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++Section One: News.
+01: International Web Access Guidelines “Ineffective”,Academic Claims
Conforming to the international industry standard Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) can be “ineffective” as a method of reducing problems encountered by blind and visually impaired web users, one IT academic has claimed.
The WCAG guidelines are created by the international World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees web standards. In his PhD thesis for the University of York, ‘Disabled people and the Web: User-based measurement of accessibility’, André Pimenta Freire – a specialist in human-computer interaction – writes that a large number of problems on website pages encountered by print-disabled computer users would not have been resolved by conformance to WCAG criteria.
“Achieving certain conformance levels with WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0 can be very ineffective as a means to reduce the numbers of problems encountered by disabled users”, writes Freire. “The way the conformance requirements are structured do not seem to address the all-important concern of making websites that disabled users can use better and encountering fewer problems.”
The claims are based on a study carried out as part of his thesis, which involved task-based user evaluations of 16 websites from 64 users. Of these, 32 users were blind, 19 partially sighted and 13 dyslexic. Manual audits were used to determine website conformance to WCAG 1.0 and 2.0.
The two primary aims of the study were to characterise the problems that print-disabled computer users encounter through websites, and to investigate the relationship between user- defined accessibility issues and accessibility guidelines, with a focus on WCAG. 1.0 and 2.0.
The study demonstrated that conforming to the checkpoints and success criteria of WCAG does not necessarily, by itself, make a website accessible to print-disabled users, says Freire.
Speaking to E-Access Bulletin, Helen Petrie, Professor of Human Computer Interaction at the University of York and co-supervisor for Freire’s PhD and the senior academic who led the research for Freire’s thesis, said that although WCAG has made “a great effort” and highlighted important problems, websites with higher conformance to the guidelines are not easier to use for blind users. “There is no significant difference in the number of user problems on non-conformant sites and on conformant sites”, Petrie said.
This has problematic implications if legislation or policy about web accessibility were to be formed and based on WCAG conformance, said Petrie. A further problem is that “developers are struggling to understand [WCAG]”, Petrie said, meaning that direct user-testing with disabled users should be encouraged as a means of testing accessibility, she said.
Both Petrie and Freire stress the importance of involving disabled users directly in the design and evaluation process of building websites, and of moving away from “the technical conformance approach” of accessibility.
“The conclusions reinforced the importance of involving disabled users in the design and evaluation of websites as a key activity to improve web accessibility … The current status quo of proposing implementations based on expert opinion, or limited user studies, has not yielded solutions to many of the current problems print-disabled users encounter on the web”, writes Freire.
The thesis is available as a PDF from the links below:
Full link: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/3873/
Short link: http://bit.ly/14y6M1G
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=873
+02: First Council Elections For Accessible Ict Coalition
The OneVoice for Accessible ICT Coalition has elected its first formal controlling council, as it works towards its goal of becoming lead facilitator for the digital inclusion and accessible ICT sectors in the UK.
Nigel Lewis, chief executive officer of technology access charity AbilityNet and chair of OneVoice, told E-Access Bulletin that the group aims to become a hub through which organisations from all sectors can share information and best practice on inclusive ICT.
“One of the key roles OneVoice will play is to be a facilitator between all of the organisations and other groups working in the digital inclusion space”, Lewis said. “We can help join people and groups together … I think there’s a real need for that, because there are too many people doing great stuff in isolation.”
As well as engaging with digital inclusion groups, businesses, government and other organisations, the long-term goals of OneVoice will include helping to embed inclusion in the training of IT professionals, and assisting organisations in delivering inclusive systems, Lewis said.
Following elections at the coalition’s first AGM in May, OneVoice has a council of seven members: Nigel Lewis; Graeme Whippy of Lloyds TSB IT Accessibility Group; John Lamb of Ability Magazine; Peter Abrahams of Bloor Research; Fiona Miller of BT, Ian Lyons of Shaw Trust, and Howard Lester, an independent disability consultant.
OneVoice is now looking to secure funding to help pursue its goals. At the recent AGM it was agreed that a fee structure for membership will be introduced, and OneVoice will also be looking for seeded project funding as well.
Current members include BT, AbilityNet, the Business Disability Forum, disability campaigning network RADAR, technology industry body Intellect, inclusive technology advisory service JISC TechDis, and Lloyds Banking Group.
The recent AGM and council elections signalled a “seminal moment” for OneVoice, said Lewis. “We’ve done a lot through the current members and their goodwill and time, and I think this is the moment we can make a real step change. There seems to be a definite will to make that happen as I talk to more and more people – current members and potential members as well. This year should see a real change for OneVoice.”
For more information on OneVoice, see: http://www.onevoiceict.org/home .
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=878
+03: Disability Still A Major Factor In Determining Uk Internetuse, Report Finds
UK adults with a disability are still three times less likely to have used the internet than those without a disability, a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown.
The figures in the latest Internet Access Quarterly Update, released every four months, show that at the first quarter of 2013, there were 3.7 million disabled adults – as defined by the Disability Discrimination Act – who had never used the internet, representing 32% of all adults in the UK with a disability.
The total amount of adults who had never used the internet at the first quarter of 2013 was 7.1 million (14%), meaning that more than half (53%) of this figure were people with a disability.
However there are fewer adults with a disability offline than were shown in the ONS update for the previous quarter, which reported 3.8 million adults with a disability never having gone online. In fact, with several brief exceptions, this figure has been falling regularly since the ONS began publishing its Internet Access Quarterly Updates at the beginning of 2011, and the figure of 3.7 million in the latest update is the lowest yet.
Age is another key factor in determining internet use, the report shows. Only 34% (1.6 million people) of adults over 75 had used the internet, meaning that the 3.1 million people aged 75 and over who had not gone online made up 43% of the total of 7.1 million non-user adults.
The figures in the Internet Access Quarterly Update are derived from the ONS Labour Force Survey, a continuous household survey of employment circumstances of the UK population conducted in England, Scotland and Wales. The latest version of the update can be viewed below:
Short link: http://bit.ly/YIFMLA
Full link: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/rdit2/internet-access- quarterly-update/2013-q1/stb-ia-q1-2013.html
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=871
++News in Brief:
+04: Improving e-Reading:
The latest version of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader app for iOS – Apple’s operating system, used on the iPhone and iPad – has been made more accessible for blind and visually impaired users. The latest upgrade supports Apple’s VoiceOver screen-reader technology, meaning that more than 1.8 million titles in the Kindle store can be read aloud to users. Other iOS accessibility features, such as Zoom and Assistive Touch, allowing users to customise touch controls, are also supported.
Short link: http://bit.ly/Z8G26H
Full link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/kindle-read-books- ebooks-magazines/id302584613?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
+05: Hands-Free Donation:
Technology access charity AbilityNet is asking people to send a text message without using their hands, as part of their Look No Hands! campaign, to raise awareness of how disability can affect the way people use technology. Supporters are being asked to donate £2 to the campaign by texting the phrase look132 to the number 70070 without using their hands – mirroring some of the difficulties that a person with an impairment might face.
Short link: http://bit.ly/13s2Iih
Full link: http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/looknohands
+06: Assisted Digital:
The Government Digital Service (GDS) has begun speaking to potential partners to help the 18% of UK adults who do not use the internet – including many people with disabilities – to access online government services as part of the government’s forthcoming “Assisted Digital” programme. To begin the process, a “Prior Information Notice” has been placed on the European Union’s Tenders Electronic Daily website for public procurement notices, and an information event for potential suppliers will be held on 13 June. The cost of the project is estimated at £50 million:
Short link: http://bit.ly/11dbxZB
Full link: http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2013/05/23/starting- conv-assisted-digital/
[Section One ends].
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++Section Two: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.
Please email all contributions or responses to: email@example.com .
+07: Solo Climb:
Thomas “Boots” Anderson, a 78-year-old former RAF Mountain and Desert Rescue Team volunteer member, writes in to tell us about a story of derring-do following our coverage last issue of the blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer.
“I read the story about Erik Weihenmayer with great interest”, Thomas writes. “This month I met Steve Bate, a young Kiwi [New Zealander] who lives in Moray and has a similar type of sight- destroying disease as Erik.
“Steve is raising funds for North East Sensory Services by tackling “El Capitan”, SOLO (!), in Yosemite National Park, US – before he loses his sight.”
Further details of Steve Bate’s expedition can be found online. El Capitan is a 3,000 foot high vertical rock formation, a tough challenge indeed, and North East Sensory Services is an Aberdeen-based charity providing emotional and practical support to people in the Northeast of England affected by a sight or hearing loss.
As Bate’s expedition page on Facebook explains: “Now I have the chance to prove to myself that big dreams can come true if we work hard enough. A year in the planning and training to try and prepare myself for the biggest challenge I have ever faced, a 3,000ft rock face solo. The scariest thing is to commit to try something so extreme and make it public, now after a year all that's left is to climb it!”
“Visual Aid – Climb Zodiac” Facebook page:
Short link: http://on.fb.me/Zw8WzS Full link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Visual-Aid-Climb- Zodiac/272651892862582
Justgiving donations page: http://www.justgiving.com/stevebate1
Further responses please to firstname.lastname@example.org .
[Section Two ends].
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Section Three: Special Report - Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
+08: A Worldwide Audience For Web Accessibilityby Tristan Parker
This year, 9 May recently marked the second Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), an event that aims to encourage web developers and related communities to think about accessibility for disabled computer users when designing and building web pages.
GAAD was inspired by a blog post in which US-based developer Joe Devon called for widespread accessible web design. The post was noticed by accessibility professional Jennison Asuncion, and the two began working to raise the profile of digital accessibility.
Individuals and organisations from across the globe create and take part in awareness-raising activities during GAAD, from holding talks to tweeting accessibility messages to using only part of a computer to simulate the barriers faced by someone with an impairment or disability.
Here, Devon and Asuncion speak to E-Access Bulletin about the aims of GAAD and the 2013 event.
EAB: Please tell us about the background to Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
Joe: I had seen this video by Victor Tsaran, a blind accessibility programmer working for Yahoo! He was demonstrating what it was like to surf the internet using a screen reader [video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izrC4R7SsH4 ].
He was surfing the Yahoo! site with links all over the place. I was fascinated by how quickly the screen-reader navigated through the content. And it got me thinking about how important it was that markup [a type of computer language] be done semantically.
Fast forward five years, I was watching my father struggle with a banking website. He was 86 at the time, with severe hearing impairment and reduced visual acuity. It was terrible the struggle he faced when calling the bank and trying to navigate their voicemail system.
You would think that moving banking activity online would help things out. But it didn’t. Responding to an email from the bank once resulted in him getting phished. So you can’t trust that. It’s great that the bank has direct messages. He wrote a message with an issue once, and then he got an email telling him there was a response on the website. But he didn’t know if that was true.
I watched him go to the website and realised that although there was an alert that he had a message, it was so subtle there was no way he would notice it. Had the bank done user-testing with the elderly, they would have known this. The situation got me mad. And inspired me to write a blog post suggesting a Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) for web development professionals.
I thought it would be ignored, like all my other blog posts. However, Jennison Asuncion, a digital accessibility professional in Toronto (I was living in Los Angeles), stumbled upon it on Twitter and told me we had to make it happen. And so GAAD was born.
EAB: Who are the main team behind GAAD and how did those people become involved?
Joe: Well, I suppose Jennison and I are volunteers for life. But so many people have been pitching in that it would be hard to even tell you who is “the team”. Informally there seems to be a tight- knit community and they are all in with us.
Jennison: It was really amazing to see folks step up. Whether it was volunteering to translate text into different languages, people tweeting, writing and blogging to promote the day, others organising events at their companies/organisations, many have much to be proud of.
EAB: Do you think GAAD 2013 was the biggest yet?
Joe: GAAD 2013 was only our second year. GAAD 2012 blew us away. We never expected such a response. We thought it would take a much bigger effort to take off, but I guess we touched a nerve. Now GAAD 2013 was so beyond expectation, that yes, it was the biggest so far.
EAB: What preparation took place for this year’s event?
Joe: My father got cancer in November 2012 and passed away mid-February. So I was pretty out of it for this year’s preparations. But basically Jennison worked social media and his personal network, and people contacted us. Jennison directed changes to the website and Facebook almost daily. Web developer Mindy Morgan (with Diamond Web Services) was extremely helpful throughout this procedure and she made the changes. Not to mention designed a killer logo and redid my awful website layout from the year before. Finally, L.A.-based accessibility specialist Joseph O’Connor made sure our event’s site was accessible.
EAB: Although it’s very much a widespread event with people undertaking their own projects, from a personal perspective, how was GAAD 2013?
Joe: I just couldn’t believe my eyes. I did a representative count of tweets on the GAAD hashtag and it was about a tweet a minute. I’m far from having seen all the tweets. I did notice that the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] tweeted accessibility all day to celebrate the event. We had many corporations do internal events. From Facebook to Intuit [a United States-based financial software company] to PayPal to coverage on .Net’s online magazine, with Mindy’s logo on the cover, it was overwhelming. I still can’t believe what grew out of a simple blog post.
Jennison: Echoing Joe, I was taken aback at how much interest GAAD had. In addition to the number of events held for the public and at schools/companies/organisations around the world, for me, it was hearing from the folks from the National Association of the Physical Disabled - Nepal who held an awareness session with the local IT community and the Independent Living Resource Centre in St. John’s, Canada, that were particularly thrilling. I encourage readers to go to www.globalaccessibilityawarenessday.org to see what went on, it was truly amazing.
EAB: Have there been any projects or results that have already arisen as a result of GAAD 2013?
Joe: Jennison and I are working on starting a foundation and a book to further the goals of Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Specifically, to make web development professionals and others in the high-tech industry aware of digital accessibility. You would be amazed how few even know what a screen-reader is and what other assistive technology is out there!
Jennison: One of the areas we'll also be working on is continuing to translate and provide info on GAAD in other languages to make this a truly global effort in 2014. Stay tuned to our website, our Twitter feed @gbla11yday and our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/globalaccessibilityawarenessday
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=868
[Section Three ends].
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[Issue 158 ends].