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++Section One: News.
+01: Top E-Book Reader Firms Contest Us Accessibility Law.
Three of the biggest e-book reader manufacturers – Amazon, Kobo and Sony – have petitioned the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ask for exemptions from US laws requiring products to be accessible to users with disabilities.
The three are urging the commission to waive parts of the 21st Century Video and Communications and Video Accessibility Act which require any product offering ‘advanced communication services’ (ACS) to be “accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” The manufacturers say that as e-readers are used almost exclusively for reading, they do not provide more generic ACS. They argue that to make them fully accessible would increase their cost and weight and decrease battery life, essentially turning them into different devices more similar to tablet computers.
“Individuals with disabilities have better ACS options on devices other than e-readers” the petition says. It also states that if accessibility functions were added to the e-readers, these changes “would not yield a meaningful benefit to individuals with disabilities”.
However Steve Tyler, head of solutions, strategy and planning at the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the UK, told E-Access Bulletin that e-readers should be made accessible to all, since they are “game-changing technologies” for blind and partially sighted people. “Tenuous arguments around an increase in weight or low battery life of devices are simply not justified nor representative of the truth around the state of play in the technology market today”, Tyler said.
“Rendering these devices fully accessible through synthetic speech, as well as options around font size and contrast, is a business decision rather than one based on technology,” he said.
The coalition of e-reader manufacturers’ petition is available as a PDF at the following link: http://bit.ly/16gW53i .
Public comments on the petition were invited by the FCC last month, the overwhelming majority of which opposed the coalition’s waiver request. More than 500 comments were sent in all, viewable at: http://bit.ly/16wWHEo
The commission will now consider the submissions before reaching its decision on whether or not to accept a waiver. At the time of writing, no date had been set for this decision.
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=919
+02: Accessibility Now Thriving In Mainstream Mobile Market, Campaigner Says
Accessibility functions on mobile devices are becoming mainstream and mobile manufacturers are now competing to make their devices more accessible, the president of international digital accessibility body G3ict has said.
Speaking at the M-Enabling Australasia 2013 event in Australia, Axel Leblois said accessibility has become a driving force in the mobile market.
“For the first time in my entire life in the industry, I see that major vendors are competing for accessibility. That is because everyone, every day, who uses a smartphone, living with a disability or not, is going to encounter an instant of disability”, Leblois said.
He said anyone might encounter a temporary impairment when using their mobile device, such as not being able to see the screen in some situations or relying on writing and reading text when the user cannot make phone calls.
“Those [accessibility] features – so important for people with disabilities – are essential for most users today. That’s why you see such competition and why you see iOS and Windows competing for the best accessibility features”, Leblois said.
Businesses are also increasingly seeing the business case for making their digital products accessible, he said. “Why would a microwave oven not have voice controls, since it will be so cheap, because it’s becoming digitised in the mobile industry?” he said. “[Accessibility] has a profound effect on everything.”
Transcripts and presentations from M-Enabling 2013 – organised by the Australian Communications Consumer Network – can be found below:
Short link: http://bit.ly/19HShhI
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=922
+03: Paralympics Star Is This Year’S E-Access Conference Keynote Speaker.
GB Paralympics star Hannah Cockroft MBE, winner of two gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in wheelchair sprint races, is this year’s inspirational keynote speaker at e-Access ‘13, the UK’s leading event on access to technology by people with disabilities.
The event will analyse the ‘Paralympics effect’, focusing on how increased public and media interest in disability after the 2012 Paralympic Games can be used to maximum benefit for accessibility progress. Other speakers include Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative industries Ed Vaizey, who will update delegates on how the government is addressing accessibility; and disability consultant and campaigner Simon Stevens, star of a Channel Four TV comedy show.
Elsewhere on the agenda, topics include user-testing by people with disabilities; access to mobile technologies including smartphones, tablets and apps; e-book accessibility; achieving management support for digital inclusion strategies; accessible open source technologies; and accessibility of ‘PDF’ files.
The event, hosted by E-Access Bulletin publishers Headstar in association with the One Voice for Accessible ICT Coalition, is to be held in central London on 31 October. For the ninth year running, it brings together users, practitioners, suppliers and academics from across the field to discuss how technology can be used by and benefit people of all ages and abilities.
For more information and to register, visit: http://www.headstar.com/eaccess13/
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=924
++News in Brief:
+04: Digital friends:
A free ‘e-Befriending’ service is allowing people with sight loss the opportunity to connect with supportive volunteers using email, reducing the risk of social isolation. The service is also aiming at improving people’s IT skills – anybody wanting to use the service but worried about their computer skills will be helped by the organisers, the Thomas Pocklington Trust. Those wishing to volunteer for the service and help others can also find out more at the link below:
Short link: http://bit.ly/13AP8hm
+05: Shorter name:
Ricability, a national research charity providing information of value to disabled and older consumers, has been renamed Rica (the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs). Features available on the charity’s relaunched website include past research and testing into accessibility of digital TV and radio sets (see ‘research reports’ in the ‘Research and consultancy’ section).
Full link: http://www.rica.org.uk/
+06: Care shortfall:
Only one-fifth of the UK’s 20,000 care homes provide internet access to residents, according to new research from carehome.co.uk. The independent information website is now calling for more care homes to offer internet access with a view to preventing older residents and residents with disabilities becoming isolated and helping them with online shopping and communicating with friends and family.
Short link: http://bit.ly/1614upl
[Section One ends].
++Section Two: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.
Please email all contributions or responses to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
+07: Debate Continues:
University of York academics have responded in detail to reader questions following an E-Access Bulletin report on research into user-based accessibility and the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Andre Freire, Helen Petrie and Chris Power – authors of the research and PhD student/teaching staff at the University of York’s Department of Computer Science – have responded to individual comments and points on the E-Access Bulletin blog, posted below our original article.
You can read all their responses in full and continue the debate at the following link: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=873
+08: Busy BBC:
Our regular correspondent Brian Gaff, from the Kingston upon Thames Association for the Blind, writes in following last issue’s piece on the new guidelines for mobile accessibility issued by the BBC.
“I do applaud the BBC trying to do something about mobile access”, Brian writes. “I would however take issue with the BBC claim that their web site is accessible. Well, it is in the sense that most of its clever bits do work for screenreader users, but to me, rather like Amazon and others, they are a perfect demonstration on how to pass the accessibility criteria while making it hard to use.
“It is far, far too busy on each page. All the time you have to click to read the rest of items of news, or go there to look at this similar item etc, and it is just really hard sometimes to actually stay reading what you want to read without distractions.
“To me it’s what happens when the nuts and bolts are all correct, but the design is a real pig. I know I’m not alone in thinking this, but unfortunately when folk complain (assuming they can find the right form to do it on), they get ignored or the answer comes weeks later on and is just an excuse about why it is as it is. Let us hope the content writers and authors looking at mobile access guidelines do not have the same ‘more is better’ approach.”
Please email all contributions or responses to: email@example.com .
[Section Two ends].
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+09: A long and arduous journey:
Section Three: Global view
the fight for equality in Canada and worldwide by Donna Jodhan.
In 2000 I embarked on a journey to encourage the Canadian Government to work with blind Canadians to make their websites more accessible to all Canadians. At that time, my main objective was to raise awareness of the inaccessibility of government websites, and to convince officials of the importance of making their websites fully accessible as soon as possible.
I started my mission by taking my concerns to various departmental heads within the government and my presentations focused on the importance of making information fully accessible to all Canadians. I focused specifically on the fact that we are now living in an information society and a knowledge-based economy and blind Canadians, like everyone else, needed immediate access to information to make vital everyday decisions that affected such things as our health, safety, security and social welfare.
By making websites more accessible they could enable blind Canadians to read, download and to respond to information independently and without sighted assistance, thus protecting their right to privacy and confidentiality. To this end, I told the civil servants they needed to give their website developers the tools to make website content accessible and readable to blind persons, to produce files in alternate formats, and to provide training to support staff to be of assistance to blind Canadians. I also told them about the benefits to all Canadians if websites were to be made fully accessible.
Where could they find the necessary expertise to accomplish all this? Through the advice and assistance of blind testers and users along with guidance from accessibility experts, both nationally and internationally.
By 2004, however, I was struggling to make much headway, and I had come to the conclusion that to have any effect on the Canadian Government, my one-person mission would have to be expanded to include support from other blind Canadians, as well as from organisations of and for blind people. My challenge was not just inaccessible websites, but a deep-seated attitude that did not understand why blind Canadians needed to have equal access to information.
Eventually, this mission turned into a legal battle, triggered in particular after Statistics Canada refused to consider my job application on an equal footing to mainstream applicants, citing among its reasons that it was going to be too costly to produce exams in Braille or in an electronic format.
The legal battle began in full in 2007 after I had consulted with David Baker and his team at disability and human rights specialist lawyers Bakerlaw, and with Jutta Treviranus, a leading international accessibility expert and director of the Inclusive Design Research Centre at OCAD [Ontario College of Art and Design] University in Toronto. I was extremely fortunate to have obtained funding under a Court Challenges Program just before funding to it was cut in July 2007. The basis for my case was a violation of my rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights; unequal access to information.
For the next five years, my lawyers and I, along with our accessibility experts, battled doggedly to keep our case alive as the government battled just as determinedly to have it thrown out of court. I received support from thousands of Canadians, both blind and sighted, and from individuals and organisations around the world. An online petition was launched by the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians and we gathered more than 500 signatures. Press coverage extended from Canada to the US and well beyond, including TV, radio, newspaper and internet coverage.
In 2010 I won a landmark victory, as the lower Federal Court ruled in my favour, stating that the Canadian Government had indeed violated my rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights. The government appealed but lost round two of the battle in 2012 when the Canadian Court of Appeal again ruled in my favour; three judges having handed down a unanimous decision.
That was the end of that episode of my story, but since then, matters have moved on even further.
The Canadian Government has been mandated to make all of their websites fully accessible but no time limit has been put on them to do this. A few weeks ago the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians received an invitation from the government to have its members test their websites and I believe that this is a step in the right direction.
Many have asked why I embarked on such a long and arduous journey, and my response is that I did it for all blind Canadians, but especially for blind kids, as I truly believe I am obliged to make their future a better one than mine. I owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who has helped and supported me, with special mention to the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, of which I was the president from 2011-13.
Finally, it is my hope that this project will remain a continual work in progress: so thanks too to everyone who has yet to join in but might read this and work out how to help in future.
NOTE: Donna Jodhan’s blog, Advocating Accessibility for All, is at: http://donnajodhan.blogspot.co.uk/ . And you can follow past coverage of her legal battle in E-Access Bulletin at: http://bit.ly/14VnOdU .
And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=932
[Section Three ends].
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[Issue 161 ends].