November 2009 Issue  Volume 10  Number 6

AccessWorld News

Accessible TV Technology

Obtaining access to television programming information is important to those of us who cannot view on-screen information. Recent and on-going efforts in the United Kingdom may provide a tangible solution to this well-documented problem.

RNIB, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, is engaged in the development of accessible set top boxes for use in the United Kingdom. While there are significant differences between the United States and United Kingdom in the delivery of television, the underlying technology required to provide accessibility has some universal potential.

The following outlines the efforts of one of the participants in the RNIB effort, and sheds some light on the technical particulars.

Software Provides Talking Menus for the Visually Impaired, Deaf, and Elderly

Bristol, UK/Hong Kong-based, Ocean Blue Software, a specialist digital TV software house, has developed "talking" digital TV technology for set top boxes and televisions that could potentially benefit millions of people who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, dyslexic, or elderly.

The technology, produced in conjunction with RNIB and other digital technology companies, works by converting on-screen based text menus into speech output. Consumers will be able to control how audio information is spoken to them and have the ability to change the language and level of speech through a customizable interface.

Developers are optimistic this new technology will improve the quality of life for 8 million people living with disabilities in the UK, and even more around the world.

Source for complete article:̃y2009m9d2-Digital-TV-

E-book Accessibility: Three Recent Announcements May Signal the Future Direction of E-book Accessibility Efforts.

1. In a press release posted on its web site,, knfbReading Technology, Inc., manufacturers of the knfbReader Mobile, announced a partnership with the publishing giant, Baker & Taylor. The announcement which was released not in the US, but at the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, detailed an agreement between the organizations. Baker & Taylor will acquire and distribute digital media for a new soon-to-be-released e-reader, which according to knfbReading Technology, "delivers the most advanced, flexible and open reading platform technology developed to date."

Several technical particulars about the e-reader were previewed in the release which states, "knfbReading Technology's new e-reader will operate seamlessly on a variety of electronic devices, including personal computers, smart phones, and cell phones." Ray Kurzweil also referenced the company's "cutting-edge 3-D book technology." More information on the e-reader will soon be available at

2. knfbReading Technology wasn't the only organization making announcements impacting accessibility in Frankfurt. Wire services including Frankfurt (Reuters) flashed the news Google plans to launch an online store to deliver electronic books to any device with a web browser. This development poses a direct threat to Amazon and could upset an escalating market for dedicated e-readers dominated by its Kindle. The web search giant said, it would launch Google Editions in the first half of next year. It will initially offer about half a million e-books in partnership with publishers with whom it already cooperates, where they have digital rights. Google stated readers will be able to purchase e-books from Google directly or from other online stores such as or

Google spokeswoman, Jennie Johnson, said many of the details of the project, including which online retailers would participate and whether the digital books would be viewable on e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, have yet to be determined. Google also ruled out making the device itself. "We're not focused on a dedicated e-reader or device of any kind," Tom Turvey, Google's director of strategic partnerships, told journalists at the Frankfurt Book Fair. It was confirmed that Google will host the e-books and make them searchable.

3. Closer to home, the Los Angeles Public Library has suspended the purchase of electronic books published in the Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) format. This decision may be significant for at least two reasons. A large, highly visible public library system has implemented an American Library Association resolution adopted last summer stating libraries purchasing electronic resources should take steps to ensure such resources comply with accessibility standards. Perhaps more significantly, it excludes the purchase of books delivered in Adobe's ADE electronic format. To date, this format remains inaccessible and is the focus of much on-going advocacy efforts in the United States and Europe.

In a letter to the Reading Rights Coalition, the Los Angeles Public Library explained the books were accessible when purchased from one of its e-book providers, OverDrive, but Adobe had altered its software to block text-to-speech technology and then forced OverDrive to implement the new software. Los Angeles City Librarian, Martin J. Gómez, stated no additional ADE books will be purchased until they are fully accessible to the visually impaired and others with print disabilities. The library also said all its other digital offerings are currently accessible to such readers.

While making predictions in this arena can be a risky business, is it unreasonable to anticipate the availability of an accessible e-book format from a global distributer such as Baker & Taylor would place pressure on other players in the market? Despite delays in the process, a Google settlement which includes very specific accessibility requirements appears to remain on track, with the accessibility provisions of the agreement undisturbed. With both Google and Baker & Taylor's materials available in accessible formats, where does that leave Adobe's Digital Editions and Barnes and Noble's fledgling e-book efforts? AccessWorld will continue to provide coverage and information.

For a related article from Library Journal:

ClickAndGo Maps

A new service intended to provide detailed travel information was released at the recent Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference in suburban Chicago. The web-based system is called ClickAndGo. The developers shared some information about the technology with AccessWorld; here is what they have to say.

The system is called ClickAndGo Wayfinding Maps, and it offers detailed narrative route descriptions that help people who are visually impaired successfully find their way to unfamiliar destinations. The maps are free to users and can be accessed by telephone. "This is modeled after the popular 'directions' feature of Yahoo, Google, and MapQuest maps," said inventor and mobility specialist Joe Cioffi, who has 28 years experience teaching blind and deaf-blind clients white cane techniques. "With Internet maps, sighted users select a starting point and destination from a drop-down menu and then click 'go' for driving directions."

"We adapted ClickAndGo Wayfinding Maps by adding the options of voice output or braille that literally walks blind and deaf-blind people through the route to the destination with customized 'mobility-friendly' walking directions," Cioffi said.

Rather than depend on strangers for directions, blind ATIA Conference attendees will pick up a telephone or use a computer to access a web site, give their point of origin and destination, and hear specific directions to help them find their way independently to the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center's registration desk, interior restaurants, ballrooms and function rooms, restrooms, guide dog relief areas, and other destinations.

A caller may hear, for example: "After entering through the main doors, the flooring changes from carpet to tile. There are two elevators along the right side wall, 25 feet away. The elevator call button is located between the 2 elevators. Enter and press floor 2. Exit on floor 2 and walk straight. In 10 feet you will reach entry doors separating the elevator foyer from the main hallway. After these doors, walk straight 5 feet and turn right. You are now facing a 20 foot wide hallway, and straight ahead in 70 feet you will reach the double doors of the hotel ballroom." The directions can be downloaded on a notetaker for later access.

ClickAndGo Wayfinding Maps are mainly intended to help vision-impaired travelers more easily orient themselves and move through airports, schools and universities, hotel and convention centers, public parks, amusement parks, tourist destinations, and other public places. But Cioffi also offers customized narrative walking directions for outdoor landmark-to-landmark route travel. All directions and point of interest information can be downloaded through ClickAndGoMaps' fully accessible web site as both web pages and MP3 downloads, orobtained by using the company's voice-activated technology with a standard telephone. The system has been praised by users such as Ken Rodgers, who is blind and a Master's candidate at Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and the past Minnesota Chapter President of the American Council of the Blind. Rodgers said the system offers a level of detail that is unparalleled by any other service or technology today. "The ClickAndGo narrative mapping technology is absolutely phenomenal!" said Rodgers, who tested the product at the University. "It's easy to use and will revolutionize the way I find unfamiliar destinations without the fear of getting lost. Talk about maintaining my independence!"

Cioffi is the owner of InTouch Graphic which also produces tactile/low vision maps for people who are blind and vision impaired.

ClickAndGo Wayfinding Maps will be offered free to users. Cioffi is hoping to market the product to participating institutions such as airports and hotels that wish to accommodate their customers as well as comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA offers some tax incentives and under certain conditions, reimburses businesses up to $15,000 for adaptations that encourage accessibility of public accommodations.

For more information, contact Cioffi at 612-220-6657.

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