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Southport Reporter®

Edition No. 203

Date:- 29 May 2005

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ON 24 May, the North West Air Ambulance (NWAA) celebrated its 6th Anniversary as the region's only air emergency service with a special party at Hoghton Tower near Preston.

Trustees, team members, past patients, volunteers and friends of the NWAA gathered together to show their continuing support and celebrate yet another landmark birthday for the charity.

Established in 1999, the NWAA has served the North West's residential population of 7 million for 6 years, offering a vital service 7 days a week, 365
days a year, across an area of 5,500 square miles.

Each year in service marks a milestone for the NWAA, as the charity receives no mainstream funding and survives solely on the generous and kind donations made by individuals and businesses across the region. As with many businesses and services, maintenance costs for the NWAA increase and fluctuate every year and this year is no different, with the figure reaching just under a staggering £1 million.

In December 2004 the NWAA received a £500,000 residual legacy from the estate of the late Katie Caine from Thornton Cleveleys to buy a brand new state-of-the-art EC 135 helicopter, which has several advantages over the present one including a faster and more efficient service.

Lynda Brislin, charity chief executive of the NWAA comments:- "We announced at the birthday party that, once the new vehicle is delivered later this year, it will cost us an extra £500,000 to maintain. We are extremely grateful for the kindness of the people of the North West, and their continuing support is infinitely valued, now more than ever."

In 2004 the NWAA covered 829 incidents throughout the North West, and in the first 4 months of 2005 it has attended 203 incidents. Covering Cumbria, Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, the NWAA responds to incidents including those on major motorways, serious accidents including horse riding, rugby and motor cycling, serious road accidents and incidents in areas with poor and restricted road access including golf courses, fells, woods or beaches. On average the NWAA is called out 4 times a day, rising up to 10 in the summer.

For the patient, the NWAA is the fastest emergency service. Donations can be made by ringing 0800 587 4570.

BeGIN building for the future!

THE North West's premier green procurement event, 'BeGIN 2005:- Buying Green In the North West', is coming to Haydock Park Racecourse, St Helens on 28 June 2005. This year, the product showcase and seminar presentations are focusing on the construction and public sectors, reflecting the importance of the regeneration agenda in the North West. Delegates will learn how to win contracts and secure markets through green procurement and specifying recycled products.

BeGIN 2005 offers a series of free business seminars to delegates, as well as companies exhibiting a wide range of innovative recycled products. The seminars highlight the drivers, benefits and business case for buying and specifying recycled products. Presenters include the Government's Waste And Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Constructing Excellence North West.

Andrew Thomas from Constructing Excellence North West said:- "This is one of the most important events that the construction and public sectors should attend this year, building a greener and more sustainable infrastructure for the North West is top of the region's agenda, and BeGIN 2005 can help with both advice and guidance as well as examples of those who are already putting green procurement into action."

The free event has been organised by the Clean Merseyside Centre (CMC), the North West's only dedicated market development programme for recycled products and materials, through its successful Buy Recycled Programme funded by Shanks First. Sponsors of the event are Milliken Carpets, Octaveward building products and St Helens with St Helens Chamber of Commerce and the Centre of Construction Innovation NW providing further technical support

Businesses reluctant to respond to new UK only web legislation

BUSINESSES across the UK have been slow to respond to many of the implications of the government¹s Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), which aims to end the discrimination faced by many disabled people in relation to access. Although access to a business physical premises is being placed at the top of the agenda, many are ignoring the more ethereal aspects of accessing a business, like its website. Businesses are not only excluding potential customers but are not complying with the law.

If a business does not ensure that its website is accessible to all, it is excluding a large percentage of potential customers. The buying power of UK users with disabilities amounts to an estimated £45bn a year a significant market that businesses trading online cannot afford to ignore.

Website accessibility is currently a very subjective issue, however it is soon to be formalised by a new British Standard requiring websites to incorporate specific features to ensure that they are accessible to ALL users. It is not only those with registered disabilities but also people with slow connections, who do not have sound card, are dyslexic, have numeracy difficulties or are simply not web savvy who could be missing out on the full impact and functionality of a site. In simple terms, businesses risk not being able to optimise their online presence, and the implications of not catering for all needs are potentially damaging.

Measures to counteract this and raise the levels of accessibility of a website can be as simple as increasing the font size, changing the typeface or colour of the background, or could involve a more detailed overhaul. Dean Russell, Client Services Director of website designers and accessibility experts, iConcertina Creative, explains:- "Businesses need to be aware of how different audiences with different needs, consume information online. The overall concept behind accessibility is choice giving users the opportunity to adjust and adapt sites and choose the setting to fit with to their specific needs. This can often be achieved through common sense but does need to be addressed."

Dean Russell, who has recently been appointed to the BSI review board for the accessibility standard, continues:- "Website accessibility is far more than just a commercial concern. It is a legal and moral issue as well. With Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) rising to the top of the agenda for businesses of all sizes, it is unthinkable for example that someone with a disability would not be able to make an online job application or access certain pages of their company's intranet."

There are legal issues too. The DDA includes a code of practice, which was added in 2002, stating that websites must be compliant. A range of guidelines have been laid down since then in various guises but the imminent British Standard will give a definitive point of reference and will be used in courts of law should a dispute arise. The UK is one of the first countries to create such a standard, which should do much to demystify accessibility and address fears surrounding it. 

Dean continues:- "It is the responsibility of the web designers and developers to ensure that all sites developed from now on incorporate user-centric design and comply with the accessibility requirements. It is a misconception that ensuring the accessibility of a site needs to impact negatively on its design and integrity."

For existing sites, an accessibility healthcheck service is a quick and easy way to evaluate accessibility according to an index and the forthcoming British Standard review board's Publicly Available Specification (PAS) Guide to good practice in designing accessible websites will help with this.

To date, agreeing to undergo an accessibility audit on a site has been perceived by businesses to be a costly exercise and in some cases justifiably so. Now however, with companies such as iConcertina Creative using technical expertise and remote resources in offshore locations such as Bulgaria, costs can be dramatically reduced while ensuring that quality service levels are maintained. A retrofit does not have to be painful and the cost implications for accessibility are far from prohibitive, particularly compared to potential lost revenue and possible legal claims resulting from ignoring such an important issue. As Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web, is quoted as saying:- "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."

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