NCBI’s goal is to provide 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.
Our access and awareness coordinator and access staff around the country were involved in a number of projects throughout the year, including the provision of awareness training as part of the consortium team made up of NCBI, the Irish Wheelchair Association and DeafHear and accessibility assessments of various buildings and streetscapes, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Kilmainham, Bus Áras and the Natural History Museum. Our national access officer dealt with queries from architects, engineers, local authority planning departments and managers of various buildings and services, such as libraries, nursing homes, schools and leisure centres.
NCBI contributed significantly to both the environmental and the informational aspects of terminal two at Dublin Airport. Access staff also worked with Dublin Bus on improving the accessibility of the hardware for their proposed new Real Time Passenger Information service and with Irish Rail on improvements to Heuston and Pearse Street stations. The access coordinator was involved in the development of a number of NCBI submissions to Government and good practice guides for various professions, including banks, post offices and retail outlets. NCBI also produced a guide about the needs of children with sight loss when in hospital, which was submitted to Children in Hospital Ireland, one of Ireland’s leading children’s charities.
Library and Media Centre
NCBI’s Library and Media Centre produces and distributes audio, Braille and large print books to its members throughout the country. The number of new members joining the library increased by 8%, bringing the total number of library members to 4,282. A total of 22,790 books were issued in 2010. The media centre also converts printed matter into formats which are accessible to people who are blind or vision impaired. This conversion service is used by a range of voluntary, public and private bodies.
The library launched its first collection of downloadable audio books in March, making 100 contemporary titles available for immediate download to library members. In the second phase of this project, the library will be placing its own recorded audio books on to the downloadable platform (subject to copyright clearance from publishers).
In November, NCBI and St Josephs Centre for the Visually Impaired hosted a Braille Fun Reading Day, with guest judges Roddy Doyle and Theia Regan. The panel listened to stories written and read by children and adults. The library, working with An Post, issued accessible Christmas Cards to children who requested Braille audio, or large print cards from Santa.
Centre for Inclusive Technology
A lot of work was done to promote digital inclusion and accessibility in Ireland, Europe and internationally in 2010. Two new EU-funded projects began and two new staff members, one part-time, were recruited to work on them.
A continued focus of CFIT’s work was the accessibility of websites and online services, through the provision of out-reach consultancy services in the form of accessibility audits, user testing and training/mentoring for web developers. This work resulted in significant accessibility improvements to important public services and generated income to cover the cost of carrying out other unpaid work. Examples of achievements in 2010 include ComReg’s online consumer information site, askcomreg.ie, and its very popular bill comparison service, callcosts.ie. The ECDL online exams are also more accessible and the Equality Tribunal’s electronic form for making discrimination claims can now be filled in by complainants who are blind or vision impaired using their screen reading software.
Once again, CFIT took part in the judging for the annual eircom Spiders web awards, assessing 240 entries this time round. Making accessibility a criterion for the leading Irish web awards has a positive effect in promoting inclusion as a fundamental building block of online design.
CFIT was active in promoting the accessibility of digital television, partly through the TV Access coalition, of which CFIT’s Director, Mark Magennis, is founder and Chair. TV Access had discussions with RTÉ, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. Mark also worked on the editorial team creating the Word Blind Union’s television user requirements and has been representing the European Disability Forum (EDF) in discussions on television accessibility with Digital Europe, the European ICT industry association. These talks have resulted in an industry voluntary self-commitment to implement basic accessibility requirements in consumer equipment – TVs and digital set-top boxes.
CFIT worked with ComReg to design a mystery shopping exercise to assess the attitudes and knowledge of the customer-facing staff of telephone service providers. The exercise will be run during 2011. European directives covering telecoms are due to be enshrined into Irish law by April 2011 and, if they are adequately transposed, will constitute a major step forward in the accessibility and affordability of telephone and television services.