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Archive for October, 2009

ÆGIS (Open Accessibility Everywhere: Groundwork, Infrastructure, Standards) is a research project funded by the European Commission, working in the area of accessibility and independent living. ÆGIS develops an Open Accessibility Framework (OAF) consisting of open source accessible interfaces and accessibility toolkits for developers, alongside accessible applications and open source assistive technologies for users. ÆGIS will produce this framework through user research and prototype development with current and next generation ICT. This should deeply embed accessibility into future ICT for the open desktop, rich Internet applications, and mobile devices. ÆGIS results will be referred to standards organisations where appropriate, and made available under open source licenses to the greatest extent possible. This Newsletter keeps readers updated on the current status and achievements of the project.
The special focus of this second issue is on ÆGIS’s activities for user requirements collection and user involvement in the project developments through the dedicated local User Forums, as well as the 1st pan-European User Forum and Workshop. The articles in this issue present the work, experiences, accomplishments, and lessons learned by the ÆGIS partners. References to similar activities of relevant projects are also provided.
Download the 2nd newsletter.

The international conference “Needs of Accessibility and Design for All in Tourism for All” will take place in Lousã (Portugal) on 19 and 20 November 2009.

If interested, contact by 10 November.

According to Professor Adrian Davies of the MRC Institute of Hearing research in the UK, there are 70 million hearing impaired men, women and children in Europe today. That number will rise to 90 million in Europe by 2015 and soar to 700 million people world-wide. Since there is no international sign-language and not two countries have identical sign-languages, how do these people connect and communicate? This global problem now has a solution – communication technology through Spread the Sign. Spread the sign is an international Leonardo da Vinci project within Transfer of innovation, supported by the European Commission. They are working with spreading sign language from different countries by using the Internet. This pedagogical self-learning tool is free to use for everyone in the world. The imagination only sets the limits of the use of this dictionary… The conference will showcase the project and the website of the project as well as provide a forum for discussion on how to prevent social exclusion of deaf people. The seminar will be interactive and we hope you will participate with your ideas, experiences and opinions.
To register, contact the organisers.

Self-service terminals can be difficult to access and use for many people, e.g. users with disabilities, those with low ICT competence, elderly users, or simply those not used to this medium. This can be improved by adapting the terminals as to their physical design, software and interfaces. Possible solutions encompass among other use of mobile devices or assistive technologies for man-machine interaction, vocal input / output, software adaptation etc. The workshop, organised by the ICT for Inclusion unit of the European Commission, will also address the issue of information about and deployment of ICT-related assistive technology in general. The purpose is to identify grounds for possible further action at European level, including funding from EC programs.
The workshop takes place in Brussels, on 7 December 2009 at DG INFSO, Meeting Room S1, Avenue de Beaulieu 25, 1160 Brussels, Belgium.
More information can be found on the event website.

Stockholm 19 October 2009. The European Disability Forum, the voice of 65 million European citizens with disabilities, met in the Swedish capital to adopt the proposal for the European Disability Pact. “This policy instrument ensures real mainstreaming of disability in the European Union by promoting the rights of persons with disabilities and by developing a strong agenda engaging both the EU institutions and Member States” announced Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the organisation.
Sweden is a European leader in the promotion of human rights: the government ratified the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in December 2008, and the Swedish Presidency of the European Union is about to reach an agreement on the conclusion of the Convention by the European Community by the end of the year. It is the first time in its history that the European Community will accede to an international human rights treaty. This ratification is a strong signal sent to the Member States both to implement the UNCRPD at a national level and to recognize disability as a cross cutting issue.
Such a political context implies a real need for coordinated actions. It is crucial for the European Commission to synchronize its disability strategy with Member States: the European Disability Pact is therefore the essential tool. Ingrid Burman, Spokesperson of the Swedish Disability Federation stated: “The European Disability Pact will be a driving force which will allow the EU and its members States to sail off to a barrier free Europe for persons with disabilities”. Through this Pact, the Lisbon strategy will give new impetus to the social inclusion of persons with disabilities, recognizing disability as a cross cutting issue. The Pact will cover employment, social protection, education, growth and competitiveness, e-inclusion policies and research.
Yannis Vardakastanis, President of the European Disability Forum reminded the positive effect of the European Pact on Gender Equality adopted in 2006 and he stressed out: “The Disability Pact is meant to give a clear long term direction to disability policy at European level declined through the definition of strategic measures including legislation and objectives at EU and national level up to 2020”.
Following the recognition by the International Community of their human rights, persons with disabilities expect systematic improvements of their living conditions and respect for their equal rights in policymaking at all levels. EDF is eager to participate in the process of developing the Disability Pact. The implementation of the UNCRPD is a challenge for all stakeholders, and everyone will benefit from its adoption: the member States, the European Commission and 65 million persons with disabilities in Europe.

Source: EDF press release

RAatE 2009 is a UK conference taking place from 30th November till 1st December 2009 in Coventry. It is focused on the latest innovations and developments in assistive technology. This conference will be of interest to everyone who uses, works with, develops or conducts research on assistive technologies (AT).