Friday, 30 March 2007

Transport on public transport strategy and action plan

Of course this should be welcomed. We are involved with some of these plans, and we can see some movement in the right direction. However, we are concerned that these targets will not be met. Another one to monitor.

Transport on public transport strategy and action plan: "
* plan fully accessible corridors for users with special needs, guidelines and specifications for accessible taxis, buses and trains by June 2007
* ensure initial 10% of total public transport fleet is fully accessible for users with special needs when rolling out BRT and Rapid Rail from May 2009.
* commencement of operations (including full accessibility for special needs users) by March 2009"

E Pahad to sign United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol, 30 Mar

Today should be a momentous day for the rights of people with disabilities living in South Africa. Rather (than my usual) knocking of politicians, I think I will congratulate them today...but watch closely for the implementation of the protocol.

E Pahad to sign United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol, 30 Mar: "Dr EG Pahad, the Minister in the Presidency left for New York last night to attend the Official Ceremony on the opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 30 March 2007.

This Convention is the first human rights treaty to be adopted by the UN in the 21st Century. The Convention stands to benefit 650 million persons with disabilities who are among the most marginalised in the world. The convention includes a full range of human rights as well as measures to implement them effectively.

South Africa played an instrumental role in the negotiations that led to the adoption of the treaty and strongly supported the promotion and adoption of the Convention and its Optional Protocol."

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Enham - News Articles

This is not surprising, but nevertheless worrying, information. I would recommend that people read Vash "The Psychology of Disability". In her book she explores this in some depth. I use this knowledge when I am called upon to speak to a group; it has been proven that a person sitting in a wheelchair carries less "weight" than if that person were standing, and this is even true when the audience is made up of predominantly wheelchair users too. I therefore use other techniques (rolling about the stage, raising and lowering volume and tone of my presentation or lecture, etc.)


Dr Mark Deal, Research and Development Manager at Enham and PhD student at City University, London, has conducted a study which surprisingly reveals prejudice amongst disabled people against other impairment groups and that there exists a hierarchy of impairment based on a range of factors. For example: both disabled and non-disabled people rank those with a mental illness or learning disability as the least desirable, with deafness followed by arthritis as the most desirable or accepted form of impairment."

Access to Design Professions

Access to Design Professions: "'By showing how landscape architecture has served society in isolating and removing the disabled body from the landscape, prejudicial design practices might be reduced and new forms of inclusive design might be fostered.'
- Daniel Hunter"

Access to Design Professions

Access to Design Professions: "'We have to explain accessibility to everyone, and how that must become the basis for universal design. This is the way to have the whole country working on the type of new society that we are trying to make, a society of inclusion.'
- Taide Buenfil Garza"

Access to Design Professions

Access to Design Professions: "'Through universal design, persons who are able-bodied will begin to have greater contact with persons with disabilities, thus developing increased understanding...and persons with disabilities will begin to enjoy inclusion throughout the life cycle.'
- DeVonna Cunningham Cervantes"

Access to Design Professions

Access to Design Professions: "'It can be frustrating when you are a consultant in a specialty that's not very well understood and where good design or universal design is condensed to mere accessibility and code compliance.'
- Maurizio Antoninetti"

Access to Design Professions

Access to Design Professions: "'Universal design seeks to encourage attractive, marketable products that are more usable by everyone. It is design for the built environment and consumer products for a very broad definition of user.'
- Ron Mace"

HHC: Include 2007 - 24 hour challenge

This sounds an interesting competition - I have put feeless out to my fellow students (and lecturers!) to gauge their opinions.

HHC: Include 2007 - 24 hour challenge: "The 24 Hour Inclusive Design Challenge at Include 2007"

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

BBC SPORT | Rugby Union | Scottish | Scottish Rugby axes Borders team

Oh dear, this is a sad reflection on the state of Rugby Union in Scotland:

BBC SPORT | Rugby Union | Scottish | Scottish Rugby axes Borders team: "The SRU board has decided it was unrealistic to continue running three professional teams."

The "New" approach to Disability

I particularly like this quote, but I do need to check on the original author, and I will put a link up once I have found it.

Although the academic and broadsheet worlds still tend to refer to ‘the elderly’ and ‘the disabled’, as if they form distinct groups outside the mainstream of society, there is a growing trend to recognise age and disability as something we will all experience, and therefore part of a normal lifecourse. Disabled people have become increasingly assertive about their rights to access buildings and services, while for older people the emphasis is now on independence. Both groups aspire to active participation within the mainstream of society, reject the dependency and institutionalisation that were the norm for much of the last century, and are beginning to assert themselves as consumers who control significant amounts of disposable income. Such new expectations offer a rationale for design that is ‘inclusive’ rather that exclusive, and more closely aligned to contemporary social expectations.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Piri Reis Map

My business partner & I had one of our many interesting debates recently. While we agree on most things related to business (fortunately!), we do have different approaches to other matters. Anyway, amongst discussions, the topic of the Piri Reis Map came up. Given our different approaches to other matters, it was not surprising that we each had a different 'take' on the map. I think we had both (certainly from my point of view) come to hear about the map through Hancock's "Fingerprints of the Gods". But we obviously came away with quite different perceptions from reading that book... I thought it basically well written (he is a journalist, & not a scientist after all!), but his theories left me cold. Although he gave a lot of space to the map in his book, there were few other cartography references (other than some vague, odd references to a retired US Admiral).

But the conversation sparked an interest, and (as is my wont), I decided to find out a little more about the map. Putting Piri Reis into any Internet search engine will trigger an avalanche of hits...the job is to sift through all the garbage until you begin to find a picture... There is lots and lots of complete nonsense written about this map, that is for sure. One site that did appear to give a good, logical, description was Professor Steve Dutch's site, and I would encourage people to have a look at his explanation.

Some FAQ's

Very interesting Web Pages:

Some FAQ's: "Why Don't Politicians Ever Tell The Truth?

They do. Every election there are politicians that defy conventional wisdom and tell the plain truth. And every Wednesday after Election Day the papers have a name for them: defeated."

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Microsoft Survey of People who may benefit from Accessibility Features

This is a very interesting, large, survey. The results speak for themselves:

Examples: "In 2003 and 2004, Software giant Microsoft commissioned a representative survey of the range of abilities across the working age population and its likely impact on computer technology and usage. The goal was to identify the range of physical and cognitive abilities among working age adults and current computer users in the US, and also to identity the types of difficulties and impairments that limit computer use, their range and degree of severity, and the number of people who could benefit from accessible technology.

The 15,000 people sampled delivered a clear and very powerful message: 57% of them could benefit from accessibility features that are often buried within the operating system, rather than being made evident to the mainstream user. In other words, software developed for what Microsoft regarded as a minority of the population - disabled and older users - offers benefits to the majority. The impact of this research on Microsoft has been significant, pushing accessibility high up the agenda for management and software developers alike."

Friday, 23 March 2007

Access at the 2010 Soccer World Cup

As a follow up to the last post, I am increasingly concerned about Access & Inclusive Design for the upcoming 2010 World Cup. Of course, I do have a vested interest in this, but I have noticed a worrying trend, the closer we get (and so the further behind plans become) to the event. Initally we were contacted by all manner of parties, who had been told that all the designs for the different Stadia (new, or refurbished) would have to be accessible. Indeed, several of the RFP's that went out dictated that a "Universal Design Consultant" had to be on the team. But we have seen that Access is being marginalised at best in many of the projects, and I fear it has been comletely forgotten for many projects.

One incident really brought this home to me. We had been engaged as "Universal Design Consultants" on one particular project connected with the 2010 event. I had attended several meetings, but I felt that my voice was not being heard, and most of the team had no real grasp of the ramifications of inclusve design. I was getting more & more frustrated at every meeting. Then a meeting was called (I ended up driving from Jo'burg to Cape Town in a hurry to attend). I arrived at the meeting place, only to find that the venue was completely inaccessible, and I could not even get to the meeting room. I managed to collar one person going in, to ask them to offer my apologies, but to point out that I had made the effort to attend the meeting, but this was a clear example of their overall view of accessibilty... That was the last time I was invited to a meeting with that team...

Aside from my own personal frustations, I do fear that the overall leaders of the 2010 World Cup are completely ignoring Access (as they are so far behind with many of the important projects). But I think (& hope!) that this approach will be unacceptable to FIFA, as many of the new facilities will be inaccessible to many people.

Doubts grow over South Africa as host | World Cup | Football | Sport | Telegraph

I think this is a well thought out article, and I hope it serves as a wake-up call to the many people involved with the 2010 Soccer World Cup here. From our own involvment, we have been staggered at the arrogancy of some people (mostly politicians) invloved with this. There is much to do, and very little time to complete it in. We need to collectively extract our digits and get on with the work.

Doubts grow over South Africa as host | World Cup | Football | Sport | Telegraph: "Doubts grow over South Africa as host

By Oliver Brown in Cape Town
Last Updated: 12:54am GMT 23/03/2007

Have your say Read comments

In the lush surrounds of Cape Town's Metropolitan golf club, you are hard pressed to find signs of South Africa's struggle to be ready for the next World Cup. For on these fairways an auspicious 'sod-turning' ceremony is being held, to mark the first visible step in the creation of the city's 68,000-seat Green Point Stadium. But, as the speeches and blessings drag on, one question becomes inescapable. In three years' time, this site will host one of the tournament's semi-finals, so should there not, by now, be more than a spade in the ground?"

Thursday, 22 March 2007

GPS navigation plan to help blind

This is a very exciting use of new Technologies. I shall be watching this closely.

An Italian technology company is pioneering a GPS satellite system that will give blind people greater independence and mobility.

The Easy Walk service has been developed by Il Village, a firm in Turin in northern Italy.

It is currently being tested by a group of 30 people from the Italian Blind Union who are providing feedback. The plan is for Easy Walk to be launched to blind and partially sighted people in Piedmont in the autumn.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Technorati Profile

Beta Blogger Label Cloud

This is an excellent bit of code to make the tag cloud, you see on this blog.

Beta Blogger Label Cloud: "Setup and configuration for Blogger in Beta Label Clouds
Comments and Problems can be reported at the home post for this at
Code for Beta Blogger Label Cloud

Here is the code and setup information to use the Label Cloud in Blogger Beta.
First you obviously have to have a beta blog and be using the layouts templates,
and you must have some posts labeled already. (There needs to be at least ONE label with
more than ONE entry or the scripts hit a bug - so have at least one label with more than one entry before

Bins blocking the pavement in Cape Town

Tue 20/03/2007 11:27 20032007300
These bins were outside Edgars City staff entrance. They would force many wheelchair users to either reverse or try dropping down the high curb.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

50F degrees
People in southern England turn on the central heating
People in Edinburgh plant out bedding plants

40F degrees
Southerners shiver uncontrollably
Glaswegians sunbathe on the beach at Troon

35F degrees
Cars in the south of England refuse to start
People in Falkirk drive with their windows down

20F degrees
Southerners wear overcoats, gloves and woolly hats
Aberdonian men throw on a T-shirt; girls start wearing mini-skirts

15F degrees
Southerners begin to evacuate to the continent
People from Dundee swim in the River Tay at Broughty Ferry

Zero degrees
Life in the south grinds to a halt
Inverness folk have the last BBQ before it gets cold

Minus 10F degrees
Life in the south ceases to exist
People in Dunfermline throw on a light cardigan

Minus 80F degrees
Polar bears wonder if it's worth carrying on
Boy Scouts in Oban start wearing their long trousers

Minus 100F degrees
Santa Claus abandons North Pole
People in Stirling start eating hot porridge for breakfast

Minus 173F degrees
Alcohol freezes
Glaswegians get upset because all the pubs are shut

Minus 297F degrees
Microbial life starts to disappear
The Cows in Dumfriesshire complain about farmers with cold hands

Minus 460F degrees
All atomic motion stops
Shetlanders stamp their feet and blow on their hands

Minus 500F degrees
Hell freezes over
Scotland wins the World Cup

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Leicestershire | Space hoggers face fines

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Leicestershire | Space hoggers face fines: "Space hoggers face fines
Car on yellow lines
Motorists fined for flouting parking rules
Managers at a shopping centre in Leicester say a scheme to fine drivers who park illegally in disabled bays is proving a success.

Fines were introduced at the Beaumont Leys Shopping Centre just over two weeks ago.

There had been a long standing problem with able-bodied drivers parking in disabled spaces, officials have already caught 150 people flouting the law.

Motorists are now fined �60, but the charge is reduced to £40 for those who pay within seven days.

So far, the fines have raised about £6,000, 10% of that will go to local charities for people with disabilities.

The shopping centre is also planning to extend the scheme to parent and child spaces and park and ride bays. "

Thursday, 15 March 2007

James Randi's Swift - November 10, 2006

James Randi's Swift - November 10, 2006: "MORE TEST QUESTIONS

Reader Dan Lewandowski of Wichita Falls, Texas, has a few additions to the list of questions we asked last week at “This Is a Test” – see

Q: How many born-again Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. They have already seen the light.

Q: How many agnostics does it take to change a light bulb?
A: We can't know.

Q: How many deists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. If the light bulb no longer interferes with the world, why bother interfering with the light bulb?

Q: How many atheists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: None. The light bulb does what the light bulb does. Maybe you can understand a tiny portion of light bulb theory, but if you think you know why it’s there, you are deluding yourself. We are not that smart and probably never will be. The light from the light bulb is not there to serve you. You are not the grand drama around which the light bulb spins. Just be thankful for whatever light you have been lucky enough to experience."

The Skeptics' Guide To The Universe - Donations

Among the different podacsts that I listen to, this is one of the best. You can find them on iTunes.

The Skeptics' Guide To The Universe - Donations: "Support the Skeptics' Guide Podcast
There are many ways you can support our podcast:

1. The first is just to keep listening and spread the word. Vote for us on iTunes and other podcast listing sites.


Monday, 12 March 2007

Yet more parking buy abuse

Originally uploaded by dissol2.
this is a government vehicle in the main government headquarters in Cape Town
What does this tell you?

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Catholic official asks legislators not to fund stem cell research - The Business Review (Albany):

Catholic official asks legislators not to fund stem cell research - The Business Review (Albany):: "New York state's Roman Catholic church Wednesday urged the state Legislature to reject Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposal to invest $2.1 billion in stem cell and other biomedical research over the next decade.

Richard Barnes, executive director of the state's Catholic Conference, said church leaders are opposed to embryonic stem cell research. He said the proposal for the research fund is vague about what kinds of stem cell work would be funded if the Spitzer plan is approved."

How dare these religious egomaniacs interfere in science that could be the answer so many conditions? If they have a personal moral problem with it, then fine; but I believe that they have absolutely no right to dictate and try to enforce their code on others. They just don't understand the science or issues.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

When inaccessiblity becomes institutionalised

This following scenario recently happened with a client of ours. I shall not name the client as I believe that would be unprofessional, but what we found was a staggering example of how an employer can build barriers to accessibility, and therefore to inclusion.

The nameless client wanted us (as part of a bigger job) to look at a specific individual, and to recommend any "reasonable accommodations" that they should make in order to meet their obligations under the terms of the Employment Equity Act. Usually we don't get involved at the personal level like this, but rather we conduct building wide audits, addressing the inaccessibility of the building to all users.

Anyway, in this example I met 'John' (I have changed his name). John is a fairly new employee working for a large employer. John happens to be blind, and is employed as...(can you guess)...(yep, go on have a stab...remembering that John is Blind...)...a telephonist (so no big surprises there, hey?). But still, let's give the employer the benefit of the doubt, after all no one else was looking to employ John in any other capacity. Now, the company gave him a nice office, desk, telephone, and computer. All of the internal messaging is done through the computer; so it is quite essential for his job. John had prepared for employment by learning to use a very common screen reader called JAWS. The employer knew that they had to get John a copy of JAWS. But then the inaccessibility of the institution set in. They could not just provide him with one (as should be the case...after all they provide screens to those people who need to use a screen to access their computer, don't they?). But they had to put an order into Head Office. Head Office then sat on the order...not for a week, or even a month...but for over 3 months!! This had to fit into their purchasing procedures... So John sat with a useless computer for 3 months! Eventually they were able to get a copy, but this had to come through their preferred software supplier. Now JAWS costs +/- R9000 in South Africa. But their software supplier (Siemens) chose to charge them nearly 3 times this price!!! We were staggered, and pointed out this 'anomaly' to our client...who shrugged their collective shoulders...and paid the money. Maybe I should say one more thing - this client is a Government it is not their money, but ours!!

I am angry about this as JAWS should have been provided on the same day that John commenced his employment.

I am angry about this as someone decided to make a killing on selling this software (I once had a client you was charged R80,000 for the same software!!), to the detriment of a disabled person.

I am angry because the client could not see the inequity of his ways.

I don't need to have the reasonable accommodation of providing seating (as I come with my own). But most other people I see in offices appear to require that accommodation. They don't have to stand for 3 months, before someone in head office completes an order for a new seat for them.

In fact I believe that screen readers should be part of the operating system (no; I don't count MS Narrator as a true screen reader). I understand that the newer Mac operating systems have this. Surely the software companies are being discriminatory by only providing a Graphical User Interface (GUI)?

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