Tuesday, 11 June 2013

my report of the ABA Round Table Conference 2013

my report of the ABA Round Table Conference 2013

From the 25th to the 29th of May  I attended the Annual
Round Table Conference on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities.

There have been some fascinating developments in the world of braille and universal print access over the last year. Below are just a few that i found the most exciting!
click here if you would like to read the chairpersons report for this year or any other year’s Roundtable meeting notes.

  • The adoption of Universal English Braille Code by the Braille Authority of North America for print; this will mean we will see a higher availability of braille texts, converters and files from the United States, the world’s largest producer of Braille documents. Notably however, North America will continue to use the Nemeth Code for Mathematical and Scientific notation whilst Australia will continue to use UEB meaning we will not see the same level of uniformity when accessing for math and science texts as we will for print. For more news on the adoption of UEB by BANA, follow this link to a new article.

  • Vision Australia has opened its library to people of all print disabilities; Vision Australia has been considered the principal service provider for Australian residents with blindness or low vision since its establishment in 2004. One of its notable services includes a library service which has been invaluable in providing people with low vision accessible books in electronic, braille and audio form (known as DAISY format) by mail or digitally to its clients. The Vision Australia library has now opened its digital doors to people of any print disability whether it arises from a physical, mental or perceptual disability.

     The process for signing up is simple and vision australia has very inclusive and flexible guidelines for joining up, even allowing special education teachers to act as referees for their students with print disabilities!
    Here is a link for more information on the Vision Australia Library Service and how to join, additionally, here is a link to the online library catalogue so you can browse for your students.

  • Operating System accessibility revolution. With Windows 8 and Android 4.2 taking their lessons from the IOS and MAC operating systems,  all of these modern mainstream operating systems for phones and computers now tout a high degree of ‘out of the box’ usability and accessibility by vision impaired users, although i wouldn’t be turning in my copy of JAWS or bricking my iphone just yet, Windows 8 and Android devices are a far cry from where they were in 2012 in regards to accessibility without third party apps.

    Windows 8 accessibility features and how to use them
               Mac O/S accessibility features and how to use them   
               IOS accessibility features and how to use them
  • EPUB 3 becomes the new standard for ebook developers.
The new open source format for Ebooks is called EPUB3 and it features richer format cohesion, editing features and HTML markup which will make the format much easier to navigate for blind people with assistive technologies, and even offer people with print disabilties an ebook that is marked up with spoken rather then synthetic text.

This highly editable and accessible format  has become the format of choice by publishers, developer and users to the chagrin of copyright holders and format giants such as Amazon and Apple who would like to keep their proprietary formats mutually exclusive to their devices and natively published using in-house tools.  The benefits of this format for people with print disabilities is that this format uses a code that is very easy to make universally accessible and follows a similar language to both the DAISY and HTML 5 format- making this format both universally accessible and easy to make as long as established  guidelines are followed in the creation of the ebook.
Click here for more information on EPUB3 and accessibility guidelines.
  • Fascinating developments in digital braille may give us a way to give our vision impaired students unprecedented access to full pages of refreshable braille and diagrams that give auditory and tactile information.
Digital refreshable braille is a fantastic thing, but for the last thirty years refreshable braille technology has seen little advancement in engineering, all using the same technology of tiny clusters of actuators pushing little plastic pins through a  plastic sleeve to represent braille characters,  as such braille displays have never been able to provide more than one line of refreshable braille for anything under a few thousand dollars.

Over the last few years there have been some exciting developments in refreshable braille technology which hope to provide low vision users with a full page of refreshable braille- this will be invaluable in providing blind users with a dynamic readable format for complicated diagrams, charts, pictures as well as representing text and document layout in a more readable way.

Below are just three recent and promising technologies with relevant articles attached

Project Gravvitas
Project Gravvitas is a new touchscreen project developed at Monash University for blind users for digital tactile diagram, this project combines an electronic haptic (vibrating) glove, with an ipad and some headphones for directional audio input to give people access to specially colour coded diagrams. Here is a link for information on the The GraVVITAS project

EAP Refreshable Braille

A prototype of a low cost electronic braille device was developed in 2010 by the Boston Centre for Braille Innovation which uses a new technology called Electroactive Polymer Technology (EAP Technology). These EAP devices use a remarkably different technology from traditional braille displays in that uses a device which reads a film that instructs the device to pneumatically raise individual dots as the device reads information from a film.
This link contains more information on this technology and its development.


Liquid Refreshable BrailleCalifornia tech-based company Tactus have been working since 2007 to design tablets for the mainstream market that feature a liquid display that allows the tablet to present raised or tactile features- principally, this technology is designed for a mainstream audience to enjoy the use of dynamic tactile user interfaces such as keyboards and program-specific controls, but recent research indicates that this technology will also be a boon to the blind, allowing these tablets to output braille code and diagrams as well.  

The most promising aspect of this technology for me is that it is geared towards mainstream consumption which means that if it does become available it will not have the prohibitive costs attached to it as other technologies specifically designed for a low vision and blind audience.

Links Below.

Some great tools for creating accessible documents
http://makeitaccessible.com.au/  - this is still in a beta phase, but it’s a service that allows you to upload documents and convert them into a more accessible format.http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/upsize/guide.html- Upsize for word 2010 is a plugin for MS word designed by the University of Auckland to create accessible clearprint documents.Tidbit
the ABA has published all its documents for regular consumption in font Tahoma, font 14. This blog post is in Tahoma, you will note the ease of reading and absence of serifs which make the font a preferable font for publishing easy to read documents or websites (or worksheets!).

Thankyou for reading my post!

No comments:

Post a Comment