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BBC Radio 4 In Touch
16th December 2008

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Factsheet

In Touch

Radio 4

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

20:40 – 21:00

0800 044 044

PROGRAMME ADDRESS.. 1
FACTSHEET. 1
TECHNOLOGY IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.. 2
CHRISTMAS PRESENTS.. 3
SIR JOHN WALL CBE.. 3
GENERAL CONTACTS.. 3


PROGRAMME ADDRESS

IN TOUCH
BBC Radio 4
Room 6084
Broadcasting House
London
W1A 1AA
Email: intouch@bbc.co.uk
Web: www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/intouch.shtml

FACTSHEET

Please take the caller’s name and address and ask whether they require the factsheet in normal print, large print or Braille and enter details in Q.


*** DATA PROTECTION - If taking a request for Braille factsheet / transcript please explain details will be forwarded to the RNIB for dispatch, and confirm caller is happy with this.***
TECHNOLOGY IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN

Contributors:
Richard Short, Health & Safety Manager at Accor, the company which runs the Ibis chain

Simon Robinson, legal rights adviser, RNIB


In Touch reports on the difficulties encountered with technology in the public domain; the kind you deal with when you are out and about. Reporter Mani Djazmi has had such an experience, with implications far beyond his own case.


CONTACTS

RNIB
105 Judd Street
London
WC1H 9NE
Helpline: 0845 766 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
Web: www.rnib.org.uk


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (England)
Freepost RRLL-GHUX-CTRX
Arndale House
Arndale Centre
Manchester
M4 3EQ

0845 604 6610 - England main number
0845 604 6620 - England textphone
0845 604 6630 - England fax

Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


CHRISTMAS PRESENTS

In Touch looks at listeners’ Christmas present likes and dislikes.


SIR JOHN WALL CBE

In Touch received a note from Sir John's son Robert, asking us to thank the many, many people who've sent memories and condolences from all over the world; he says they've been a great comfort to the family. We also heard from Robert's daughter, twelve year old Rebecca, who said simply that Sir John was the best Granddad in the world.


GENERAL CONTACTS

RNIB
105 Judd Street
London
WC1H 9NE
Helpline: 0845 766 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
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)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
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)
Tel: 0161 406 2525
Textphone: 0161 355 2043
Email: enquiries@nlbuk.org
Web: www.nlb-online.org

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 HELPLINE (England)
Freepost RRLL-GHUX-CTRX
Arndale House
Arndale Centre
Manchester
M4 3EQ

0845 604 6610 - England main number
0845 604 6620 - England textphone
0845 604 6630 - England fax

Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Wales)
Freepost RRLR-UEYB-UYZL
3rd Floor
3 Callaghan Square
Cardiff
CF10 5BT

0845 604 8810 - Wales main number
0845 604 8820 - Wales textphone
0845 604 8830 - Wales fax

Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


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

Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


DISABLED LIVING FOUNDATION
380-384 Harrow Road
London
W9 2HU
Tel: 0845 130 9177
Web: www.dlf.org.uk

The Disabled Living Foundation provides information and advice on disability equipment.












The BBC is not responsible for external websites 

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Transcript

IN TOUCH

TX: 16.12.08 2040-2100

PRESENTER: PETER WHITE

PRODUCER: CHERYL GABRIEL


White
Good Evening. Later today, yet more Christmas presents: likes and dislikes, from regular contributors and listeners.

Clip
One thing that I have seen is a little robot that does the vacuuming. You can just plug it in and away it goes, it gets to know the layout of your house and just let it be and it hoovers everything up. I think that's what I really like in my stocking this year.

White
One of the messages which has emerged from your Christmas wish-lists is that technology is a many-headed beast - it can be liberating, and it can be deeply frustrating, especially when its technology in the public domain; the kind you encounter when you're out and about. Well our reporter Mani Djazmi spends a lot of his time out and about on our behalf, he's had just such an experience, with implications which go far beyond his own case So Mani, tell us what happened to you.

Djazmi
Well I spent the weekend before last up in Hull and the hotel I stayed in, which was the Ibis in Hull, and I was surprised and intrigued when I arrived there to find out that the lift was operated by a touch screen control. So you called it by sliding your hand down, what to me as a totally blind person find like a plain plastic panel, and then once you're in the lift you did the same thing to nominate whichever floor you were on but as a totally blind person there was no way of knowing which was the first floor from the alarm button, for instance.

White
So what actually happened in your case, were you stranded?

Djazmi
Well sort of. When I arrived I was with friends and so a friend came up with me to help me find my room and that was fine but the next day, when I was leaving, early on Sunday morning, I got to the lift and I remembered this and so I literally stood outside the lift and with my mobile phone called up the reception desk and asked someone to ride up in the lift to help me go down in the lift. And I thought it would be quite nice to reconstruct the experience. As I understand it - Accor, which is the company which looks after the Ibis chain - five of their 190 lifts have these touch screen panels, one of which is in London, and I planned to go to this one and record my experience but I couldn't because the lift had broken down. So I suppose, in a sense, it had created its own level playing field because now no one can use it.

White
Right, I suppose the point is - I mean in days before anyone even bothered about accessible lifts we used to manage this kind of thing by just bundling into lifts and asking people where they were going. But it's not quite independent is it?

Djazmi
No, it's not. The point isn't that you should call for help from downstairs to get there, the point is the only reason you should have any interaction with the reception is the same thing as any other person, which is to sign in and sign out and ask for directions to wherever you need to go.

White
So what does the hotel company say about this? Well we're joined by Richard Short, who's the health and safety and environment manager at Accor, which is the company which represents the Ibis chain. So Richard how do you respond to Mani's experience?

Short
Well naturally we're very concerned to hear of his experiences. We treat individual customers as individuals, whether they have special needs or not. Obviously in this case we fell short of our normal customer service but that's not to dismiss Mani as an individual guest of our hotel.

White
So why was the - why were these lifts introduced because I mean organisations like yours now they know about accessibility, they know - and it had speech on it, I understand, so clearly accessibility had been considered, so why were these brought in?

Short
Yeah, that's a concern that we're addressing right now and we thank Mani for bringing this to our attention. The installation of the lifts was prior to any legal commitment to install accessible lifts and I'm afraid we were supplied with a reputable lift firm with a product that in this case wasn't accessible. But I'd like to come back on Accor's approach to accessibility as a whole. We're committed and proactive, as far as accessibility's concerned, we have been for a number of years. In fact two of our senior directions have been proactive in the hospitality accessibility forum for the last 15 years. So only five of the lifts out of the 190 fell short of Mani's sort of expectations and that's five too many.

White
So what are you going to do about them?

Short
Well it's interesting that Mani pointed out visiting the lift in London because actually I hope Mani will be very pleasantly surprised with the upgrade to the lift that has been installed because that too has a touch panel but it also has an accessible panel, both for partially sighted, visually impaired and those in a seated position, any mobility impaired users. Now that's the sort of upgrade that we're looking to correct these accessibility issues and that's the sort of upgrade that we would look to put into the types of lifts that Mani has experienced.

White
So you could put those into the existing lifts, you don't have to get the whole new units in order to make this accessible?

Short
Well no and installing an upgrade of that fashion would take some time, and it will be time that we haven't got. So what we can do immediately is make some immediate upgrades and it can be very simple, now it's been pointed out by Mani, we can put some tactile numbering on the panel to address the immediate problem and then look for a permanent upgrade.

White
Right. Why have they been chosen - are they just pretty, is that what it is?

Short
Well no, I mean obviously aesthetics do play a part in customer service. It's the design of the lift that was installed in the hotel, such as Ibis, was installed according to the current building regulations of the day. Now the problem we have of course is since 2004 we've had the reasonable adjustments requirement but that's no excuse for us, I mean we can - we need to make this upgrade now and that's what we're going to do quite imminently.

White
Right, you mentioned the law, so what are the implications of this case legally? After all we do now have the DDA - the Disability Discrimination Act. Simon Robinson is a barrister, who's been advising and representing disabled people in DDA cases for 11 years and he's the manager of the RNIB's new legal rights service.

Simon, first of all, what does the act actually have to say about this kind of case, particularly where, as Richard has said, it was introduced before the responsibility was placed on companies?

Robinson
Well I'd be interested to know exactly what year the lifts were installed. There's a reasonable adjustments duty in the DDA '95 and that's split into two parts. One, which is relevant to this situation, is called The Duty to Make Adjustments to Physical Features, that came into force on the 1st October 2004. But there was an earlier set of duties to make reasonable adjustments to what are called practices, policies and procedures, as well as to provide auxiliary aids and services, they came into effect in October 1999. But in advance of '99 the government said that what it was going to do in terms of its timetable, so everybody knew the stages that the reasonable adjustments duties would come in, so people knew that there was going to be one set in '99 and the other set in 2004. And that was done to enable companies to forward plan, to make the adjustments and to ensure that their environments, their services, were accessible. So let's just find out when the lifts were installed.

Short
If I can just come in there. The lifts were installed prior to 2004. Now Accor isn't a company that just waits for legal requirements to come along before we decide to comply, as I said we're very proactive in terms of accessibility. So we've been compliant from day one with the '95 act. As far as reasonable adjustments is concerned, yes we do have five individual lifts out of 190. Just to put some perspective in there. The hotel that Mani would like to visit, that single hotel has 17 lifts. So we are proactive...

White
And that's part of it, isn't it Simon, that you have to have, as I understand it, one accessible lift, so I suppose they can argue that there are quite a lot to choose from?

Robinson
Well the law doesn't say that there's a minimum number. What it says is that the service provider has to make reasonable adjustments and we're back to this much vexed word "reasonable" and "reasonableness", which I know from personal experience has caused so much difficulty all round.

White
And it's not reasonable to say that you actually have somebody to come up from reception and get in the lift and help you where to go.

Robinson
Well it's slightly odd because you know I'm old enough to remember when you had people in the lift that would take you from floor to floor.

White
Bell hops.

Robinson
Exactly. Then we had technology, which was supposed to make everything better and then Mani has gone back to this rather sort of like antiquated system.

Short
Well if I can take issue with the term antiquated. It was a lift that was compliant with the standards of the time.

White
I don't want to get too bogged down. You've made - you've made it clear, Richard, that the company is going to do something about it but the reason we perhaps appear to be making so much fuss about one lift is that what about the growing prevalence of touch screen technology because this is where controls are not distinct but embedded in the piece of equipment and we've already heard a good deal about this from our disgruntled Christmas present buyers in connection with equipment like the iPhone and that kind of thing. So I mean that's in a way one of the things I wanted to ask you, Simon, does the act do anything to stop people introducing a whole kind of technology which appears to exclude visually impaired people?

Robinson
Unfortunately you're going to get a bit of a lawyer's answer here which is yes and no. What it says in terms of service providers using touch screen controls and, unfortunately Richard I'm going to have to come back and use you as an example here....

Short
Thank you Simon.

Robinson
... what it would say there is look you've got to consider whether this creates a barrier to access. If it does then that's a physical feature, you have a reasonable adjustments duty and you have to, at least, consider what you can do. It's an anticipatory duty, so you have to forward plan, and of course you are making those adjustments and I'm very happy to hear that you are doing so. But on the other hand you have got touch screen equipment which is regularly produced as consumer items and unfortunately the DDA doesn't cover those as manufactured items because manufactured items and manufacturers are specifically excluded.

White
So does that mean that we're going to have to fight these kind of things, if indeed we do fight them, on a case by case basis?

Robinson
Well in terms of a case by case basis, as Mani has experienced, the answer to that is yes. On a case by case basis if it's some great new sort of like gizmo, that's a touch screen, piece of kit, we're not going to be able to do that because as a manufactured item it's specifically excluded from the act. And what would be needed would be a change in the legislation. There may be an opportunity for that because we have the equality bill which has been announced in the Queen's speech. So that may be the policy route in change the legislation.

White
Okay, so something positive to say. And just to go back to you finally Richard, so how soon will Mani be able to get to breakfast on his own in Hull?

Short
Well this can be done very, very quickly. We can find some tactile numbers to stick on the panel that will be fully compliant with the DDA. Our aim, our target, is to be 100% compliant, indeed our Novotel in Sheffield is winning an award for 100% compliance, so....

White
Are you suggesting he goes there instead of Hull?

Short
Mani is very welcome to stay at Sheffield or any of our hotels at any time.

Djazmi
Sheffield is my spiritual home, I went to university there, I'll happily stay there again.

Short
So we're very happy to give Mani the guided tour.

White
We don't want the poor boy to go hungry. Richard Short, Simon Robinson thank you very much indeed. There's some interesting and quite serious issues there which we'd be very interested to hear your reactions on.

And so back to your Christmas presents. And the great advantage of this feature, I think, has been the fact that it's drawn to people's attention some of the services and bits of kit that people didn't know were there. The latest message to appear on our answer phone comes from our reporter Johnny Cassidy.

Cassidy
I'm a real sucker when it comes to gadgets but sometimes can't really get enthusiastic about things that aren't that practical. One thing that I have seen is the little robot that does the vacuuming. You can just plug it in and away it goes. It gets to know the layout of your house and just let it be and it Hoovers everything up. I think that's what I really like in my stocking this year. Also a bit of snow in the morning would be nice. Something that I really wouldn't want this year is to have to do the washing up after the Christmas Day which I always end up having to do. So if there is any robot inventors out there that could help me out there it would be greatly appreciated.

White
So clearly Johnny Cassiday's whole concern is labour saving over Christmas. You may recall that on the wish list of Sarah Newman, last week, was a pair of accessible kitchen scales - accessible seems to be the word of the day doesn't it. Well producer Cheryl Gabriel cherishes her scales, uses them often and Cheryl was keen to pass on a few tips to Sarah.

Gabriel
The best thing about these scales is that they are simple. They come in two parts. So you've got your base unit, which is about nine inches square or the equivalent in metric - whatever that is - and you have a white bowl that just sits on the top, like that. And the bowl is about nine or 10 inches in diameter and it's got a moulded handle on the one side and a little pouring lip on the other side, so it's all very - very well designed. Okay you've got three buttons on the front, which you can - well I don't actually even know what they say, I just press them and see what happens. They have got Braille on, but I don't read Braille, so I can only guess that this one means on or off.

Talking scales
Zero grams.

Gabriel
You get your message telling you that your bowl is empty. Now if you want - that's grams - if I wanted to do it in ounces, which being an old fashioned kind of girl I probably will ...

Talking scales
Zero ounces.

Gabriel
Okay, so we've got ounces and grams there. So I'm going to take my black eyed beans and I want what - say four ounces.

Talking scales
A quarter ounce.

Gabriel
Okay, a few more.

Talking scales
One and a quarter ounces.

Gabriel
I want one and a half ounces, let's say.

Talking scales
One and a half ounces.

Gabriel
There we go - one and a half ounces of black eyed beans. So now I take my beans and put them into the bowl. And that's it.

Talking scales
Zero ounces.

Gabriel
That's very interesting because normally she'll just carry on saying minus, minus, minus and I was going to say that's an irritating thing. But I wonder if you just put your bowl straight back on the ...

Talking scales
Minus.

Gabriel
Right, I normally leave my bowl off, let's just see what happens.

Talking scales
Minus, minus.

Gabriel
Yeah, now this actually does get very irritating - I find this very irritating. But I've just worked out, for the purposes of this exercise, if I put my bowl on top again.

Talking scales
Zero ounces.

Gabriel
You're back to being in a starting position. That's great because I suppose what happens is you normally - well I do - I take my bowl off with my things in it and leave it somewhere until I'm ready to use it and she still carries on going minus. But hey ...

Talking scales
Zero ounces.

Gabriel
There we are, perfect.

White
Just a glimpse of Cheryl in a rather more domestic role to the one that we're used to.

And before we leave the subject of presents altogether, just a couple of your e-mails and phone calls. John Henry e-mailed to say that he wants for Christmas antivirus software that works with his screen reader. And mercifully moving away from technology a firm no, no from Judy Watson of Somerset who says please no more knick-knacks which would simply get knocked off shelves when I'm doing the dusting.

And now I think we can promise you a real Christmas treat over the holiday. I've been talking to Denis Norden, one of Britain's finest and longest-serving comedy writers; over sixty years. Now in his mid-eighties, Denis is, like many of you, learning to live with Macular Degeneration.

Norden
So as far as using the ordinary word processor and so on when you couldn't see the screen that became a problem and I found it rather laborious to get round. But fortunately I happened across a software program called Supernova and that reiterates whatever I type in on the specially large keyboard in one of those kind of flat uninflected female voices, like in Sat Nav, which will also read back not only each letter but if you ask it too it'll give you the paragraph or the page and if what you write is meant to be amusing and it comes out with a fair chance in that particular kind of dalek voice then you think that well the thing has a chance.

White
In two programmes over the holiday, he'll be talking about how he copes, but as you'd expect, the whole interview is spiced with anecdotes and stories about his life, and the many stars with whom he's worked. So that's In Touch next week and the Tuesday after Christmas.

Finally, we reported a couple of weeks ago the death of Sir John Wall, former chair of the RNIB and Britain's first blind modern-day judge. Well we've had a note from Sir John's son, Robert, asking us to thank the many people who've sent memories and condolences from all over the world; he says they've been of an enormous comfort to the family. And we also have heard from Robert's daughter, 12-year-old Rebecca, who simply said that Sir John was the best granddad in the world. No accolade comes higher than that.

You can contact us about anything on the programme by calling 0800 044 044; you can e-mail us, and there'll be a podcast of the programme from tomorrow. From me Peter White, producer
Cheryl Gabriel, if she can get out of the kitchen, and the rest of the team, goodbye.



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