an extremely low take-up of the subsidised scheme, which totalled just 14% of eligible households, the report finds. In contrast, take-up figures of 50% were reported among those on lower incomes who were eligible for completely free assistance under the scheme.

A programme of community engagement was undertaken to in Whitehaven spread the word about the switchover and sources of help. Digital UK opened four help centres, while the charity Age Concern organised over 100 small drop-in sessions in different community locations.

+02: Web Access Focus Will Shift To Isps, Analyst Predicts.

Responsibility for ensuring web content is accessible will have to shift in future from content publishers to internet service providers (ISPs), a leading accessibility analyst has warned.

"Because the internet is global, regulation will have to shift from the country of production to the country of consumption", Kevin Carey, director of digital inclusion charity humanITy, told the recent E-Access '08 conference ( http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess08/ ).

This means that regulation of accessibility as well as issues such as security and child protection will have to pass to the local ISPs providing access to the sites, he said.

"The globalisation of production and publishing will sound the death knell for accessibility unless we can forge alliances with those concerned with security, privacy, child protection and public service content to achieve a public stake in the way we filter and receive content. But if ISPs are to become pornography, security, virus and accessibility police, they are going to need paying through a combination of consumer and public sector revenue."

Some of the costs of policing may have to be borne by the content providers and ISPs, he said, but small companies should not be expected to pay as much towards making content accessible as large firms; and it would also be necessary to take into account the purpose for which the multi media enterprise has been established, Carey said. "We might allow, for example, that a BBC television channel should be required to provide 100% accessibility, whereas a student blog should not."

NOTE: For a full report of Kevin Carey's speech see Section Four, this issue.

+03: Umbrella Specification For Web Standards Published.

An umbrella specification for website standards, including references to usability and accessibility standards, has been published by the British Standards Institution ( http://www.bsi-global.com/ ).

The Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 124, entitled 'Defining, implementing and managing website standards,' covers 11 separate categories of website quality, of which accessibility and usability are two. It was commissioned from the BSi by website content management software provider Magus (http://www.magus.co.uk/ ).

The BSi had already produced a more focused specification on website accessibility, PAS 78, which is now being developed into a full British Standard number BS8878. Julie Howell, Director of Accessibility at Fortune Cookie which commissioned PAS 78, has been appointed to chair the technical committee tasked with developing the standard (see story 01, E-Access Bulletin Issue 98, February 2008).

Howell told E-Access Bulletin this month that people looking for accessibility guidance should look to PAS 78, which "contains all the guidance site developers and owners should need on how to ensure disabled people can use their sites. PAS 124 references PAS 78 but does not seek to build on it."

And according to Simon Lande, founder and CEO of Magus, PAS 124 references PAS 78 because the intention of PAS 124 was not to "reinvent the wheel". It is the first complete set of website specifications of its kind in the world, he said, and was created after Magus' research found many large companies either do not have or fail to stick to formal technical standards governing their websites.

The specifications are available for download from the BSI website for 85: http://fastlink.headstar.com/bsi2 .

++News in Brief:

Contents.

+04: Senior PC:

A home computer designed for easy access by elderly people is under development by Microsoft UK in conjunction with the charities Age Concern and Help the Aged. The PC will come with simplified software for email, word processing as well as managing prescriptions, finances, travel planning and photographs. Microsoft already produces Senior PC packages for the US market: http://www.microsoft.com/enable/aging/seniorpc.aspx

+05: Public Failure:

A third of government websites are failing to meet their own accessibility standards, according to a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. Moving more services to the central government service portals Directgov for citizens and Businesslink.gov.uk for businesses - as the government is committed to do - ought to improve the situation as those sites are accessible, the report finds. According to 'Government on the internet: progress in delivering information and services online', the government has made it a priority to consult on how its other websites can be made more accessible, though this work may be hindered as "[it] does not know exactly how many websites it operates": http://fastlink.headstar.com/pac8 .

+06: Prophetic Guidance:

A set of guidelines for the design of accessible information and communication technology systems has been published by the RNIB's Scientific Research Unit on its website, 'Tiresias'. The guidelines can be searched by disability user group, technology area or application areas (such as household appliances, computing, television or accessible tourism). A range of other free publications and information on technology accessibility are also available from the site: http://www.tiresias.org .

[Section One 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].

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

Contents.

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

+07: CAPTCHA Objection:

Our Inbox items this month were posted as comments to the E-Access Bulletin Live blog ( http://www.headstar.com/eablive ). The first is from Darrell Shandrow, who also runs his own blog, the Blind Access Journal, at: http://blog.blindaccessjournal.com/ .

Darrell posted a comment on our recent feature on the five most common accessibility errors made by web designers, extracted from the local government Society of IT Management (Socitm) publication on web accessibility, and written for that document in turn by Robin Christopherson of Abilitynet.

Darrell wrote: "I object to the suggestion in item number 5 [the use of website features without an accessible alternative] that an email or telephone based alternative to the CAPTCHA is acceptable. It is patently unacceptable to be forced to wait anywhere from hours to days or weeks for something that is granted our sighted peers instantly if only one is able to physically see a CAPTCHA image.

"At a bare minimum, all sites should now feature an audio CAPTCHA playback. There's really no excuse for omitting this feature now that services such as ReCAPTCHA.net exist as turn key solutions for web developers.

"At this point, failure to provide at least an audio playback on any CAPTCHA represents nothing less than a "no blind people allowed" sign."

[Further responses please to inbox@headstar.com or post direct to the blog at http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=183 ].

+08: Subtle Approach:

Another recent blog post from Martin Kliehm, who works as a Senior Web Developer in Frankfurt, Germany and runs the web standards and accessibility blog 'Learning the World' ( http://learningtheworld.eu/ ). Martin referred to the current prevalent approach to website accessibility of measuring sites against the main international 'WCAG' standards of level A, AA or AAA and stating whether or not they pass or fail the test.

"I don't think this binary approach of passed or failed is helpful," he says. "Just because a website failed level A or AA doesn't necessarily mean it is inaccessible to people with disabilities. Also it would be interesting how badly they failed.

"In Germany people often use the 'BITV-Test' [German website at: http://bitvtest.de/ ] based on our legislation of WCAG. It is a well-documented site with much discussion of how to apply the tests. For a quick check, only three pages of different types are chosen, like the home page, a content page, and a contact form.

"Each criterion is assigned with a severity: major, normal, or minor. Starting with a total of 100 points, for each failed criterion either 3, 2, or 1 points are subtracted, half of the points when a criterion is partially fulfilled. A website is highly accessible when the total is 95 or above, well accessible at 90-94 points, and badly accessible below 90. Also a few checkpoints can change the result into "inaccessible", no matter what the actual score was. Think of navigational images without alt-text.

"So what we have here is a score that can be benchmarked with other websites, a more precise result how accessible a website is. I think that's a better approach."

[Further responses please to inbox@headstar.com or post direct to the blog at http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=183 ].

[Inbox ends].

++Special Notice: Building the Perfect Council Website- Major International Keynote Speaker for 2008 - 16 July, Olympia 2, Central London http://www.headstar-events.com/council08/ .

Contents.

We are pleased to present our third annual event on how to create the perfect council website: a partnership between E-Government Bulletin and the Socitm Insight Programme.

Our keynote speaker this year is international web usability guru Gerry McGovern. An authority on creating effective web content, Gerry has been described by the Irish Times as one of the world's five leading web visionaries (alongside Tim Berners-Lee, Tim O'Reilly, Nicholas Negroponte and Vint Cerf).

Elsewhere, the event will draw on the collected wisdom of a decade of Socitm's annual 'Better Connected' review of all UK council websites. Secure your place today at: http://www.headstar-events.com/council08/

And for companies interested in exhibition spaces please contact Will Knox on will.knox@headstar.com or phone him on 01273 267974.

[Special notice ends].

++Section Three: Workshop Report- Accessible Publishing.

Contents.

+09: Are They Receiving You, Loud And Clear?By Dan Jellinek.

Public sector bodies should draw up accessible publishing strategies that integrate their approaches to web and print publishing thereby ensuring dissemination of their most important messages to the most relevant audiences, delegates heard at last month's E-Access '08 conference.

Katie Grant, director of the accessible communications consultancy Raincharm Communications and former publications manager at the Disability Rights Commission, told a workshop session that'accessibility' is a term used to describe the degree to which a device, service or working environment is accessible by as many people as possible. Within that definition, 'accessible' has three meanings: able to be accessed; friendly and approachable; and easily understood or appreciated.

There are certain key steps which need to be followed within any accessible publishing strategy, Grant said. These are: - Do you need to publish? - If so, which audience or audiences are you trying to reach? - What formats are you going to produce? - How will the information you produce inform and influence? - How does what you publish fit within the overall strategy of your organisation? - How will the information be disseminated? - How do you measure success?

The task of designing accessible information goes far beyond the more obvious and technical aspects such as how information is conveyed or illustrated using images, Grant said. It is important to begin by considering the audience you are trying to reach even before you select a format and design a document.

"Ask yourself who is your target audience, and did you consider their needs when setting up your website, for example? Publishing formats should always be based on user research, and a balance struck between accessibility and functionality."

Clearly budget issues will affect what formats can be delivered, and how much information can be published, Grant said, but in looking at affordability, organisations should look at the cost versus value delivered in terms of improved service. A business case for accessibility should also investigate the urgency of each type of information.

As part of an interactive exercise during the workshop, delegates produced their own examples of issues to consider when developing the business case for an accessible publishing strategy. These included ensuring there is no ambiguity in stated business requirements; developing a flexible and scalable strategy; and to implement constant reviews and evaluation to keep up with changes in technology.

A range of cultural and 'people' issues were also highlighted by delegates. These included the need to ensure broad ownership of the strategy, with buy in from both production/marketing staff and senior budget holders and managers.

"You need to establish a publishing team at the planning stage, involving the people who are going to be producing the work - web people and marketing people - and others from across the organisation," Grant said.

"Then to ensure proper implementation, who need to work out who is responsible for each bit," she said. "It needs to be built into job descriptions."

"Access to clearly designed, easy to read information should be a fundamental right for everyone. Building and embedding an accessible publishing strategy into an organisations communications culture should be at the forefront of any business planning process.

NOTE: Katie Grant is the trainer in an exclusive practical one-day Headstar Training course, 'Designing for all', designed to introduce public sector organisations to the importance of designing accessible, easy to read information for a range of different audiences. The first course runs on 24 June in central London. To book a place see: http://www.headstar-training.com/dfa/

[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: Opinion- Regulating Accessibility.

Contents.

+10: Time For A New Beginningby Kevin Carey.

There is an elegant correspondence between the amount of information in circulation and its accessibility which can be expressed in two formulae.

First, that the greater the quantity of information, the lower its cost of production; and second, that the lower the cost of production, the greater is the additional percentage cost of making it accessible.

Take television. When spectrum was limited, the medium was analogue and the labour was unionised, the cost of producing television was high; so was the cost of producing accessibility services such as captioning, audio description and signing; but the percentage cost of these special services was relatively low.

Now think about the explosion of television since 1990 when satellite was introduced and project this forward to internet television: there will be no spectrum and therefore no scarcity, and digital production is cheap. Smaller and smaller players will find a toe-hold with niche products, but the smaller the player, the higher the relative percentage cost of accessibility services will become.

This scenario can be extended to multi media channels and on-demand services. So the question is, do we expect multi media providers to provide a full range of accessibility services, regardless of their economic capacity?

If we want to look for a rational answer to this question, the starting point is the way that television accessibility has been regulated. The 2003 Telecommunications Act obliged Ofcom to regulate accessibility services. It set rational percentages of compliance, taking into account the percentage of turnover they would need to spend in order to comply. If the percentage was too high, the broadcaster was exempt.

That is a good starting principle, but it does not go far enough. A second factor which we need to take into account is the purpose for which the multi media enterprise has been established. We might allow, for example, that a BBC television channel should be required to provide 100% accessibility, whereas a student blog should not. Between these two there are all kinds of information providers who need to be subjected to a rational principle in addition to their economic capacity. I suggest that the principle should be that the degree of accessibility required should depend on the public purpose of the information provider. We might argue that a major retailer should be under a higher obligation than a wholesale supplier of nuts and bolts.

There is a principle which directly relates both to economic capacity and public purpose, and that is reach. If we are going to insist on a level of accessibility, it should relate to the number of people likely to benefit. This does not simply involve producing a ball-park figure for blind and visually impaired people or deaf and hearing impaired people; the evidence has to be based on actual behaviour rather than on some wild estimate of uptake.

If we combine the organisation's mission, economic capacity and reach, we are getting closer to a rational way of understanding the relationship between the supplier and the customer requiring an accessibility service.

Ultimately, we need a new approach to accessibility which is proportionate, evidence-based and economically viable. That, however, is not the end of the matter. One of the key features of the digital information age is that production and publishing are becoming global. If regulation is too harsh in one political sphere then companies will move.

This, in turn, means that regulation of content will have to shift from the country of origin to the country of consumption, which would mean enormous cost shifts from publishers to internet service providers (ISPs) and information brokers. If ISPs are to become pornography, security, virus and accessibility police, they are going to need paying through a combination of consumer and public sector revenue.

This is an important discussion because the globalisation of production and publishing will sound the death knell for accessibility unless we can forge alliances with those concerned with security, privacy, child protection and public service content in order to achieve a public stake in the way we filter and receive content.

In summary, then, the old game is over. We will no longer be able to rely on national or even European regulators, to deliver accessibility from the publisher. We are going to have to switch to information brokers, distributors and deliverers, working out some mechanism for imposing obligations similar to those which no doubt governments will ultimately impose for the purposes of national security and child protection. We have wasted almost twenty years waiting for each other to act and now we are entering very tough times. We need a new approach, we need to make a new start. This will not be easy, but it will have to be done.

NOTE: Kevin Carey is Director of humanITy. This articleis an edited version of a talk given by Kevin at the recent Headstar conference e- Access '08, hosted by E-Access Bulletin.

[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

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 2008 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 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: http://www.headstar.com/eab is also cited.

+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 101 ends].