Thursday, 24th February 2000
At the beginning of the first day of the meeting, Mrs. Anna Fragkou, the Director of the Library of UOM, welcomed the partners to the University. Starting from her, all participants introduced themselves. Mrs. Despoina Karachlani from PEC reported briefly to the background of ACCELERATE project and its basic skeleton according to the proposal approved by the Leonardo da Vinci programme. She presented the different ACTIONS scheduled the role of each partner. Coordinating the discussion, she asked the partners to present their organizations and the special activities they run to provide access to library services and reading to the blind users.
Then, the ACTIONS: 1, 2, 3 & 5 of the project analyzed by each partner responsible indicating the objectives, the method of work, the implementation structure and the outputs. In between, there was time for open discussion amongst the partners where ideas and questions put down and decisions were taken.
ACTION 1: Installment of an adaptive workstation for the visually impaired readers at the Library of the University of Macedonia
The presentation of ACTION 1 and the discussion taken place amongst the partners concluded that the Library of UOM will proceed about the workstation to the steps:
- There is electronic cataloguing system in the Library using z39.50 protocol and there are on-line workstations already installed for the students and rest users
- Equipment purchase: UOM will conduct a market research for the hardware and software applications provided in readable formats in English versions/ Greek versions
- Encoding Greek Braille: what is it available, is there any prototype?
- To check the accessibility of the available Internet sites -in Greek language- of general and specific interest
- Checking the accessibility and transformation of the full text Internet sites
- Tracing the willingness of the tutorial staff of UOM to provide their teaching material in digital format for the blind students to read
ACTION 2: Installment of an adaptive workstation for the blind users at the Library of the University of Cyprus - UCY & CYL
- PEC distributed two copies of the TESTLAB Deliverable D 7.2.: Costed Feasibility Analysis of an area without services in the field of public library access by the visually impaired users.
- Equipment: Mr. Philippos Tsimpoglou referred to that there is of course electronic cataloguing system using z39.50 protocol. There are already on-line workstations for the students and rest users of the Library. Although they do not get the amount of grants requested the adaptive workstation will be installed on their own contribution.
- Having contacted the School for the Blind in Nicosia, they underlined that there is adaptive equipment at high level operating at the School.
- In order to purchase the adaptive equipment -except checking and advising with the Library of the UOM- the partners proposed to keep contact and cooperate with the School for the Blind.
Bruno Sperl from the Library of the University of Graz (UG) suggested to both Libraries of UOM and UCY to point a person from the library staff who should be responsible to deal with the visually impaired clients from the very beginning of this development. According to his experience, he said, the visually impaired client needs to refer to "standards" in any situation. It will surely make things easier for the visually impaired user to be aware from the beginning of the person who could be found at the reception -for example- and be able to address a question, ask for service or help.
ACTION 3: Training package for the librarians - Library of the University of Graz
Mr. Bruno Sperl from the Library of the UG presented an initial seminar of 2,5 days for the introduction of the librarians in the training issues dealing with the new service to be provided to the visually impaired clients. The topics of the training course are focused on the operation of the adaptive workstation for the blind users: access, catalogue search, Internet use.
Next, we skipped ACTION 4 going to the presentation of the Evaluation activity of the project outputs. ACTION 4: Training package for the users - University of Linz / Institute of Computer Science was scheduled for the second day in order to have more time available.
ACTION 5: Evaluation of the adaptive workstations - CGL
(Maarten Verboom proposed to put a number also to this Action, so Popi Sourmaidou said to give it the number 5 and make ACTION 6: Dissemination activities.)
Mr. Maarten Verboom from CGL explained that in this action the use of the workstations with adaptive equipment at the libraries of the University of Macedonia and the University of Cyprus will be evaluated. The evaluation will be based on the experiences and attitudes of the visually impaired users of the workstations. Also the experiences of the library-staff will be taken into account.
To be able to measure the experiences and attitudes of the users a questionnaire will be constructed. This will be based on the validated questionnaire which has been used in the TESTLAB-project to evaluate the use of similar workstations in different European countries.
A model of the questionnaire was distributed to all partners in order to make comments and discuss it thoroughly at the last day of the meeting after all actions have been performed and agreed.
Friday, 25th February 2000
The first half of the day was dedicated to the Open Information Day that the UOM held to launch ACCELERATE project to the public and media. There were interviews given to many newspapers, local radio stations and a local TV channel.
The Rector of the University, Mr. Michalis Hatziprokopiou greeted the official start of the project and welcomed the partners and the invited attendees of the 1st (kick-off) meeting of ACCELERATE. He stressed that the University is sensitized towards the needs of the students with disabilities. In the UOM, there is already a School for Teachers of Special Education. Now, the Library is innovating as it will be the first Greek University Library to develop access for the blind or with visual problem students.
Next, Mrs. Anna Fragkou, Director of the Library of the University of Macedonia announced that the library will provide this new service: library system access to the visually impaired students and researchers mainly by installing a special workstation with adaptive equipment like: braille display, speech synthesizer, scanner, OCR reader software, software magnification.
Mr. Maarten Verboom from CGL and Mrs. Despoina Karachlani from PEC (both partners of TESTLAB project -ancestor of ACCELERATE) continued, making a short flash-back to TESTLAB project to trace the connection between the two.
TESTLAB was focused on testing systems using telematics for library access for the visually impaired users. ACCELERATE is standing as a follow-up project since it is going to apply up to a point the results and outputs delivered by TESTLAB/ Greek Work Package which delivered a Cost Feasibility Analysis of Thessaloniki: an area without services in the field of public library access providing to the visually impaired readers.
Most important conclusion through TESTLAB for the Greek case: no one Municipal, Public or University Library in Thessaloniki (not even in Greece) is providing access to the visually impaired readers. Through this new pilot project, in the Library of the UOM, there will be a first pilot installation of an adaptive workstation for the blind.
Mrs. Popi Sourmaidou from PEC followed, indicating the basic objectives of ACCELERATE project and the basic ACTIONS to be implemented. Then, the project partners described in a few words their organizations and role in the project.
ACTION 1: Extension of the library services of the University of Macedonia to the visually impaired users, partner responsible
ACTION 2: Extension of library services of the Library of the University of Cyprus to the visually impaired users, with the support of the National Cyprus Library
ACTION 3: Production of the Training Package "Train the trainers" (UG)
ACTION 4: Production of a Training Package "Train the users" (UL)
ACTION 5: Evaluation of the workstations (CGL)
ACTION 6. Dissemination activities (PEC)
Mr. Giorgos Mitropoulos, President of the Local Union of Central Macedonia of the Panhellenic Association of Blind (PAB) thanked deeply the UOM and the partner organizations for their efforts, time and money will be spent to provide them the precious service of accessing a modern scientific library. He committed that since the Administrative Council of the body is new and the members mostly young, they will activate
Mrs. Christina Blavaki, blind student from the Applied Informatics Department on behalf of the visually impaired users expressed her own experience. She said that for first time two blind students entered the studies of the Applied Informatics Department. Of course, she has never visited the Library -or any other Library- since there was no point.
There still a number of queries to be solved before anyone can say that the material is also accessible by the blind users. For example, the material of her classes in mathematics, computer analysis, etc. are not only texts. There is always problem in accessing graphics. Nevertheless, Christina committed that the students will continue their efforts and they are certainly looking forward to this positive development in the field of knowledge, technology and understanding for the blind people.
At the end of the Open Information Day, Mr. Mario Batusic (blind user himself) made a presentation of the adaptive equipment he was using on his computer to the blind users and sighted people who were present and interested in "seeing" (and listening).
Continuance of the partners technical meeting
At the second half of the day the partners continued the technical meeting.
ACTION 4: Training package for the users
It was Mr. Mario Batusic from University of Linz who presented in detail Action 4. Then, all partners cooperated in order to make the training proposed for the blind users feasible according to the Greek situation.
Mario Batusic committed that the University of Linz will see forward to work on the development of software applications integrating the Greek computer attributes into accessible formats and therefore ease the computer use for the visually impaired.
Saturday, 26th February 2000
On the last day of the technical meeting, Polyplano Euroconsultants referred to the administrative and financial issues of the project according to the rules of the Leonardo da Vinci Programme. They made a brief flash-back to the reduction of amount of grants given to Cyprus, who increased their own contribution to cover the gap and be able to implement the project activities. All other budget had no change.
Then they gave information about the present stage of the contractualization procedure which was in progress. They reported that first advance of grants (70% of the total) will be due and received by the UOM after the signing of the contract with the European Commission. The contract was due in March 2000 and therefore we all should wait for grants till May 2000. Afterwards the UOM will issue the Private Agreements to be signed between them and each one of the partners.
About the internal project management, there will a Management Report (MR) and a Financial Report (FR) every 3 months. Plus, all partners and persons working for ACCELERATE have to keep the records of their time spent for ACCELERATE tasks. The Time Recording Sheets will be submitted within the Final Report of the project to the European Commission.
Popi Sourmaidou distributed a copy of the instructions of the Management and Financial Handbook edited by the Leonardo da Vinci Unit, suggesting all partners to have a thorough look. Any relevant issues or queries might be solved or at least explained through these pages.
Finally, the partners agreed on the dates of the two next PMC and Technical meetings to be held:
- the 2nd in Graz: June 2000, 14-16 and
- the 3rd in Linz: October 2000, 12-14.
About ACTION 6: Dissemination activities, Polyplano Euroconsultants reported that two different types of brochures will be printed for the promotion of ACCELERATE. The one -already done- launches of the project giving the basic information- and the second will be issued after the installation was over and the Libraries ready to receive and serve the visually impaired users.
The UOM will also design a special electronic page on the web promoting the project initially based on the page of the UOM. Mr. Thanassis Taramopoulos will be the person responsible for the page: design, update, run, links. The site will be updated according to the progress of the project. All partners agreed to provide input and material for the www page, starting from their logo and links.
The second topic of the day was to conclude to the model of questionnaire to be used for the evaluation of the adaptive workstations to be installed at the Library of UOM and UCY. The TESTLAB-questionnaire was used as a reference and discussed. The partners made suggestions and remarks which will be incorporated in the ACCELERATE-questionnaire. CGL is responsible for the construction of the questionnaire in English. Polyplano Euroconsultants will take care of a Greek translation
Maarten Verboom CGL analysed the evaluation procedure based on different questionnaires addressed to the blind users of the adaptive workstation.
- For the evaluation three measurements will be made. A zero measurement is meant to make an inventory of the users of the workstations,
- The first evaluation measurement will measure the evaluation of the workstations shortly after the first training and introduction to the workstation.
- The second evaluation measurement will take place towards the end of the project.
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