Access To Technology For All, Regardless Of Ability
- ISSUE 173, November/December 2014.
A Headstar Publication.
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++Section One: News.
+01: "Embedded Outreach" Key To Digital Inclusion, Conference Hears
Digital inclusion projects must work with community and voluntary sector bodies if the UK is to ensure people with disabilities engage with the digital world, a national conference has heard.
The call was made by Jude Palmer, managing director of Digital Outreach, a social enterprise formed in 2007 by three organisations - Community Service Volunteers, Age UK and CEL Group - to run outreach work for the UK's digital TV switchover.
Research at the time from lead TV switchover body Digital UK found there was a group of about 20% of the population who would not naturally engage with a major mainstream publicity campaign, Palmer told delegates at November's digital inclusion conference hosted by non-profit Tinder Foundation.
These included older people, people with a disability and those for whom English is not their first language, all of whom can be socially isolated, she said.
"A lot of people found the switchover daunting, because TV for a lot of people is their main connection out into society", Palmer said. "They were putting their head in the sand, saying 'it's technical, it's not for me, why do I need to change? I'm perfectly OK as I am'. So a lot of this resonates with why people have not got online yet."
The key to developing a successful strategy to reaching people in these groups was to work with and through voluntary and community groups who are already interacting with and trusted by them, she said.
Palmer said the nature of "embedded outreach" was "about people hearing messages from the person they see every week, every day: finding that one person and that one organisation that they do trust and interact with.
"We often describe it as 'knitting' - we were able to knit organisations together so you can cut across geographical barriers, social groups. You need to ask - how can you develop relationships with local voluntary and community groups?"
Once the right groups have been found, it is important for digital inclusion groups to strike the right balance between passing them consistent materials to fit their own messages, and allowing the trusted intermediaries to remain in control, she said.
"It is about making sure you work consistently with every organisation so key messaging is cascaded down, and people are signposted consistently for where they can get further help.
But at the same time once you hand over the framework, [you must] leave it to the organisation to deliver that. What we find with embedded outreach is there needs to be an investment from those organisations as well, and that is a really big ask."
In the course of its work, Digital Outreach was asked to run a trial project in the North West of England to see how its embedded outreach model for digital TV might work for broader digital inclusion, and the results strongly supported the concept, Palmer said.
Overall, research found that some 77% of people reacted positively to online training if it was led by someone they knew, compared with only 17% reacting positively to a session led by someone they did not know.
NOTE: Comment on this story now, on EAB Live:
+02: Low-Cost Eye Gaze Tech Shortlisted For Education Award
A low-cost eye gaze computer controller for schoolchildren is among technologies shortlisted for the 2015 Bett Awards for educational ICT (
The shortlist was announced this month by i2i Events, organisers of the annual London Bett conference, with the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).
Inclusive EyeGaze Foundations combines myGaze eye tracker hardware from German firm Visual Interaction with Eye Gaze Attention & Looking software from accessible early learning software specialists Inclusive Technology. It is portable, and works with any Windows computer.
Students can learn to track, fix their gaze and interact with images on screen. The system also allows real-time recording of students' progress, so teachers can review where they looked and for how long using line trace, video and heat maps.
Sandra Thistlethwaite, specialist speech and language therapist at Inclusive Technology, told E-Access Bulletin the system's cost of just under £1,000 was less than a tenth of the average previous cost of similar technologies, opening up new possibilities for eye gaze ICT in schools.
"Traditionally, devices have cost more than £10,000 so they have not been in the reaches of most schools, and you had to go through individual funding streams", Thistlethwaite said. "So we have been working hard to get units up at a reasonable price that can be afforded by a much wider range of schools and pupils.
"We had already identified those with a physical need for eye gaze but this is now giving us the insight into how we interact with and teach pupils with more profound and complex needs, where we are not sure about their cognitive skills, or what they can understand from what they see on screen."
It is possible that as much as 10%-20% of the UK special school population could experience some benefit from using eye-gaze technology, she said. "I was talking to a special school in the North East this morning with 120 pupils which has 20 pupils now using eye gaze and possibly more in the pipeline."
Plans for future developments include more sophisticated learning analytics, with systems that can help users through a learning progression and return more detailed data on their work to teachers and therapists, Thistlethwaite said.
The seven other finalists in the Bett Awards special educational needs category are the Clicker Books literacy app for primary school children, from Crick Software; ReadingWise English literacy software from IdeasWise; the Dynamo Profiler online dyscalculia assessor from JellyJames Publishing; Forbrain, an auditory feedback headset for speech improvement, from Sound For Life; Read&Write literacy support software from Texthelp; Predictable, a text-based augmentative communication app, from Therapy Box; and Exam Pen, a scanner and assistive reader to help students with reading difficulties such as dyslexia take exams independently, from WizCom Tech.
Winners will be announced in January 2015.
NOTE: Comment on this story now, on EAB Live:
+03: Online Resource To Boost Access To Elections And Politics
An online resource to boost access to elections and politics by people with disabilities is to be launched next month by the International Foundation For Electoral Systems (IFES), a non-profit based in Washington DC, E-Access Bulletin has learned.
IFES works internationally to promote access to democracy by all groups including people with disabilities, with funding largely from government agencies in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Its work is aimed at many groups including governments, election management agencies, civil society groups, academics, lawyers, disability groups and people with disabilities.
The new online resource will be based on an overhaul of the foundation's website ElectionAccess.org (
IFES access and inclusion specialist Virginia Atkinson told E-Access Bulletin.
It will include an introduction to disability rights aimed at election management bodies and observer groups, giving examples of inclusive practice such as accessible voter education
"In many countries they don't think at all about access to elections for people for disabilities", Atkinson said. "Or maybe they build a wheelchair ramp, but they don't think about other issues such as accessible voter education, websites or voting machines."
Materials will include good practice examples such as YouTube videos, images or brochures and posters from other countries, as well as excerpts from relevant laws on election access.
"We are hoping the website will be used as an advocacy tool to create peer pressure, and help change discriminatory laws", she said. "It will be the only site where all this information is collected in one place."
Other aspects of the foundation's current disability rights work includes a major project in South East Asia working with international teams of election observers, Atkinson said. "Many observer teams do not include people with disabilities, and then don't include questions relating to disability access in their work", she said.
NOTE: Comment on this story now, on EAB Live:
++News in Brief:
+04: Future Inclusion:
A contract to help 200,000 people in the "hardest-to-reach" social groups in England, including disabled people, to gain basic digital skills has been awarded to Tinder Foundation. The "Future Digital Inclusion" programme will be run in 2014-15 through the established network of UK online centres in community locations such as libraries and voluntary groups, with funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Learners will be supported through Tinder Foundation's learning platform, Learn My Way to gain web skills such as email, safety, job searching, and transacting. More than 750 "digital champion" volunteers will be trained to support delivery in local communities:
Short link: http://bit.ly/14NUQOp
+05: Innovation Reward:
A £400,000 competition to inspire people to develop innovative technologies helping people with disabilities has been launched by the UK government with innovation charity Nesta. The Accessible Technology Prize money is to be distributed between two shortlists of 25 and then 10 ideas to help them develop, before the final winner is announced in 2016 to receive a further £50,000:
Short link: http://bit.ly/1u2YtuY
Full link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/entrepreneurs-encouraged-to-tap-into-creative-accessible-technologies-market
+06: Work Detail:
A web portal to help US employers adopt and use accessible workplace technology has been launched by the Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT), a division of the US Office of Disability Employment Policy. PEATworks.org contains resources, tools and articles, including legal obligations and a step-by-step guide on implementing and testing a range of accessible technologies in the workplace:
[Section One ends].
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++Section Two: Viewpoint
- Web accessibility.
+07: Embedding Inclusion
by Jonathan Hassell.
Most organizations are either oblivious to, or terrified about, web accessibility.
They are probably aware that up to 20% of their customers - people with disabilities - could be clicking away from their websites, or leaving their mobile apps every day without having bought anything or found the information or service they wished to find.
They may have even heard from one of this 20%, complaining about problems they can't reproduce, talking about 'assistive technologies' they don't understand, and asking for what seem like impossible fixes.
They know there is the possibility of being sued if they don't do the right thing, but they don't know how far they need to go to prevent that. So if they do make something 'accessible', it's usually only for one product, or one version of a product.
If this sounds anything like the place where you work, I have some comforting news: you are not alone.
I learned directly where I believe most organizations want to be from the heads of diversity and inclusion of the top blue-chip corporations in Europe at a meeting of the Vanguard Network in 2011. Here, the event's chairwoman spent a whole hour asking each of the delegates what one thing would really make a difference to their organization's inclusion practices, if they could achieve it. When delegates were asked to vote for which contribution they felt was the most important, the following was the unanimous choice: "What I want is to strategically embed inclusion into my organization's culture and business-as-usual processes, rather than just doing another inclusion project."
I spent much of my time subsequently conveying the following to the people in the room:
That they could implement a strategy that would allow them to attract and keep that 20% of their audience who are disabled, while not detracting from the user experience of those who aren't.
That there was a way they could sleep soundly, knowing that they'd done enough to cover their 'accessibility risk', but without costing the earth.
That, through following a simple, strategic business-aligned framework, they could embed the best practice necessary to consistently achieve these aims throughout their organization.
And that all of this work could also benefit their organization in their bottom line, as benchmarked analytics show how disabled people's increased use of their sites increases their turnover and profits.
What did I have that could take them from their position of pain to the place they all wanted to be? The answer is British Standard BS 8878:2010, Web Accessibility - Code of Practice.
It's not the catchiest title in the world, but BS 8878 opens up in detail the strategies, policies and processes that award-winning, best-of-breed organizations like the BBC, IBM, Vodafone, Opera, BT and Lloyds Banking Group have used to become 'accessibility competent and confident', so that they can be used by any organization, no matter how big or small.
It does this at a time when the legal imperatives behind accessibility are being strengthened internationally, and when tablet and smartphone vendors are racing to promote accessibility as a key selling point of their handsets. It also does this as we start to enter the massive demographic change that will result in the number of people who need accessibility rocketing up, and the 'missing 20%' become 50%.
There has never been a better time to get into web accessibility, and people who have implemented BS 8878 are increasingly telling me that incorporating its user-centred inclusive design thinking into their production processes has resulted in not only more accessible websites and apps for disabled people, but better websites and apps for everyone.
NOTE: Professor Jonathan Hassell has more than 14 years' experience of embedding accessibility within digital production teams in leading companies worldwide, and he wrote the British Standard BS 8878. This article is based on an edited extract of his new book "Including your missing 20% by embedding web and mobile accessibility", reproduced with permission from BSI.
For more information on the book and to access free accompanying case-study videos, visit: http://hassellinclusion.com/book/
British Standards can be obtained in PDF or hard copy formats from: www.bsigroup.com/Shop or by contacting BSI Customer Services on 020 8996 9001 or email: email@example.com
Comment on this story now, on EAB Live:
[Section Two ends].
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[Issue 173 ends].