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Archive for March, 2012

UK’s First Inbuilt Text-To-Speech TVs Hit The Shelves

Electronics manufacturer Panasonic has built text-to-speech functionality into 30 of its television models, designed specifically to help blind and visually impaired users, making them the first such TVs to become available on the UK general market.

After switching on the function during installation, text-to-speech will be present over a wide range of tasks in the televisions, including speaking the channel number and name of a programme when switching channels; the time that a programme begins and ends; and whether other accessibility features such as audio description are available for a programme.

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Call For Global Body To Boost Accessibility Professionalism

The accessibility field needs a new international community of experts to help it become a recognised profession, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer told a recent conference.

Speaking at the sixth European Forum on e-Accessibility in Paris ( http://bit.ly/wHNjGf ), Rob Sinclair said: “The time has come for accessibility to transcend its origin and become an internationally recognised profession.”

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Councils Still Struggling With Website Accessibility

Almost half of local authority websites remain inaccessible to disabled users, according to the annual ‘Better Connected’ review of UK local authority sites, carried out by the Society of IT Management (Socitm).

Little has changed in the picture of council website accessibility since last year’s Better Connected, with only a 2% increase in the amount of councils achieving the assessment’s standard rating for accessibility – from 56% in 2011 to 58% (252 councils) this year. Within those 252 sites, only two (Kettering Borough Council and the London Borough of Merton) were rated as ‘Very Good’ under the scoring system, while 30% of websites (130 in total) were rated as having ‘Poor’ accessibility, and 12% (51 sites) were classed as ‘Inaccessible’.

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Digital books in Italy: Reading Without Barriers

By Michele Smargiassi

They can’t see their books: maybe this is why they read them with such an extraordinary passion. On average, in Italy, a blind person reads 9.2 books a year, while among sighted Italians only two in ten people read so many. Six blind people out of ten read a few pages of a book at least once a week, while 53.2% of Italians never, ever, read. In short, the blind read much more than the sighted.

“The thirst for knowledge is strongest where there is a barrier,” says Orlando Paladino, president of the Unione Italiana Ciechi (Italian Union of the Blind). Or perhaps, where a barrier falls. The data outlined above from a new survey by the Italian Publishers’ Association (Associazione Italiana Editori – AIE: http://www.aie.it ) would probably have been very different 15 years ago, when it was impossible to read books on a computer, or to have them translated into Braille on a tactile display. (more…)