Skip to content

Press release – Leuven, Belgium, 8 November 2011: The Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven) today released an extension for OpenOffice.org Writer and LibreOffice Writer that enables users to evaluate and repair accessibility issues in word processing documents. “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, K.U.Leuven also releases new versions of two other extensions: odt2daisy (http://odt2daisy.sourceforge.net/) and odt2braille (http://odt2braille.sourceforge.net/). 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, odt2daisy and odt2braille are being developed in the framework of the AEGIS project, an R&D project funded by the European Commission. The three extensions will be demonstrated at the AEGIS project’s Workshop and Conference, which take place in Brussels on 28-30 November 2011 (http://aegis-conference.eu/).

AccessODF

AccessODF is an extension that can be used in OpenOffice.org Writer and in LibreOffice Writer. It enables authors to find and repair accessibility issues in their documents, i.e. issues that make their documents difficult or even impossible to read for people with disabilities. This includes issues such as:

  • insufficient colour contrast between text and background,
  • missing text alternatives for images and other objects (such text alternatives are necessary for blind users and other users of text-to-speech software),
  • missing language identification for the document and for language changes inside the document (language information is needed for conversion into Braille and synthetic speech),
  • the use of proper Heading styles instead of big bold text to identify headings (this enables document navigation based on headings),
  • the use of proper tables instead of visually mimicking tables by using tabs or spaces,
  • the compatibility of images with DAISY, the de-facto standard for digital talking books.

The AccessODF extension displays its list of errors and warnings in a panel next to the main authoring area. For each accessibility issue, AccessODF provides a description and repair suggestions. Authors can repair the issues and recheck the document by pressing the Check button. For some issues, authors can simply press the Repair button to fix the issue automatically. For some other issues, pressing the Repair button guides authors to the appropriate dialog where they can fix the issues themselves. For all remaining issues, they can follow the instructions provided in the repair suggestions. If AccessODF lists an issue that is not an accessibility issue, authors can press the Ignore button.
Making Writer documents more accessible is not only important for users of Writer, but also for users of formats that Writer can export, for example PDF, XHTML, and – through extensions – DAISY and Braille. Accessibility evaluation and repair for Writer documents is a feature frequently requested by users of odt2daisy and odt2braille.

odt2daisy

odt2daisy is an extension that converts Writer documents into digital talking books in the DAISY format. It supports several versions of DAISY: not only the current version – DAISY 3.0 – but also the version DAISY 2.02 for compatibility with older DAISY players. odt2daisy supports Mathematical Markup Language (MathML) and multilingual documents. It uses the text-to-speech engines installed in the user’s operating system for speech synthesis.
odt2daisy was first released in November 2009. The new release includes many small improvements such as:

  • better support for tables and table captions,
  • better support for long text alternatives (“long descriptions”) for images,
  • better support for multilingual documents and non-Western languages,
  • preventing the use of incorrect bitrates for text-to-speech conversion,
  • better handling of title pages.

Many of these changes resulted from co-operation with a Flemish Braille and DAISY conversion centre.
odt2daisy is available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS and Linux and can be downloaded from http://odt2daisy.sourceforge.net/.

odt2braille

odt2braille is an extension that converts Writer documents into Braille or prints them on a Braille embosser. odt2braille was first released in August 2010. The new release includes numerous improvements, such as:

  • support for a larger number of Braille embossers,
  • support for a larger number of languages,
  • expanded Braille formatting settings for professional users: volume management, tables, footnotes, pictures, etcetera,
  • user interface localisation in other languages, e.g. Czech and Polish.

SourceForge selected odt2braille as “SourceForge Project of the Month” in April 2011: http://sourceforge.net/blog/april-project-of-the-month-odt2braille/. odt2braille can be downloaded from http://odt2braille.sourceforge.net/. At the time of writing, odt2braille is only available on Microsoft Windows. It will later become available as a Debian package prepared by the Debian Accessibility Project (http://www.debian.org/devel/debian-accessibility/). Mac users can try out a limited beta version (which does not have the print functionality, and has only been tested on Mac OS Leopard).

Open-Source Software

AccessODF, odt2braille, odt2daisy and most other software developed in the AEGIS project are or will be available as “open-source software”. This means that users will not only be able to download the finished product but also the programming code or “source code”. They can also modify and improve the source code, provided that they make their changes available to the developers or the community that maintains the software. This process enables a community of users to make improvements to the software and enables these improvements to be quickly available to other users.

About OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice

Several partners in the AEGIS project are making contributions to OpenOffice.org and LibreOffice, including Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), DART and FPD (both from Sweden). The OpenOffice.org Community (http://www.openoffice.org/) is an international team of volunteer and sponsored contributors who develop, translate, support, and promote the leading open source office productivity suite, OpenOffice.org. UNO, OpenOffice.org’s language-independent Application Programming Interface (API) is also available for developers, systems integrators, etcetera to use in OpenOffice.org extensions or in their own applications.
OpenOffice.org uses the OpenDocument Format OASIS Standard (ISO/IEC 26300) as well as supporting legacy file formats such as Microsoft Office, and is available on major computing platforms in over 100 languages. OpenOffice.org software was provided under the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) until June 2011 and may be used free of charge for any purpose, private or commercial. OpenOffice.org development is expected to continue at the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) under the Apache License.
LibreOffice (http://www.libreoffice.org/) is a free and open-source office suite based on the OpenOffice.org source code. It is a community-driven project of The Document Foundation. The Document Foundation was formed in September 2010 and has released several new versions of LibreOffice since that time. New code in LibreOffice is developed under a double license: the GNU Lesser General Public License Version 3 or any later version (LGPLv3+) and the Mozilla Public License (MPL).

The objectives of the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy cannot be attained without the active involvement of disabled people, ie some 80 million individuals (16% of the population). Such is the European Parliament’s message in a non-legislative resolution on the mobility and inclusion of disabled persons and the 2010-2020 strategy in favour of disabled persons, adopted on 25 October.

According to the latest statistics, the drop-out rate in education and the unemployment rate of disabled persons is at least twice as high as the rate of able persons and the poverty rate among disabled persons is 70% higher than the average rate. To address this situation, MEPs call on member states and the European Commission to take concrete measures in terms of mobility and social inclusion. They state that a “welcome development” in terms of free movement of persons and barrier-free services would be the introduction of a unified European mobility card for reciprocal recognition of care for people with disabilities. This would allow disabled persons to study, work and travel more freely.

MEPs stress the enormous importance of employment on the ordinary labour market for disabled persons and call on the Commission and the governments of member states to adopt legal and financial measures which truly encourage the employment of disabled persons. Lastly, MEPs encourage the creation of special forms of leave so that parents can take care of their children with disabilities and urge that the commitment shown and the work performed by parents of children with disabilities should be recognised by being counted as professional experience and by being specifically taken into account when old-age pension entitlements are calculated.

This non-legislative resolution, drafted by the chamber’s only deaf MEP, Ádám Kósa (EPP, Hungary), follows from the EU’s 2010-2020 strategy on disability. Adopted in late 2010, this Commission communication provides a framework for European action and includes measures that can be taken at a national level in order to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While MEPs welcome this initiative, they regret that the Commission’s communication does not include an integrated gender perspective or a separate chapter on gender-specific disability policies. MEPs recall that the Commission pledged to present a legislative proposal for a European Accessibility Act, and stress the need for strong, binding measures at EU level, with a clear road map. MEPs also call for the adoption of the necessary measures to help the visually impaired to carry out business transactions.
Source: Europolitics

During the EU Conference on “Innovation for Digital Inclusion”, in Gdańsk, Poland on 5-7 October 2011, which was devoted to the innovative usage of solutions based on information and communication technologies (ICT) and its importance in the process of e-Inclusion in Europe, following themes were addressed:

  • new developments of ICT in public inclusive services
  • models of e-inclusion of digitally excluded Europeans, introducing them to wider social and cultural life, and increasing career opportunities on today’s digitally driven market
  • effective models of independent living and security of the elderly, based on innovative and economically feasible e-care and e-health solutions
  • overview of the most innovative national and regional e-inclusion programmes, and initiatives, as tools for the implementation of the Digital Agenda for Europe
  • importance of the e-Inclusion policy to the delivery of the Digital Agenda for Europe.

The conference ended up with the adoption of a document stressing the priority actions that should be taken by the EU in the immediate future to improve digital literacy and inclusion of all EU citizens – “Gdansk Roadmap for Digital Inclusion”.
To read more and view the presentations, visit the conference website.

“The EU needs to get more people with disabilities into jobs and include provisions on disability in more of its other policies,” says Parliament in a resolution, passed last week, on the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020.
“Over 80 million people, i.e. around 16% of the EU’s total population, are living with disabilities. The Europe 2020 Strategy target of 75% of the population aged 20-64 in Europe 2020 in employment cannot be achieved unless it includes people with some form of disability”, said Àdám Kósa ahead of the plenary vote.
The employment rate for people with disabilities is only around 45 % in the EU and this is one of the groups hardest hit by the financial crisis, says the resolution, which was passed by a show of hands.
Austerity measures must not become a pretext for unjustified cuts in services for persons with disabilities or in projects for their social inclusion, MEPs say.
The European Parliament stresses the need to reach a swift agreement on the proposal for a Council directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. This was approved with 362 votes in favour, 273 against and 23 abstentions.
It also calls on the European Commission to reinforce anti-discrimination and accessibility provisions in the EU’s cohesion policy plans for 2014-2020, public procurement reform proposals and to present a legislative proposal for a European Accessibility Act with strong and binding measures at EU level to improve access to goods and services for people with disabilities.
MEPs call on EU Member States and the European Commission to recognise sign language as an official language in the Member States. The rapporteur himself is deaf and is assisted by an interpreter using sign language during meetings.
Finally, the resolution calls on Member States and the Commission to swiftly ratify and implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). So far, the Convention has been ratified by 17 Member States.

As part of the 2012 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, the “Workshop on developing intelligent user interfaces for e-accessibility” is organised on 14 February 2012 in Lisbon, Portugal. The workshop will explore the applicability of different modalities of interaction (speech, gesture, haptic interface etc.) and investigate ways to develop intelligent adaptation systems that meet accessibility criteria and can personalize interfaces according to the range of abilities of the user. A particular focus will be given on interoperability though the adherence to standards for accessibility such as WAI-ARIA and ISO standards.
Deadline for the submission of papers – 30th November 2011.

On 19-20 April 2012, Copenhagen (Denmark) will host the “IT Innovation Camp on social media and ICT for people with disabilities”. The aim is to share knowledge, develop ideas and transform early-stage concepts into prototypes in under 48 hours.
The camp will bring together IT companies, developers, researchers, designers, practitioners and students.
The camp is an initiative by Socialt Udviklingscenter SUS in Denmark.