Disability World
A bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views, Issue no. 7 March-April 2001

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Access and Technology briefly

Buses for All Succeeds with European Union
Buses for All (Europe) has been successful in getting the European Union (EU) Council of Ministers to endorse a Common Position paper towards EU-wide standardization of accessibility provisions for passenger vehicles with 8 or more seats.

Buses for All is a small organization of volunteers who have a technical knowledge of buses and dedication to accessibility. It has been working with other disability advocacy groups, especially the European Disability Forum, to make full access a compulsory part of the design rules. The Common Position paper, adopted in late September 2000, is available in PDF format at http://www.independentliving.org/LibArt/access/EU-Buses-Common-Position.pdf

Manufacturer & Blind Advocacy Group to Develop Voice-Guided Automated Teller Machines
On November 1, the U.S. National Federation of the Blind and Diebold, the nation's leading manufacturer of automated teller machines (ATMs), announced plans to develop a cost-effective voice-guided ATM that can be accessed independently by blind persons.

NFB President Mark Maurer stated that, "While many ATMs have Braille instructions on keypads and labels, not all blind people can read Braille. Moreover, Braille keypads and labels are static. They don't provide accessible and independently usable, sequential computer screen instructions to guide a blind customer through a complex bank transaction. As a result, blind customers have little choice but to rely on others to bank for them."

Diebold explains that the improved ATM will be based on its standard CSP 200, to be upgraded with a standard headset that can be plugged into the machine to receive voice instructions in complete privacy. Once testing on the CSP 200 is complete, Diebold and NFB will cooperate to adapt that voice-guidance technology to all Diebold ATMs in the USA. Details on the web: www.nfb.orgor www.diebold.com

Australia Forges New Plan for Accessibility of Transport
Under a new agreement between the transport industry and the disability sector, the transport industry will be obliged to meet access targets for disabled passengers within 5 years, Australia's Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Joyce Newman, announced on October 19.

"One of the biggest hurdles facing people with disabilities being more fully involved in the community and the workforce is accessible transport," Senator Newman said. She added that, "The disability sector has been negotiating new standards for around a decade and I am proud that the Howard Government has been able to deliver this significant breakthrough for people living with disabilities."

The Government has announced that within five years the response time for taxis must be the same for disabled and non-disabled passengers. In addition, 25% of buses must be accessible within 5 years, 55% within 10 years, 80% within 15 years and 100% within 20 years. These requirements and others are outlined in the new Disability Standards for Public Transport.

Mark Bagshaw, International Marketing Manager for IBM and Chairman of the Ability Australia Foundation, stated that Australia is not yet a leader in this area. He gave the example of his inability to get a suitable taxi at Sydney airport, even though there were 200 in the taxi rank. He said these new standards are "a great step forward for people with disabilities and their families." Details: www.australia.org.nz

Surpassing Gutenberg: Historic Opportunity
"Surpassing Gutenberg: a historic opportunity in access to published information for blind readers," is a landmark article by Janina Sajka and George Kerscher, posted recently on the website of the American Federation of the Blind: www.afb.org/ebook.html

Following is the executive summary of this comprehensive examination of the potential impact of a new technology called ebooks: "We examine some surprising reasons to explain why electronic book publishing will become a versatile medium comprising 10% of all consumer book sales in the U.S. by 2005, estimated by Anderson Consulting at $2.3 billion. The Association of American Publishers and the Open Electronic Book Forum both pin this expectation on open standards - any book, anytime, anywhere, for anyone.

"Electronic books will succeed, we argue, in part because they provide communicative opportunities not available in traditional, static print media. But, they will also succeed because of developments in technology for blind readers that will benefit all readers regardless of ability or disability. As evidence, we offer, among other points, Microsoft's licensing of technology developed to benefit blind people for use in Microsoft Reader and mainstream publishing applications. We demonstrate further that technology transfer from disability to mainstream use has solid historic precedent."

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