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Association To Set UK Digital Format Standards

The new UK Association for Accessible Formats ( UKAAF:
http://www.ukaaf.org/ ) is to set national standards next year for accessibility of digital formats such as electronic books and synthesised speech, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

The association, a charity formed last year, refined its work programme for the next two years at its annual general meeting in London earlier this month.

This included setting suggested minimum acceptable standards for large print, Braille and audio formats by the end of 2010, followed in 2011 by work on standards for synthesised speech, electronic books and other digital formats.

All standards will be aimed at content and service providers; transcribers; and end users, Alan Matthews, the association’s public relations officer, told E-Access Bulletin following the meeting. “The goal is to set out an achievable minimum UK standard that everyone can work towards, so the odd producer out there who is not quite hitting the mark would have something to aim at, service providers would have minimum requirement for end users, and end users would have minimum standard they could expect and service providers could not say they can’t do it, because of technical issues,” Matthews said.

“For example, if I work for a utility, and I know I should provide accessible formats, and I want to write them into a tender but I don’t know what standards to use, I could come to UKAAF. Then I would know what I am asking for is reasonable, achievable and what the end-user is expecting.”

Ultimately, the association would like its standards to be included in government regulations relating to accessibility, he said. “If we can be talking to government within five years, it would give our work a stamp of authority.”

The association will also be looking at how current law in this area, including the new Equalities Act 2010 and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 with its provision for ‘reasonable adjustments’ to services, affect the way organisations need to take account of format accessibility.

The meeting had been due to pass an emergency motion on whether to endorse Unified English Braille (UEB) as the “preferred” Braille format for UK use, in the face of US moves to endorse the alternative Unified Braille Code. However the meeting decided to delay a decision pending further deliberations.

Three appointments were made to the board of UKAAF: Michael Lewington, Director of Calibre Audio Library; Richard West, former chair of BCAB and Sheila Armstrong, text transcription co-ordinator at Torch Trust. The association’s president is former RNIB chairman Lord Low of Dalston.

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