[LINK] Fwd: vip-l: Fwd: E-Access Bulletin: January 2007

Jan Whitaker jwhit at melbpc.org.au
Thu Jan 25 11:08:14 AEDT 2007

Interesting articles about navigation, IBM 
developing a screen reader for Linux, website 
accessibility globally, etc etc. Sorry about the length!

From: Dan Jellinek dan at headstar.com
To: eaccess at headstar.com

- ISSUE 85, JANUARY 2007.

Technology news for people with vision impairment
( http://www.headstar.com/eab/ ).
Sponsored by:
( http://www.rnib.org.uk )
BT Age and Disability Unit
( http://www.btplc.com/age_disability/ )
Ford Motor Company
( http://www.ford.co.uk )

NOTE: Please forward this free bulletin to others (subscription details
at the end). We conform to the accessible Text Email Newsletter
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http://www.headstar.com/ten/ .

++Issue 85 Contents.

++Section One: News.

01: Italian Government To Explore Route Finder Technology
- Piedmont backs tests of navigational device for residents.

02: IBM Builds Bridges For Commercial Screen Readers
- technology giant releases accessibility interfaces for Linux.

03: Scottish Cinemas Receive Funds For Audio Description
- 100,000 pounds to assist vision impaired moviegoers.

News in Brief: 04: Open Sesame - electronic key fob; 05: Global
Deficiency - United Nations web accessibility survey; 06: Audio
Culture - free podcasts of classic novels.

Section Two: 'The Inbox' - Readers' Forum.
07: Switching Off - Soundclash solution; 08: Get Shorty - tip for
shorter web addresses; 09: Remote Access - remote control question;
10: Scripts Search - information management system query; 11:
Problem Magnified - advice sought.

Section Three: Focus - Educational Games.
12: Sticky By Name, Sticky By Nature: The BBC's online educational
materials for schoolchildren, Jam, is soon to launch a set of innovative
accessible games for vision impaired pupils. Mel Poluck saw them
showcased for the first time at BETT, the world's largest conference
on educational technology.

Section Four: Profile - Chris Hofstader.
13: Software For Everyone: Chris Hofstader, former software engineer
at US assistive technology company Freedom Scientific talks to Mel
Poluck about his current business plans and shares his views on the
assistive technology industry.

[Contents ends].

++Special Notice: e-Access '07 Date Announcement.

We are pleased to announce the date of e-Access '07, the UK's leading
annual event on access to technologies by people with all disabilities,
hosted by E-Access Bulletin. It will be held earlier than usual next
year, on 2 May 2007 in Central London.

More information about e-Access '07 will be announced shortly, but
please hold the date in your diary if you intend to come along!

As ever, sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities will also be available
at the event. If you are interested in these please contact Claire Clinton
at claire at headstar.com .

[Special Notice ends].

Section One: News.

+01: Italian Government To Explore Route Finder Technology.

A handheld device for blind people to independently reach their
destination on foot is to go on trial this month in Turin, Italy.

Conceived and funded by the regional government of Piedmont, 'Easy
walk' uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) enabled mobile phone
to provide audible directions. Once launched in August, it will be free
to use.

The navigational device tells users the address their current location as
well as directions, 'left,' 'right,' 'straight on,' and so on, until they
reach their destination. For users that are stuck or lost, the system
allows them to call a contact centre where an operator sees their
position on a computer screen and guides them on their journey over
the phone.

The pilot follows a campaign by the local branch of the Unione Italiana
dei Ciechi (Italian Blind Union -
http://www.uiciechi.it/piemonte/ )
to increase the safety of crossings in the region.

Problems with the accuracy of the precision of users' positions have
been smoothed out, financial advisor at the Italian Blind and
co-developer of the device, Federico Borgna told E-Access Bulletin,
although there are improvements yet to be made. The GPS, for
example, fails to work under tram wires, said Borgna.

In future, users will be able to personalise the device, adding the names
of shops or offices on routes that are then saved, for example.
Developers also aim for the Easy Walk to provide directions to users
anywhere in Italy or France.

The device has been developed by the Italian wireless technology
company Il Village
( http://www.ilvillage.it/ilVillage/ ).

+02: IBM Builds Bridges For Commercial Screen Readers.

Software products based on open source technology could become
more accessible to users of commercial screen readers following the
release of a new set of programming interfaces by technology giant

Users of commercial screen readers, which are usually developed for
Microsoft operating systems, often have problems accessing computer
applications that run on rival operating systems such as Linux, which
are based on open source software.

Collectively known as iAccessible2, the new interfaces released by
IBM are the basic building blocks for programmers to join open source
software products to Microsoft-based screen readers so that they work
together seamlessly.

IBM has released the interfaces to the Free Standards Group, a non-
profit organisation that will maintain iAccessible2 as an open standard
that can be freely used by developers. A blog maintained by the
technical director of the Free Standards Group is available here:
http://ianmurdock.com/?page_id=215 .

The move is seen as a significant step towards building bridges
between the most widely used commercial screen reader products and
the open source community, which develops products that are often
less expensive and more secure than those based on so-called
"proprietary" technologies.

Roger Wilson-Hinds, developer of Thunder, the screen reader that is
free to individual users of Microsoft operating systems, gave the news
a cautious welcome. "The usual problem with open source is that you
need to be a 'techie', or have a 'techie' around to access it. But this is
good news and a step in the right direction," he said.

+03: Scottish Cinemas Receive Funds For Audio Description.

Scottish moviegoers will find films more accessible following the
launch of a fund to encourage installation of audio description
equipment in cinemas. Cinemas in Scotland can each apply for up to
5,000 pounds to cover the cost of the equipment from the Cinema
Access Equipment Investment Programme.

Under the programme, a total of 100,000 pounds will be distributed to
cinemas by the Scottish Arts Council and Scottish Screen, the national
development agency for the country's film industry. To qualify, each
cinema must satisfy technical requirements for the equipment to be
installed, and invest the same amount as it claims from the fund. For
more details, see:
http://fastlink.headstar.com/cin1 .

Scotland has 322 screens in 62 venues, according to Scottish Screen.
"We're sending information ahout the funding to cinemas through all
our usual communication channels," said a spokesperson. The
initiative is also being supported by the Royal National Institute for
Deaf People (RNID) Scotland, RNIB and the UK Film Council.

The scottish programme will be working closely with similar initiatives
in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure that people with
sensory impairments can access as wide a range of films as possible.

++News in Brief:

+04: Open Sesame: A programmable electronic door key fob for use in
the home will be available on the market from next month. The Locca
works with existing locks, needs only a plug socket and keys can be
"deleted" if lost or stolen. The device, from ERA products, costs 149
pounds and is available from B and Q and locksmiths in the UK. For
details email:
info at era-security.com .
or go to:
http://www.era-security.com/Loccaabout.htm .

+05: Global Deficiency: The websites of the German Chancellor
Angela Merkel and Prime Ministers Tony Blair in the UK, and Jose
Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Spain were the only to reach basic levels
of accessibility, according to a United Nations report on global web
accessibility. Carried out by web consultancy Nomensa, the survey
looked at 100 sites across five sectors. Some 97 per cent did not allow
users to resize text or pages:
http://fastlink.headstar.com/unaccess1 .

+06: Audio Culture: Podcasts of classic novels have been made
available for free on the Open Culture website from Stanford
University in the US. Authors including Dickens, Chaucer and Austen:
http://fastlink.headstar.com/audbk1 .

[Section One ends].

++Section Two: 'The Inbox'
- Readers' Forum.

Please email all contributions or responses to
inbox at headstar.com .

+07: Switching Off: Sabahattin Gucukoglu from London writes in
response to David Bates, who asked in the December 2006 issue about
using a screen reader to listen to the content of websites which
automatically and continuously play music. "It depends on your
browser, but for Internet Explorer go to 'tools,' then 'internet options,'
then the 'advanced' tab. From the scrolling listbox, find and uncheck
'play sounds.'  Oh, and while you're there, turn off the downloading of
pictures for an improved browsing experience."

Steve Cutway, Information Access Specialist at Queen's University in
Canada also responds: "Pressing the Escape key (top left corner of the
keyboard) will usually stop sound playing on a website. I agree with
his concerns though. When you can't see the screen and are expecting
your screen reader to deliver information, loud, unnecessary sound is
an unwelcome intrusion."
[Further responses to inbox at headstar.com].

+08: Get Shorty: John Loader of DotSix Brailling Services in
Cambridgeshire in the UK writes: "As someone who does a lot of
recording for visually impaired people I am getting increasingly
infuriated by the length and complexity of website addresses (URLs)
that people are expected to access - great if they can copy and paste,
but [difficult] if they have to type from a tape, especially when I have
to say the URL in an understandable way. Here are two from a leaflet
on services for disabled people I have just worked on and yes, the
second is correct, despite the apparent repetition:
tm ."

John recommends people use automatic the free Tinyurl service at:
to help condense long URLs.
[Responses to inbox at headstar.com].

+09: Remote Access: Jane Sellers from Surrey in the UK writes:
"When are we going to see an accessible remote control for the DVD
player or DVD recorder? I have a normal DVD player and recorder,
but I have trouble using the handset as it is not really for someone
blind like me."
[Responses to inbox at headstar.com].

+10: Scripts Search: IT Disability Support Officer Barbara Denton
from Birkbeck College in the UK writes for advice on using the
software application Student Information System (SITS) for
educational establishments to manage student data. She writes: "Does
anyone use JAWS with SITS? We are considering buying a new
Accessibility Management Module for the SITS student database
currently used at our University. It will be designed to store relevant
information such as exam provisions and what lecturers can do to help.

"This module is currently being developed by Tribal group, and they
have been to our University to do some initial testing with JAWS. We
wonder if we are going over ground already covered by someone else.
We would love to know if there is anyone out there using JAWS with
SITS, or if there are any JAWS scripts for SITS."
[Responses to inbox at headstar.com].

+11: Problem Magnified: Andrew Day, Company Secretary of
Ricability, the independent consumer research charity for older and
disabled people in the UK writes: "Since upgrading my Internet
Explorer to version 7, I have had problems while using Zoomtext
version 8. On viewing web pages or getting search results, I find large
amounts of blank screen appearing. The only way to get images to
appear is to scroll up or down or highlight a section of the page to
reveal text.
"In addition, I am also experiencing text shadowing while using
Outlook where the text of an email you have just looked at remains on
the screen while going into another one. These are problems I have
never experienced and are very annoying as there have been occasions
when I have not had all the information on a web page showing and
have missed bits. I am very curious to know if anyone else has had
similar difficulties and can offer any solutions. I am very tempted to
simply try to revert to the previous version of Explorer."
[Responses to inbox at headstar.com].
[Inbox ends]

++Section Three: Focus
- Educational Games.

+12: Sticky By Name, Sticky By Nature
by Mel Poluck.

Audio and other accessible games for the blind have been around for
some time and many have a loyal following. But although they could
provide the ideal medium to engage children while learning, they are
rarely used in the classroom.

Very soon that may be set to change however, with the launch of BBC
Jam's new accessible learning materials: a set of online, fun and
compelling games for learning National Curriculum topics, some of
which were showcased for the first time last week at BETT, the
world's largest conference on educational technology.

Sonic Science, to name one of these resources, aimed at vision
impaired and sighted children of around seven years old, is a game
using graphics and speech output for learning about Physics, providing
teachers and pupils with a lesson about pressure. Using stereo sound
and the directional keys - and peppered with puns perhaps only
children could appreciate - the player, in the form of protagonist Harris
Hotle must 'push' a cart by holding down the 'up' key for the correct
amount of time before releasing to hit another cart at just the right
speed so as not to cause a nasty accident. A talking power meter speaks
the results to players.

"Usually people create resources then try to make it accessible. We're
trying to work out something that will work for a lot more children,"
Jonathan Hassell told delegates at BETT.

But this development phase hasn't always been easy, particularly as far
as Maths and Science-themed games are concerned. "How do you
visualise an abstract concept? That was the challenge," said Hassell.

One aspect of the project Hassell and his team have found particularly
tough was creating literacy materials for vision impaired pupils he said.
"It's different for them - they always have to have someone to give
them feedback." Despite this daunting challenge, the team has devised
'Benjamin's House,' named after its narrator, British poet Benjamin
Zephaniah, which lets blind children develop Braille reading and
writing skills as they explore Zephaniah's virtual house.

Using his vivid poems, he introduces us to rooms and objects in his
home including the hoover, a spider and even well-known literary
characters such as Dr Zeus, who happens to be in the sauna at the time.
The whole game, which was tested among schoolchildren in Surrey,
England, is replete with sound effects, activities and stories.

"We're trying to produce materials children can use on their own,"
Hassell said, although notes for teachers and parents will be available.
And these resources encourage learning outside of the classroom too as
users will be able to log in from any computer and everything
previously created can be accessed again.

The Jam team have received assistance on accessible gaming by the
Bartiméus Accessibility Foundation in the Netherlands where
developers have created such games as Demor
( http://www.demor.nl/ )
which uses Global Positioning System (GPS) and 3D sound to guide
players around a large physical area in which the game takes place.

Throughout Jam's development, learners with various disabilities have
been considered, including hearing impaired pupils who will soon have
access to a literacy game whose animated characters use British Sign
Language. "We can do something a lot of companies are afraid to do -
take into account children with all kinds of needs," Hassell told

All materials will be available for free, since the entire project was
funded by BBC licence-payers, although the downside of this is that
materials will not be available for users beyond the UK, although
Hassell said this could change in future. "People in other countries
who've seen what we've done are desperate for this," he said.

"We're re-imagining everything that happens in computer games," said
Hassell. "We're re-inventing computer games for people that may have
never used them before."

NOTE: BBC Jam's accessible games for learning go live in March.

++Section Four: Profile
- Chris Hofstader

+13: Software For Everyone.
by Mel Poluck

Before he took up the position of Vice President of Software
Engineering at US assistive technology company Freedom Scientific,
in between touring with his punk band the Corporate Pigs, developing
computer software that blind people could use was just a hobby for
Chris Hofstader.

Now, he has set to work on creating his own accessible software
company as well as launching a website for blind and sighted
programmers to share their knowledge about accessibility.

Hofstader worked at Freedom Scientific, which launched world famous
screen reader JAWS, for 10 years, meaning he could begin to receive a
salary for something he was passionate about. "The greatest thing for
me was the freedom to invent my future. I was building technology
that the next day I could use myself," he told E-Access Bulletin.

But it wasn't always plain sailing. He said despite being just as smart
as his colleagues, he felt significantly slowed down by using a screen
reader. "I reached the maximum amount of activities I could do with a
screen reader." This, compounded by the fact Hofstader began to suffer
from serious repetitive strain injury (RSI) and worked 80-hour weeks,
resulted in his leaving the company. "I had RSI in both hands and
shoulders - I was bed-ridden," he said.

He takes important lessons from his time at the company on to his
current ventures though. "You've always got to focus on the customer.
Sometimes a company needs to be a vanguard and invent things before
the customer asks for them."

Hofstader says assistive technology companies around the world are
far from reaching their target audience. Considering how many blind
people live in India, let alone the rest of the world, a disproportionate
amount of screen readers have been sold, he said. "The assistive
technology industry has not done its job. It's not scratched the surface
of [the market] it hopes to attract."

He said the assistive technology industry's downfall is "not listening to
science" and believes they should have much more contact with
universities, something he is putting into practice himself through his
own recently-launched accessible software company Ad Lib

The company's aim is to design software, and possibly hardware in
future, based on the principles of universal design. In case things got
too quiet, he and his team are working on developing three products.
"We're making a GPS product as useful for pedestrians with a guide
dog [lead] in one hand and groceries in the other as it will be for a
woman putting on her make-up while driving." The software will be
designed to be used on handheld devices such as Personal Digital
Assistants (PDAs) or mobile phones.

Another device he is working on is a handheld barcode scanner that
"reads" aloud product data on household items. The scanner tells the
user what an object is, for example a CD, and any relevant data about
it, so the songs on the track listing, for example. Similarly, it could
read the cooking instructions on a bag of frozen peas. Hofstader
envisages the product will be on the market for 300 to 400 dollars -
undercutting an existing Freedom Scientific scanner by over 500

He did not want to share details of his third product under development
with E-Access Bulletin, but he did say it is the first of its kind for the
low-vision market.

Besides setting up Ad Lib Technology, Hofstader's other new
endeavour is the website Hofstader.com
( http://www.hofstader.com/ ),
a hub for sharing knowledge on accessible technology. For this he has
gathered together a group of volunteer programmer friends, about half
of whom are blind.

His plans for the future for the site resonate with elements of the do-it-
yourself ethic of the Punk scene Hofstader was once part of. "I want
the volunteers to take over and make it their thing. I'm just the catalyst
to get things started."

Everything Hofstader and his team produce will be available as open
source versions. He sums up the premise for the new company thus:
"People at large, group buyers or people buying [software] for non
assistive-technology purposes, they don't want to have to go to a
website with some civil rights nonsense. We like to say we don't make
software for blind people; we're blind people that make software for

[Section Four ends].

++Special Notice: Web Accessibility Forum.

Accessify Forum is a discussion forum devoted to all topics relating to
web accessibility. Topics cover everything from 'Beginners' and 'Site
building and testing' through to projects such as the new accessibility
testing tool WaiZilla and the accessibility of the open source forum
software itself.

All you need to register is a working email address, so come along and
join in the fun at:
http://www.accessifyforum.com .

[Special notice ends].

++Special Notice: Braille Translations.

Braille Translations provides a fast, cost-effective, high quality service
of translating any document into Braille. We are able to provide Braille
menus, public leaflets and business cards in Braille and help make you
compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. We can translate
from large print, audio tape or audio CD.

We can also help with premises accessibility including Braille Tactile
Signs for toilets and other doors.

All work is proof-read before dispatch and we are able to provide an
express 24-hour service. Please call our offices for an immediate
quotation or for further information on Freephone number 08000 190
946; Mobile: 07903 996533; email ghow at brailletranslations.co.uk or
http://www.brailletranslations.co.uk .

++End Notes.

+How to Receive the Bulletin.

To subscribe to this free monthly bulletin, email
eab-subs at headstar.com with 'subscribe eab' in the subject header.
You can list other email addresses to subscribe in the body of the
message. Please encourage all your colleagues to sign up! To
unsubscribe at any time, put 'unsubscribe eab' in the subject header.

Please send comments on coverage or leads to Dan Jellinek at:
dan at headstar.com .

Copyright 2007 Headstar Ltd http://www.headstar.com .
The Bulletin may be reproduced as long as all parts including this
copyright notice are included, and as long as people are always
encouraged to subscribe with us individually by email. Please also
inform the editor when you are reproducing our content. Sections of
the bulletin may be quoted as long as they are clearly sourced as 'taken
from e-access bulletin, a free monthly email newsletter', and our web
site address http://www.headstar.com/eab is also cited.

Editor - Dan Jellinek
Deputy editor - Derek Parkinson
Senior reporter - Mel Poluck
Technical advisor - Nick Apostolidis
Editorial advisor - Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337 .

[Issue ends.]

Regards Steve
Email:  srp at internode.on.net
Skype:  steve1963
MSN Messenger:  internetuser383 at hotmail.com

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Jan Whitaker
JLWhitaker Associates, Melbourne Victoria
jwhit at janwhitaker.com
business: http://www.janwhitaker.com
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