Archive for July, 2007

I’m off to ICC the international computer camp for blind students

July 20, 2007

On Sunday I’m off to Finland to lead a couple of workshops in this years ICC camp this is an annual event which shifts around Europe attracting up to 300 visually impaired students from over 30 countries across Two weeks. The first week for 14 to 17 year olds, the second week for 18 to 21s. I’m going along as a member of staff (for the first time) in week one to lead sessions on accessible portable applications, and on running Blogs, not something I know all that much about but hey I’ll be learning too. If you fancy keeping up with the camp then workshop attendees and I will be running a camp Blog at
please comment a plenty so that we all know people are reading.


want to use accessible captcha? here’s one way

July 20, 2007

Formsheild 2.0 makes it easy
version 2 of formshield, which makes it easy to create captchas for 2.0 based site includes the option to automaticly generate audio captchas. If you must use them then use a tool like this.

Access to books moves on – slowly

July 16, 2007

In the week when the latest Harry Potter is published in an accessible (DAISY)) format at the same time as the print edition, all be it that you have to order it from a specialist supplier and won’t actually get it for a few days:

Google Books have added an accessible (textual) version to the full view of out of copyright books found by the search. Because of the way this has been achieved the textual edition is while available to all very difficult to access for anyone not using assistive technology. What about those print impaired users who use text to speech or screen magnification for reading but don’t rely on them for navigation is the first question I ask myself.
however the “read offline” option remains only to be available to the masses, and there is no accessibility for the ‘snipets’ of books still covered by copyright. certainly it’s a step in the right direction but will it actually make any difference to anyone? how many out of copyright books are referenced by Google which can’t already be found elseware on the Web.
See a detailed report on the Daisy consorteum news pages

And in another step in the right direction visually impaired communities recently joined with the international publishers association to discuss issues around shareing of resources in alternative formats.

accessibility and internationalisation are related

July 6, 2007

Yesterday was my birthday and as well as a bottle of my current favourite tipple, the sublime Duncan TaylorsAult Reekie I was lucky enough to get some vouchers for Cheese!!! from local cheese shop Paxton and Whitfield.
Fantastic, as soon as we’ve polished off the Cheeses we picked up at The Cheese Shop, 11 Butchers row in Barnstaple I’ll be round there to restock.

however when I visited the Paxton and Whitfield Website I hit a problem. namely the lang=de tag which appears through out their site. All the text on the site is in English but because of that line my screenreader (Jaws as it happens) believes it to be in German and consequently switches to its german accent making it impossible to read the pages.

the good news for Cheese a-holic Jaws users is that you can get round the problem by telling Jaws to ignore languages specified in Websites but this is one more example of the unintended consequences of sloppy coding.

who’d of thought that internationalisation was as much of an accessibility issue as alt tags, meaningful link text etc.

Massachusetts use of open formats mightent be such a concern for screenreader users afterall

July 4, 2007

When the US state of Massachusetts mandated only using open standards conformant tools when executing government business back in 2005 There was much concern among the visually impaired community. Not because they (we) are a bunch of Microsoft loving no-nothings but because sometimes its better the devil you know. Then, as now there is no office productivity suite which works a tenth as well with assistive technologies such as screenreaders as does MS office. Indeed as far as I know not one of the big name open source alternatives supports any screenreader even for the most basic tasks such as document reading, writing, saving and retrieval.

however I see in news announced this week that Massachusetts kowtows to Microsoft.
or in less journalistic language, the latest draft proposal from the state of Massachusetts recommends approving Microsofts Office Open XML (OOXML) format as an open format meaning that once again employees are free to use MS Office, the most screenreader accessible option.

I’m sure there are many who feel this development is retrograde but for those Massachusetts state employees whose jobs were at threat because the tools they use to undertake their work are suddenly deamed none conformant this will be a great releaf.

how’s that for service!?

July 4, 2007

A couple of weeks ago I bookmarked Revish as an interesting new information rich and user friendly book review site. Amazon et al are fine in their own way but so massive and inpersonal that it’s hard to find reliable and/or meaningful recommendations especially if you fancy something completely different rather than just another title by the same author as you bought last time. However, I had a bit of an accessibility issue. In the lists of titles reviewed each entry had a thumnail image of the book in question, a rating and the name of the reviewer. Because of the lack of an alt tag on the thumnails I couldn’t actually identify the title under review without clicking on each in turn. Very labour intensive.

Like a good little accessibility evangelist I promptly dispatched an email explaining the issue and with in ten minutes had a reply telling me the problem was resolved. Not just that it would be resolved, but that it was sorted, that all thumbnails now have their alt tags in place so I can differentiate between titles in the review lists.

You can’t beat that for a quick service.

Actually as the man behind Revish is no less than Mr Dan Champion this will be no surprise to anyone who knows Dans reputation but quality deserves recognition so:

Thanks Dan, good site, excellent customer service.

that’s just what you want to see from a developer, not that everything is perfect first time out, but that they can adapt to variations in a hurry and maintain the quality.