Sep 182012
 

Last June Ms Christa Agius was one of five BSc ICT University students who won the ICT Accessibility Awards competition 2012 organised by FITA.   As part of the awards, she was engaged in a brief work experience, wherein amongst other tasks, she helped develop the new National Commission Persons with Disability (KNPD) website.  Prizes also included training vouchers meant to augment the participant’s ICT skills.

The new KNPD website was vetted for accessibility by FITA and observes design guidelines chosen by KNPD.  The new site is already online and the public are being invited to forward their suggestions regarding the site’s functionality to KNPD at helpdesk@knpd.org

Ms Agius also helped with the 121 Mentoring scheme run by FITA which is now accepting user requests for volunteer ICT mentor assistance.  More information about this new FITA initiative is available here.

 

 

Sep 132012
 

On 13th September, FITA organised an Information Seminar as part of the Maltese Speech Engine ERDF114 project. at the Corinthia Palace Hotel in Balzan.   A total of 86 people  attended the event, including representatives from MITC, MITA and KNPD as well as many project partners, industry representatives, disability NGOs, and educators.

Following a brief introduction of ERDF114 by Mr. Stanley M. Debono, Mr. Matthew Gatt, CEO of MITA who also represented Dr. Godwin Grima, Chairman of FITA, spoke about the importance of properly managing resources in order to successfully implement tangible objectives and achieve the targets set at the outset of such demanding projects.  Both Mr. Gatt and Mr. Joseph M. Camilleri, Chairman of KNPD, congratulated the small FITA team on consistently managing to work so effectively with other project partners and contractors like Crimsonwing Malta Plc and Fsadni & Associates.  Mr. Camilleri encouraged FITA to continue to build upon its achievements and seek funding for future speech recognition projects.

Mr. Roger Davies-Barrett delivered a demo of the  Maltese Speech Engine (MSE) and thanked Crimsonwing Plc and the many software evaluators, including educators, speech therapists and disabled persons, who volunteered their support in the delopment of the MSE.  Mr. Debono explained that following the speech engine’s release on 26th June, it is now up to end users to make the best use of FITA’s helpdesk services, and report their user experience including any issues they encounter with its deployment .  Mr. Debono added that many students and researchers will also stand to benefit from the less publicised electronic Lexicon which is part of the ERDF114 project deliverables.

The presentations by Mr. Carmel Gafa and Mr. Colin Vella from Crimsonwing Plc and Ms Veronica Montanaro from the Speech and Language Pathology Department proved to be very important in outlining just how the Maltese Speech Synthesiser works and how it can best interact with existing products for the benefit of end users, including disabled persons, preliterate/illiterate students and anyone seeking to learn Maltese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The presentations were followed by three workshops focusing on Literacy, Accessibility and Communication.  A number of participants came specifically for these workshops and many expressed their interest in implementing the MSE across their own area of work.

Literacy

The literacy workshop headed by Mr. Joseph M. Caruana, included nine participants. The workshop reviewed the use of speech enabled technology across different software products, including educational games, phone based services and websites. Relevant feedback was collected regarding the use of speech enabled eBooks and literacy software.

Communication

The communication workshop was attended primarily by teachers and speech therapists, who seek to add Maltese speech enabled products to their educational aids.  Discussions covered products like The Grid2 and Clicker 6 which are already available in the market place, which when combined with the  MSE can better address the needs of students and clients, who’s first language is Maltese. This workshop was run by Mr. Roger Davies-Barrett and involved ten participants and a number of Crimsonwing developers who readily provided their support in addressing software issues.

Accessibility

The accessibility workshop addressed the queries of four participants who were physically present, and five more who could not be present, but submitted their queries electronically. Mr Michael Micallef ran this workshop, which included online demonstrations of the Maltese Speech Synthesiser in conjunction with screen reading software and other assistive technology.  Electronic services, processing of PDF documents and operation of the most common speech enabled products were covered as part of this workshop.

 

For copies of the presentations and information pack please  visit the ERDF114 pages on the FITA website.
The MSE demo can be downloaded from www.maltesespeech.com


Sep 112012
 
The FITA Maltese Speech Engine (MSE) originally developed by FITA in collaboration with Crimsonwing Malta and co-funded (85%) EU ERDF funding and (15%) National funding has already migrated from MS WIndows to other platforms!
In the upcoming seminar on 13th September we will cover the FITA ebooks projects and other early derivatives of the MSE project.

The MS Windows version of the MSE has been available for free download from the FITA website and www.maltesespeech.com since 26th June 2012.  This version will work with many speech enabled educational games, screen readers like Window Eyes, NVDA and JAWS and communication software like Clicker 5 and the Grid 2.  The project delivrables also include an electronic lexicon which can form the basis for further research, including Maltese speech recognition.

Now, just days since its launch, a free Maltese language text-to-speech app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch has classified as the top free app in Apple’s App Store.   Developed by Crimsonwing, the iSpeakMaltese app is the first of its kind for the Maltese language and has already been downloaded more than 1,000 2000 times since its launch on the Apple Store.

The new app, called iSpeakMaltese,  lets users key in short paragraphs of Maltese text to render into speech in three different voices.  It has a bilingual interface – English and Maltese – and keeps a record of input text for easy re-use.

Read more: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20120902/business-news/First-Maltese-text-to-speech-app-for-Apple-devices.435339#.UE7j0Zy0pIs.facebook

Sep 062012
 

FITA Seminar - 13 September


Information Seminar
ERDF 114 Maltese Text to Speech Synthesis

Date:
Thursday,13th September 2012
Time:
09:30am till noon
Venue: Chameleon Suite, Corinthia Hotel, Balzan


Agenda

09:30

Registration

09:45

Welcome Note

Stanley M Debono (CEO, FITA)

09:50

Keynote Speech

Mr Mathew Gatt (CEO, MITA)

10:00

Association of KNPD and FITA

Mr. Joseph Camilleri (Chairperson, KNPD)

10:05

ERDF114: Implementation and Potential Applications

Mr. Stanley M Debono (CEO, FITA) and Mr. Roger Davies Barrett (FITA)

10:15

ERDF114: Software Development

Mr. Carmel Gafa and Mr. Colin Vella (Crimsonwing)

10:30

Speech Enabled Access to Technology and Services

Ms. Veronica Montanaro (Speech and Language Department)

10:45

Coffee Break

11:00

Workshops

11:45

Review and Conclusion

RSVP by Tuesday, 11th September 2012
Tel: 2599 2178 or email: roger.davies-barrett@gov.mt

 Posted by at 11:14 am
Aug 132012
 

The Foundation for Information Technology Accessibility (FITA) has released software that helps people with a visual impairment or literacy difficulties, to listen the time of day in Maltese, using their  PC.

Apart from being able to say the time upon user request, it can also be set to say the time at regular intervals. This is one of the first software which uses the Maltese Speech engine in order to pronounce text in the Maltese language.

The software which runs under Windows XP can be downloaded in either of two versions.  One simpler version says the time, whilst a slightly enhanced version can output the date as well.

The Maltese Speech Engine is freely downloadable at www.maltesespeech.com

The Maltese Speech Engine is a product of FITA’s ERDF 114 project (http://www.fitamalta.eu/projects/maltese-speech-engine-synthesis-erdf-114)

For more information please contact Mr. Joseph M Caruana on (356) 2599 2343 or via email at info@fitamalta.eu

Jul 282012
 

Today, the Foundation for Information Technology Accessibility held an information session for volunteer mentors.  This activity inaugurates the commencement of the One To One Mentoring ICT services (121M). announced under the Memorandum of Understanding signed by FITA, MITC and KNPD in 2011.

Stanley Debono,  FITA’s CEO outlined the operations framework supporting this initiative.  The activity emphasised the importance of being able to reach out to disabled persons, who for different reasons, may still be unable to avail of other ICT related training, whether it is directly from FITA or other commercial service providers supported by FITA.

When replying to the volunteers’ questions, Mr. Debono stressed that the service is strictly available to individuals who may not avail of FITA’s other ICT training services, and is not intended to replace technical ICT support.  He added,  that some individuals need focused guidance in order to familiarise themselves with ICT and this service is a step in the right direction.

The presentation and supporting material is available under the 121M section on the FITA website.

Jul 252012
 

ICT Training Certification Ceremony 24th July 2012

65 students successfully end training in ICT

Yesterday, the Foundation for IT Accessibility (FITA) held its annual ICT Training Certification Ceremony in which 65 students with intellectual and/or communication difficulties were awarded with a certificate of attendance after successfully finishing one of the ICT training courses organised by the Foundation.  The event, presided by Hon Dolores Cristina, Minister for Education and Employment, marked the closure of the 2011-2012 ICT course sessions.

Mr. Matthew Gatt, CEO of MITA who also represented Dr. Godwin Grima as Chairman of FITA, congratulated FITA and all its partner organisations on the growing number of students attending these courses.

FITA ICT training course sessions were held between October 2011 and July 2012 at the Maltese College for Arts Science and Technology (MCAST) ICT Institute, St. Theresa School Girls College, Access at Birgu and Santa Marta day centre in Gozo.

The course held in Gozo was organised with the help of the Santa Marta day centre who provided the premises and the Ministry for Gozo who funded the training services.  FITA coordinated the courses together with the Gozo Association of Persons with Disability.  Courses held in Malta continue to be organised in collaboration with MCAST, the Directorate for Life Long Learning, and the ACCESS Centre in Birgu.

Hon. Minister Cristina encouraged all participants to progress with their studies and said that lifelong learning is more important than ever.  The Minister also announced that in the coming weeks, the Directorate for Life Long Learning will be launching even more new training opportunities.

A total of 83 students applied for FITA courses, and 65 certificates of attendance were awarded in total.  Another certificate presentation activity will shortly be held in Gozo.    16 students sat for the ECDL examination so far this year and all of them passed, some of them with full marks.  “This augured very well for the students” commented Mr. Mario Pace, Acting Director at the MCAST ICT Institute.  Students are now more familiar with ICT and having learnt more about the possibilities provided by ICT, they are interested in furthering their studies through MCAST.

Mr. Stanley M. Debono, CEO of FITA, explained how the Foundation is not only delivering targeted ICT training for persons with an intellectual impairment, geared towards recognised certification standards, but in the process it is also actively empowering disabled employees by providing them with the necessary skills and experiences to contribute to the goals of the organisation.

Mr. Leone Sciberras, services clerk at FITA stated that, “persons with disabilities face barriers of all types. However, technology is helping to remove many obstacles.  By using ICT for common tasks such as reading and writing documents, communicating with others, and searching for information on the Internet, employees or students with different disabilities are increasingly able to handle a wider array of activities and work independently.”

Applications for future FITA courses commencing in October are already open.  For more information, contact FITA on 25992343 or info@fitamalta.eu or visit www.fitamalta.eu

 

Jul 252012
 

Maltese Text to Speech Synthesis

Call For Quotations for Publicity Services (ERDF 114)

(Download supporting documentation)

This project is co-funded under the European Regional Development Fund and national funds of Malta. The project has developed a Maltese Speech Engine (MSE) that allows all users and application developers to convert electronic Maltese text to speech audio output.

1)      Publicity Requirements

The provision of a number of publicity services intended to promote and publicise the project amongst the general public in accordance with the publicity guidelines as stipulated by the Planning and Priorities Division (PPCD), Office of the Prime Minister, which is the Managing Authority (MA) for EU Structural Funds in Malta.

2)     Financial Requirements

a)      Quotations must be submitted in Euros, inclusive of VAT.  All costs items must be listed and quoted for separately.

b)      The maximum budget allocated to this quotation is Euros €1927

3)     Description of Services

a)      Promotion of MSE modules amongst the general public, via the publication of a number of adverts in local newspapers /online resources inlcuding social networking sites.

b)      Promotion of MSE modules via the design and printing of a respective brochure promoting the different MSE modules (two distinct brochures focusing on different modules but not excluding cross-references), as agreed upon with FITA.

c)      The organisation of a Product Launch Ceremony (to be held in September 2012), at an accessible venue, agreed upon by FITA.  Organisation tasks include: Venue and basic catering (coffee break). The venue must be accessible or be made accessible by the time the event takes place.

d)     A suitable venue for (3c) to seat 200 persons

Bidders may wish to differentiate themselves by identifying additional related merchandise, which they can provide.  In all cases, cost items must be identified individually, in order not to penalise any one bid.

Terms and Conditions

i)        Offers catering for one or more deliverables amongst items 3a, 3b, 3c 3d will still be considered.

ii)      Cost items must be identified individually. FITA reserves the right to opt for part of the offer submitted as long as its cost remains clearly identifiable.

iii)    FITA reserves the right to reject even the most advantageous offers.

iv)    Download the complete call for quotations, including checklist of submitted deliverables here.

v)     All quotations to be sent to FITA, Gattard House, National Road, Blata l-Bajda, Hamrun. HMR9010

vi)    Tender for quotations closes 12:00 midday on Thursday August 16th 2012

Jun 262012
 

The official launch of the Maltese Speech Engine has been postponed by the Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport and Communications (MITC).

Should you wish to preview the Maltese Speech Engine you can already download it from FITA’s website at www.fitamalta.eu

We apologise for any inconvenience.

Jun 132012
 

The UK’s leading charity supporting blind and partially sighted people RNIB is investigating whether people in the UK might be able to join a US class action against the Walt Disney Company for the alleged inaccessibility of its websites, E-Access Bulletin has learned.

On 29 June 2011, California district judge Dolly Gee gave permission for three blind women – two from Southern California and one from Wichita, Kansas – to proceed with a class action against Disney alleging the company’s websites unlawfully include information which is visible to sighted users but not to screen reader programs, as well as options which are inaccessible to blind people such as the ability to make reservations and download electronic tickets.

Web accessibility is just one of five main areas of complaint being brought in the case, with others including issues in the theme parks themselves such as a lack of Braille maps. The plaintiffs are not seeking money damages, simply an injunction requiring Disney to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act by making its services accessible.

In her ruling judge Gee rejected as irrelevant arguments by Disney that the women could have accessed the same services and information elsewhere, and also rejected arguments that “there is no accepted accessibility standard”. In dismissing the latter argument she pointed out that nearly three years ago — “presumably when website  accessibility standards were even less settled” – a similar action was allowed to proceed against the US retailer Target for alleged accessibility problems with its website Target.com

Whatever happens, the fact that a company with such a high profile worldwide is being sued anywhere is bound to have an effect on corporate behaviour and lobby campaigns elsewhere.

“The Target case got more publicity probably among IT professionals than it necessarily did among blind people, but this case is more likely to raise the profile of access issues with those responsible for services and websites around the world, which can only be a good thing wherever you are.”

Disney is connected with a huge range of public-facing websites including sites for media partners ESPN and the ABC television network.

Source:

E-Access Bulletin

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