WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
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1. Are there Italian researchers dealing with the Web and the improved accessibility for the Internet' s issues?
The question is answered by Paolo Graziani of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche/National Research Council: "European projects foresee research activities which may refer to this subject and which involve the participation of Italian groups. Among these, our CNR-IROE "Nello Carrara" Institute in Florence plays a leading role. These activities are oriented towards the application of the "Design-for-All"'s
principle and all the aspects of the designing of Web services:
from users' interfaces to the structuring of information, from resources'
such as data bases, to the reconfigurability of terminals
and the man-machine's ways of interaction to accommodate the user's
functional profile. For
the moment, the results mainly concern the development
of knowledge and methodologies rather than products and applications,
but this is what
is normally happening in the advanced research's field.
The practical relapse requires some maturing and it is influenced by
factors which often
elude a theoretical approach.
The question is answered by Giorgio Sommi - ASPHI, Associazione
per lo Sviluppo di Progetti Informatici per gli Handicappati/Association
for the Development of Information Technology Systems for
the Disabled: "The
situation of the research on Web and Accessibility
in Italy does not different from what is happening in the
whole Information Technology's sector. There
are groups and people who are more able to follow
the developments of what is happening in the world than
others and also more willing to try
and disseminate the related information and the application
at a national level. Nevertheless, there are no people
nor initiatives who have enough
international prestige to suggest what has to be
done and the direction which has to be followed.
The most important and worthy of mentioning initiatives in Italy at
present are those aiming to rise people's attention on people with disabilities
who have to access Web sites' issue and who to do their best to make
sure that the highest number of information and service providers comply
with the recommendations issued by the international organizations.
To give an idea of what is going on in Italy, it's enough saying that
among the sites that are already dealing with disabilities' aspects,
the percentage of those which worry about declaring they are somehow
complying with the international standards are not over 10%. Recently,
the Italian Presidency of the Council of Ministers and AIPA have been
carrying out important sensitizing and orientation campaigns about the
respect of those same international standards. INPS has developed devices
that support the realization of accessible pages. The CNR of Florence
(IROE), which is among the centres which are most competent from the
technical point of view, has been engaged in the dissemination of the
related know-how for a long time.
The question is answered by Alberto Mingardi of the Ausilioteca (Centre of Technical Aid) in Bologna:
The initiatives in Italy are very few and most of
the time it's all about interpretations of the international
standards. In Italy, we can mention
the CNR-IROE's "Accessibilità di siti Web" guide (http://etabeta.iroe.fi.cnr.it/accesso/accesso.htm)
and the Italian translation of the W3C's guidelines by WAI-IT (http://www.aib.it/aib/cwai/cwai.htm).
The practical guide available at the HTML.IT site (http://www.html.it/accessibilita/index.html)
is also interesting. It's not about real "researches" though, but rather
guides and interpretations. To be mentioned is also
the fact that the Italian government has recently issued some guideline
for the organization,
the usability and the accessibility of Public Administration's
web sites (http://www.governo.it/sez_dossier/linee_web/index.html.)
The xs2web, which aims to be a true portal on accessibility, is also worthy
of mentioning (http://www.ecn.org/xs2web/.)
It can be also useful to participate to it.comp.accessibilità,
the new newsgroup in Italian which offers several
interesting opinions although they are submerged by the usual mass of
The question is answered by Nicola Rabbi of the Centro Documentazione Handicap:
I think these problems are discussed by more subjects, single associations,
groups of voluntary workers, research institutes....I do not think they
are coordinated. Nevertheless, they all make reference to the guidelines
indicated by Trace (http://www.trace.wisc.edu/).
Ferry Byte, a web activist whose email address is email@example.com has
recently been carrying out a research. "Web usability", a book recently
written by Jacob Nielsen, an American researcher,
and also printed by Apogeo edizioni, dedicates an entire chapter to this
On the site of the Italian government (www.governo.it)
there is a new document which is a memorandum on how the Public Administration's
sites should be built according to the usability and accessibility's
principles (the two principles differ and coincide only partially).
The question is answered by Fabio Vitali of the University of Bologna and CNR-IAT and Massimo Marchiori of the University of Venice and W3C:
It must be said that as far as Information Technology is concerned,
we have no news about an active research on web accessibility carried
out in Italy. The organization which has taken over the task of providing
adequate solutions concerning web sites's accessibility at an international
level is the Wide Web Consortium (http://www.w3.org/).
Being the body which "de facto" handles the web world standards, W3C has since the beginning taken care of making the Web evolve in all its technical and social aspects and therefore making of accessibility one of the leading factors of this advancing. Tim Berners-Lee, W3C director and inventor of the World Wide Web, often says "The Web is for everyone and must be accessible by everyone".
The W3C has a specific section dedicated to accessibility,
the so-called WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative). These section takes
care of issuing guidelines which should be followed at world level to
ensure a high degree of accessibility. Moreover, the whole development
of W3C standards includes not only the respect of such guidelines, but
also the permanent study and deepening of the possible further problems
the evolution of the Web implies. This is why accessibility is a fundamental
part of WAI as well as of all the W3C's activities, which continuously
interact with WAI's members.
The question is answered by Pina Lalli of the Department of Communication Disciplines at the University of Bologna: If
it exists at scientific level, I am not aware of it. I have heard hinting
at it in voluntary services' contexts, but the only effective source
as well as this issue is concerned is the job done by RAI Social Action.
The other institutional hints I have vaguely heard of refer to (but
technically, this is not a mere question of Information Technology's
accessibility, but rather of access's opportunities and improvement
of the service for larger parts of the public) the infopoint projects
coordinated by the Commune of Modena and willing to build something
more specific and also to widen the access' opportunities of the older
citizens, and a maybe more advanced project of the Commune of Bologna's
Urp as regards the possible integrated use of television sets and mainly
with the aim of widening access' possibilities.
The question is answered by John Fischetti of ENIL Italia (the Network on Independent living):
In Italy, the intiatives on accessibilityin the Information Technology
Field and the specific Web Sector are many. There are public initiatives,
such as the working group established by AIPA (the Italian Authority
for Information Technology in the Public Administration, http://www.aipa.it)
which is elaborating documents and projects on different
aspects of Information Technology's accessibility: rules
for Web sites' accessibility and public
bodies' information technology procedures, courses
for Web editors and EDP's responsibles, rules on telework
and many other things. Also, there
is the initiative of the Dipartimento della Funzione Pubblica (DFP) which has established a specific working
group on accessibility for Public Administration's
web sites. Recently, the minister Franco Bassanini,
has issued a memorandum, the memorandum no. 3/2001 whose
title is "Linee guida per l'organizzazione, l'usabilità e l'accessibilità dei siti Web delle pubbliche amministrazioni",
which gathers this same working group's proceeds.
Another important initiative concerns INPS (http://www.inps.it),
which has launched a restructuration of its site developing a programme
capable of automatizing the conversion of non accessible pages into
accessible ones and however, of providing the personnel with a valid
help on how to solve several problems.
Also worthy of mentioning is the intense activity carried out by the
IROE of the CNR of Florence as regards the accessibility of information
in electronic format, http://etabeta.iroe.fi.cnr.it/accesso/accesso.htm and
also for the Information Society's Forum, and on behalf of the Council
There are also private initiatives, such as, for example, sections
which are dedicated to accessibility in sites dealing with the languages
and metalanguages with which Web pages are built and the related interactive
is the http://www.html.it ‘s
site, which contains good material about people with disabilities'
accessibility, the blind and short-sighted in particular (http://www.html.it/accessibilita/index.html),
or initiatives of companies which see business opportunities in the
accessibility's sector, possibly starting with a future specific
law which forces people to comply with the accessibility's
standards in the web sites of public and maybe also private subjects.
Up to this moment, the few company's initiatives known seem
not to be up to the task they have in view. As matter of fact they
rather seem oriented towards investing resources to advertise their
interest in this sector and are probably postponing to when things
will be better and contracts will have be signed the stage of the
real technical development. Of course I would be glad if new information
could prove that the above mentioned impressions are wrong, this
mean that also in our country the issue "Information technology
and telematic's accessibility for people with disabilities" has got
to a decent ripening stage. Development, and AIPA's development in
particular, is oriented to acknowledge WAI project's
standards, nowadays also available in Italian (http://www.aib.it/aib/cwai/WAI-trad.htm,
but also to bind them to an "instrumental" interpretation
of accessibility, i.e. checking that a site which has been adapted
and declared accessible is really so using the most common devices
and/or programmes which can be used by people with disabilities.
because some parts of WAI standards are deemed difficult to be applied
in the short period and their compulsoriness without foreseeing alternative
paths and guided verification would probably produce nothing but
more unapplied rule. In this sense, one of APA's project is
the building of a site containing practical information and patterns
to be used freely also by those who think they are not able to project
a totally accessible site starting from scratch yet. AIPA welcomes
suggestions and proposals on integration and modification and this
is why the draft of the main document has been made public in the
association's own web site; many interventions with observations,
critics and pieces of advice have already be submitted and they will
soon be taken into due consideration.
2. Which is the situation in Italy and abroad?
The question is answered by Paolo Graziani of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche: "If reference is made to the
network of web sites' accessibility, there are no big differences
between the several European and extra-European countries as it's
right the web which expresses and represents better than anything
else the concept of "globalization" which is so much
under discussion today. When navigating the web, boundaries are not
perceived, except language, and accessibility's problems are
more or less the same everywhere. Some countries are trying and define
accessibility's standards for web site, but this concerns almost
exclusively the Public Administrations' sites as imposing more
general rules in a field where freedom is absolute and proclaimed
an irrinunciable principle in good and evil seems practically impossible.
In Italy we are going in this direction as well, as two working groups
have been established, one by the Minister for the Civil Service and
one by the AIPA (the Italian Authority for Information Technology
in the Public Administration). The first of these working groups has
already issued some recommendations which have been reported by the
memorandum 3/2001 of the Minister Bassanini ( "LINEE GUIDA PER L'ORGANIZZAZIONE, L'USABILITA' E L'ACCESSIBILITA' DEI SITI WEB DELLE PUBBLICHE AMMINISTRAZIONI"). The AIPA's
working group is studying a series of initiatives to define the
standards but also to provide support and training to those who
have to project
and manage Public Administration/Civil Service's sites following
accessibility's criteria. In the eEurope's plan (http://europa.eu.int/comm/information_society/eeurope/index_en.htm),
the European Union has foreseen the ePartecipation's section
in which the need of avoiding the creations of groups of people
excluded from the Information Society is taken into consideration
states are invited to make all the public web sites accessible".
The question is answered by Giorgio Sommi of ASPHI, Association for the Development of Information Technology Systems for the Disabled: "The
initiatives taken by the World Wide Web Consortium
(W3C) are supported by the European Union through the Information
Programme (IST). The consortium, which is promoted
by American and Japanese organizations and is chaired by the inventor
of the World
Wide Web, numbers over 500 members among which
we find the main public and private bodies and companies belonging
to the Information Technology's
sector and to other sectors as well. INRIA (Institut
National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique/the French
National Institute for
Research in Computer Science and Control) has
been the promoter of the W3C in Europe. The Italian Presidency of
the Council of Ministers
is, for example, one of the Italian members of
W3C. Information about W3C is available at http://www.w3c.org.
The specific initiative on accessibility promoted by the W3C is called
Web Access Initiative (WAI).
WAI is one of the many initiatives of the W3C
concerning the study and the promotion of the
aspects of Internet's universlity and is based
on the principle that everyone is entitled
to information which must therefore be accessible
by all. "
The question is answered by Alberto Mingardi of the Ausilioteca of Bologna: "Foreign countries have been tackling the problem of accessibility for at least 6/7 years, i.e. since when the Web has started to have true multimedia contents. At the beginning, the issue has been arisen by the blind users whose text browsers could not "read" the images which were more and more frequently inserted in the pages. So far, the foreign sites which are accessible are mostly those dedicated to disabilities (but there are many sites which are disabled-oriented which are not accessible at all….)".
The question is answered by John Fischetti of ENIL Italia (European Network on Independent Living): "There are many national and international documents which promote accessibility in Information Technology's and telematic systems for people with disabilities. Probably, the first of them is an USA's document, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, whose "Section 508" requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities. Then, even in this case things have moved slowly so much so that this initiative has been extended, strengthened and financed only in 1998. Finally, in December 2000 we get to the last stage, the "Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board" (http://www.access-board.gov/)
an independent Federal agency devoted to accessibility for people with
disabilities and which has established that all governmental sites must
be totally accessible by people with disabilities and that within six
months time all governmental agencies re-project their non accessible
sites with the sole exception of those relating to national security,
the army, intelligence and protected communication. The document and
related information are available at http://www.access-board.gov/news/508-final.htm .
Another important document dates back to 1993,
when the United States adopted the UN Standard
Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons
with Disabilities. Among other things
rule 5 says that "States should develop strategies to make information services and documentation accessible for different groups of persons with disabilities".
The process for the acknowledgement of the rights
on the access to information has been started
in Europe as well: on 8 December 1999 the European
Commission has launched the "eEurope"'s project together with the eEurope - An
Information Society for all's document. (http://europa.eu.int/comm/information_society/eeurope/index_en.htm,
aiming to accelerate the dissemination of digital
technology in Europe and ensuring that all European
citizens are able to use them. Point
7 of the same document (there are 10 on the whole)
is called "ePartecipation for the disabled". This same point also stresses how the progress made by digital technology offer great opportunities for overcoming socio-economic, geographical, cultural and time barriers to the disabled. The document sets a precise target to be achieved by the end of 2001 "the European Commission and Member States should have committed themselves to making the design and content of all public Web sites accessible to people with disabilities".
In the subsequent Action Plan prepared by the
Council and the European Commission for the Feira
European Council of 19-20 June 2000, within the
objective 2- Investing in people and
skills, point c) "participation for all in the knowledge-based economy, it is also said that "As government services and important public information become increasingly available on-line, ensuring access to government websites for all citizens becomes as important as ensuring access to public buildings. In the context of citizens with special needs, the challenge consists of ensuring the widest possible accessibility to information technologies in general as well as their compatibility with assistive technologies" and setting as an action "the adoption of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines for public websites".
Other documents of the Europe project are available
Moreover, research activities have been launched in other countries
by companies or groups involved into the dissemination of Open Source
systems, like Sun, which has been referred to in an article published
on http://www.punto-informatico.it as "Linux News/Sun finances Linux for the disabled, Sun will create a laboratory in Australia to study technologies for an easy access to Linux by people with disabilities. Everything for Gnome".
01/10/00 - Plug-In - Sun Microsystems has announced that
an Accessibility Technologies Lab will be established
to develop technologies targeting people with disabilities.
This same laboratory will operate
to develop utilities, device drivers and software
for vocal interaction to be used in GNOME 2.0.
Sun will cooperate with the GNOME Foundation and other
companies to find the founds for developing accessibility. The funds
will then be managed by the GNOME Foundation which will also be allowed
to make use of donations made by corporations or single individuals.
Sun Microsystem is promoting this as a part of a larger
programme for assisting the disabled.
The Sun Laboratory ("Accessibility Technologies Lab) will be working together with the GNOME community to implement the project known as "GNOME Accessibility Technologies Framework" which
will be distributed in the GNOME environment.
This project will give developers provided with the
appropriate platforms the possibility
of creating a wide range of products which will
be totally accessible by people with disabilities.
The beginning of the works is scheduled
by the end of 2001.
Sun is also planning a sponsorization of a summit
which will gather experts, partners and financers to provide the initial
push to the Open Source project on accessibility. This summit will
focus on understanding the opportunities with the objective of developing
and expanding technologies concerning computers' and Internet's accessibility.
By noze, Open Source solutions:
3. Which are the standards which should be adopted to have Internet sites which are accessible by people with disabilities?
The question is answered by Paolo Graziani of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche/Italian National Research Institute: "One of the general criteria is to make use of standard multimedia technologies so as to avoid having to turn to specific versions of browsers or visualizators (plug-ins) and so that information can remain totally comprehensible by any user's terminal configuration whatsoever. Moreover, it must be ensured that the informative content of the documents is always present even when the perception of one of the multimedia components such as graphical parts, images, animations, sounds and colours is not possible and this can be made through a redoundancy of information. Such impossibility can be due to a reduced perceptive ability of the user but also to the poor performances of the terminal used by the user, to disturbs or environmental factors which make the use of all the multimedia components impossible. This proves that accessibility is a general concept which does not solely concern users with disabilities but benefits everybody. The coherent transformation must be made possible also by several forms of personalization of the ways documents may be visualized such as the choice of the graphical resolution of the screen, the type and size of letters, colours matching, the style sheet (CSS) etc…Another
important criterion is the organization of the site and
its documents in such a way so as to make an easy orienting inside their
then an easy navigation and search for information possible.
Even this criterion has a general utility, so we can conclude by saying
must not be seen as an option for some category of users
but must be conceived according to the Design for All's principle: a
single informative content
to be usable by all users regardless of their physical
abilities and within certain limits, of the tools at their disposal.
We can then foresee an
adaptability of information's presentation to the browser's
characteristics of each user carried out with automatic procedures,
but we should on the
other hand avoid accessibility's solutions based on sites'
parallel and special versions, as these represent an extra burden for
and do not guarantee the availability of the same main
site's contents and their updating to the user.
The question is answered by Giorgio Sommi of ASPHI, the Association for the Development of Information Technology Systems for the Disabled: "The
recommendations issued by the WAI take care
- Those who can not see, hear, move or are not able to deal with some kind of information easily or not at all.
- Those who have difficulty reading or understanding texts.
- Those who do not possess a keyboard or a mouse or do not know how to use it
- Those who have text screens, a small screen or a slow Internet connection
- Those who do not speak or understand the language in which a given document is written.
- Those who find themselves into a situation in which their eyes, ears and hands are busy or somehow impaired (for example, those who have to drive a car to go to work or whose working site is noisy)
- Those who do not have the latest version of a browser, have a totally different browser, a voice browser or a different operating system.
As you can see, only the first category of Internet's users, the
one for which the recommendations have been prepared, includes people
who are normally referred to as disabled. The second one takes care
of the cultural or social disadvantage, while all the others concern
The standards which have to be complied with when
building an accessible page are indicated as "checkpoints" and specify characteristics which have to be satisfied. The checkpoints are classified accorded to priority levels indicated as "must", "should" and "may". The conformance and therefore accessibility level ranges from "Triple-A" (the highest level) to "Single-A"(the
lowest) depending on whether all the three priority
levels are satisfied or just one of them. There are instruments,
via Internet (www.cast.org/bobby),
which allow to automatically subject a web page
and to receive information about its conformance level.
The question is answered by Alberto Mingardi of the Ausilioteca of Bologna:
The standards are many (too many?) maybe because
the html language itself has not been created with the disabled in mind.
It is therefore
necessary to avoid certain structures in the
pages so as to meet the guidelines' requirements. However, there are
which are absolutely important such as, for example,
providing an alternative text to graphical images which can describe
role of the image itself (there is no browser,
no matter how intelligent it may be, which will ever be able to understand
the meaning of
a picture by itself) and other lesser problems
which mainly try to meet the limits of the browsers which are presently
the people with disabilities (for example, the
ability of reading tables correctly) and maybe one way of facing this
be implementing the browsers' accessibility's
The question is answered by Nicola Rabbi of the Centro Documentazione Handicap:
Sites must be simple, they do not have to turn
to the latest technological devices. Also, they
must be made by someone who has a clear project
of what he/she wants to do in terms of information
and services in mind. Personally, I would pay particular
attention to people
who are mentally impaired as they need particularly
clear and immediate messages. Nobody ìn the Web thinks about them. To this group of people I would add the elderly and the immigrants who can not speak Italian. There's a lot to do for all these people who are suffering form the "digital divide".
The question is answered Fabio Vitali of the University of Bologna and CNR-IAT and Massimo Marchiori, of the University of Venice and W3C:
So far, W3C has issued a certain number of documents
who aim to regulate (and/or clarify) the problem of accessibility at
level. The two most important documents are the
WCAG and the ATAG. The WCAG, or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
is the standard collecting the accessibility's
guidelines the developers of a Web site should
follow. There are three conformance
levels which depends on the site's level of accessibility: "Single-A", "Double-A" and "Triple-A". "Single-A" is the minimum quality level to satisfy, while "Triple-A" is
the top level.
The other standard is the so called ATAG (Authoring
Tools Accessibility Guidelines, http://www.w3.org/TR/ATAG10/)
who is targeting the developers of software for
the Web. This standard specifies the way in which the tools
which allow to create
Web sites should perform so as to make the building
of an accessible web site possible. Both the standards are the
bearing walls with
which developers and users can make the solution
of accessibility easier. There are also other technical documents
other related aspects (as the Web is continually
changing and there are many areas which have to be taken into
together with an activity for the development
of software for the development and the certification of accessible
As far as we are concerned, the most important
lesson these standards provide is the opening towards
different ways of interacting with the Web which are not
limited to the
latest generation's browsers nor to the hypothesis
that users use a personal computer with a graphical screen
with many colours
and a minimum prearranged resolution. As a matter
of fact, according to the WCAG's most important resolution,
the first one, the site's
developer must always provide alternatives which
are equivalent to the visual or sound content of the Web
sites. In other words,
providing alternatives to any image, sound or special
organization of the text on the page, so that it's still
accessible even by
those who can not visualize its content on a standard
Therefore, a site which complies with the standards
proposed by the WCAG is accessible even by those
who do not use standard software and those who
do not own the latest versions
of the different kinds of software in particular
or are physically impaired (the sight and hearing
impaired in particular)".
The question is answered by Pina Lalli of the Department of Communication Disciplines at the University
I am not sufficiently qualified to answer the
question from the technical point of view. What I could do is
of accessibility and remind some more typically
sociological issues: a) the implementation of
the information on information technology's
disciplines and applications in scholastic contexts
(in general and mainly in those containing pdh
integration's programmes, considering
them as an integrating part of the support foreseen
by the law in the scholastic context): this could
produce effects in the
widening of access' opportunities in the medium-long
term making the new technologies' literacy a
resource which can be legitimately
and equally shared in the socialization's social
scenarios b) the building of sites which can
be rapidly navigated so as not
to charge the classes which are most disadvantaged
additional costs c)Making technological innovations
which make accessibility
and the use of instruments which are already
owned by families possible available (for example, what has
above as regards television sets) d) the identification
of processes and protocols for the exchange of
information with third sector's
associations and bodies so as to ensure a standing
monitoring and feedback both with the aim to
reciprocally sensitize on the
widening of access' opportunities and graft onto
the needs and real requirements in terms both
of expression and contents.
The question is answered by John Fischetti of ENIL Italia (European Network on Independent Living):
Answering this question would require dozens
of pages. I think it's much more productive referring to the reading
of the documents
which have been issued so far. The draft of the
AIPA's document, the DFP's memorandum, WAI guidelines, the TRACE project,
sector's studies relating to firms or groups
interested in the dissemination of the Open Source's systems. Each of
ha produced something valid and if the basic
concepts are likely to overlap in 90% of the cases, they are all carrying
of originality that make them worthy of attention.
Therefore, besides the materials previously described,
I will do nothing but suggest a list of links.
Have a nice navigation.
4. Which are the existing guidelines to build a site with a high degree of accessibility?
The question is answered by Paolo Graziani of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche:
The documents which are generally considered a reference
on Web accessibility at international level are the "guidelines" issued
by the W3C' s WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative, http://www.w3.org/WAI) project. Given the complexity of the problem of information on the Web, the WAI project has deemed it necessary to work on three levels: the documents' content, with particular reference to the languages used (Web content), the navigation's applicants (User Agents) and the Authoring Tools in particular, writing some specific guidelines for each of these issues. Of particular interest for the issue we are dealing with here are those targeting the Web sites' developers (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0, http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/).
Such guidelines are inspired by the general principles
above mentioned: the coherent transformability of the pages and their
easily navigable structure. The application of the WAI
guidelines on the "Web content" foresee the use of "checkpoints" divided in three priority levels (must-have, useful and recommendable), whose verification determines the conformance level of a site indicated by a single, two or three "A"s according to the priority level which has been satisfied. Nevertheless, WAI guidelines do not represent "rules" which "have" to be followed but only suggestions whose application depends on the operators' good will. Hence the necessity of issuing stricter standards at European and national level such as those previously mentioned".
The question is answered by Giorgio Sommi of ASPHI, the Italian Association for the Development of Information Technology Systems for the Disabled:
The W3C's WAI ha developed several documents so far. The most important
ones refer to:
- The Web contents Accessibility Guidelines
- The Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines
- The User Agents Accessibility Guidelines
The documents relating to the latest guidelines on accessibility
are available at http://www.w3.org/wai.
There are also technical references on the accessibility features
in HTML and CSS.
Information on Web pages accessibility and WAI guidelines
are available in Italian at http://etabeta.iroe.cnr.fi.it".
The question is answered by Alberto Mingardi of the Ausilioteca of Bologna: "The
W3C has recently unified the most authoritative guidelines
which are are available in all languages at http://www.w3.org/WAI/.
Worthy of mentioning are also some accessibility
checkers which perform (even if in a questionable
way) an automated
test of the accessibility of their own site. The
most famous is "Bobby", developed by the Center for Applied
Special Technology (CAST) and available at http://www.org/bobby.
The main problem concerns the more and more frequent "escapes form standards". Some plug-ins, such as the increasingly used Macromedia's Flash (but there are dozens of them), oblige users to start form scratch every time. Guidelines do not affect creativity and a site can be both accessible and aesthetically valuable, but this requires a great effort by the developer which has to analyze long guidelines' documents, re-consider works which have already be done, give up multimedia tools … In other words, he/she has to work more to obtain an improvement he can not appreciate… Maybe a simplification of guidelines to a few essential points and much more work done on the browsers could make everything a lot easier. Also to be noted is the fact that many sites solve the problem putting two sites online, a "normal" and an "accessible" one (this last is usually developed using a single text or a little more). Beside being difficult to manage, this option is also totally questionable from the cultural point of view".
Web designers and authors
1. Which are the standards to hold in mind when designing accessible Web pages?
The question is answered by Michele Orsi Bandini of
Eventi- Progetti Speciali: "There is a single rule or standard: the
Web must be accessible by everyone. Therefore there is a need for as
much information as possible on the disabilities which affect accessibility.
The task of those who project and develop sites is to make information
accessible to those with visual, motor, learning and cognitive and neurological
impairments possible, within the limits of existing technology. Despite
the progress made (Screen readers, mouth joysticks), a further progress
both as far as software and hardware are concerned is auspicable.
2. Which are the guidelines to follow to build an accessible site?
The question is answered by Michele Orsi Bandini of Eventi ® Progetti Speciali : The access to information is the first element to consider. The Web is the future of communication (the serious, argumentative, accessible for deepenings and research one), so every site will have to have a high degree of accessibility . Having said this, which are the principles for a proper design? At the beginning, we oriented our research according to the requests made. Unfortunately this is not a way that can be followed. For example, the managing of a portal in these terms would require resources and deadlines which are not reconcilable with the needs of the great majority of business concerns and companies. Supported by meetings and research, we now think that a site should have few simple drives such as Screen Reader, navigating through keys etc.
3. How can aesthetics be reconciled with accessibility?
The question is answered by Michele Orsi Bandini,
Eventi ® Progetti Speciali: "It's a challenge with a few
and simple questions and answers. First: those who can not see must
hear and hear well. Second: those who have limited use of a hand or
arm have the right of navigating with two or three keys. Third: those
with cognitive problems have the right to navigate in a as much linear
as possible way and without "flashed" movements.
Four: those with neurological problems had better use
poor colour contrast.
Having said this, it seems as
if a few options for aesthetic are left, but this
is not true. This is right what the
is about. I believe that creativity may be stimulated
by the limits set. Besides, the access to creativity
and nice sites is a right
for everyone. This is also the direction our research
1. Which are the characteristics Internet sites must have to be accessible?
2. What is absolutely forbidden?
3. Are there studies and researches which take Internet sites' accessibility' s problems into account?
Valerio Spinedi, psychiatrist: A few remarks on the accessibility to a Web Site by users with disabilities of psychiatric type
Nowadays, the so called psychiatric patient still represents
a source of fear, worry and distrust. This is mainly
due to the social "stigma" against him/her, to the "ancestral" fears as regards mental illness in a general sense, which is considered to be something threatening and inaccessible. Moreover, its characteristics of presumed impulsiveness make us run away as soon as we bump into a person who is behaving in a strange way, who howls and shouts and who knows who is angry with. So, we run away feigning indifference, scared and hoping that these same individuals would never talk to us. The fear of the unknown, the fear of something that we are not accustomed to manage and to recognize… are issues which are inside us but that we are often unable to face in a serene way. Having said this, I simply would like to say that it remains in the human mind the fear of a part of ourselves - which is more or less evident - that works differently from the rest of the mind, it works according to schemes which are not too conventional and follow a logic which apparently has not sense at all. If one succeeds, with time, to get in touch with such vision of reality, one finds out that the apparent non-sense and the illogicality of the schizophrenic's system-for example- become comprehensible and explainable if considered from a temporal point of view which takes the life history of the patient, the family and social context in which he/she is living into consideration [etc], till when we come upon something, a "fracture "of living which we can not put in our usual mental "boxes" and we call it "psychosis" to
differentiate ourselves from it and catalogue it
as well. Having said this, I would like to underline what I believe to
be the fulcrum of serious
mental pathology and around which all the rest is
structured: the problem of affective communication with the others, and
first of all with the
The schizophrenic presents a kind of very typical
emotionalism that often leave the others perplexed:
on one hand he/she can be very expansive and "affectionate "and all of a sudden he/she can became cool, detached and totally insensitive; to anyone who is not accustomed to such changes all that appears incomprehensible and illegible. Even certain apparently impulsive behaviours are often due to the so called "interior "voices which are nothing but hallucinations and which affect the majority of serious psychotic patients, voices which generally comment the actions of the patient him/herself and often with hostile, denigratory and persecutory tones. It has also to be said that the patient's family circle is often characterized by "difficult" relations. Communication among the different members is complex and articulated according to schemes which are filtered by fear, interpersonal fusion and aggressiveness. In such a surrounding, everyone can easily imagine how a person with a "predisposed personality"-even genetically-, can actively answer with a behaviour and a way of thinking aiming at finding several "survival" strategies
which can range from delirium to aggressiveness,
autism, auto and hetero aggressiveness.
Communicating with the Web
On the basis of such a a typical psychotic patient's
picture, I would like to propose some considerations
on the possibility that a psychiatric patient can
end up using the computer to connect to
Internet and "navigate "or enter into a "[chat] "and
talk with other people:
1. First of all, the patient has to be stimulated
to do it, as the will and the desire to do anything
is often missing: as a matter of fact, we have seen that the so
called negative symptoms
( apathy, aboulia, astheny, alogy, the levelling
of affectiveness) heavily affect the clinical picture and the
same patient's quality of life and
even within an apparently "normal" family setting. Hence the
many resistances which have to be won to overcome
these obstacles with the help of the family as well as of the Mental health
who should propose and stimulate the eligible patients
to go in this direction;
2. It's also necessary to associate a parallel ability
of reassuring the patient about the "harmlessness "of the procedure,
as a first approach to the computer could easily
activate all a series of fears related to very frequent delirious influence
in which different
kind of waves commanded from external forces ( control
deliriums, with the possible influence or insertion of the mind) and electronic
often play a leading role .. Not to mention the anonymity
of a user who navigates or enters into a discussion group, anonymity which
by a pseudonym, and therefore the patient should
feel free to express his opinions, and not feel conditioned by a possible
feeling of shame,
or think he is controlled, feelings which are very
frequent in some patients;
3. The communication with the external world, with
the virtual universe, does not happen through a physical contact with
other persons, but it is mediated by a screen: this could represent an
advantage for the patients who fear contact with the others and who do
not tolerate the proximity of another person; however, I would see this
possibility of intervention as the beginning of a stimulation to change
whose final objective is restoring an affective contact with the others
which is as suitable as possible to the communicative ability of the patient
4. The psychotic patient's intelligence, at least
in the initial stage of the illness and in the healthy moments which are
still there, is generally preserved; therefore, the access has not to
be particularly easy but has to be sufficiently stimulating so as to interest
the person to discover it and to follow and deepen the patient's interests
which are more or less hidden by the illness;
5. I think that the possibility of creating a specific
site to be accessed by psychiatric users affected
by different forms of mental illness could be useful
and "therapeutic "at the same time, for different reasons, for sharing personal experiences with the others and for opening a communication's channel with the external world which is often considered to be threatening and dangerous for the patient's physical and psychic integrity and with the feeling of being protected guaranteed by the fact of staying at home, not to mention the sheer fun offered by the fact of making a brand new experience. I look at the discussion groups online as are the modern equivalent-still with the obvious limitations - of the different therapeutic groups organized according to several theories in public or private settings and involving patients with various degrees of mental illness. To conclude, I think that the value of the word, it does not matter whether it directly reaches the patient who I sitting at the other side of the desk or it comes from the "ether",
is connected to an affective power as well that may
produce positive effects on the person who receives it.
1. Which is the situation of the Web and improved accessibility?
Fabio Ferrero and Sabato De Rosa, "Istituto dei Ciechi Francesco Cavazza" in
Bologna : In general, we might say that the situation is not one of the best ones, although it has to be said that as far as public administration and similar are concerned, something is happening: on this subject, we advise visiting the Aipa's site (http://www.aipa.it)
Giovanni Battista Pesce, Aice - Associazione Italiana Contro
sites of the associations against epilepsy avoid
strong colour contrasts and intermittent light stimulations which together
with the normal flickering
of the screen and a prolonged exposition favour the
outburst of the crisis in people with photosensitive epilepsies. The
evolution of the new kinds
of software for the edition of the Web pages which
are more and more dynamic lead to the increase of these contraindications.
2. Which are the standards to hold in mind when designing accessible sites?
Fabio Ferrero and Sabato De Rosa, Istituto dei Ciechi Francesco Cavazza of Bologna: Java and Flash must be avoided, as well as graphical plug-ins, animations etc, or at least an accessible alternative to the same must be provided. Nonetheless, we advise against a text version duplicate of a site. A good starting point could be the consultation of the WAI guidelines and the proposal of a document devised by AIPA's accessibility commission itself.
Giovanni Battista Pesce, Aice - Associazione Italiana Contro
As for neurological disabilities related to photosensitive epilepsies,
the building of pages lacking intermittances, strong contrasts of bright
colours and their movimentation is recommended. Sitting at a wider
distance from the screen, at least two metres and a half, putting a
lamp on the television set and standing as little time as possible
in front of the screen are also advisable. Moreover, those suffering
from photosensitive epilepsies should make use of polarized lenses.
The total blinding of an eye with a lens or also the palm prevents
the outburst of the crisis in 95% of the cases.
3. What has to be done to promote the creation of sites accessible by people with disabilities?
Fabio Ferrero and Sabato De Rosa, Istituto dei Ciechi Francesco Cavazza - Bologna: "An action on more levels is surely needed:
1. Promoting culture and information: the accessibility and/or usability of a site turn to the advantage not only of the disabled but the whole information technology community;
2. Promoting training: on one hand the majority of Web designers ignore the problems relating to disabilities and on the other it uses developing instruments which make the building of accessible pages difficult;
3. Incentivating the building of sites with a high degree of accessibility and usability with forms which are still to be developed
Giovanni Battista Pesce, Aice - Associazione Italiana
Certainly the elaboration of a protocol open to the
television networks and the associations and to be
adopted by the Public Concerns' sites by
a commission of the Ministry of Health and of Postal
and Telecommunication services would develop a more
accessible kind of culture for people with