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Archive for December, 2011

AEGIS released the Open Accessibility Framework (D1.2.1 AEGIS OAF and high-level architecture). It consists of two things:

  • A document describing the framework of things needed for 3rd generation accessibility, as validated by the prototypes and user/developer feedback in AEGIS
  • A collection of largely open source prototypes and code Deliverables implementing various aspects of the OAF, proven in AEGIS and contributed back to the open source projects of which they are part

This Deliverable (D1.2.1) contains the initial AEGIS Open Accessibility Framework (OAF) description. It is based upon:

  • The accessibility API and framework support from the existing Open Desktop (GNOME Accessibility framework) and the Java platform (the Java Accessibility API, keyboard operability guidelines, and theme support);
  • The AEGIS generic accessibility framework requirements (AEGIS ID1.2.1).

In addition, this Deliverable is informed by the early feedback from AEGIS consortium developments – highlighting anticipated areas that the OAF will necessarily need to cover. This includes:

  • ARIA implementations on various UI elements,
  • Initial work on JavaFX accessibility,
  • Alternate input systems for users with physical impairments (both for the open desktop as well as “thought experiments” for mobile),
  • Development of the RIM Blackberry mobile accessibility API and its use by the Oratio screen reader.

Finally, this Deliverable is informed by developments in the field of accessibility external to AEGIS development work. This includes:

  • ISO 13066 work to standardize AT-IT interoperability generally, and specifically to codify the set of information that must be provided via accessibility APIs;
  • The U.S. Access Board release of their “Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” for the refresh of the Section 508 and Section 255 accessibility regulations/guidelines;
  • The Apple iPhone 3GS/4 (and iPad) which include a built-in screen reader and screen magnifier, both of which rely on a new set of multi-touch gestures for use;
  • The Android v1.6 and later operating system which includes the ‘Talk Back’ screen reading functionalit.

This initial OAF description will be updated throughout the remainder of the AEGIS project with the practical information we gain from implementing it in the desktop, web, and mobile space.

For more information, visit the OAEG OAF section. It outlines the Six Steps to Making an Accessible World: The Open Accessibility Framework.

AEGIS is an Integrated Project (IP) within the ICT programme of FP7.

The Special Thematic Session “Web Accessibility in Advanced Technologies” will be organised at the ICCHP 2012 in Linz, the 13th International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs.

This conference will take place on July 11-13, 2012; with the Pre-Conference July 09-10, 2012. Place to be is the University of Linz, Altenbergerstraße 69, 4040 Linz, Austria.

The Web is rapidly evolving and converging with other media and technologies. Today the Web is on mobile devices, televisions, self-service terminals, and computer desktops. It is continuing to be increasingly ubiquitous and indistinguishable from other interfaces and an ambient part of our daily lives, particularly with the advancement of “the cloud.

Given the highly flexible and adaptable nature of the Web, its growth provides a critical potential of increased inclusion and equality for people with disabilities. However, it also raises new challenges for technology, software, and content developers in making their products and services accessible. In particular, the specific accessibility challenges and optimal ways for providing accessibility support are not well understood in all contexts, making it difficult to effectively design and develop accessible mainstream technologies.

This Special Thematic Session (STS) invites contribution and discussion on experiences with the day-to-day challenges that developers, evaluators, managers, policy makers, and other practitioners observe in implementing web accessibility in advanced technologies.

More specifically, this STS invites contributions analyzing good practices, use-cases, end-user requirements, promising accessibility features and solutions, and challenges in applying web accessibility in specific contexts such as (but not limited to):

  • HTML5 and rich internet applications;
  • Websites and applications for mobiles;
  • Digital/IP TV and audio-visual media.

This STS also welcomes research, surveys, and discussion of future trends and directions including (but not limited to) web telephony and real-time communication, self-service terminals (e.g. information kiosks, ticketing machines, ATM, etc.), online games, social networks, virtual and augmented environments, 3D Web, multi-touch, and the use of cloud technology for personalized accessible interfaces.

Acknowledgements: This Special Thematic Session (STS) is jointly organized by the EC-funded WAI-ACT, AEGIS, and ACCESSIBLE projects.

Chairs:

  • Shadi Abou-Zahra, W3C/WAI
  • Karel Van Isacker, EPR/MCA
  • Konstantinos Votis, CERTH/ITI

More information at http://www.icchp.org/node/363.

A variety of new features greatly enhance the accessibility of Android 4.0 for blind or visually impaired users. Most important is a new explore-by-touch mode that lets users navigate without having to see the screen. Touching the screen once triggers audible feedback that identifies the UI component below; a second touch in the same component activates it with a full touch event. The new mode is especially important to support users on new devices that use virtual buttons in the System Bar, rather than dedicated hardware buttons or trackballs. Also, standard apps are updated to offer an improved accessibility experience. The Browser supports a script-based screen reader for reading favorite web content and navigating sites. For improved readability, users can also increase the default font size used across the system.

The accessibility experience begins at first setup — a simple touch gesture during setup (clockwise square from upper left) activates all accessibility features and loads a setup tutorial. Once accessibility features are active, everything visible on the screen can be spoken aloud by the standard screen reader.
Source: Android

Vodafone has announced the winners of the inaugural Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards at a ceremony attended by the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes and Vodafone Group Chief Executive Vittorio Colao.
The mobile internet is central to the daily lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world as an increasing number of consumers turn to smartphones for messaging, social networking, access to information and entertainment and many other services.
Smartphones offer significant benefits for the more than 1 billion people who live with some form of disability. Applications targeting the specific challenges faced by disabled and older people – for example, text-to-speech services for the visually impaired – can directly enhance quality of life. However, relatively few mobile application developers focus on the potential that smartphone apps have to help people with disabilities play a more active and independent role in society.
The Vodafone Foundation partnered with AGE Platform Europe and the European Disability Forum (EDF) to devise and deliver the Smart Accessibility Awards: an international competition which rewards developers who have the creativity, vision and social commitment to harness the power of smartphones and the mobile internet in support of disabled and older people’s needs.
The winning smartphone apps whose developers will share the €200,000 prize fund are:

  • Help Talk (Wellbeing category): Help Talk is designed for people who are unable to communicate by speech, whether permanently or temporarily, such as those recovering from strokes. The application presents a set of commands represented by icons which when tapped ‘speak’ the basic need or desire – such as ‘I’m thirsty’ or ‘I feel pain’ – and goes on to allow the user to provide further detail in the same way.
  • Wheelmap (Mobility category): Wheelmap helps people with impaired mobility who may literally face obstacles as they go about their everyday life. Crowdsourcing lets users of the application rate and review the accessibility for wheelchair users of public places including cafes, museums, hotels and shops. In one month 1200 users registered for the app, and 180,000 places were reviewed.
  • Zoom Plus Magnifier (Independent living category): Zoom Plus Magnifier app allows people with visual disabilities including colour blindness and long or short-sightedness, as well as some forms of dyslexia, to easily read text by applying a magnifier, sharpening the focus, or adjusting font and background colours.
  • BIG Launcher (Social participation category): BIG Launcher is an alternative customisable Android homescreen, for elderly or visually impaired users who often struggle to use the small keyboards on most devices. It uses big buttons and large fonts to represent all the basic functions of the phone – telephone, SMS messages, camera, gallery, SOS button and installed apps.

Vittorio Colao, Vodafone Group CEO said, “Vodafone is committed to doing all we can to empower consumers of all ages and abilities: we want to extend the smartphone revolution to as many communities as possible.”
Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda said, “We need relevant smartphone apps for all our communities. I congratulate the winners of the Smart Accessibility Awards and the Vodafone Foundation for helping bring the benefits of smartphones to all Europeans. Everyone can gain from the digital revolution. ”
Rodolfo Cattani, EDF Executive Secretary said, “Accessibility and interoperability of communications devices are vital to making possible the professional and cultural inclusion of people with disabilities. At the same time, when not accessible, the technology can create new obstacles and can lead to new forms of discrimination.”
“Mobile technology has an important role to play in the context of the European Year 2012 for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations which aims at supporting older people to be active in all areas of their lives and live independently for longer”, observed Anne-Sophie Parent, AGE Secretary-General. “In a society driven by new technologies, it is essential to make sure new applications are accessible to all, in order to avoid increasing the digital divide and the social exclusion of the most vulnerable groups of the population.”
Winning applications will be available to Vodafone customers using Android smartphones.
For more information about the awards or mobile accessibility, visit http://developer.vodafone.com/smartaccess2011 or http://www.guardian.co.uk/smart-accessibility.

Christophe presents the extensions for OpenOffice.org Writer and LibreOffice Writer that enable users to evaluate and repair accessibility issues in word processing documents, and then export them in accessible formats.

“AccessODF” (http://sourceforge.net/p/accessodf/wiki/) is a freeware extension for OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice, two office suites that are freely available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux/Unix and Solaris.
At the same time, 2 new versions of two other extensions: odt2daisy (http://odt2daisy.sourceforge.net/) and odt2braille (http://odt2braille.sourceforge.net/) were released. The former enables users to export word processing documents to digital talking books in the DAISY format; the latter enables exporting to Braille and printing on a Braille embosser.

AccessODF, odt2braille, odt2daisy are software developed in the AEGIS project (www.aegis-project.eu) and are available as “open-source software”.