May 222017

The partnership between FITA and ADVICE continues to make available new technology solutions to persons with disability in the Maltese Islands.  Thanks to the support of suppliers and sales agencies, we are able to try out and demo the very latest products, for the benefit of our clients, many of whom get a chance to try out the technology for themselves before opting to buy it.

Two recent products which are being made available at the ICT Lab at FITA are the C-Pen Reader and OrCam device.

We published a video review of the C-Pen back in February 2017.  Scanning pens, such as the C-Pen Reader, are a popular and relatively inexpensive form of assistive technology which help people with literacy difficulties access printed text.  Different pens have different combinations of functions available.  Among these are: read back, dictionary definitions, scanning and storing and data transfer to PCs. These features make scanning pens especially handy for anyone with dyslexia as they can read aloud text from books, labels and documents.

This tackles literacy difficulties surrounding reading that many children and adults with Dyslexia, face on a day to day basis.  In very practical terms, this means that students with literacy difficulties can independently take their exam knowing that they can read and understand each question. Other portable scanner pens include the Exam Pen Reader from C-Pen, IRIS Pen and the Wizcom Reading Pens.  Please note that only the C-Pen Reader is presently available for you to try out at FITA.  For more information on these products contact FITA or visit

At the time of writing, the OrCam comes in two flavours.  The MyReader which is designed specifically to read printed text and the MyEye which goes a step further by also identifying people’s faces and different everyday items or products.

Mr. Joe Cauchi, President of ADVICE trying out the OrCam device together with Mr. Stanley Debono, CEO of FITA

Mr. Joe Cauchi, President of ADVICE trying out the OrCam device together with Mr. Stanley Debono, CEO of FITA, at Gattard House in Blata l-Bajda.

If you already visited FITA and tried out the desktop or tablet based magnifiers and OCR readers, you shall realise that the OrCam pioneers similar OCR technology but in a compact and portable format.  With the OrCam you can hear any text, appearing on any surface. Recognize the faces of people in your life. Identify supermarket products and money notes. For people who are blind, visually impaired, or have dyslexia, aphasia or other conditions. OrCam MyEye gives a good deal of independence.

During our testing at FITA we confirmed that most of the capabilities covered by the marketing videos of OrCam are true and work quite well.   It takes some time and patience to teach it to identify new products.  However it learns faces quickly and identifies both products and people quite reliably once it learns them.  Reading books, magazines, small phone screens and shop signs requires good lighting conditions.  When it works and this happens quite consistently, it delivers a big sense of freedom and independence.

On the downside, battery life though respectable, is less than we expected.  With regular moderate use it lasted about 3.5 hours.  The manual needs some corrections, as it feels like the product continued to develop beyond the level described by the manual.  For example, the menu system as described in the manual is organised differently from that on the device.  Some gestures like reading time, by simply pointing at your wrist orcam devicewas also not covered in our copy of the manual.  However this detracts little from the overall experience, since the product is relatively easy to use once you master the first few commands, which mainly involve pointing at any text around you and having the device automatically read it out for you.

We invite you to visit us at FITA in order to try out the different products we have on display.  You may contact us at or on 25992048 in order to set up an appointment.


May 222017

On Wednesday 17th May, FITA representatives attended the the half day conference organised by the Directorate for Lifelong Learning on the above subject.DLL seminar May 2017

Dr Mario Cardona,  Director at DLL, kicked off the session, stating that “Adult education depends on what many agencies are doing in this area. The Directorate looks forward to hear the views so that together we can have a fruitful morning”

Ms Rhoda Garland, Executive Director, National Commission for Persons with Disability stressed that everybody’s “Rights to education and employment are fundamental”

Ms. Rhoda GarlandMs. Garland spoke about how important that persons with disabilities have access to education and be included. She said how  important the technology is and how  it can be used to help people lead a normal social life. She also said how persons with a disability face problems during class. She said some teachers do not feel comfortable when a  person with disability approaches them and tell them that they need the educational material to be more accessible. She said that this cannot be the case as the material can be shared easily as a soft copy.  She concluded by saying that persons with disability have to have equal rights and  access for information to seek employment and  education.

The conference covered other aspects not directly linked to disability.  These included a talk by Ms. Marcelle Bugre who spoke about migrants and how they face injustice on a daily basis.    Ms. Penelope Lewis covered many case studies where she presented various scenarios where disabled and migrant people have to face unnecessary and avoidable difficulties in their daily life.

FITA continues to organise regular ECDL training courses for persons with disability, in collaboration with the Directorate for Lifelong Learning.  More information about these courses is available here.

The conference report was submitted by Ms. Maria Mercieca, FITA.

May 172017

As most of the members on this mailing list will know, GW-Micro the developers of the Window-Eyes screen reader software, were taken over by Freedom Scientific, the owners of the JAWS screen reader.  After months of negotiations and insecurity for Window-Eyes users, there is now an announcement defining a migration route.

Sales of Window-Eyes stopped in the United States and Canada. Users outside of the United States and Canada should contact their local distributor for options. Existing software maintenance agreements will be honoured.  GW-Micro shall also continue to provide technical support to end users that have purchased Window-Eyes or a support package.  All users who are currently using Window-Eyes can continue to use the software indefinitely; however, as the Windows® operating system and/or applications change over time, there will be no Window-Eyes updates and Window-Eyes may stop functioning correctly.

For those wishing to migrate away from Window-Eyes now, GW-Mircor is offering JAWS® for Windows 18 as a replacement.  Existing Window-Eyes product purchases and software maintenance agreements will be addressed as follows.

  • End users that paid for and are current with Window-Eyes 9.x will be converted to JAWS 18 at no charge.
  • If you are using an earlier version of Window-Eyes, you can purchase an upgrade to JAWS 18.
  • If you are using the free version of Window-Eyes you can continue to use it. While there is not an upgrade path from the free version, if you are interested in purchasing JAWS, please contact their sales team at 800-444-4443.
  • Existing Window-Eyes SMAs will be rolled into the JAWS SMA program for end users that migrate to JAWS.

Detailed upgrade and SMA pricing information is provided at

Through the below link, you can complete a simple web form that will go directly to the JAWS sales team, who will then contact you with an authorization code for JAWS 18, or request additional information if necessary.

Requests for upgrades must be submitted at or by phone at 800-444-4443 by July 31, 2017.


Note: the free Window-Eyes Offer for Users of Microsoft Office version is not part of the conversion program.



May 112017

We wish to inform our esteemed clientele that between 15th May and 26th May the FITA front office, at Gattard House, will be closed. Previously planned initiatives and information sessions will be unaffected by this change.  FITA’s operations are scheduled to be back to normal on 29th May 2017.

During this time, clients wishing to contact FITA, may still do so via email at or via telephone on 25992048.

We regret any inconvenience this temporary change may cause.

May 052017
Mr Debono presenting FITA memory stick to Mr Luke Cassar

Presentation of MCAST certificate and FITA token to Mr. Luke Cassar

The Foundation for Information Technology Accessibility (FITA) has worked closely with the Nanniet Malta Foundation in order to help improve the ICT skills of the latter’s members.

In order to assist Nanniet Malta in reaching out to its growing number of members and coordinate online communication channels, FITA facilitated cooperation with MCAST, specifically two Bsc Multimedia Development students attending the MCAST ICT Institute,  Mr. Vincenzo Runza and Mr. Luke Cassar.  These students were mentored by Mr. Mark Anthony Farrugia, IICT Deputy Director Programme Management (University College) at MCAST.

The results of this initiative were inaugurated today 5th May 2017, via a press event that was held at FITA, Gattard House in Blata l-Bajda.  The event was attended by representatives from Nanniet Malta, MCAST and FITA together with one of the students, Mr. Luke Cassar.

Mr. Philip Chircop, founder and president of Nanniet Malta thanked MCAST and FITA for their support and had words of praise for the young students’ work.  He pointed out that a key reason for the establishment of Nanniet Malta was to encourage younger generations to show greater daily appreciation for their grandparents.  “A more accessible and better designed website will not only make it easier for our members to access information, but will also reach out to younger generations who can contribute, share and learn together with their elders” said Mr. Chircop.  (See video interview)

FITA WordPress ManualThe students used the WordPress CMS platform in order to provide key features requested by Nanniet Malta. Mr Runza focused on functionality while Mr. Cassar worked on the design and visuals.  Their work included automatically mirroring of posts between the organisation’s website and Facebook page, a new interactive sitemap, a revised photo gallery and featured activity  banners.  This work involved a number of preliminary meetings where specifications were discussed and agreed upon.  There followed design work using WordPress and a user acceptance testing session with FITA and Nanniet Malta.

Mr. Stanley Debono, CEO of FITA, explained how FITA provided specific WordPress training which will enable content managers from Nanniet Malta to create online content more easily as well as promote it more effectively.  FITA also assisted Mr.Chircop in producing more accessible, and easily searchable content.  This involved transitioning from Powerpoint based notifications and image files, to more accessible, but visually similar website pages.  He also said that “Establishing an accessible design framework for software and websites, helps avoid many problems that will arise when retro-fitting accessibility into completed ICT solutions.”

FITA memory stick keychainMr. Conrad Vassallo, Director at the MCAST ICT Insttute, presented the students with a certificate and voucher in appreciation for their voluntary work.  Mr. Debono presented the students with a memory stick bearing FITA’s logo, to thank them for their work and as a small reminder of the importance of  instilling the accessibility mindset, across their future work projects.

Nanniet Malta is migrating its old website archives to the new platform, but new material is already being posted to the new live website and Facebook page, thus taking advantage of the new platform’s possibilities.  The Nanniet Malta website can be access at

Background information

About FITA

  1. The Foundation for Technology Accessibility (FITA) is the principal advocate and coordinator for making information communications technology (ICT) accessible for persons with disability across the Maltese islands.
  2. FITA also provides support to disabled individuals in overcoming or removing barriers to education and employment through ICT.

About Nanniet Malta

  1. Philip Chircop founded Nanniet Malta or Grandparents Malta, after being inspired on the important role of grandparents worldwide by Pope Francis’ words, when addressing millions of youths at the World Forum held in Brazil on July 26, 2013.
  2. ‘Jum in-Nanniet’ was established by Maltese Parliament in 2014, upon acceptance of the Foundation’s request and is now celebrated every second Sunday of October.
  3. Nanniet Malta can be contacted on (+356) 9920 7043 or (+356) 2144 7304 or by email at

For more information you may visit or contact FITA on (+356)25992048 or by email at

Related Resources


May 042017
Group photo at FITA, Gattard House, Blata l-Bajda

Group photo of 100 Mirrors project partners with FITA staff – 28th April 2017

100 Mirrors is an Erasmus project involving six EU based organisations, working on the topic of inclusive tools for the motivation of enterprising disabled women.  Representatives from the respective project partners held an info session at FITA on 28th April 2017, facilitated by AcrossLimits.

Ms Maryrose Francica, from AcrossLimits, explained that the aim of this project is to promote inclusive entrepreneurship for women with disabilities by developing a methodology based on coaching, mentoring and job shadowing of women with physical disabilities willing to become entrepreneurs.

The project deliverables shall include a needs and state of the art analysis, a number of videos and an E-book with testimonies of successful entrepreneurs affected by disability, a Guide and E-training on how to coach people with disabilities for inclusive entrepreneurship, a Manual and E-training addressed to women with disabilities.

The project enhances digital integration in learning, teaching, training and youth work at various levels by integrating open education resources (OER) in training programs and producing OER for training.  It aims to achieve this by developing the transversal skill inclusive entrepreneurship by using innovative methods based on job shadowing and coaching.  It also plans to assist with the professional development of VET teachers and trainers by providing them with effective OER.

200 mirrors portraits

Under the name of 200 Portraits are 200 hidden stories about entrepreneur women or women that have broken the glass ceiling. Stories of Mirror Women where others may be reflected.

Many of women, when talking about work, also refer to their private lives; either to point out a woman model they admire who has managed to reconcile her personal life and work; or to commit to women, without children, whose lives are dedicated to achieving professional goals, removed from any dependence. Whichever the case, to the extent that women name it, they do not detach themselves from “their” responsibility concerning maternity and caring tasks. We doubt that this subject would be mentioned so often – even for rejecting it – if men had been asked, or if they had been asked about masculine entrepreneurialism.

On the other hand, we have also seen that many of the answers associated feminine leadership with transformational leadership – coined by Bernard Bass – as the kind that is characterised by achieving extraordinary effects on satisfaction and performance by employees and that is comprehensive and sensitive to the needs of their team.

To end with, we would like to emphasise that today’s society, so needy of good leaders, cannot afford to limit access to decision-making posts for over half of the population (women), who have proven capability and are very well prepared” — The 100 Mirrors Report (

The meeting held at FITA covered the different services and initiatives being delivered by the Foundation, with a particular focus on accessibility certification and the requirements imposed by the Web Accessibility Directive that was published in December 2016.

100 Mirrors project partners are based in Spain, Poland, Greece, Latvia and Malta.  It was interesting to learn how similar issues arise across different countries and how accessibility related difficulties are tackled.  Particularly how this project is pushing back the boundaries limiting persons with disability and making use of ICT to reach out and empower said beneficiaries.   It was also very interesting to learn from the experiences of different people and discover how these organisations can support each other to reach their goals.


May 022017

Google Digital Workshop partner logos

Google is on a mission to increase digital skills, mainly for business … but not only.

Started in Leeds in March 2015, Google’s Digital Garage project was set up to help individuals and companies develop their digital presence, providing skills and training to more than 200,000 businesses over two years. That includes anything from attracting visitors to their website or social media page, to growing their customer base and increasing sales.

Google Digital Workshop 24 April 2017Launched on 24th April 2017, the Google Digital Workshop initiative for Malta, is the result of collaboration between Google, the eSkills Malta Foundation and the National Skills Council (NSC).  Their message is clear.  Whatever you sell, service or product, growing your online presence is vital in allowing potential customers to find out about your brand.  Small business typically lacks the digital skills necessary to be more productive online and sell beyond their immediate area.

The Google Garage set of topics is addressed squarely at business and also for individuals who want to expand their online digital skills.
If you are a customer, and visiting a shop, you are expected to know that shops have doors, displays to showcase products, changing rooms, cash counters etc.  Many FITA clients will also be aware of lack of accessibility, like steps, microscopic price tags, narrow walking lanes, loud music and poor signage.   The online world is not too different and the customer-business experience is very similar.  Business must know how to use online tools.  Customers should be knowledgeable as to how those tools are being used to sell things to them.  The need for accessibility online is preserved too, but that is not covered by Google’s DigitalWorkshop/Garage, so we will set aside this topic, on this occasion.

There are currently a total of 23 topics.  You may be presented with a subset of these.  This depends on the choices you make during the initial profiling exercise, that is carried out when you register.

Topic Description
1 The online opportunity The world has gone digital.
2 Build your web presence Understand your options and create an action plan to get online.
3 Your first steps in online success The web offers many ways to promote your business or yourself. Learn how all the digital channels work.
4 Connect through email Start growing your customer relationships while also converting new prospects through email marketing.
5 Get started with search Discover how they work, why they’re important, how they’ll impact your business and why they are key to your online success.
6 Get discovered with search When people search online for the things you sell, make sure you’re being found.
7 Make search work for you We’ll show you how to apply the principles to get your business noticed.
8 Be noticed with search ads Want to know how to advertise to the very people searching for what you offer?
9 Get started with analytics We’ll show you how to slice and dice data to answer real business questions, and to measure how you’re doing online.
10 Improve your search campaigns Now that you know the basics of paid search, see how to make the most of every pound you spend with smarter, more targeted ads.
11 Find success with analytics So you’ve got the basic concepts of analysing data. Now see how to apply the data to benefit your business.
12 Get noticed locally Whether you’re a bricks- and- mortar shop or a localised service, find ways to use the web to reach customers nearby.
13 Help people nearby find you online When people are out and about they rely on mobile for what they need. Learn some ways to take advantage of that unique opportunity to attract new customers.
14 Get noticed with social media There’s more to social media than liking baby photos and sharing dog pics. Discover all the cool ways you can use it for your business.
15 Deep dive into social media Now we’ll cover managing your social presence, dos and don’ts of different channels, advertising on social media, and measuring your performance.
16 Discover the possibilities of mobile Understand how to use the mobile web and apps to reach just the right customers.
17 Make mobile work for you We’ll show you how to reach more customers through mobile: from SEO to mobile search, from display ads to video.
18 Advertise on other websites Get to know display advertising: what the ads are, where they show up and how advertisers can control who’s seeing them.
19 Deep dive into display advertising Everything you need to create clever display campaigns that get you noticed and attract more customers through your doors.
20 Expand internationally Everything you need to know about going global, from research to translation to selling across borders online.
21 Make the most of video Understand the powerful possibilities of using video to reach and interact with customers and grow your business.
22 Build your online shop Everything you need to know about e-commerce and what it can do for your business.
23 Sell more online Now that you know the basics, let’s get fancy. Learn to optimise, promote and retarget your online shop.


In summary, we all stand to benefit from everyone having digital skills. Promoting great digital skills across all sections of the population, benefits everyone in tech by increasing users/clients.  If your site is doing the best it can in terms of online promotion it is going to be found much more easily by potential customers on search engines.  This obviously includes Google Search.

Google Digital Workshop Dashboard      Google Digital Workshop Lesson1

So our recommendation is, whether or not you are running a business, or are even mildly interested in what is all about, go to  and register.  It will very likely help increase your IT knowledge and help you make sense os all those online ads your are bombarded with daily.

If these courses trigger you interests and you have more queries, you can always contact the FITA helpdesk and possibly have information sessions organised purposely to help out in using this platform, especially in areas linked to accessibility.

Apr 192017

Students and lecturers from University during visit to FITAAmong the ICT Accessibility awareness activities organised by FITA, information sessions are among the most regular and effective initiatives.  Sessions are held at least monthly and address different needs and objectives depending on the specific audiences.

On 18th April, students following the course titled ‘Including Students with Visual Impairment’ from the Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning, within the University of Malta, participated in one such information session, at the ADVICE lab within FITA.

Disability studies emerged as a growing area of academic research and professional education  across  much  of  the  Western  world  in  the  1970s  and  has  continued  to expand into the 21st century. The International Year of Disabled People in 1981 raised disability  as  a  human  rights  issue  in  the  global  public  discourse.  The  rise  of  the contemporary disability movement in the latter decades of the 20th century, and the vocal demand for relevant curricula by disabled people and their allies, lent weight to the legitimacy of the new discipline.

The  growing  presence  of  disabled  people  in  society,  in  particular  their  presence  in the community following centuries of institutionalisation, has further contributed to an  awareness  of  the  responsibilities  of  educational  institutions  to  disabled  citizens. At  the  same  time,  the  limitations  of  medical  and  individual  pathology  models  of disability,  in  both  explaining  the  situation  of  disabled  people  and  enabling  their full  citizenship,  have  resulted  in  the  flowering  of  new  explanatory  paradigms such as the social model.

This approach professes that disability is induced by inflexible policies and structures that enforce stereotypes, whereby if you do not conform, you are ostracised and prevented from functioning as part of society.  Ensuring accessibility therefore reduces or removes the disability (as opposed to the impairment).  Apart from this background, FITA also delivered an overview of the Maltese disability sector, and the different disability NGOs of blind persons.  Mr. Joe Cauchi, President of ADVICE demonstrated the use of the Humanware Connect 12 Android tablet, as well as the C-Pen, which reads out typed text for people with Dyslexia and other reading difficulties.

Mr Joseph Cauchi giving demonstration to studentsDisability  studies  has impacted  on  the  research  agendas  of  many  other disciplines.  Starting with the social sciences and the humanities, disability studies has also  been  increasingly  taken  on  board  by  the  applied  sciences  such  as  architecture, design,  engineering  and,  more  recently,  medicine  and  pure  science.   In more practical terms, through the demos delivered by FITA, the students could appreciate the benefits and limitations of technology when used to circumvent accessibility related difficulties.  For example, although screen reading software is very useful when used to access the text shown on websites, it was pointed out that not all online Maltese newspapers are accessible.  Mr. Stanley Debono, FITA CEO, pointed out that while the Equal Opportunities Act (EOA) safeguards the rights of disabled persons against discrimination , it is disabled persons themselves and NGOs who must file complaints and seek to enforce this law, with the help provided by the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability.

The course being followed by the students, seeks to provide a detailed insight into the world of persons with visual impairment and will cover issues dealing with the definition of blindness, its implications for development, its effects on the family, schooling, work and community life. It specifically deals with the inclusion of students with visual impairment in ordinary schools backed by a transdisciplinary team which is the core for community based instruction.  Mr. Joseph Stafrace and Mr. Michael Debattista, who are tutors with a vision impairment, praised ADVICE and FITA for providing them with the possibility of trying out and comparing different assistive technology products.  Students could try technology first hand, learn about speech synthesis and OCR as well as appreciate how a product can prove beneficial to different individuals, depending on the way it is used or how it is combined with other products as part of a solution.

For more information please contact FITA at

Technical Sources: Australian Journal of Human Rights, 2009.  What’s so ‘critical’ about critical disability studies? by Helen Meekosha and Russell Shuttleworth


Apr 132017

Web Content Accessibility GuidelinesThe first public draft of an update to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) has been released, with an increased focus on mobile content, users with low vision, and users with cognitive and learning disabilities.

The current guidelines – WCAG 2.0 – are seen by many as a benchmark for web accessibility. WCAG 2.0 is widely used by authorities and organisations seeking to review websites, and to make and keep them accessible for users with disabilities. For example, the Society of IT Management (Socitm) uses WCAG 2.0 to test the accessibility of UK council websites in its annual Better Connected review.

The public working draft of the update, WCAG 2.1, seeks to build on the existing guidelines, adding in new recommendations for those creating and designing web content.

WCAG 2.1 is being developed by the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG), a sub-group of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). WAI is part of the much larger World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international voluntary standards community founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative at W3C, told e-Access Bulletin about some of the new measures to be included in WCAG 2.1. This includes an extension of requirements for mobile device access.

Speaking about other new measures, Brewer said: “Research, tools and awareness in the areas of accessibility for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, and for people with low vision, have been increasing in recent years, and we are updating WCAG 2.1 to reflect this.”

The next steps are for AGWG to review and respond to public feedback, and make changes for new versions of the WCAG 2.1 draft. The draft will continue to be reviewed and evolve throughout 2017, with further testing in early 2018. “The goal is to finalise [the draft WCAG 2.1] as a W3C recommendation (a web standard) by mid-2018,” Brewer said.

A longer-term ‘3.0’ update to WCAG is also being worked on by AGWG’s ‘Silver Task Force’, Brewer told e-Access Bulletin. She said: “The [Task Force] are initially focusing on improvements in terms of usability of the guidelines themselves, but may also look at expanding the scope to encompass technologies that are converging on the web, such as digital publishing or the Internet of Things. The goal is to produce a very flexible set of guidelines that can adapt even better to evolving technology and user needs.”

Speaking about W3C’s aim for organisations to begin implementing the WCAG 2.1 draft – and upcoming final version – Brewer called on all Internet users to help get the message out.  As FITA often reiterates, “There are many things that users can help with, starting with demanding that websites and APPs follow accessibility guidelines and are accessible to all.”


Public feedback on the draft officially closed on March 31 2017, but Brewer said that comments received after that will still be useful.

Feedback on the draft can be emailed to the following address: .

Read more about WCAG 2.1 at the W3C website: .

Source E-Access Bulletin: Impaired users and mobile access prioritised in new web accessibility guidelines.

Apr 112017

EU Survey logoMCST and The European Commission have asked us to disseminate the following “Youth and Young Scientists Survey”:

which will be used as part of the on-going H2020 mid-term evaluation and consultation process. This survey has been designed to understand how young people and early-stage researchers perceive certain issues and your responses will inform conversations between the European Commission and groups that represent young people and early-stage researchers.

Your input is considered to be of value for the European Commission and for this reason we urge you to participate and disseminate it with your research community using any and all channels available to you. Your responses will inform conversations between the European Commission and groups that represent young people and early-stage researchers.

Please participate today in this 10-20 minute questionnaire so as not to miss this valuable opportunity to give feedback. The survey has two parts. The first part asks about you as a respondent, the second part asks general questions about the European Union and asks concrete questions regarding your perspective on the European Union activities in research, innovation and technology issues.

This consultation will close week ending 21st April 2017.

For further details please contact