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To work towards a barrier free environment, by providing expertise, education and assistance in making buildings, services, technologies and information accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired.
NCBI’s staff continue to promote the accessibility of services, information, websites, technology and the built environment by working with and advising public and private organisations on how they can ensure that their services and buildings are accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.
Our access and awareness co-ordinator was involved in a number of different projects throughout the year, including:
• Advised staff at the National Museum, Collins Barracks about an exhibition area called the interactive room, where visitors can touch and even try on the exhibits, including World War II gas masks, helmets and uniforms.
• Worked with local authorities on issues like tactile paving and on providing suitable pedestrian access in areas where construction work is taking place, such as around the new Aviva stadium on Lansdowne Road.
• Advised The Fisheries Board on the accessibility of angling stands. The Fisheries Board are now on the short list for an O2 Ability Award for their efforts to create an accessible service.
• Attended meetings with the Minister for Transport, the Taxi Regulator, and the Accessible Taxis Consortium on the provision of training to enable taxi drivers to provide a better service to people with disabilities.
• Worked with developers of Dublin’s new Metro line to ensure that it will be accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired.
• Continued to work on the development of an International Standard for Accessibility of the Built Environment.
• Dublin City Council engineering department meet regularly with NCBI at a review level to monitor improvements in audio signals, pavements and new developments in real time tables (a collaborative venture with Dublin Bus), which will be made accessible to blind and vision impaired passengers.
• Fiona Kelty, NCBI’s access and awareness co-ordinator was a guest lecturer for University of Ulster’s Accessibility Auditors course several times during the year, lecturing on accessibility issues for people with impaired vision.
Library and Media Centre
NCBI’s library offers a wide range of Braille, audio and large-print books, newspapers and magazines to members throughout the country. The Media Centre converts printed information into formats accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired for a range of voluntary, public and private bodies.
A total of 647 people joined the library in 2009, an increase of 20% on 2008, bringing the total number of library members to 4,249. Members borrowed 24,399 titles during the year. The library also issues 20 periodical titles and newspapers to 1,142 subscribers.
During the summer of 2009, the Library and Media Centre completed and distributed the Lisbon Treaty in accessible formats. Over 2,000 accessible leaflets were produced and distributed by the Media Centre on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
NCBI and St. Joseph’s Centre for the Visually Impaired ran a Braille short story competition sponsored by the European Blind Union in April. Five essays were selected and submitted to the EBU representing Ireland. One of these essays, written by Saleem Ur Rahman, won the Excellent Works Prize.
NCBI Library hosted the Braille Fun Reading Day at the Training Centre in Whitworth Road in November, with children’s author Siobhan Parkinson acting as one of the judges. The panel listened to children and young adults reading Braille extracts from novels. The aim of the day was to recognise the efforts of children and adults who are in the process of learning Braille.
In December 2009, the library launched accessible Santa letters, sponsored by An Post. Children who wrote to Santa and requested a response in an accessible format received their response letters in Braille, audio or large print.
Centre for Inclusive Technology (CFIT)
CFIT was active throughout 2009 promoting digital inclusion and ICT (Information and Communication Technology) accessibility, taking part in a number of key industry, government and disability sector forums. CFIT’s Director Mark Magennis was invited by Minister for Communications Eamon Ryan to take part in the High Level Group on Knowledge Society Strategy, initially tasked with developing the Technology Actions to Support the Smart Economy report.
On an international level, CFIT has been involved with G3ict, a flagship UN project to assist officials in implementing the ICT accessibility provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of persons with Disabilities.
The area of digital terrestrial television (DTT) continued as a major focus point during 2009, with serious implications for the accessibility and affordability of television services for people with sight loss. CFIT continued to run the TV Access coalition, which includes most of the major organisations in the disability and ageing sectors in Ireland. Through its involvement in the ComReg Forum on Communications Services for People with Disabilities, CFIT was able to push forward a number of issues including those around the provision of a free directory service for blind telephone users and the rollout of disability awareness training for customer facing staff of the telephone service providers.
CFIT has been working with Dublin City Council, Dublin Bus and some academic and commercial partners on initiatives in Real Time Passenger Information services delivered via mobile phones, the internet and on electronic displays at bus stops. It is vital that these services are accessible to people with vision impairment. Piloting and user testing involving blind and partially sighted passengers is planned for 2010.
CFIT continued to provide its range of out-reach consultancy services in accessible website design and development during 2009, resulting in a doubling of income to help offset the costs of running the centre. Services included accessibility auditing, user testing and general consultancy.
The development of training was a focus for 2009. The first CFIT public training course in Accessibility for Web Developers attracted participants from the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Foreign Affairs.