Dan Jellinek, a long-time companion on the Net, has passed away.
Access to technology for all, regardless of ability.
- ISSUE 177, March 2016.
A Headstar Publication, produced with the support of Thomas Pocklington
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++Issue 177 contents.
Section One: News.
01: Governments warned not to “exclude millions” by legalising digital
- Letter from 20 NGOs predicts dire consequences of amended directive.
02: Innovations for independent living take a step forward:
- Braille tablet and 3D-printed prosthetics showcased.
03: Academia and industry join forces to push forward gaming accessibility:
- BBC partner with new project to break down barriers for disabled gamers.
News in Brief: 04: Buzzing Bus Buddy – Bluetooth wristband trialled; 05:
Tactile Photography – ‘Seeing’ art through touch; 06: Opening-up
Employment – e-Recruitment resource launched.
Section Two: Special Report – Dan Jellinek: a tribute.
07: Asking the right questions.
Dan Jellinek, e-Access Bulletin’s editor and founder, passed away
unexpectedly last year. This terrible event was a devastating shock to so
many, including those in the digital accessibility community, a sector to
which Dan contributed invaluable work. To mark his achievements in this
area, colleagues and friends pay tribute to Dan, sharing their thoughts
about his work and influence.
++Section One: News.
+01: Governments warned not to “exclude millions” by legalising digital
A letter from 20 NGOs has warned European ministers of the severe impact on
disabled citizens’ lives that proposed changes to a web accessibility
directive would have.
If exemptions to the EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector
bodies’ websites are adopted, then electronic communication with public
organisations, downloading documents and accessing intranets at work will
all be affected, and in some cases made impossible for disabled citizens
throughout Europe, say the NGOs.
Signed by the European Blind Union (EBU), European Disability Forum (EDF)
and AGE Platform Europe, among others, the letter sets out its objections
after stating: “It is not acceptable to legalise digital barriers to
employment. It is not acceptable to exclude millions from full
participation in society.”
The letter also highlights increased mobile access of digital content,
stressing the need for public sector websites to be accessible on mobile
The proposed exemptions to the directive effectively exclude a number of
website types and content formats from the accessibility guidelines set out
elsewhere in the document. Under the proposed changes, NGO websites, online
mapping and route-planning tools, intranets, and certain office file
formats would all be exempt from the accessibility guidelines.
Carine Marzin, chair of the campaigns network at the EBU, spoke to e-Access
Bulletin about some of the barriers that two of the exemptions (access to
intranets and NGO websites) would present: “If disabled staff don’t
have access to the intranet of their employer, they won’t be able to
access information to do their job – (for example) checking internal
policies, booking holidays, engaging in internal communications. (Secondly)
many NGOs are lifelines for disabled people, providing valuable advice and
It is hoped that the co-signed letter will influence ongoing negotiations
about the directive, Marzin said: “We all hope this open letter will
prompt ministers to understand how important it is to ensure that the
directive is ‘fit for purpose’ and meets the needs of millions of
disabled people and older people too.”
Speaking about why some governments have proposed and/or supported the
exemptions, Marzin said: “In essence, the most common ‘reason’ given
to our members was the ‘cost’ to make websites accessible, though we
have not seen figures to back this up. We have argued that excluding people
from the digital environment would be hugely damaging … and pointed to
evidence that alternative ways for public authorities to interact with
citizens are far more costly.”
Final negotiations on the directive will take place on April 26, between
representatives from the European Parliament, the Council of the European
Union and the European Commission. If a version of the text is agreed on by
all parties, the directive could be adopted later this year.
Marzin said that members of the EBU are continuing to meet with European
ministers and officials to stress the importance of access to digital
content for blind and partially sighted citizens throughout Europe.
Read the full letter to European Governments as a PDF:http://eab.li/3
Link to the full web accessibility directive – proposed exemptions can be
found on pages 40-43:http://eab.li/i
Find out more at the EBU website:http://eab.li/2
Comment on this story, at E-Access Bulletin Live:http://eab.li/b
+02: Innovations for independent living take a step forward.
A Braille tablet computer, an online tool to seek out low-cost 3D-printed
prosthetics and other projects to assist independent living were showcased
earlier this month at the European Parliament.
The projects on display were part of an event in Brussels, ‘Accessible
technology for independent living’, organised by the European Disability
Forum and Google. Featured projects were supported by $20 million from the
Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities – a scheme funding non-profit ideas
that utilise new technologies.
(Read more at the Google Impact Challenge website: http://eab.li/a
Projects on show included: BLITAB; Wheelmap; Wayfindr, and; My Human Kit.
BLITAB is a Braille tablet computer. It’s the first device of its kind,
according to its developers, who have nicknamed it “the iPad for the
blind”. BLITAB uses a liquid-based system to produce Braille graphics and
maps that visually impaired users might not be able to access on a regular
(Read more at the BLITAB site: http://bvi.blitab.com
Wheelmap is a global data map of accessible public locations, gathered
through crowdsourcing. Accessibility information for over 630,000 places
has been contributed so far, and the aim is to go beyond one million.
(Read more at the Wheelmap site: http://eab.li/e
Wheelmap was developed by Holger Dieterich, chairman of Sozialhelden, a
German non-profit that tackles social problems. Dieterich, told e-Access
Bulletin that Wheelmap’s data will be merged with other datasets from
similar projects. “The goal is to define a common format so this
information can be shared with other location-based services, so that more
people can use it,” he said.
Wayfindr is a system designed to improve audio navigation on digital
devices, for people with visual impairments. A trial took place in December
2015, with participants guiding themselves through Euston Tube Station in
London via audio directions from a smartphone app.
(Read more at the Wayfindr site: http://eab.li/h
After receiving $1 million from the Google Impact Challenge, the team
behind Wayfindr (developed by the Royal London Society for Blind People and
digital product studio ustwo) are working on guidelines for others who are
producing similar navigation services.
My Human Kit is an online platform that both develops and guides people
towards low-cost, open source 3D-printed models for prosthetics. The
project was founded by Nicolas Huchet, who wanted to provide an alternative
to the expensive prosthetics he encountered after losing his hand in an
(Read more at the My Human Kit site: http://eab.li/f
All of the projects on display at the event had significant potential to
help individuals with disabilities live more independent lives.
Encouragingly, project teams seemed keen to collaborate and share
information with others, to achieve the big-picture goal of developing
products and services that reach as many people as possible.
Comment on this story, at E-Access Bulletin Live:http://eab.li/c
+03: Academia and industry join forces to push forward gaming
Research into how video games can be made more accessible is being led by a
computer science team from a UK university, who will work with game
developers and partners including the BBC.
Dr Michael Heron and Dr Michael Crabb from the School of Computing Science
and Digital Media at Robert Gordon University, Scotland, will also explore
how academic institutions can help identify problems faced by gamers with
A grant of £3,800 has been awarded to the project by the Scottish
Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA), which will be used to
run a series of workshops that bring together game developers and
Dr Heron told e-Access Bulletin that: “The key thing is getting people in
a room and talking about how we can improve the general state of
accessibility in recreational entertainment. Accessibility support can be
very contextual, especially when someone may have a blend of requirements
– what works for one person will not necessarily work for another. These
are the kinds of issues we believe academia is well-placed to help with.”
The BBC’s R&D (Research and Development) department will help facilitate
two initial workshops. The first will focus on identifying what the gaming
industry needs from academia to tackle accessibility issues, while the
second will deeper explore these findings.
The project is the first stage in a larger programme of research on what
can be done to help the industry develop inclusive products, said Heron.
Both he and Dr Crabb are keen gamers, and have written extensively on
accessible ICT and gaming.
Heron said: “Academia and the video games industry often don’t talk
especially well to each other, and we’re hoping that we can begin the
process of a more meaningful dialogue. We hope that this programme will be
productive in sparking an ongoing conversation about how we can improve the
inclusivity of this hugely important commodity of modern society.”
Comment on this story, at E-Access Bulletin Live:http://eab.li/d
++News in Brief:
+04: Buzzing Bus Buddy: A vibrating wristband that alerts visually impaired
and hearing impaired bus passengers about their bus stop has gone on trial
in the UK. The Bluetooth-enabled ‘ViBus’ wristband was designed by
18-year-old Daria Buszta in the ‘All Aboard’ accessible transport
competition last year. The ViBus could be produced and sold commercially if
the trial is successful.
Read more at the All Aboard website: http://eab.li/4
+05: Tactile Photography: The world’s first exhibition of 3D tactile fine
art, designed to allow blind and visually impaired people to ‘see’ art
through touch, has gone on display in a museum in Canada. ‘Sight
Unseen’ features 3D-printed versions of photographs taken by blind
photographers, created using specialist technology developed by the 3D
PhotoWorks company. Visually impaired visitors explore the prints through
touch and triggered audio descriptions. ‘Sight Unseen’ is at the
Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) until September 18.
Read more at the CMHR website: http://eab.li/5
+06: Opening-up Employment: A free online tool has been launched in the US
to help employers make sure their online job applications and electronic
recruiting technologies are accessible for applicants with disabilities.
The ‘TalentWorks’ resource was developed by the Partnership on
Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT), after its national survey
revealed that 46% of people with disabilities rated their most recent
experience of applying for a job online as “difficult to impossible”.
Read more at the PEAT website: http://peatworks.org/talentworks
[Section One ends].
++ Notice: Thomas Pocklington Trust
e-Access Bulletin is brought to you with the kind support of Thomas
Pocklington Trust, a national charity delivering positive change for people
with sight loss. Find out more about the work of Thomas Pocklington Trust
by visiting their website: http://www.pocklington-trust.org.uk
Section Two: Special report.
- Dan Jellinek: a tribute.
+07: Asking the right questions.
As many readers will know, e-Access Bulletin’s editor and founder, Dan
Jellinek, passed away in October last year. This tragic event was
completely unexpected and utterly devastating news for everyone that knew
Dan. As well as the immeasurable loss to his family, countless good friends
and colleagues, Dan’s passing will also be felt deeply throughout the
digital accessibility community, an area to which he contributed so much
Accessibility was not Dan’s only area of expertise and interest, but it
was always a sustained passion and something he felt compelled to cover
journalistically. This was probably because he knew that intelligent,
informed, progressive coverage – which his always was – could help push
forward the important issues and the debates that needed to be had.
To mark his achievements in the accessibility sector, some of his many
friends and colleagues have paid tribute to Dan, sharing their thoughts
about his work and influence.
- Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion, AbilityNet:
“I was shocked and deeply saddened when I heard of Dan’s passing. I had
known Dan for well over a decade and admired his work, but even more so Dan
as a person. He had a way of quietly asking the right questions, both when
interviewing you for the always-informative e-Access Bulletin and when
chatting over a coffee about the state of the world, and in particular how
it could be made a better place through people embracing a more inclusive
approach to technology and design.
“Dan’s quiet and thoughtful demeanour belied a huge force for good that
continually made an impact on those around him. From individuals who went
away feeling completely different about accessibility and how important it
is for so many thousands and millions of people in the UK and across the
world, to government and large corporates, whose agendas have been
influenced for the better by Dan’s wise and insightful input – the
cause of accessibility and digital inclusion undoubtedly owes a lot to this
kind and focused man. Dan – we’ll miss you.”
- Derek Parkinson, copywriter and journalist, and former deputy editor of
“‘We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff
that works,’ said author Douglas Adams. That really matters when, as Dan
clearly understood, technology has the potential to transform the way we
live: our work, education, relationships, entertainment, access to public
services and political engagement. This was reflected in Dan’s aim for
e-Access Bulletin to cover a very broad range of topics, unlike most
“Technology often fails to be ‘stuff that works’ for people with
impaired vision, and even if adaptive devices are available they can be
expensive. In any case, these are attempts to compensate for problems –
why not design for everyone from the start? This has a moral dimension,
pointing to wider concerns for society, such as fairness, inclusion and
social cohesion, as well as what makes sense commercially. It’s the right
thing to do, as well as the most astute.
“These are big and important questions, but what practical steps can we
take right now? Users – real, live ones! – could and should be at the
centre of design. Dan was always keen to put this into practice by
encouraging readers to comment on the accessibility of e-Access Bulletin
itself. This paved the way for the TEN standard, a set of guidelines for
making email newsletters more compatible with screen-reader technology.
“Dan was extremely well-read, often illustrating a point with a softly
spoken quote from a favourite writer, such as Samuel Beckett. Although
offered a place at Cambridge University to study maths, he persuaded the
dons that English was his true home. He was passionate about writing and
convinced of the power of the written word – in this case, journalism –
to reach people and bring about positive change. It pleased him when the
bulletin gave him renewed hope, as it often did, that success in both these
- Mel Poluck, freelance writer:
“E-Access Bulletin and the e-Access annual conferences provided a
well-needed forum for an intelligent debate on accessibility for many
years. I really enjoyed working with Dan on both. I learned so much about
accessibility and the vision-impaired community from the bulletin, and
learned huge amounts about writing, kindness and integrity from Dan.
“He flew the flag for independent, good quality journalism, as well as
access to technology, in his diligent, humble way. I think Dan would be
chuffed to know that e-Access Bulletin is continuing in good hands. He
fought hard to maintain it.”
- Nigel Lewis, chief executive officer of technology charity AbiltyNet:
“Coming to work for AbilityNet many years ago, it was my privilege to
meet Dan through his passion for accessible technology. We worked on a
number of e-Access conferences together, which became the UK’s leading
annual accessibility conference. Dan brought a wide range of experts
together, not only to help develop the event, but also as great
contributors and speakers.
“Even when times got tough, he maintained his passion for the conference
and for accessibility, as he understood how good, accessible technology
could transform a person’s life, liberating them at home, at work or in
education. He was a lovely man and will be sadly missed.”
- John Lamb, editor and publisher, Ability magazine:
“Dan was a real gentleman, who achieved a great deal in a quiet,
determined way. His promotion of accessibility through his writing and the
many projects that he initiated did a lot to raise awareness of the online
barriers disabled people face. His e-Access conferences brought
technologists, big companies and disabled people together to thrash out the
issues involved in opening up digital systems to disabled people. Apart
from being a first-class writer, Dan was a great networker. He knew
everyone and everyone knew him.
“A meeting with Dan was always something to look forward to. Brimming
with ideas, he had a knack of being able to mould them to suit whoever he
was talking to. Modest and charming, Dan was also tenacious. If he thought
he had a good idea, he wouldn’t give it up easily. The ‘Go On Gold’
project in 2012 was a good example. It took advantage of the Olympic and
Paralympic Games to draw people’s attention to the need for accessible
digital services, but Dan had to work hard to bring people and the
necessary funds together to make it happen. His writing and editing was to
a very high standard, which made him a pleasure to work with.”
- Jonathan Hassell, accessibility director, Open Inclusion:
“Dan was a great man. His annual e-Access conferences and e-Access
Bulletin have been essential in keeping Britain at the forefront of
progress towards digital inclusion since 2007. Disabled people all over the
UK have a huge amount to thank him for, as do I.”
- Pedro Zurita, secretary general of the World Blind Union, 1986-2000:
“I was deeply saddened when I learned that Dan had passed away. About 12
years ago I was in regular contact with him, regarding the preparation of a
monthly Spanish version of e-Access Bulletin. I never had the privilege or
pleasure to meet Dan personally, but in my frequent exchanges of emails
with him I could undoubtedly sense his most genuine compassion for human
beings, and I could very clearly perceive that his efforts towards
achieving accessibility for all were an essential element in his life
philosophy. It is indeed an enriching experience to encounter human jewels
like Dan Jellinek in our life's journey.”
- Kevin Carey, chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People
“Tributes to the dead, particularly the untimely dead, usually begin with
public achievements, completed and truncated, and finish with something
about how he loved his family and liked crime fiction. With Dan Jellinek it
has to be precisely the other way round. You have to begin with the man,
because everything else sprang from that. My supporters and opponents would
equally agree that I'm on the feisty side – whereas Dan never said a hard
word or, as far as I know, had any opponents. I maintained that this would
never get things done, but with Dan it did – more often that it did with
“When Dan and I started e-Access Bulletin just before the millennium, we
were still more-or-less in thrall to the Microsoft monopoly as part of the
PC bundle, and so Dan oversaw a tremendous technological explosion in the
generic world and – as the good journalist he was – tracked all the
implications for blind and partially sighted people. Yes, good journalist!
Whoever heard of a gentle journalist?
“For Dan, the accessibility framework within which he worked fitted into
a larger, liberal framework of human rights and transparent democracy. He
was very wise in the matter of politics but, for a partisan like me, he had
this habit of seeing both – or even more than two – sides. But,
journalist that he was, he always had his evidence for the story.
“I will always relish the time in restaurants and pubs that we had, even
more than the time spent with accessible technology. He loved his cricket,
but I only learned at his funeral that he loved Beckett. I wish he had told
me, because this would have led to yet another glorious conversational
- Tristan Parker, e-Access Bulletin editor, 2016:
“This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. That
thought rolled around my head constantly as I tried to sum-up a part of
Dan’s legacy and explain exactly why I respected him so much – and all
to be aired in his own publication, which he produced with such care and
insight. Writing this is difficult and saddening, though I can take a
little comfort in realising that anyone who knew, met or just corresponded
with Dan will already know about some of his many qualities.
“Technology can be an intimidating, impenetrable thing, often for those
who need it most but can’t use it, but also for those who use it and work
with it every day. Dan understood perfectly how to present complex ideas
and stories about accessible technology in a way that hit the right notes
with both of these groups – and everyone in between.
“In doing so, he created a publication that was not just informative, but
genuinely useful in a practical sense, for a lot of people. And through
this, he upheld the message at the heart of the bulletin and digital
accessibility as a wider concept: ‘Access to technology for all,
regardless of ability’.
“On a personal level – and as I’ve mentioned to some of his family
and friends – I owe Dan an incredible debt of gratitude. He gave me my
first full-time job in journalism, taught me about publishing and valued my
opinions from the start. Having him as an editor was an invaluable benefit,
and it was always a pleasure to spend time with him socially as well.
“It’s also worth stressing that e-Access Bulletin wouldn’t have been
relaunched last month if it weren’t for Dan’s continual hard work to
secure a future for it. Everyone who has gained anything from the bulletin,
whether it’s useful information or simply enjoyment of an article, has
Dan to thank for that – though he would doubtless deflect any such
praise, and point out that pursuing the greater good and asking the right
questions along the way are what matters.
“Dan, I’ll do my very best to continue that grand pursuit and to keep
asking the kind of questions I think you would have. At least I was lucky
enough for you to give me a glimpse of how to go about it.”
Comment on this story now, at E-Access Bulletin Live:http://eab.li/j
[Section Two ends]
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Editor: Tristan Parker
Technical Director: Jake Jellinek
[Issue 177 ends.]