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Archive for February, 2009

Licence To Tweet

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Twitter is a ‘microblogging’ system that allows people to supply a feed of very short messages, or ‘tweets’ – just 140 characters long, to whoever subscribes to their feed. Subscribers can then reply openly with their own messages, or use the system to send private messages in reply. However, despite the fact that it is such a simple concept (and leaving aside for the moment the question of who has time to use it), the service raises various accessibility issues. Here, blogger Gez Lemon offers one innovative solution.]

Considering the standard Twitter website is so basic, it’s surprising it is so inaccessible.

Lost Weekend Spawns Accessible Facebook

A tool to make the social networking site Facebook more accessible to visually impaired users has been created by Project:Possibility ( ),
a group of not-for-profit software developers in the US. The application ( )
allows visually impaired users to log in, navigate and use the site by combining screen reader technology with other coding techniques.

Brian D’Souza, a team member who worked on the project, explained: “We leveraged an existing technology developed by Google called AxsJax (accessibility + AJAX), which combines use of screen readers and java script and navigation methods to make navigation and modification of content of webpages easier. It provides a lot of value for a blind person.”

More Workplace Assistance Needed With IT, Guide Warns

Employers should do more to help disabled people with their IT workplace needs, according to a new guide from the Employers’ Forum on Disability (EFD).

The ‘Reasonable adjustments – line manager guide’ ( )
advises employers to ensure they procure the correct equipment to ensure disabled workers can work to their full potential, including voice-activated software; adapted keyboards; and chairs which support the back and neck.

Quality, Not Quantity

Voluntary guidelines on web accessibility are all very well, but there is nothing like a law for ensuring everyone falls into line. Such was the message to emerge from last month’s European Commission conference on digital inclusion held in Vienna.

Alexander Fase, Web Guidelines Project Manager at the Dutch government ICT agency ICTU, told delegates that his organisation had developed a non-technical, ‘quality’ approach to accessibility standards which focused on ensuring all information could be accessed through any channel, now and in the future.

Sign Language Videos And Virtual Tours Win Cultural Awards

The National Trust, the British Museum and the V&A are among the recipients of last month’s annual Jodi awards for excellence in accessible cultural websites and digital media ( ).

The British Museum won the Excellence in Web Accessibility Award for its BSL Schools Web Project ( ). The museum worked with the Frank Barnes Primary School for deaf children in London to produce videos for some of the exhibits in British Sign Language (BSL).

Tech Industry Slams ‘Fragmented’ EU Inclusion Policy

The lack of a coherent approach to boosting technology accessibility across European nations has been attacked by a leading technology industry spokesman.

Mark McGann, Director General of the European Information, Communications and Consumer Electronics Technology Industry Association (EICTA), told the recent European Commission Vienna conference on digital inclusion that the lack of a cohesive approach in this field has been “a massive failure”.

Visual Memory Is Key To Use Of Graphic Interfaces

New research has found it is easier for blind computer programmers to use and develop graphical user interfaces (GUIs) when they have previously been sighted and retain some visual memory. This memory helps programmers to visually represent GUIs, even if the interfaces themselves were designed after they had lost their sight, it found.

The research, termed the ‘Combine project’ ( ),
was conducted by Dr. Simon Hayhoe, editor of the ‘Eco’ collaborative website on blindness and the arts.