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++Issue 126 Contents.
- 01: Association To Set UK Digital Format Standards - guidelines for accessible e-books due next year.
- 02: Public-Private 'Unwillingness to Co-operate' Over Smart Homes - Plan needed to help elderly and disabled at home, say experts.
- 03: Danes Are Latest To Miss EU Web Access Target - Research reveals poor record for government sites.
- News in Brief:
- 04: Football Crazy - Online World Cup guide;
- 05: Canvassing Opinion - BBC joins online TV standards
- 06: project; 06:
- 07: Big Problems - what US screen-reader users hate about the net.
- Section Two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' Forum.
- 08: Research Call - basic information sought on use of
- 09: technology by people with disabilities; 08:
- 10: Cut Links - we ask
- 11: for readers' web address formatting preferences; 09:
- 12: Facebook Solutions - social networking site access suggestions.
- Section Three: Focus - Electronic Books.
- 13: The Right to Borrow: The UK's Digital Economy Act 2010 sought to widen and simplify the borrowing rules for electronic and audio books from public libraries. But how well will the new system serve readers with disabilities, who rely on new formats to access information? Guy Whitehouse reports.
++Section One: News.
+01: Association To Set Uk Digital Format Standards.
The new UK Association for Accessible Formats ( UKAAF: http://www.ukaaf.org/ ) is to set national standards next year for accessibility of digital formats such as electronic books and synthesised speech, E- Access Bulletin has learned.
The association, a charity formed last year, refined its work programme for the next two years at its annual general meeting in London earlier this month.
This included setting suggested minimum acceptable standards for large print, Braille and audio formats by the end of 2010, followed in 2011 by work on standards for synthesised speech, electronic books and other digital formats.
All standards will be aimed at content and service providers; transcribers; and end users, Alan Matthews, the association's public relations officer, told E-Access Bulletin following the meeting. "The goal is to set out an achievable minimum UK standard that everyone can work towards, so the odd producer out there who is not quite hitting the mark would have something to aim at, service providers would have minimum requirement for end users, and end users would have minimum standard they could expect and service providers could not say they can't do it, because of technical issues," Matthews said.
"For example, if I work for a utility, and I know I should provide accessible formats, and I want to write them into a tender but I don't know what standards to use, I could come to UKAAF. Then I would know what I am asking for is reasonable, achievable and what the end-user is expecting."
Ultimately, the association would like its standards to be included in government regulations relating to accessibility, he said. "If we can be talking to government within five years, it would give our work a stamp of authority."
The association will also be looking at how current law in this area, including the new Equalities Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 with its provision for 'reasonable adjustments' to services, affect the way organisations need to take account of format accessibility.
The meeting had been due to pass an emergency motion on whether to endorse Unified English Braille (UEB) as the "preferred" Braille format for UK use, in the face of US moves to endorse the alternative Unified Braille Code. However the meeting decided to delay a decision pending further deliberations.
Three appointments were made to the board of UKAAF: Michael Lewington, Director of Calibre Audio Library; Richard West, former chair of BCAB and Sheila Armstrong, text transcription co-ordinator at Torch Trust. The association's president is former RNIB chairman Lord Low of Dalston.
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=446
+02: Public-Private 'Unwillingness To Co-Operate' Over Smarthomes.
A coherent national plan is needed to develop integrated systems and services for 'smart homes' to meet the needs of disabled and elderly people, overcoming "entrenched behaviours, convention, ego and unwillingness to co-operate" across the public and private sectors, a London seminar heard this month.
Delegates at the 'smart living' seminar heard that although many pilot schemes were already testing components of next generation home systems, there was little co-ordination between the sectors involved including architecture, engineering, building, health and care, energy, communications, transport and bodies representing disabled and older people.
"Without such a plan, the situation in five years time is likely to be as fragmentary as it is today," said Professor Patrick Roe of the European CARDIAC project (Coordination Action in R&D in Accessible and Assistive ICT: http://www.cardiac-eu.org ), which aims to create a 'road-map' to co-ordinate research in this field.
Martyn Gilbert of 'UK3.0', a private-sector-led project to create "next generation" homes, said the barriers to progress lay not with technology but with organisational cultures.
"All of the substantive technology necessary to help older and disabled people live as they wish in their own homes is here, and has been here for several years. The obstacles are entrenched behaviours in the public and private sectors. They are obstacles of convention, ego and unwillingness to co- operate in good will with other stakeholders.
"The nation can no longer afford the luxury of such behaviours... it makes societal, business and national sense to collaborate to bring about the widest installation of these technologies in people's homes."
UK 3.0 is attempting to co-ordinate private and public sector services to smart homes including intelligent energy and water management and health promotion, with a target of contributing Â£100 billion a year to the UK economy by 2019.
'Smart Living - the way forward for disabled and older people' was hosted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in association with the accessible ICT charity PhoneAbility ( http://www.phoneability.org.uk ).
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=444
+03: Danes Are Latest To Miss Eu Web Access Target.
Some 52% of Danish government websites are not fully accessible to citizens with disabilities, new research has revealed, in the latest blow for hopes of Europe-wide accessibility improvements.
Conducted on behalf of the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, a survey by Sensus - a Danish consulting company specialising in accessibility, IT and disability - assessed 226 government websites against international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0)
The results of the survey are another setback to the goal set at a ministerial conference of EU member states in 2006 of all EU government websites becoming fully accessible by the end of 2010. It is now expected that not one state will hit this target.
The Danish ministry now plans to launch an e-learning tool in 2011 featuring guidance on creating more accessible websites and documents.
In the UK, guidance from the Central Office of Information on 'delivering inclusive websites' (http://www.coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=131 ) in 2008 stating that all government websites should have conformed to international 'AA' standards by 2011. However, the public sector Society of IT Management's annual 'Better Connected' review of every UK council website, published earlier this year, found only 32 of 479 sites achieved even basic accessibility levels (see E-Access Bulletin, March 2010 http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=400 ).
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=441
++News in Brief:
+04: Football Crazy:
An email guide to the ongoing FIFA World Cup in South Africa, featuring match schedules, statistics, and information on teams, players and stadiums, has been produced for blind and visually impaired football fans by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The guide is also available in large and giant print booklet form, Braille, and DAISY audio format, all costing Â£2.99 and available from RNIB's website: http://bit.ly/aOimfj
+05: Canvassing Opinion:
Confirmation that the BBC is to participate in 'Project Canvas', an initiative between major broadcasters and telecommunications companies develop a standard for internet-linked on-demand services through TV sets, has been welcomed by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). The standard is seen as important for ensuring usability and accessibility of such services. However, the institute has warned that many blind and partially sighted people will not be able to use Canvas on its launch without a text-to-speech (TTS) function to navigate the menus, and is pushing for a TTS requirement in the project's upcoming technical specification: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/our_work/canvas/index.shtml
+06: Big Problems:
Use of CAPTCHA tests - images that present text to verify human computer users - and inaccessible Adobe 'Flash' online multimedia content were rated as the most problematic items by disabled computer users, in a recent survey by US web accessibility company WebAIM. The survey also gathered information and user opinions on different types of screen-readers, and disabled computer users' experience of social media tools: http://www.webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey2/
[Section One ends].
++Section Two: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.
Please email all contributions or responses to: email@example.com .
+07: Research Call:
A short and sweet request for information from reader Noel Hatch, head of innovation projects and research at Kent County Council in the UK.
Noel asks: "I was wondering if there was any research on how and what disabled people use digital technologies?"
Ideas and links please to firstname.lastname@example.org .
+08: Cut Links:
Another reader and regular correspondent from the same organisation - Clive Lever, diversity advisor with Kent Council - has written in to suggest a change to the way we publish web addresses in the bulletin. Clive's suggestion was triggered by problems he experienced accessing a long web link in our last issue that split over a line.
"I did get to the article with an interesting bit of "text knitting" in my 'open' slot on Internet Explorer. [But] please may I suggest that we consider alternatives to long URLs [uniform resource locators, or web links] in newsletters, possibly even as part of newsletter accessibility standards?"
Clive continues: "I'm a great fan of services like Tinyurl ( http://www.tinyurl.com - a service that creates short links that expand into longer ones), as you may not always know that you haven't pasted in the complete link if you're playing about with them in emails.
"If one [format] suits some people and the other suits the rest, would it be too much to suggest being greedy and having both? My preference would be for the original URL to be used alone, except where it looks likely that it could run over two lines, when it would be accompanied by a short URL so people could chose which one to click.
"I'm a great believer in giving people choices, rather than having a one-size-fits-all approach."
[EDITOR'S NOTE: We think this is an excellent suggestion, because we have heard both sides now: first, that short link like Tinyurl or Bit.ly are themselves not very accessible; and second, that longer links are not accessible. To offer both would therefore seem logical - but what precise format and text layout should we use to do this? Please send in your suggestions.]
[Responses please to email@example.com].
+09: Facebook Solutions:
Last issue, our Italian version translator Margherita Giordano asked for advice on overcoming problems with accessing the social networking site Facebook, and in particular its chat features, using JAWS screen-reader software.
Jerry Weichbrodt of Michigan writes in to say: "With respect to Facebook Chat, I agree that it can be awkward using a screen reader. I, too, use JAWS and it's awkward to keep popping in and out of Forms Mode to enter text and then look for responses.
"One suggestion I have heard of, though I have not tried it myself, is to use AIM version 7.2 to access Facebook Chat. There is an explanation of this and a demonstration in Freedom Scientific's 'FSCast' episode number 40 for March of this year. See http://www.freedomscientific.com/FSCast/episodes/fscast040- march2010.asp .
Other than that, using the actual Facebook chat page, I believe JAWS seems to see two edit boxes that it appears you could type into, but only one of them actually works for the purpose. [so] it may be useful to arrange to chat with someone specifically for experimental purposes and then see which edit box actually works for entering text."
Responding to the same appeal, Tim Carrington, a reader from Kent, UK (where else?) had a different suggestion: "The student should give up on JAWS and consider using WebbIE, the free web browser for blind people with little or no sight available from http://www.webbie.org.uk ."
[Further responses please to firstname.lastname@example.org].
[Section Two ends].
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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 email@example.com
[Sponsored Notice ends].
++Section Three: FocusElectronic Books.
+10: The Right To Borrowby Guy Whitehouse.
One of the last pieces of legislation passed earlier this year by the UK's outgoing Labour government was the Digital Economy Act 2010, which, among other things, extended the Public Lending Right to audiobooks and ebooks in libraries.
This transfers out of copyright both physical hardcopy audiobooks in libraries, and audio/ebooks downloaded to an mp3 player or ebook reader on library premises; authors receive a payment from the government for each loan based on a rather complicated formula. The US does not currently have a similar scheme, following a failed attempt to introduce one in the 1980s.
The UK legislative change represents an attempt to simplify the model of lending non-print material in libraries which had hitherto occurred under a licensing regime which had never really functioned properly. This had made librarians reluctant to build up large stocks of such material, although interestingly customers seem to welcome audiobooks: the global electronic book distribution platform OverDrive has been extending its business in the US, and in 2008 there were 11 million loans of audiobooks from UK public libraries. Statistics for the year 2009 will soon be available. There are also some avant garde librarians who regard ebooks as key to making libraries relevant to younger members.
Since libraries have always been the key source of income for audiobooks on traditional media such as cassette or CD, at least in the UK, the change in the law has been broadly welcomed by advocacy groups for people with impaired vision. However, there are those who are critical, for example objecting to the fact that audio- and ebooks accessed remotely via download are not covered by the Public Lending Right (government lawyers said this was impossible because such activity was covered by the authors' right of communication to the public). Many, not least the UK Registrar of Public Lending Right, feel this is a significant gap because they do not think most people download ebooks or e-audiobooks on library premises. Nevertheless, it is a step forward.
Such issues are only going to gain in importance. In 2009 for the first time the sales of ebooks were significantly higher than those of audiobooks in the US. Many of the most passionate advocates of audiobooks are moving to positions in companies associated with the download market, and Audible.com expanded its catalogue of unabridged audiobooks from 20,519 in October 2009 to 26,113 titles in May 2010.
Where does this leave issues relating to the accessibility of e- books to people with disabilities?
The recent disputes over the Kindle's text-to-speech and over the read-out-loud function of Adobe ebooks in public libraries only makes sense in the context of an audiobooks industry fearing that in some sense the future is slipping away from it, whether those fears are justified or not.
If downloads are the future, particularly of unabridged audiobooks narrated by a human voice, then securing access to the internet and to computers in general for the visually impaired becomes of ever-greater significance. It would be a real tragedy if, just at the moment books become available in non-print formats in large numbers, a lack of access to technology in general and/or to the internet or mainstream ebook readers prevented us from reaping maximum benefit.
In this regard, ensuring internet accessibility, whether through enforcement of guidelines or through user testing, is critical and making media players that visually impaired people already use capable of playing ebooks and protected audio downloads is as important as capturing access to a mainstream e-books reader.
Guy Whitehouse is a PhD research student at Loughborough University, UK.
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=439
[Section Three ends].
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[Special notice ends].
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[Special notice ends].
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- Reporter: Tristan Parker.
- Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.
[Issue 126 ends].