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Archive for June, 2012

Launch for National Accessibility Awareness Campaign

Go ON Gold, a new national campaign to raise awareness about the barriers faced by disabled people in accessing modern technologies, from the internet to smartphones and digital TV, was launched this week by a consortium of partners lead by Headstar, the publisher of E-Access Bulletin.

Running for a year from summer 2012 to summer 2013, Go ON Gold is being launched ahead of the London Paralympics to capitalise on a stronger- than-usual public focus on disability issues.

At the project’s core is a partnership between the UK’s major e-accessibility players including the new national digital inclusion charity Go ON UK led by Martha Lane Fox, the UK government’s Digital Champion. Other partners include Headstar; AbilityNet, the UK’s leading charity on access to IT; BCS; the UK’s national blindness charity RNIB; Disability Rights UK (formerly RADAR), an umbrella group of other major charities; and the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The project is funded by Nominet Trust.

A series of video interviews with leading figures in the disability community – including Paralympic athletes – are being created for the campaign, about how access to new technologies has transformed their lives. All organisations and individuals invited to embed the videos in their own site. The Go ON Gold website also intends to act as a signpost to all the best accessibility resources elsewhere on the web.

Any organisation can sign up to become a Go ON Gold partner.

New Resources Promote Inclusive e-Learning

Two free new learning resources have been released by JISC TechDis, a education advisory service on accessible and inclusive technology, to boost skills for learners with and without disabilities.

The first resource will help learners who use text-to-speech applications: two new voices for text-to-speech were commissioned from specialists CereProc available for free to learners and learning institutes.

The male and female voices – named “TechDis Jack” and “TechDis Jill” – are designed to be easy to understand, “youthful and modern”. TechDis Jill possesses a Northern English accent, which its creators believe is a first in text-to-speech.

According to the TechDis website, “all staff and learners over 16 in every publicly-funded learning provider in England should be eligible for the TechDis Voices, which can be downloaded after registering.

The second project to be launched was the JISC TechDis Toolbox, with information to help people use ICT and online technologies more effectively in employment.

This information is divided into five main categories: ‘using technology’, ‘planning and organisation’, ‘communicating’, ‘teamworking’, and ‘different needs?’ It includes guidance on how to carry out effective Google searches; and how to operate text-to-speech on some mobile devices.

The resources were launched at ND’12, the seventh national digital inclusion conference, held in London last month. In a launch video, Alistair McNaught of JISC TechDis said: “We spent eight years working with learning providers from the top down, helping to influence senior management teams, librarians, learning support staff, tutors, etc, and telling them about the kinds of tools and technology that could make a difference to their learners.

“But while that was fantastic in some areas, in many places it just wasn’t trickling down to the learner, so we decided to flip it over and work form the learner upwards. The whole point of the Toolbox is to take all the things you wish your tutor might have told you about but never did, and take that to learners directly.”

The work was funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Appeal Court Upholds Canadian Woman’s Web Access Case

A blind accessibility consultant who took the Canadian Federal Government to court over the inaccessibility of its websites has won a second victory, after the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal upheld an initial decision in her favour.

Canadian citizen Donna Jodhan, who is blind, won her first case against the government in 2010, after claiming that her rights were breached when she could not apply for a government job online or complete an online census form using screen-reader technology. The government then appealed the decision (see E-Access Bulletin issue 133), continuing a long legal battle.

In its defence, the Canadian Government had claimed the case should be thrown out since the information was available to Jodhan by other means – by telephone, post or in person. However, the appeal court has now upheld Jodhan’s 2010 victory, which included a ruling that the Canadian Government must make its websites accessible for blind and visually impaired citizens within 15 months.

Jodhan told E-Access Bulletin she was “absolutely delighted, humbled, and relieved that this decision has been handed down.” She said: “It is my sincere hope that the Canadian government will now take the initiative to work with our community to ensure that the court’s ruling is adhered to in full and in the spirit that it was meant to be. Now we need to build on this and use this as a launching pad for creating more awareness and to encourage all stake holders to work together for a common goal.”

In a press statement about the ruling, a spokesperson for the Federal Government said: “Our government is continuing to implement the Federal Court decision from 2010. We are committed to web accessibility and to date over 100 government institutions are converting their content in line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.”

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.”