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Updated no 4 - 2019

News from Funka
Elderly couple walking in a park. Photo

Funka at the eHealth Summit 2019

Digital health and citizen empowerment were some of the topics covered in Lisbon this March, when stakeholders within research and innovation met for the eHealth Summit 2019.

A person writing on computer and on paper. Photo

Plain language is still far away

Very few public agencies test whether users understand their information. Even fewer users read the easy-to-read information. The result of Funka's annual survey on understandable information is disappointing.

An accessibility consultant in a wheelchair. Photo

Training for people with disabilities

More people are needed who give advice and support on accessibility now that demand increases with regulations. People with disabilities are a resource that could be used much better. A new project will try to do just that.

Funka's office in Stockholm. Photo

Funka continues the expansion

We are currently undertaking a major investment in product development, new services, research and innovation. We welcome our new CEO Marie Wirkestrand to Funka's fantastic world and present Susanna Laurin in her new role as Chief Research and Innovation Officer.

Sign language training. Photo

Sign language, caption and audio description

We have written a small manual on sign language, captions and audio description. What does the Web Accessibility Directive require and when? What target groups benefit from these features? Are there any exceptions? We hope to answer some of your questions.

Three questions
Roberto Scano. Photo

Three questions for Roberto Scano, ICT Accessibility Expert, working in standards, guidelines and laws in Italy since 2002.

Italy is the first country to publish translations of both the EN301549 v. 2.1.2 and the WCAG 2.1. How did you succeed in this and why are translations important?

We published the official translation of the last EN 301549 (called UNI EN 301549:2018) by the end of November 2018 and – first in the EU – available for download free of charge from a national standardisations body. We also published the first official WCAG 2.1 translation on 13th September 2018. I’ve personally coordinated the two works, like I have done for WCAG 2.0. It is important, I think, that every country have these important specifications and standards available in the local language, with official translation that are aligned. Using the same terms will guarantee a better understanding of the technical specifications. I proposed to start with WCAG 2.1 already in June 2018 which also helped the W3C because we have discovered some editorial errors that have been noted in official WCAG 2.1 editorial errata. In September 2018, we started the translation of the EN with the national UNI technical committee on e-accessibility where I’m the president. This work is really important, just as the free availability for the translation of the EN 301549 v. 2.1.2, because it will give a great support to the Italian monitoring agency AGID. The agency will develop national guidelines for the public sector bodies that are covered by the directive and which can also be used by suppliers of ICT products and services.

How can the knowledge and use of accessibility standards be more widely spread?

We need to made education and outreach first to developers. They need to understand that accessibility is a design principle, a baseline requirement for ANY products for public and private sector alike. Accessibility is seen like a “feature”, that requires more time in development, so higher costs for the end user. We need to remove this idea... and apply the principle that we need to require “accessibility by default”, because every ICT product or service could be developed with accessibility support. The EN and other similar initiatives around the world (the EN standard is used in countries outside of the EU, like south America and Australia), means that ICT suppliers need to adhere to this standard. Big providers have already made implementations to better support accessibility of their products. Some years ago, it was difficult to have captions because we needed to have someone that retrieve text and synchronize it. Now, there are many services like YouTube for video, Skype for audio/video calls etc that have integrated captions automatically ... they could do better, but I think they will improve with support of emerging technologies like AI. The same is true for the Web, where there are a lot of initiatives oriented towards better CMS with better accessibility support. I think that finally we are moving in the right direction: an ICT accessibility standard that can be referred not only for the public sector, but which should be applied in every sector, remembering that disabled people are consumers like everyone else.

Both the EN and WCAG are free standards, still they are possible to buy. How did we end up in this situation?

I think that only the European Commission can do something about this. Italy has shown that it is possible to share standards of social interest free of charge. There is a need for a better harmonization within the EU member states. For example, the British Standards Institution BSI, sells the English version of the EN301549, which is the same text as the EN published by ETSI for free. The EU are supposed to grant activities facilitating to provide standards for free, potentially with funding to guarantee translations. But the answer of the European Commission around this topic doesn’t really help. To me, the question is simple: IPR or Access? Somehow standardisation must be funded, but usage of the standard must also be easy.

Useful links

UNI EN 301549:2018

Authorised WCAG 2.1 translation to Italian

WCAG 2.1 editorial errata

European Commission answers the Parliamentary question, 21 February 2019

Other news
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella with Zyrobotics CEO, Dr. Johnetta MacCalla and CTO, Dr. Ayanna Howard. Photo

AI for accessibility

A $25 million program is aimed toward providing AI tools to developers in order to accelerate the creation of accessible solutions to benefit people with disabilities. The initiative is to be spanned over a period of five years.

Test of the headset prototype. Photo

Experimental eye-tracking headset could help the disabled

For people who cannot speak, nor move their arms, hands or even heads, computer-connected eye-tracking systems allow for communications via eye movements.

Spencer Museum educator Rachel Straughn-Navarro leads a tactile tour in the exhibition “Big Botany.” Photo

Audio descriptions, tactile tours increase accessibility at Spencer Museum

New resources at the University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art are making exhibitions more accessible to visitors with disabilities by offering audio descriptions, tactile tours and Braille maps.

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