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New online platform aims to be a game-changer for accessible ICT

An accessibility resources platform that claims to be ‘the first of its kind in the world” has been launched.

DeveloperSpace aims to be a comprehensive portal for information on inclusive digital content and systems, for a wide-ranging audience. Although primarily aimed at developers, designers and anyone building digital systems or content, the site has been created to foster collaboration between different industries and disciplines, in the hope of creating and sharing what the site calls ‘accessible solutions’ to ICT accessibility problems.

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The European e-Accessibility Forum: opening up digital culture

Just as digital accessibility picks up more and more mainstream interest, certain topics within the accessibility field also begin gathering momentum. One such topic is accessible culture. Clearly, this can mean many things, but in this case it refers to cultural spaces (such as museums and art galleries), projects and resources being made more inclusive through digital technology.

For some people, this has already been a focal point for years, perhaps through employment, personal interest or just frustration at the lack of accessibility within these areas.

Earlier this month, the eleventh European e-Accessibility Forum sought to explore this vast subject with its theme of ‘e-accessible culture’. Held in Paris at the Cité des sciences et de l’Industrie, the event was organised by French non-profit BrailleNet, an organisation that works towards improving digital accessibility.

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A “tax on accessible books”: mixed emotions at Marrakesh Treaty progress

The latest agreement in the process of implementing the Marrakesh Treaty, which aims to help end the ‘book famine’ faced by blind and visually impaired people, has been met with a mixture of praise and frustration.

The treaty aims to increase the availability of books in accessible formats, such as Braille and e-books, by relaxing copyright laws which make it difficult or time-consuming to share accessible books across different countries (read e-Access Bulletin’s previous coverage of the Marrakesh Treaty at the following link: eab.li/6j ).

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EU accessibility legislation: Keeping the public sector accessible

By Carine Marzin.

The EU directive on making the websites and mobile apps of public sector bodies more accessible was adopted at the end of 2016 and is the very first piece of EU legislation on digital accessibility. It will benefit over 500 million European citizens, including an estimated 80 million Europeans living with a disability, by making digital content from the public sector across Europe more accessible.

Governments will have to check that public sector bodies consistently adhere to the accessibility standards and there will be a new enforcement procedure, making it easier for members of the public to complain about inaccessible content and get the situation resolved.

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City mobility apps trialled to fight Blue Badge fraud across Europe

A three-year pan-European project to improve urban transportation for mobility impaired citizens – featuring a smartphone-based parking card to stop fraud – is drawing to a close and preparing recommendations for the European Commission.

The aim of the SIMON project is to increase independent living for people in cities with mobility impairments. Two mobile apps were developed as part of the process: an ‘ICT-enhanced parking card’ for drivers, and a journey-planning app.

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Tactile technology brings world-famous paintings to life for blind people

A special version of one of the world’s most well-known paintings has been created through 3D-printing, so that people with sight loss can experience it by touch.

The tactile, ‘3D relief’ version of Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ also features a series of audio triggers that explain different elements of the new work to visitors when they run their fingers over certain areas.

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World’s first ‘bionic Olympics’ will tackle everyday obstacles with assistive tech.

Cutting bread, climbing stairs and unwrapping a sugar cube all feature as competitions in an event being dubbed the ‘world’s first bionic Olympics’, which will set out to show how advanced technologies can help people with disabilities in daily life.

Taking place in Kloten, Switzerland, on October 8, the Cybathlon championship features six types of contest, with disabled competitors using and controlling assistive devices and robotic technologies.

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Governments warned not to “exclude millions” by legalising digital barriers

A letter from 20 NGOs has warned European ministers of the severe impact on disabled citizens’ lives that proposed changes to a web accessibility directive would have.

If exemptions to the EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites are adopted, then electronic communication with public organisations, downloading documents and accessing intranets at work will all be affected, and in some cases made impossible for disabled citizens throughout Europe, say the NGOs.

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Mapping mobility access across Europe

An open source map that plots information on accessibility of public spaces is being enhanced by a European Commission-funded research project.

The CAP4Access project aims to improve the Wheelmap platform, an interactive website that allows users to input mobility information about an area using editable mapping platform OpenStreetMap. Information might cover issues such as how accessible an area is to those with mobility impairments, such as wheelchair users and those with walking aids.

Users visit the Wheelmap website and ‘tag’ areas with category symbols, such as ‘leisure’, ‘shopping’, ‘food’ and ‘accommodation’, before choosing a colour for the symbol to indicate partial, full or no wheelchair accessibility, or ‘unknown’ status.

CAP4Access aims to develop more advanced tools for the collection of accessibility data such as route planning and navigation for users with limited mobility. New accessibility data will be submitted through Wheelmap, as well as other OpenStreetMap platforms such as Mapping For Change, using a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. Other accessibility information from existing sources, such as public sector open data, will also be added.

Partially funded under the European Commission’s ICT Policy Support Programme, CAP4Access is currently in a three-year test phase and is being piloted in four cities: Vienna, Austria; Elche, Spain; Heidelberg, Germany; and London. UK project partners include University College London.

Karsten Gareis, project manager of CAP4Access, told E-Access Bulletin one longer-term aim is to establish Wheelmap in countries that don’t currently use the platform. Another is to “firmly establish online routing and navigation for people in wheelchairs and other people with limited mobility – make it available in the same way that navigation and routing have become common tools for non-disabled travellers”, Gareis said.

EU elections ‘inaccessible for many disabled citizens’

“Inaccessible and cumbersome administrative processes” including inaccessible websites are preventing people with disabilities in Europe from voting in elections, according to a new report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), an EU advisory research body.

The report, published this month, examined how well the political rights of persons with disabilities are being upheld across Europe, and found significant barriers exist to the exercise of these rights. “Gaps between the promise of law and policy and their actual implementation – for example in the form of inaccessible polling stations or websites – persist”, it says.

Information on elections remains largely inaccessible to persons with disabilities, the report says, and official voting information websites in most EU member states do not appear to meet the minimum accepted standard for website accessibility, the international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

In a move linked to publication of the FRA report, the European Disability Forum (EDF) urged EU member states to remove restrictions that were preventing persons with disabilities from voting in the run-up to the recent European Parliament elections.

The forum, an independent international campaign group, also called on those European citizens with disabilities that were able to vote to do so, and exert their influence. The group published its own policy manifesto, “The key priorities of the disability movement”, aimed at political parties across Europe. These include making goods and services accessible for all, through implementing the proposed EU directive on the accessibility of public websites.

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