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ument European Blind Union



                     EBU NEWSLETTER N° 86
                        May - June 2012
                   Published by the EBU Office
              58 avenue Bosquet - 75007 Paris - France
          Tel: +33 1 47 05 38 20 – Fax: +33 1 47 05 38 21
           Email: -

Table of Contents
[To open the links below, press the application key on your keyboard (left of
the right Ctrl key) and select "open the hyperlink"]

EU update
     EBU has been busy since the last newsletter in pursuit of a treaty at the
World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)
     EU consultation on access to interoperability information of digital
products and services.

The INTERGEN project in the news

National news
    Albania - Update on the implementation and progress of the E.U funded
     Regional Project: "Blind people network for representation in the Western
    Austria – Self-help organisations of disabled persons reject payment in
     kind of the care allowance
    Israel – International Guide Dog Day
    Slovakia - blind travellers toured the country without guides
    United Kingdom - research trial helps man to see again

     A new president for the Austrian Federation of the Blind and Partially
 On May 26, 2012, the Czech Blind United (SONS) held its biennial General
Assembly in Prague

FEATURE – Social Media
   Social Media – Removing real barriers but adding virtual ones

This Newsletter is published and translated with the financial support of
DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities of the European

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Newsletter are those of the writers and do
not necessarily reflect the views of the EBU.

Please feel free to send your comments on this Newsletter’s layout
and contents to

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EU consultation on access to interoperability information of
digital products and services

By Carine Marzin, EU Policy and Campaigns Officer, RNIB

EBU responded to the European Commission consultation on access
to interoperability information of digital products and services. The
purpose of the consultation is to obtain structured input from
stakeholders and interested parties on the need, barriers and
opportunities for measures leading significant market players to
license interoperability information not covered by standards. Lack
of access to interoperability information is an issue that EBU want
the European Commission to address as the current system is a
barrier to the provision of accessible products and services - read
our        response        to      the         consultation     here:

EBU has been busy since the last newsletter in pursuit of a
treaty at the World Intellectual Property Organisation

By Dan Pescod,
Campaigns Manager, Europe, International and Accessibility,
The Royal National Institute of Blind People

There is just a month till the next copyright negotiating committee
in Geneva (WIPO SCCR 24). SCCR24 has been described by many
commentators as the one that should finalise the text for the new
law, and decide whether that law will be the binding treaty we have
long sought or a toothless “recommendation”. Of course, we have
heard many predictions before, but such an outcome this July is
very achievable. Whether it happens depends to a significant extent
on EU negotiators.
Some good news came on the 8th June when we heard that
Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier received agreement
from the college of Commissioners (the other 26 Member States’
Commissioners) to ask the EU Member States for a binding treaty.
But the big question is, what will the EU’s Member States
governments say when Barnier asks them for this mandate?
With this in mind, EBU recently published an interactive map
showing which EU Member States support / oppose our treaty, with
a link so that visitors can lobby their countries on this matter.
It is shocking to see just how few EU Member States have publicly
backed even the possibility of our treaty. Compare this with the fact
that the majority of the world’s countries, including the “BRIC”
countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), and African and Latin
American countries, support our call for a treaty. The EU seems to
be well behind the curve, supporting the old, no longer fit-for-
purpose status quo. Most other parts of the world have moved on
and accept that we need a treaty.
However, hope springs eternal. We’ve been talking to Barnier’s
officials about versions of the text to ensure it meets our needs,
and most recently we have had some constructive discussions with
the still relatively new Head of Copyright at the Commission, Maria
We have been working also with the African group of countries to
ensure they understand our concerns about the draft treaty text.
After all, there are 55 African countries – over twice as many as
there are EU countries. Africa has a pivotal role in the WIPO
negotiations. They support our aspiration for a treaty, and it is vital
that they make that support manifest in July.
Space does not permit a description of all the work that has
happened recently on this campaign, nor on that which we will
undertake before July 16th when SCCR24 begins. However, the
next newsletter will, I hope, describe a fruitful meeting in Geneva
and the path we anticipate towards the conclusion of this campaign.

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The INTERGEN project in the news.

EBU’s lead project INTERGEN has been selected as an example of
good practice in the field of education, training and social inclusion
by the INCLUSION initiative1. The results and outcome of the
project were presented at the occasion of the final INCLUSION
conference held in Birmingham (UK) on 20 June 2012.

INTERGEN aimed to bring different generations together to share
knowledge and experience. Between November 2008 and October
2010, 34 intergenerational workshops were conducted throughout
Europe by the members of the consortium: the German Federation
of the Blind and Partially Sighted (DBSV), the Italian Union of the
Blind and Partially Sighted (UIC), the Italian Institute for Research,
Training and Rehabilitation (IRIFOR), the Turkish Federation of the
Blind, the Turkish Six Dots Foundation.

Evaluation of the workshops and successive improvement permitted
the creation of a workshop facilitation manual as well as a skills
handbook. The positive response to the project both from the
organisers and the 180 young and elderly participants, allow us to
hope that INTERGEN will become a valuable resource for future
use. The individual skill forms, designed to enable young and
elderly visually impaired people to improve their daily living skills
and their capacity to exploit new technology, and translated into
five different languages, are great examples of practical, easy-to-
use resources resulting from the project.

Follow the German, Italian and Turkish examples, feel free to
translate INTERGEN resources and why not organise your own
INTERGEN workshops in your country!

More information on the INTERGEN project here:

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 The INCLUSION initiative has brought together 14 Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP) National Agencies in the EU
with the aim to support more participation of disadvantaged groups in the LLP.


Albania – Update on the implementation and progress of the
E.U funded Regional Project: "Blind people network for
representation in the Western Balkans"

This article offers updated information on the implementation of the
EU Project "Blind people network for representation in the Western
Balkans", specifically the second project phase. The main aim of the
second phase of its implementation which started in December
2011 up to April 2012, has been initiating a regional framework and
advocacy effort.      During this project phase, a phase which
consisted on regional networking and advocacy, specific activities,
contributing to this project effort, have been conducted in each of
the three project countries Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro.

After the Second regular Board meeting held in Italy and according
to the Project’s Action plan, three regional network meetings have
been organized consecutively. As was planned, the main focus
addressed by these regional meetings, held in Macedonia, Albania
and Montenegro was the representation of blind and partially
sighted people in employment, education and representation,
respectively. These events were attended by high-profile
representatives of the relevant state institutions from the project
countries. The participation of important stakeholders such as vice-
ministers of the relevant ministries, representatives of the
European Union Delegation in these countries, ambassadors,
members of the national Parliaments has a direct impact on the
successful implementation of this project phase.

The national regulations in Albania, Macedonia and Montenegro
were presented during these meetings. Also, based on the national
studies conducted in each project country during the first phase of
the project implementation, some of the identified challenges as
well as best practices and achievements were also presented. At
the end of each regional conference, comprehensive and detailed
Resolutions were adopted. Under these resolutions, the national
representative organizations engage to undertake efforts to
improve the status of blind and partially sighted people in the three
targeted fields, employment, education and representation.
Concluding this brief article, it can be declared that all the three
regional activities contribute to strengthening the partnership
between the representative blind organizations which came to be as
a direct result of the establishment of the regional network.

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Austria – Self-help organisations of disabled persons reject
payment in kind of the care allowance

Current efforts to pay the care allowance in Austria partly in kind
are vigorously opposed by the Austrian Federation of the Blind and
Partially Sighted (BSVÖ) as well as by other self-help organisations
of disabled persons. Payment in kind of the care allowance would
be contradictory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of
People with Disabilities (CRPD). The CRPD emphasises the
importance of the freedom to make one’s own choices and a self-
determined life of persons with disabilities.

In particular, those provisions presented in article 19 ("Living
independently and being included in the community"), article 20
("Personal mobility") and article 28 ("Adequate standard of living
and social protection") of the CRPD would be violated if care
allowance is paid in kind.

Moreover, the initiative could backfire and lead to an increased
burden for Austrian taxpayers as disabled people would be forced
from usually cheaper home care into expensive forms of care
provided by the relief organisations affiliated to the main Austrian
political parties.

Once again, the BSVÖ calls rather for an automatic annual
indexation of the care allowance, as has been the case with
pensions already for a long time.

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Israel – International Guide Dog Day

The Israeli Guide Dog Association held a festive event in celebration
of International Guide Dog Day on Monday, April 23rd. The event
took place in the lovely Edmund de Rothschild Memorial Gardens in
Zichron Yaakov, and was attended by 230 people. Dozens of school
children and other visitors to the gardens gazed in amazement and
delight at the splendid procession of 60 beautiful guide dogs and
their owners accompanied by friends, supporters, and volunteers
strolling along the winding paths.

The day was sponsored by the two guide dog schools in Israel:
Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Tzivon and the Israeli Guide Dog
Center for the Blind at Beit Oved. The Israeli Center for the Blind,
the Israeli Service for the Blind, Purina, the Metropolin Bus
Company, the Ronen Tzur Public Relations Company, the Meitav
Company, and the Canvelo Tandem Biking Club joined in
sponsoring, organizing, and contributing to the event. Dozens of
volunteers escorted the participants through the gardens and
ensured that the day ran smoothly from start to finish.

Gan Hanadiv, the memorial gardens that surround the tomb of
Baron Edmund de Rothschild and his wife, is fully accessible for the
blind and visually impaired, and maps of the gardens and labels of
plants are provided in Braille. Even those who could not see the
lush beds of colorful flowers and exotic plants enjoyed walking
along the paths, touching and smelling the aromatic plants in raised
accessible beds, and listening to explanations about the plants and
wildlife and the history of the site. The group toured the gardens
and Rothschild's tomb and viewed a film depicting the history of the
gardens. The day was also marked by the launching of an
instructional film produced by the Israel Guide Dog Users'
Association that will bolster public awareness of guide dogs and the
needs and rights of their owners.

At the opening ceremony Benny Koblentz, chairman of the Israel
Guide Dog Users' Association, spoke of the day as a celebration of
Israel's upcoming Independence Day and of the independence that
guide dogs provide their handlers. Noach Braun, founder and head
of the Israel Center for Guide Dogs for the Blind and Yoni Lankri,
founder and head of Guiding Eyes for the Blind, spoke of their
commitment to provide dogs for Israel's blind population and of
their wish to see more guide dogs throughout Israel. Guy Simchi,
the Chairman of the Center for the Blind in Israel, remarked that
even though he could not see the large crowd of people and guide
dogs, he sensed a great feeling of pride and the festive atmosphere
of the day.

Next year will mark the 60th anniversary of the Israeli Guide Dog
Users' Association, and we can no doubt look forward to an even
more gala celebration of International Guide Dog Day in 2013!

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Slovakia - blind travellers toured the country without guides

The Guide Dog Training School (a department of the Slovak Blind
and Partially Sighted Union) carried out in April 2012 a unique
project called „I can´t see, but I don´t get lost in Slovakia.“ There
were four blind participants accompanied exclusively by their guide
dogs travelling across the country.

They oriented themselves only on the basis of recorded
instructions. Within six days they visited five cities also spending a
night in each of them.

This unconventional tour was most of all a personal challenge for
the group of blind adventurers. Thanks to this project they could
explore the limits of their own capacities.

„I consider this activity to be a challenge. It's a strange feeling to
go unaccompanied, but I want to prove that I am able to do it,“
admitted Robert Cielontko, one of the four travelers.

The group of blind adventurers travelled from place to place by
train. After getting off at a given railway station they continued to a
hotel where they received further instructions. Fulfilling new tasks
made this activity more like an interesting game and not just
simply travelling from place to place.

The group of Slovak blind travelers covered over one thousand
kilometers without being accompanied by guides at all. Since the
purpose of the project was to manage the route without any
sighted assistance, they refused spontaneously proposed help and
therefore happily reached their goal.

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United Kingdom - research trial helps man to see again

Chris James, who had been totally blind for more than 20 years, is
the first patient to be fitted with a digital chip similar to those used
in mobile phone cameras to help him see again. He is able to see a
rough outline of simple shapes. Doctors believe that in time - as his
brain 'learns' to see again - he could recognise faces.

Chris told Sky News: "I've always had that thought that one day I
would be able to see again," he said. "This is not a cure, but it may
put the world into some perspective. It'll give me some imagery
rather than just a black world." UK Vision Strategy and VISION
2020 UK welcomed the news and Nick Astbury Chair of VISION
2020 UK and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon appeared on Sky

He said: “This trial will bring hope to two million blind and partially
sighted people living in the UK. It is the first step on a long journey
to help people with sight loss to see again and live independently”.
For more information go to:
news/article/16220708 .

This article is reproduced with the kind permission of
UK Vision Strategy

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A new president for the Austrian Federation of the Blind and
Partially Sighted

On Friday, 4th May 2012, 41-year-old Viennese Dr. Markus Wolf
was elected as the new president of the Austrian Federation of the
Blind and Partially Sighted (BSVÖ) by the delegates of the seven
regional associations which compose the BSVÖ.

Dr. Wolf, who works at the Department of International Youth and
Family Policy of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economy, Family
and Youth, maintains good relations to other self-help organizations
throughout Europe as well as to representatives of the European
Union (EU). Since 2007, he is a Cabinet Member of the EU Liaison
Commission of the EBU. "Most of the problems the 318,000 blind
and visually impaired persons in Austria face cannot be solved on
the national level but need to be tackled from a European
perspective", the new president of the BSVÖ states.

As a substitute member of the Monitoring Committee which
monitors the implementation of the United Nations Convention on
the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Austria, Dr. Wolf is
an ardent advocate of the principles enshrined in the CRPD. He
emphasizes: "Every person is unique and differs from his fellow
men. In an inclusive society, these differences are normal and are
part of everyday life. Where barriers exist, they are due not to the
affected person but due to society. For barriers to be broken down
effectively, society needs to change and accept people with
disabilities as full and equal fellow human beings."

Dr. Wolf can be contacted at:
Austrian Federation of the Blind and Partially Sighted (BSVÖ)
Hietzinger Kai 85/DG
1130 Vienna, Austria
Phone: +43 1 9827 584 200
Fax: +43 1 9827 584 209

On May 26, 2012, the Czech Blind United (SONS) held its
biennial General Assembly in Prague.

102 delegates representing over 10,000 individual members elected
the new governing bodies of the association: President,
VicePresident, Council of the Republic and Supervisory Board.

The new President, Mr. Václav Polášek and the new Vice President,
Mr. Rudolf Volejník have both declared their readiness to use their
knowledge, experience and skills in order to continually advocate
and promote the legitimate interests of the visually-impaired in the
difficult years ahead.
"We are looking forward to even closer cooperation with
organizations of and for the blind all over the world," says Václav
Polášek who also serves as member of the EBU Board.

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FEATURE – Social Media

Social Media – Removing real barriers but adding virtual

by Birkir R. Gunnarsson, Electronic Accessibility Officer,
Blindrafelagid, the Iceland Organization of the Visually
Impaired. (BIOVI).

Social media (also known as social networking) has truly
transformed the way in which we use the internet, the phone, and
our computers in general. Instead of being passive consumers of
information and services, social media enables us to become
contributors, and gives us a way of sharing our ideas, hopes,
feelings, art and intellectual property with the world.

It began as a fun way to connect with friends and family, catch up
with old class mates and co-workers, or to post art and
entertainment that we either like or have created for others to
share. But it has truly taken on a different role in society. Social
media sites like Facebook and Twitter have helped bring about
revolutions all over the world, particularly in Egypt, helped
coordinate rescue missions and reconnect friends and family after
the devastating floods in Australia and the earthquakes in Japan.

On a much more mundane scale, social media now affects our
everyday lives, both private and professional. The LinkedIn
professional network has over 125 million users, and hundreds of
thousands of jobs have been posted and filled via the site.

Facebook has also grown, and is now used as a discussion platform
for university classes, , is used to stay in touch with government
organizations, follow private businesses, get discounts and special
pricing, and is used to gage people‘s opinions. Instead of just
posting statuses one can now share multimedia, engage in live
chat, create or sign up for events, create and administer pages
devoted to special ideas and groups of like-minded users, and some
have even created a news blog or channel of their own by sharing
relevant news material.
Twitter is the easiest way to keep up with experts and trends, and
in addition to that it is often the easiest way to locate and get in
touch with experts and corporations alike, whether it is Microsoft
Accessibility, Apple, or finding the person who knows the most
about web accessibility regulations in Sweden. People have truly
come to appreciate the power of social media sites.

The world spends 1 in every 4 and a half minutes of its online time
on social networking sites. Facebook has over 700 million users
worldwide. The average Facebook user has 130 friends and is
connected to 80 community pages, groups and events. 460000 new
Twitter accounts are created daily, and 140 million tweets are sent
each day. YouTube gets over 2 billion views every day and 24 hours
of new video is uploaded every minute.

A key to the popularity of social media is that people can participate
in many ways from various devices. Most social web services now
offer websites as well as dedicated applications for smart phones
(such as iPhones and Android fphones), and even dedicated
desktop applications for PC users.

Some social networks, such as FourSquare, are particularly aimed
at mobile phone users. A user can use a mobile device to sign in
when he or she is at a particular location, and that often unlocks a
variety of special deals, offers, and enables people to see who else
is at that location, provided they have checked in as well.

Social networking truly enables us to share our ideas with our
friends, colleagues and the entire world, thus removing many
barriers that people with disabilities have to deal with in the
physical world, such as inaccessible public transportation systems.

Unfortunately the world of social networking comes with its own set
of barriers for people with disabilities, particularly visual disabilities.
No wonder it was one of the most popular topics at the CSUN
conference on Assistive Technology last year.
How inaccessible are the social media to people with disabilities?

To get a better understanding of the magnitude of the accessibility
problems, we can review the highlights of a social media
accessibility study, carried out by Denis Boudreau, a Canadian
gentleman with over 11 years of web accessibility experience, and
chairman of AccessibilitéWeb, a web accessibility consulting firm in
the province of Quebec, Canada. He carried out a study of
LinkedIn, Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube and Google Plus with regards
to basic web accessibility principles defined and described in the
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and which form a part of all
web accessibility checks, manual or automated. These include the
correct use of headings, use of descriptive or alt text for images,
use of labels on form fields, colour contrast and keyboard
accessibility. (a link to Denis's presentation can be found at the end
of this article, ironically it is not accessible). LinkedIn came out
ahead of the other social media websites with a score of
approximately 3/10 or just over 30% accessible. This means that
social media websites all have a large number of serious web
accessibility problems. A follow up study, carried out 6 months after
the initial study was presented in 2011, showed little or no
improvements, thus demonstrating the inability of individual users
to change the social media world.

A study conducted on the accessibility of Google Docs by Athen,
Assistive Technology in Higher Education Network, found that the
Google Docs service, a website that enables people to work on
documents and other information through their browsers from all
over the world, is practically impossible to use effectively by screen
reader users and other users with disabilities (see link at the end of
this article).

These studies clearly demonstrate that accessibility improvements
are needed, and lectures at CSUN indicated that individuals
reporting accessibility issues to social media websites have had
limited luck in bringing about a change.

There is a positive message however, that comes from other
studies such as one carried out in Norway at the end of 2010, and
the results of which will be presented at the ICChP conference in
Linds this summer (I participated in some areas of the research).
The study showed that close to 90% of younger users with visual
disabilities make use of social networking, and often learn to
overcome the accessibility barriers involved. There are many ways,
from learning how a website works, to utilizing mobile phone
applications instead of a computer, to integrating social media
updates with email services such as the one provided by Yahoo!
Therefore it is vital that we, as a community, operate in two areas:

   Report social media accessibility issues, often through European
or national governments, and provide a place where users can
share tips, tricks and best practices for overcoming existing barriers
most effectively. We can learn from our colleagues in Australia.
Media Access Australia published a guide to social networking for
users with disabilities called “Sociability, social media for people
with disabilities” and this can be downloaded from the page
   Campaigning and education is key, and by working together,
often leveraging the power of social media, we can create a broad
and powerful group of individuals that can enable our voices to be
heard, opening up the world of social media to all our members.

A set of quick tips for social media access (to be expanded in future

For those who need to search for, and add, users on Twitter, or
prefer a more accessible Twitter interface, they can use instead, (once they have a Twitter account). To
simply follow people‘s Tweets, going to and
pressing the number „2“ will get users straight into their timeline.

Those who simply want to post a Facebook status or follow the
status updates of other people, they can use Facebook Mobile,

This does not work for those who want to share photos, participate
in a chat or community webpages, or participate in Facebook
games and promotions. The latest update for the Facebook app on
the iPhone is relatively accessible (it is important to update the
Facebook application to the latest version however).

For those who want a more accessible Skype client, they can use
GWConnect from GW Micro (for the desktop) or use the Skype
application for the iPhone. It is important to use version 4 or later

Those who use online email from Yahoo! Can integrate feeds from
their social media accounts in an accessible interface through that

A much more detailed set of instructions should be available in
future, especially with input from other EBU members and experts.


Athen     study     on     accessibility    of    Google     Docs:

Denis Boudreau's presentation on social media accessibility (though
not entirely accessible itself):

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