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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.

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The Story Behind the BBC Mobile Accessibility Guidelines

By 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.

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Digital Inclusion “About Everybody, Not Just Disabled People”

The concept of digital accessibility simply as a means of catering for disabled users is out-of-date: in the modern world, digital inclusion must be understood as the need to serve everybody, whatever their access method or device, a leading accessibility specialist has said.

Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at technology access charity AbilityNet, told delegates at the recent national digital conference in London, ND13, that providers of digital content and services already need to adapt to new devices and access methods. With more people than ever accessing websites through mobile and other devices, we are in a situation where “everybody is disabled from time-to-time”, Christopherson said.

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Tech Giant Launches Smartphone For Older People

A smartphone designed for elderly people has been developed by global technology company Fujitsu.

When setting up the Stylistic S01 phone the user inputs their age, which customises some aspects to work differently. For example, the audio frequency range will be optimised for older people so they can clearly hear the voice of the person they are speaking to, and the phone can also slow down the speech of a caller without losing audio quality, again making it easier to understand.

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Courts Freeze Samsung Battle Against Apple Screen Reader

A lawsuit in Germany in which mobile handset maker Samsung is attempting to force its rival Apple to remove the VoiceOver screen reader function from its iPhone smartphones in the country has been halted by the courts.

VoiceOver allows users to have content on the screen read aloud to them. It is marketed as an accessibility aid for blind and visually impaired users, since it can help people use and navigate an iPhone by touch and audio alone.

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Signing Avatar App Prototype Wins Global Award

A Brazilian mobile app that translates Portuguese speech, digital text and photographs of text into sign language, all using an animated avatar, has been recognised at a global apps awards ceremony.

The Hand Talk app ( bit.ly/12DovWS ) – due to be publicly released later this year – was developed by Ronaldo Tenório, Carlos Wanderlan and Thadeu Luz to convert written or spoken Portuguese text into LIBRAS, the official sign language of Brazil. The app won the category for ‘mInclusion and Empowerment’ at the World Summit Award – Mobile ( bit.ly/Vrng8J ) for its potential as a communication aid for hearing-impaired people and others who want to learn LIBRAS.
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Guidelines Cover Accessibility For Smart Homes Of The Future

The latest version of a set of guidelines for accessible design in ICT systems, including information on making technology-enabled ‘smart homes’ accessible to disabled and elderly people, has been released by a leading consultant.

The guidelines are produced by John Gill OBE, consultant in technology for persons with disabilities and former chief scientist at the Royal National Institute of Blind People. Gill has compiled the guidance over a number of years, as an introduction to building accessible systems in a wide range of areas. A checklist, showing how different accessibility considerations in types of ICT equipment can aid different types of impairment, is also included.
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User Priorities Must Drive Accessible ICT Research, Warns Telecoms Expert

Research and investment priorities for the digital economy and development of internet services and mobile devices must reflect the needs of disabled and elderly people, a telecommunications expert has warned.

In a video address to a London event on the future of accessible ICT research( bit.ly/T0SkH2 ), Dr Mike Short, vice president of Telefónica Europe and former president of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said customer demand for more accessible services has risen over the past ten years. Accordingly, mobile network providers need to think about different groups of users when planning for future growth, including the benefits that universal design can offer to everybody, Short said.
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“Georgie” Apps Make Smartphones Smarter

A new series of apps has been developed to enhance accessibility features for Android-enabled smartphones for blind and visually impaired users.

The “Georgie” apps allow blind and visually impaired users to perform a number of functions additional to ‘standard’ phone features, including recording and broadcasting audio blogs; photographing text and having it read out to them, using an optical character recognition feature; and audio tagging images with sound clips. It will also read aloud screen text when users touch the screen, and voice recognition software enables users to speak the content for text messages into the phone.

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eAccess ’12 Conference report: Time To Be Creative

A more creative, inclusive approach to accessibility is needed than simply following technical guidelines, delegates heard at the eAccess 12 conference co-hosted this week by E-Access Bulletin publisher Headstar.

David Sloan of the Digital Media Access Group at Dundee University said his university’s School of Computing had integrated user feedback into all aspects of its work, from the building’s open design to recruitment of local elderly people to come in and participate in research.

“Involving people who benefit from the skills you’re teaching is critical, rather than just presenting people with guidelines like WCAG and using that in an assessment”, Sloan said.

Paul Edwards, programme manager for Channel 4’s online coverage of the upcoming Paralympic Games, agreed that sticking too rigidly to accessibility guidelines can have a detrimental effect on your audience. Flexibility is crucial: “The most important thing we’ve been trying to do is make sure our process is flexible enough to react when a situation occurs. When you’re looking at guidelines like WCAG, sticking too closely to them actually blinkers you to what’s happening to your users.”

Henny Swan, senior accessibility specialist for iPlayer and mobile at BBC Technology, said modern developers should ensure a website responds to the device it is being viewed on, including smartphones and mobile devices: “responsive design”.

However, designing accessible content for mobile devices is still tough due to a lack of authoritative guidelines on the subject, Swan said. This led to Swan and her team at the BBC developing their own specialist guidelines for accessible BBC mobile content: “We decided to write guidelines for HTML, Android and iOS (the iPhone operating system), because those are our three biggest areas. We needed ‘device-agnostic’ guidelines, rather than writing three different sets.”

The result is ‘Mobile and tablet accessibility guidelines and techniques’ – an internal BBC guide for developers, designers and project managers when creating mobile content. Guidance includes ‘supporting device capabilities’, which states that content must try not to break specific device accessibility. An example of this is the ‘pinch’ zoom function on the iOS, said Swan, which allows users to magnify content with a small finger gesture on the screen. “If you’re coding in HTML you can suppress ability for user to do that, immediately preventing a lot of people being able to read content quickly and easily. Don’t suppress what the device allows you to do.”

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