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++Section One: News.
+01: ‘Historic’ Accessible Copyright Treaty Is ‘Miracle Inmarrakech’
An historic international treaty to increase book access for blind and visually impaired people has finally been adopted at a meeting of the World International Property Organisation (WIPO) after almost six years of wrangling, negotiations and setbacks.
Signed at a WIPO conference in Marrakech, Morocco, the treaty will allow exceptions to copyright laws so accessible versions of books and other printed material can be shared internationally for blind and visually impaired people to use. Up to now, such sharing of books has not been possible due to objections from copyright holders in some countries.
For the treaty to now come into force, 20 countries have to ratify it. Once this happens, any country can sign up to the treaty by ratifying it, and would then have to abide by its terms.
Dan Pescod, Vice Chair of the World Blind Union – a key player in negotiations and the development of the treaty – told E-Access Bulletin that during the last day of the WIPO Marrakech conference, 51 countries signed the treaty, with a signature being “a strong demonstration of intent to ratify the treaty”. The UK was one of four EU countries to sign.
Even during this latest conference, it seemed possible the treaty would be deferred once more or watered down, said Pescod. He said the eventual successful outcome was such a surprise it was dubbed the ‘miracle in Marrakech’ by some involved.
The final treaty contains everything for which the WBU had hoped, Pescod said, although one element that remains “less clear” is that of commercial availability checks. “[This is] the idea that you would only be able to use treaty if you have satisfied the question of whether a book is already available in an accessible format commercially [in the country you’re sending to]. That was excluded from the export part of the treaty.”
However, this caveat only applies to a small number of countries – those that have a domestic commercial availability clause in their law – and would not necessarily be implemented by those countries, he said. The UK does have such a law however, and the WBU is now in talks with the country’s Intellectual Property Office to discuss the issue.
Although it represents a crucial victory in the fight for wider accessible book access, Pescod said the signing represents the beginning of a subsequent, new phase of work. “As much as it was an intense and exhausting campaign … we now have a new campaign to get countries to ratify the treaty, and with that comes the job of explaining to people in simple terms what the treaty provisions allow.”
Alongside this global campaign, the World Blind Union will be helping countries and organisations to use the treaty effectively and practically, as well as continuing to work with publishers and software developers to promote accessible publishing. “The treaty is only a means to that end, it’s not the end in itself”, Pescod said.
Pescod estimates that accessible books should start being shared across borders by 2015, after the WBU campaigns for an initial 20 countries to ratify the treaty (which is necessary for it to come into force), which the WBU is hoping to achieve by the end of 2014.
“This is very much a historic and unprecedented thing that we’ve done and we’re very proud to have done it,” said Pescod, “but we know we’ve still got a lot of work to do to ensure that we make a really big dent in this book famine, so we’re not going to be resting on our laurels just because we’ve got this treaty.”
More information on the background to the treaty can be read in previous issues of E-Access Bulletin: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?s=wipo& ;x=0&y=0
The final treaty, named the ‘Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired, or otherwise Print Disabled’, can be viewed from the links below in Word document and PDF:
Short link: http://bit.ly/14Zya9O
Full link: http://www.wipo.int/meetings/en/doc_details.jsp?doc_id=241 683
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=913
+02: Bbc Issues Draft Guidelines For Mobile Accessibility
A draft set of standards and guidelines to make BBC web content and apps more accessible when viewed on mobile devices has been released by the corporation following a year of testing and development.
The Draft BBC Mobile Accessibility Standards and Guidelines were announced in a blog post by Henny Swan, senior accessibility specialist at the BBC. Up to now the BBC’s existing accessibility guidelines have been used as a basis for creating accessible mobile content, Swan says, but it was felt that more specific mobile standards were now needed.
“We have our BBC Accessibility Standards and Guidelines in-house, [but] these were produced in 2005 when mobile was not as dominant as it is now”, Swan told E-Access Bulletin. “They are also geared towards HTML and don’t speak to designers and developers working on native apps. The same goes for the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WCAG]… While much of it is suited to the mobile web it didn’t fit what we needed exactly and wasn’t something that native app developers or designers identified with.”
Three sets of standards and guidelines were initially developed by the BBC, for HTML, iOS, and Android – the three most common platforms used to access mobile content, and also those that have “the most mature accessibility support”, writes Swan in her blog post. These three sets were then merged to create an overall document, covering accessibility in a wide range of areas including: editorial; images; design; structure; navigation; notifications, and links. For each, there are examples of how to implement each requirement or recommendation on all three platforms for testing.
“The plan [now] is to write techniques for additional platforms as and when the need arises,” writes Swan on the blog, “but this doesn’t stop our teams applying these standards and guidelines for Windows Phone, Blackberry and other platforms in the meantime.”
Although the guidelines were developed for accessing BBC content on mobile devices, Swan said she hopes other organisations will be able to benefit from them. Feedback from all is invited, with plans to make a final version available in due course.
The Draft BBC Mobile Accessibility Standards and Guidelines, short link: http://bbc.in/128pjNL
Full link for draft guidelines: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/futuremedia/accessibility/mo bile_access.shtml
Henny Swan’s blog post announcing the guidelines, short link: http://bbc.in/14fJLQ2
Full link for Henny Swan’s blog post: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/internet/posts/Accessibility- Mobile-Apps )
NOTE: Henny Swan explains more about the BBC Draft Mobile Accessibility Guidelines in a special report in this issue of E-Access Bulletin:
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=911
+03: Talking Cash Machines Win Technology4good Award
Banking and financial services company Barclays is among winners of the Technology4Good Awards 2013, an annual event which celebrates the potential of technology to affect social change.
The award recognises Barclays’ use of technology in making its services more accessible to people with disabilities and impairments. This includes adapting more than 3,500 of its ATMs (automated teller machines, or cashpoints) – 84% of the bank’s network – so that they can be used with earphones, allowing people with impaired vision, dyslexia or other reading problems to listen to the on-screen options.
A range of brightly coloured ‘hi-vis’ debit cards, some with guidance arrows, have also been introduced by Barclays, to help visually impaired customers find the card easily and see which side needs to be inserted into an ATM or card reader.
Other winners of the Technology4Good Awards – organised by technology access charity AbilityNet – include user-led mental health charity Self Help Services, which provides services in the north of England, including computerised cognitive behavioural therapy services. After an initial in- person assessment, clients have access to a range of e-learning resources and other digital material.
The Local Digital Champion Award was won by Norman Hunter, who has worked with digital inclusion charity Go ON UK to help people gain basic IT skills.
More information on the Technology4Good Awards can be found at the event website, below:
Technology4Good Awards website, short link: http://bit.ly/fKLUxh
Technology4Good Awards website, full link: http://www.technology4goodawards.org.uk/
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=909
++News in Brief:
+04: Support Network:
An online social network to help people with disabilities and their families connect with individuals, organisations and services who can offer support has been launched by the specialist networking company Add My Support. Anyone can subscribe to the Disability Support Network, and users can then make support requests for specific assistance such as buying new assistive equipment, help around the home, or achieving a personal goal.
Short link: http://bit.ly/166AHh6
Full link: http://disability.addmysupport.com/home
+05: Presenting Futures:
A presentation on ‘The Future of Accessibility’, delivered at the recent Birmingham event Building Perfect Council Websites ’13 co-hosted by E- Access Bulletin publisher Headstar, can now be viewed online on the SlideShare platform. The presentation was hosted by Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at technology access charity AbilityNet, and features recommendations for accessible digital design and information on accessibility guidelines.
Short link: http://slidesha.re/15b4Yi0
Full link: http://www.slideshare.net/AbilityNet/the-future-of- accessibility-presented-at-build-the-perfect-council-website- 11-july-2013
+06: Turning Tinder:
The technology access and training organisation Online Centres Foundation, which manages the national network of UK online centres, has been renamed the Tinder Foundation. The non-profit mutual organisation will continue to run the centres, with an emphasis on teaching digital skills within communities.
Short link: http://bit.ly/15aZAHQ
Full link: http://www.tinderfoundation.org/
[Section One ends].
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Section Two: Special Report - The story behind the BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines
+07: Going Mobileby Henny Swan.
The BBC has now published a set of draft Mobile Accessibility Standards and Guidelines to the wider web development community, a ground-breaking project which has been in development for a year now [see also – news, earlier in this issue of E-Access Bulletin]. While written primarily for BBC employees and suppliers to use, the corporation’s hope is that they might be useful for any individual or organisation building mobile web content and native apps.
For years, BBC teams have used the BBC Accessibility Guidelines to help them build accessible websites ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/futuremedia/accessibility/ ). These have also proved a useful foundation for our work on mobile accessibility, but we felt we needed something more targeted for mobile and responsive websites and, of course, native applications. Furthermore the BBC Accessibility Guidelines were produced in 2005 when mobile was not as dominant as it is now. They are also geared towards HTML and don’t speak to designers and developers working on native apps.
The same goes for the widely-used Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) published by the international Web Accessibility Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium: while much of the WCAG content is suited to the mobile web, and forms the foundation of the BBC guidelines, it didn’t fit what we needed exactly and wasn’t something that native app developers or designers identified with.
Moreover, while various platforms such as Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Nokia, Android and Apple have their own guidelines for accessibility, they tend to focus only on the capabilities of that particular platform. So, for example, where Apple iOS may have an in-depth focus on technical accessibility for its built-in screen-reader, VoiceOver, their guidance may not focus as much on visual accessibility. This means some platform accessibility guidelines are less complete than others or might contain some really useful advice that could work across all platforms. In addition to this, some advice and techniques relating to accessibility are not highlighted as ‘accessibility’ and are buried deep within the documentation that companies publish for developers.
Asking teams to deliver accessible and usable content against this fragmented and unequal backdrop is unrealistic. We had to provide a single resource that was tangible and testable to follow rather than ask teams to follow various different sets of guidance.
From a project management perspective, where a single product might be available as a responsive site, an iOS app and an Android app, it made sense therefore to develop technology-agnostic standards and guidelines with technology specific techniques. Teams working on deploying the same content across devices and platforms therefore work towards a common framework of accessibility support (as far as the platform allows), which in turn helps us maintain a level of consistency across devices.
What we aim to do is not simply make content consistently accessible but to also make it a familiar and enjoyable user experience, whether you are looking at BBC content on your desktop or within an app. What we want to avoid are situations such as the following, described by Leonie Watson, a screen-reader user: “You download a new app, you start using it and it looks really good, and feels really good, then something frays a bit around the edges and then you’re like, ‘Ugh, here we go again!’ You kind of lose a bit of confidence in it.”
There are other new opportunities, too. Thinking beyond the technicalities of making content accessible, there are huge opportunities to create apps that help disabled users access what’s happening around them. We see this already with apps which allow blind users to tag and then “geolocate” shops, so when they walk down a street they know where they are. Or apps where people can tag music or TV shows. As a broadcaster, using mobile devices as companions to TV opens up the opportunity to merge broadcast and web content in new ways, to provide access to information about TV content that is topical, live and highly accessible.
How and where we view TV, listen to radio and consume the news is changing. These are all key mediums for any of us to remain connected. Mobile accessibility is therefore vital to ensure no-one is left behind.
Note: copies of the new guidelines can downloaded at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/futuremedia/accessibility/mob ile_access.shtml
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=907
[Section Two ends].
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