From Braille Music to Accessible Images, You Can ‘Feel’: A Busy Year Ahead For UKAAF

Richard West, Chair of UKAAF,  gives us his insights into the organisations main priorities in 2020?

At the UK Association for Accessible Formats, our objectives are to develop guidelines and minimum standards for producing information in formats accessible to people who cannot read standard print, for whatever reason, including sight loss, dyslexia or because they cannot physically handle the documents.

Clearly then, we cover a very wide field, from braille and audio to large print, and accessible electronic documents. Most of our detailed work is carried out in small groups, so the work is done by people who are experts or interested in that particular sphere.  All work is then drawn together by the UKAAF Board.

For 2020, we have defined three major things we want to do:

Aligning With Publishers

We are working hard to establish closer links with The Publishers Association; we’re hoping that will lead to continuing improvements of source documents which are easier to transcribe into accessible formats.

That’s going to be an ongoing process, of course, and it won’t all be achieved this year.

The UKAAF Annual Conference on June 11th will focus on this.  The theme this year will be “An accessible publication from preparation, production, publishing to reader”. It will provide an opportunity for those who deliver services for accessible document production, or use accessible publications, to better understand the challenges of making publications accessible at source.

We plan for a presentation from a publisher about the various guidelines and standards, a speaker about document production, through to a perspective from an end user.

We haven’t finalised the programme for that as yet, but we will be issuing an announcement about it to members and non-members shortly.

Hosting an International Conference on braille.

Next up, we are delighted to say we are hosting this international conference. Every four years, a body called the International Council on English Braille, (ICEB), holds a General Assembly in one of the member countries and this year it is the turn of the UK. We are the UK member body of ICEB, so it is our responsibility to host and arrange the event which we will do May 11th through 15th.

We are currently involved in doing the work necessary in connection with this, in partnership with RNIB, which of course is pretty time-consuming, so it will be a major activity in UKAAF’s work for the first part of the year.  The conference is already being well advertised because one of the days, Thursday, 14th May, is a public day. That’s because one of the features of the General Assembly is that member countries produce presentations and deliver papers relating to braille. The UK has prepared a couple of these.  This will be an attractive programme for anyone interested in braille, so we want to make it available to a wider audience and hope to attract many more people on top of those who would normally attend the General Assembly.

One thing that I think will get a lot of notice at the conference is some work on braille music in a digital age. It’s also going to be held in a great venue – The Google Academy, which is very close to Victoria Station.

Accessible Images

We have a group working on Accessible Images which has a broad range of activity planned for 2020.  We wish to see “A Guide to Accessible Signage” completed.  This work is well advanced, but further investigations will take place as to what developments are being made regarding accessible and tactile images in other countries. A further aspect of this is to give more thought and guidance on how audio signage can be used effectively.

We also want to carry out some work on the best way to produce tactile diagrams of the street layout at a given location or the floor plans of a building.  Tactile images can help a visually impaired person get a clearer view of the location.  Tactile maps of wider areas, such as a country, can also be of great value in teaching geography as well as for general use.  We therefore need to make sure that we develop the best guidelines for producing these.

So – quite a busy and, I think, exciting year ahead for UKAAF, on many fronts.

Richard West originally trained as a shorthand typist, but for the past 40 years has had a career in the IT industry. A member of the British Computer Society, he is also Chair of UKAAF.

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