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BBC Radio 4 In Touch
8 April 2008

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Factsheet

DISABILITY

Listener Selina Litt was told she would not qualify for disabled concessionary tickets as she is visually impaired and not a wheelchair user.

The misunderstanding has been blamed on confusion by call centre staff.

The programme seek advice from Catherine Casserley, now of the law firm Cloisters and formerly of both the RNIB and DRC (Disability Rights Commission).


CONTACTS

CLOISTERS
www.cloisters.com/
Website for the law firm Cloisters.

OUCH!
http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/
BBC Disability website


Join the debate
http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbouch/F2322273?thread=5276132
Listeners can leave their opinions on the above chatboard.


WEB ACCESSIBILITY

The Better Connected report from Socitm (The Society of Information Technology Management) shows that nearly half of local authority websites which achieved Government set targets for accessibility last year, have failed to do so this year. The British Standards Institution is drawing up a new framework for website accessibility which it is hoped will improve the situation.

Peter spoke to Martin Greenwood from Socitm and Julie Howell, chair of the committee charged with drawing up the new standards.

CONTACTS

The Society of Information Technology Management (Socitm) Limited
F19 Moulton Business Park
Redhouse Road
Northampton
NN3 6AQ
Telephone: 01604 497774 (office hours Monday to Friday 0900 - 1700).
Web: www.socitm.gov.uk
enquiries@socitm.gov.uk
The professional association for ICT managers working in and for the public sector.

Read the report here www.socitm.gov.uk/socitm/Library/Better+connected+2008.htm


BSI British Standards
389 Chiswick High Road
London
W4 4AL
Telephone: +44 (0)20 8996 9001
cservices@bsigroup.com
http://www.bsi-global.com/en/
BSI Group:


    E-ACCESS
    An annual conference and exhibition on access to technology by people with disabilities is held on 23 April 2008.

    For further information contact:

    Registration Queries
    Nicola Bell
    Delegate Liaison Manager
    Tel: +44 (0) 1883 344799
    Email: nicola@entevents.co.uk
    http://www.headstar-events.com/eaccess08/


    FORTUNE COOKIE
    http://www.fortunecookie.co.uk/
    The web design company where Julie Howell is director of accessibility.


    CHARTER MARK

    Mani Djazmi visited Thinktank, Birmingham’s museum of science, to find out what they have done to win the first Charter Mark awarded by the Queen Alexandra College in recognition of businesses which meet the needs of people who are blind or partially sighted.

    CONTACTS

    THINK TANK
    Millennium Point,
    Curzon Street,
    Birmingham
    B4 7XG
    UK
    tel: 0121 202 2222
    email: findout@thinktank.ac
    http://www.thinktank.ac/index.php
    Most of Thinktanks exhibits have large print captions and large print events programmes are available on request. Guide dogs are welcome. Thinktank has four large magnifiers available for loan to visitors, please ask at the box office. Personal assistants receive free admission.


    QUEEN ALEXANDRA COLLEGE
    Court Oak Road
    Harborne
    Birmingham
    B17 9TG
    Tel: 0121 428 5050 (main switchboard)
    Fax 0121 428 5048
    E-mail: enquiries@qac.ac.uk
    http://www.qac.ac.uk/
    Queen Alexandra College is a national college for people aged 16 and over with visual impairment and other disabilities.


    GENERAL CONTACTS

    RNIB
    105 Judd Street
    London
    WC1H 9NE
    Helpline: 0845 766 9999
    Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
    Web: www.rnib.org.uk

    The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. The RNIB campaigns to change society's attitudes, actions and assumptions, so that people with sight problems can enjoy the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities as fully sighted people. They also fund pioneering research into preventing and treating eye disease and promote eye health by running public health awareness campaigns.


    HENSHAWS SOCIETY FOR BLIND PEOPLE (HSBP)
    John Derby House
    88-92 Talbot Road
    Old Trafford
    Manchester
    M16 0GS
    Tel: 0161 872 1234
    Email: info@hsbp.co.uk
    Web: www.henshaws.org.uk
    Henshaws provides a wide range of services for people who have sight difficulties. They aim to enable visually impaired people of all ages to maximise their independence and enjoy a high quality of life. They have centres in: Harrogate, Knaresborough, Liverpool, Llandudno, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Salford, Southport and Trafford.


    THE GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND ASSOCIATION (GDBA)
    Burghfield Common
    Reading
    RG7 3YG
    Tel: 0118 983 5555
    Email: guidedogs@guidedogs.org.uk
    Web: www.guidedogs.org.uk
    The GDBA’s mission is to provide guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services that meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people.


    ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE
    14-16 Verney Road
    London
    SE16 3DZ
    Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
    Web: www.afbp.org
    Registered charity with national cover that provides practical support in the areas of housing, holidays, information, employment and training, cash grants and welfare rights for blind and partially-sighted people. Leaflets and booklets are available.


    NATIONAL LEAGUE OF THE BLIND AND DISABLED
    Central Office
    Swinton House
    324 Grays Inn Road
    London
    WC1X 8DD
    Tel: 020 7837 6103
    Textphone: 020 7837 6103
    National League of the Blind and Disabled is a registered trade union and is involved in all issues regarding the employment of blind and disabled people in the UK.


    NATIONAL LIBRARY FOR THE BLIND (NLB)
    RNIB Customer Services on 0845 762 6843
    Email: cservices@rnib.org.uk
    Web: www.nlb-online.org
    The NLB is a registered charity which helps visually impaired people throughout the country continue to enjoy the same access to the world of reading as people who are fully sighted.

    Trustees from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and the National Library for the Blind (NLB) have agreed to merge the library services of both charities as of 1 January 2007, creating the new RNIB National Library Service.


    EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DISABILITY HELPLINE (England)
    FREEPOST MID02164
    Stratford upon Avon
    CV37 9BR
    Tel: 08457 622 633
    Textphone: 08457 622 644
    Fax: 08457 778 878
    Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 8:00 am-8:00 pm.
    Enquiry: englandhelpline2@equalityhumanrights.com
    www.equalityhumanrights.com


    Equality and Human Rights Commission Helpline Wales
    Freepost RRLR-UEYB-UYZL
    1st Floor
    3 Callaghan Square
    Cardiff
    CF10 5BT
    0845 604 8810 - Wales main number
    0845 604 8820 - Wales textphone
    0845 604 8830 - Wales fax

    9:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (an out-of-hours service will start running soon)

    Enquiry: waleshelpline@equalityhumanrights.com
    www.equalityhumanrights.com



    Equality and Human Rights Commission Helpline Scotland
    Freepost RRLL-GYLB-UJTA
    The Optima Building
    58 Robertson Street
    Glasgow
    G2 8DU
    0845 604 5510 - Scotland Main
    0845 604 5520 - Scotland Textphone
    0845 604 5530 - Scotland – Fax

    9:00 am-5:00 pm, Monday to Friday (an out-of-hours service will start running soon)

    Enquiry: scotlandhelpline@equalityhumanrights.com
    www.equalityhumanrights.com


    DISABLED LIVING FOUNDATION
    380-384 Harrow Road
    London
    W9 2HU
    Tel: 0845 130 9177
    Web: www.dlf.org.uk
    The Disabled Living Foundation provide information and advice on disability equipment.





    The BBC is not responsible for external websites 

    General contacts
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    Transcript

    IN TOUCH
    TX: 08.04.08 2040-2100

    PRESENTER: PETER WHITE
    PRODUCER: KAREN PIRIE


    White
    Good evening. So when is a disability not a disability, and when is a price concession, not a concession at all? We'll be trying to solve those conundrums in a moment. And, it's official - local council websites are failing visually impaired browsers and, they're getting worse, not better. But there is some good news as well and we visit the Birmingham science museum which is winning prizes for its efforts to welcome visually impaired visitors.

    Clip
    This is one of my favourite things we've got here - it's a shark's jaw. This is about - bigger than the size of your hand open wide.

    Yeah, oh much bigger.

    Much bigger.

    This jaw is just gaping wide open, doing an ahh, as if it was at the shark dentist.

    White
    So we're all intrigued, more from Birmingham later in the programme. But first: few of us can resist a price concession based on our blindness - I do know visually impaired people who spurn them, saying that they're patronising and we'll pay the full whack, thank you very much. But most of us, whether it's transport, or cinema or theatre tickets, concerts or sports events, accept them gratefully enough. So when motor racing fan Selena Litt saw that two tickets for the price of one were available to go to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone she applied to get some, only to be told ... well, Selena can tell us herself what she was told because she's on the line from Leicester. So Selena what happened when you applied?

    Litt
    Well I called Silverstone asking for disabled tickets and they immediately asked whether I was in a wheelchair or not. And I said - No. And they said - Oh well sorry our disabled tickets are only available for wheelchair users.

    White
    Why do you think you're entitled to them?

    Litt
    Well I think because I need a carer to be guided around there's no way that I could go to the Grand Prix on my own and enjoy the experience, there's no way you could take a guide dog for instance.

    White
    Well you made your protest to Ouch!, that's the disability website of the BBC, do you know of other examples of this kind of thing happening?

    Litt
    My boyfriend actually he rang up to go to the Ricky Hatton boxing match and he was also told the same thing about if he wasn't in a wheelchair that he'd have to pay the full price as well. And these incidents were like a couple of days of each other and I've never really had a problem before.

    White
    Right, what's the final upshot of this?

    Litt
    Well I wrote a letter to Silverstone, as I found out that they were breaking the DDA ...

    White
    That's the Disability Discrimination Act yeah, yeah.

    Litt
    Yeah. So I looked at the DDA and figured that yes they were breaking it, so I had evidence.

    White
    Well thanks very much for joining us. That's Selena Litt.

    Well we also have been talking to Silverstone, this is what they told us:

    Statement
    Silverstone Circuit adopt a policy of giving each disabled customer, wheelchair and non-wheelchair users, an equivalent value ticket for carers on production of the appropriate DLA paperwork. We apologise that there was an initial misunderstanding regarding our position on this but we've been in touch with your listener and resolved the situation. Silverstone Circuit has undertaken, over the last few years, considerable improvements for disabled customers and is continually reviewing and updating its facilities.

    And SJM, they were the promoters of the Ricky Hatton fight, also blame it on call centre confusion and Selena's boyfriend will get the tickets as well, he'll get the offer. But what's the philosophy behind these concessions, and are they potentially discriminatory?

    Well we're joined by equal rights barrister Catherine Casserley, who now works at Cloisters, but has also spent time with both the Royal National Institute of Blind People and the Disability Rights Commission. First of all, what do you make of this case and is Selena right in saying that they were in breach of the DDA?

    Casserley
    Well I think generally if you look at concessions they tend to be provided for a number of different reasons, sometimes it's because a service provider actually isn't complying with their own obligations under the DDA, so for example, they're not providing assistance in a venue that they should be and they think it's easier to offer someone a free ticket so they can bring someone in to do that. Alternatively there are other situations where concessions are being offered because the service provider genuinely wants to open up its doors to disabled people and wants to encourage more disabled people. I think the important thing though is that there needs to be a very clear rationale so that people can understand why it is they're getting the concession and what the basis of it is.

    White
    I mean can you give an example of that because as Selena said she's as much at a disadvantage, isn't you, at a motor racing circuit as somebody in a wheelchair, you could argue she's more at a disadvantage because at least the person in the wheelchair can see what's going on?

    Casserley
    Generally speaking service providers aren't required to make concessions in pricing to disabled customers under the DDA. Where they do offer concessions though they need to be very careful about offering them, for example, to one group of disabled people and not to another one. And what I'd also say though is that where a concession is challenged, where, for example, one group of disabled people are offered it, another group not, if that challenge was successful under the DDA, and it might be, it's not an area that's been tested yet though, it would of course be open to the service provider to just remove the concessions completely. So that's something that people need to bear in mind.

    White
    Yes, so they might say okay well it's caused all this trouble, we don't have to do it, so we'll just take them away.

    Casserley
    Exactly.

    White
    So does the law about concessions need clarifying really because it sounds as if it's a bit of a mess at the moment?

    Casserley
    Well I think it is a mess and I think that again I think that what I emphasises is that if you have concessions there needs to be a very clear criteria, you need to think about whether or not you're offering this because you're not providing a very good service or because you want to encourage more disabled people to attend. And then you need to make sure that you don't have differentials between different groups of disabled people who you give concessions to and those that you don't without a very clear basis for that.

    White
    Catherine Casserley thank you very much.

    Now, all visually impaired browsers of the internet don't need telling that the standard of accessibility of websites is patchy, to say the least, and we've looked on this programme before at all kinds of sites - banks, airlines, newspapers, etc. But what does seem shocking is a report which suggests that local councils, who after all are responsible for most services to visually impaired people, are getting worse in terms of accessibility; in fact, only half as good as last year and that's according to a report from Socitm - The Society of IT Management - which represents Local Authority IT workers. So why is it happening and what do we need to do about it?

    I'm joined by Martin Greenwood from Socitm. I mean tell me a bit more about what this research says.

    Greenwood
    Well the research says that by measured by technical accessibility local authority websites have dipped a little since last year. But I think it's important to realise that local government as a sector is probably doing better than other sectors in website accessibility.

    White
    But you say a bit but it's dipped quite a lot hasn't it, I mean the suggestion is - I've read that it's kind of only half as good as it was last year?

    Greenwood
    Well that's true but there's quite a number of - perhaps another 85 councils who are marginally failing on the ..

    White
    So there are some very bad ones and a few reasonably good ones. Why are the bad ones doing so badly?

    Greenwood
    Well I think there's a mixture of reasons. First of all many are suffering from a legacy of procurement made perhaps a few years ago when accessibility wasn't high on people's agenda and it takes time to replace software. And then we've got to accept another issue about local government websites are very diverse and complex, I can't think of another sector where they have so many different types of customers, different types of service. And that also means there's a lot of people providing content within the organisation, it could be 50, 100, 200.

    White
    Can you give an example of the kind of thing which is - you know which is very bad?

    Greenwood
    Well the most common failure is the lack or an inappropriate caption, there's alternative text behind an image on a website, when you've got sight with perhaps thousands of images it's not the easiest task perhaps to manage.

    White
    Well the BSI, that's the British Standards Institution, is in the process of developing guidelines for such websites, standards which they say should reflect not just theoretical technical standards, but which should be based on what real people want. The committee which is drawing them up is chaired by Julie Howell, who is involved with her own web company now and another fugitive from the RNIB.

    First of all, what do you make of this report?

    Howell
    Well the report's findings are of course depressing and disappointing for those of us who have campaigned to raise awareness of the importance of web accessibility for so long. However, I really do want to stress that local government is doing an awful lot better than a lot of the other sectors out there.

    White
    But you know local authorities they run social services, social services give blind people desperately what they need.

    Howell
    Yes and blind people pay for that as well and the taxpayer pays for those, so you're absolutely right we should expect a better - you know you should expect some example setting from that sector. But also I think what's really missing is some measure of the usability by disabled people of these sites. And I think it's very important to make a distinction between designing a website so that a blind person's screen reader can actually reach the content but also the ability of a disabled person to visit a site, find the information they're looking for, complete a task, at the same time, at the same convenience, at the same cost as somebody who's not disabled. Perhaps what we need to do now is explain to web developers that you really need to start involving disabled people in testing your websites.

    White
    It does seem pretty obvious that, that if you want to make your website accessible to blind people and partially-sighted people you might ask a few.

    Howell
    Obvious to me and obvious to you and to many of the listeners of course but for many web developers it may be something they've never thought about before.

    White
    Because one of the problems is that we're working in a field that develops very quickly and people who create websites find all sorts of exciting new things they can do. Will we ever be able to keep up with technical developments or will blind people's needs always kind of lag behind technical wizardry?

    Howell
    You mentioned earlier that I'm involved with the British Standards Institution and indeed we're about to start work on a brand new British standard which will be all about the process of developing accessible websites. Now there's certain things, certain technical guidelines, that are already available on how you can ensure the inter-operability of a blind person or any disabled person's technology and a website. But there's a great deal more that will help web developers and website owners to really engage with disabled people.

    White
    And when are they going to be ready those guidelines?

    Howell
    First quarter of 2009.

    White
    Okay Martin Greenwood, Julie Howell thank you both very much indeed.

    Now on last week's In Touch we talked to Steven Menary who was blinded in an IRA explosion. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority awarded him half of the £110,000 maximum amount which can be given for loss of sight in both eyes. This is because he was already blind in one eye because he'd had cancer when he was a baby. During the programme the RNIB criticised Steven's award but the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority has asked us to point out that the usual tariff for loss of sight in one eye is a maximum of £22,000.

    Well I think we need some good news after all of that, and we can indeed provide you with some. The Queen Alexandra College, a training college for visually impaired people in Birmingham, has introduced a charter mark for companies or organisations which make special efforts to serve the interests of blind and partially-sighted people who want to use their services and Thinktank, Birmingham's science museum; has won the first of them. So what have they done that's so good? Our reporter Mani Djazmi was shown round by trained guide Alison Giddens.

    Giddens
    We're now in Things About Me gallery. This is how our body works, so you can feel all the way down, round your small intestine, right down there.

    Djazmi
    I reckon what I'm feeling is probably worse to feel than the actual small intestine because basically it's like just a wall display of the digestive system and how would you describe what that is Alison?

    Giddens
    Well it is a model of villi, which are tiny folds you have inside your small intestine, they're basically like giant rubbery tubes and they move and everything when you touch them, they're really good fun. Just here we have a button [indistinct words] ...[slurping noise] [toilet flushing]

    Djazmi
    Well lovely.

    The Thinktank Museum is the first organisation to earn the charter mark from Queen Alexandra College and Sarah Adderley from the college is here with me. The fact that you've had to introduce this charter mark, what do you think that says about the Disability Discrimination Act?

    Adderley
    Well unfortunately I think it shows that the DDA hasn't gone far enough or it's not being vetted enough to ensure that companies are complying. I think too often we see that organisations have just put a few sentences in their policy to show that they're complying but in actual fact they're not really doing anything to improve accessibility for their visually-impaired community and that's why we need to do things like the charter mark.

    Djazmi
    So what do companies and organisations have to do to earn the charter mark?

    Adderley
    Things such as making sure that any printed material is accessible and that they can sort of issue information in formats such as large print, Braille and audio with ease to customers upon request. Also signage in public areas should be Braille and tactile signage. Things like staff training - I mean there was one instance where a colleague of mine had phoned up a hotel chain and he phoned to ask for information in Braille to be made available for him upon his arrival and the response was - Braille? And the member of staff on the other end of the phone just had no clue as to what he needed or how she could go about it or even what Braille was.

    Djazmi
    So which kind of companies and organisations have shown interest in being awarded this charter mark?

    Adderley
    Well at the moment we're moving forward with the West Midlands Fire Service, they're very keen to progress. We've also spoken to various city councils, the pension service, banks, insurers. So we've got a whole range of people that are interested in the charter mark.

    Djazmi
    And it's not free is it, they have to pay some money don't they?

    Adderley
    The first level of £150, that's for companies who have fewer than 150 employees. The next level takes us up to companies with 250 employees and that's £250. And any organisation that's larger than that pays £450.

    Djazmi
    So what's in it for these companies?

    Adderley
    I strongly believe that one of the main benefits is that they are showing a commitment to the VI community and that they're accessing two million people in the UK that currently I don't think are being served very well by various companies. We also give them access to our fast track service, so if they want sort of transcription of signage done we can send them through our fast track service.

    Giddens
    So we're sat here in the Wildlife gallery now and I'm going to take you through our sensational sea life tour. Okay this is a sword fish rostrum I'm going to give you now, just be careful because it's got quite sharp teeth.

    Djazmi
    Oh right okay. It's just like a kind of a blade isn't it.

    Giddens
    Yeah it's like a blade - like a saw really.

    Djazmi
    That's probably why it's called a sword fish I would think.

    Giddens
    Exactly.

    Djazmi
    And it's got just really sharp spikes on either side of it at about centimetre intervals.

    Giddens
    This is one of my favourite things we've got here - it's a shark's jaw. This is about - bigger than the size of your hand open wide.

    Djazmi
    Yeah, oh much bigger. This jaw is just gaping wide open, doing an ah - as if it was at a shark dentist. From the top teeth to the bottom it's about nearly a foot, isn't it, I would say.

    Giddens
    Yeah I would say so, yeah.

    Djazmi
    Yeah it's massive and there are just teeth everywhere.

    I have to say as someone who has a phobia of fish I'm really glad that these are just models.

    Giddens
    One of the last things that we'll show you is we've got a giant - some giant seashell here.

    Djazmi
    And is this real?

    Giddens
    This is real, all these things that I've been showing now they're all real.

    Djazmi
    What even the fish bits?

    Giddens
    Even the fish bits.

    Djazmi
    You're joking, they're real?

    Giddens
    They're real. They're all real.

    Djazmi
    I thought they were models.

    Giddens
    No, no, no they're all real.

    Djazmi
    Oh dear. So in getting this award what kind of adaptations have you actually had to make to the museum and to the service that you provide?

    Giddens
    A lot of our staff are now trained in working with people who are blind who have visual impairments and in guiding them around the museum. We've also got signs now in the lifts, in public places and on all the fire exits and the toilets explaining where they are, they're all in large print and in Braille. And we've made sure that we have a copy of our essential information which is available at the box office on request and that's in large print and in Braille and we are getting an audio guide as well.

    Well the children who come, if we have blind or partially-sighted children on the tour, we have an ocean drum which we can use to make the sound of the sea to get ourselves in the mood. Okay it's just a drum, a plastic drum, with a load of ball bearings inside and as we tip it from one side to the other - there you go, see one hand there and one hand on the other side and you just tip it gently from side to side...

    Djazmi
    So it's got beads in it.

    Giddens
    It's got lots of ball bearings inside it. That's quite a stormy sea.

    White
    Sounds more like a drum with a lot of ball bearings in it to me but never mind. Mani Djazmi is our reporter there from Birmingham.

    And that's it for today but if you want to comment on anything you've heard in today's programme, and give us examples of service, particularly good or particularly bad, whether it's websites or sports arenas or museums or anything else, we'd be delighted to hear from you. You can call us on 0800 044 044 or email In Touch via the website. And there will be a podcast of the programme from our website as from tomorrow. From me Peter White, this week's producer Karen Pirie and the rest of the team, goodbye.


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