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Web Accessibility: One Million Steps: Boosting Access Awareness, One Website at a Time.

By Robin Christopherson

Recent research shows that the great majority of websites are still failing consistently to comply with even the lowest priority checkpoints of the accessibility guidelines set out by the international web standards body the World Wide Web Consortium. Despite a plethora of initiatives to raise awareness of this issue, from Citizens Online’s ‘Fix the Web’ campaign to Global Accessibility Awareness Day, the situation does not seem to be improving at a significant rate.

Little wonder, therefore, that one in six of us is still reluctant to venture into the online world and not surprising either that around half of those on the wrong side of the digital divide are disabled, and a similar number are aged 65 or over. The scope for mainstream technologies to transform the lives of this sizeable minority seems largely untapped.

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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.

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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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Practitioners Rally To Defend Web Access Guidelines

Accessibility practitioners have defended the international standard ‘WCAG’ web content accessibility guidelines this month, in the wake of an academic study suggesting they were “ineffective”.

The PhD study by André Pimenta Freire of the University of York, as reported in E-Access Bulletin in May, said adherence to the WCAG guidelines could not resolve many problems on website pages encountered by print-disabled computer users. In a series of responses on the bulletin’s website, however, several practitioners raised objections to points raised in Pimenta Freire’s study.

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Employers ‘Need Support To Make Job Applications Accessible’

Employers need more support to make their digital job application processes accessible to people with disabilities, according to a new report from disability employment services charity Shaw Trust.

The report, ‘Making work a real choice’, examines the government’s disability employment programme Work Choice through the experiences of more than 400 people – a mix of job applicants, employers, and Shaw Trust staff.

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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.

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Global Accessibility Awareness Day: A Worldwide Audience For Web Accessibility

By 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.

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Web Content Accessibility Checker Pitched At Wider Audience

An updated version of a free web content accessibility checker, originally developed because its creator was frustrated at the limitations of similar products, has been launched in JavaScript to allow wider usage.

QUAIL ( quailjs.org ) is a piece of software that uses more than 200 tests to assess if web content conforms to the widely used Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

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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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Call For New Task-Based Approach To Digital Inclusion

A “change in mind set” on digital inclusion is needed by organisations in all sectors after a general failure to create accessible digital systems – particularly for those with a disability or the elderly – a new report by technology access charity AbilityNet says.

“Mind the Digital Gap: It’s bigger than you think” says that although there has been much discussion on accessibility and inclusive digital systems over the past 15 years, this has not yielded significant results. “The reality is … that apart from a small number of good examples, many digital systems and content are inaccessible to the majority of disabled and older people. The current methodology … has failed and we need a change in mind set on how we approach digital inclusion,” it says.
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