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++Section One: Editor’s note.
+01: Remembering Dan Jellinek, One Year On.This Month Marks One Year Since Dan Jellinek, E-Access Bulletin’S Much-Loved Founder And Editor, Passed Away Unexpectedly. In That Time, A Lot Has Changed In The Rapidly Evolving World Of Digital Accessibility, But Our Feelings About Dan And Sense Of Loss Haven’T Changed At All.
As well as Dan’s numerous personal qualities, it’s also crucial to keep remembering his work and his invaluable accessibility coverage over the years. His natural ability to find the key stories, ideas and people in the sector – the ones that were really making a difference – always marked him out as someone whose insights mattered. They continue to matter today.
My own experience of editing the Bulletin for the past nine months has been insightful, enjoyable and occasionally challenging, but always incredibly rewarding – not least because it’s allowed me to further understand the work that Dan put into it.
But still after one year, I find myself – all-too-frequently – wanting to share a news lead with Dan that I know he would find exciting, or to ask his opinion on an angle for a story. It still makes me immensely sad that I won’t be able to do either of those again, or enjoy any conversation with him.
Regular readers will also know that the relaunching of the Bulletin in February was only possible due to Dan’s efforts in securing a future for it. Without his commitment to keep it going, the Bulletin would not be around today.
Thank you for reading e-Access Bulletin and supporting the concept that Dan worked so passionately to uphold: ‘Access to technology for all, regardless of ability.’
Dan, you’ll always be missed, but certainly never forgotten.
[Section One ends].
++Section Two: News.
+02: New Research Reveals Barriers And Solutions To Accessibility Acrossgovernment.
Sifting through an “overwhelming” amount of information and difficulties in finding out who is tasked with accessibility are two of the challenges facing teams in UK Government departments when building accessible digital services, according to research carried out by the Government Digital Service (GDS).
Speaking in London at an event titled ‘Accessibility in the digital space’, Alistair Duggin, Head of Accessibility at GDS, gave delegates (including e-Access Bulletin) a preview of the research results. The event was organised by the Business Disability Forum (BDF), inviting speakers to discuss digital accessibility challenges for organisations and end-users, and the solutions available. In keeping with the theme, Duggin highlighted key issues that government teams were facing in this area, but also explained solutions and ideas to help resolve these issues – both based on the GDS research.
The aim of the research was to find out how different teams across government are approaching accessibility. The study involved face-to-face interviews with people in a range of roles across eight government departments, as well as analysis of existing information.
Findings suggested that teams often do not know who is tasked with making services accessible for users with disabilities. “The thought is often that it’s up to a developer,” said Duggin. “Developers do have a huge responsibility to make things accessible, but they aren’t responsible for content or design.”
Project managers need to takes on this responsibility, said Duggin: “[People in these roles] can’t just say, ‘Don’t worry about accessibility until the end, we’ll get to that bit later.’ That’s going to cause problems.”
Another issue uncovered in the research was that people become “overwhelmed’ by the amount of information available. “If you search for accessibility on the internet, you find lots of information, but a lot of it is contradictory, so people don’t know where to start,” said Duggin. He added: “If you look at something like the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines [WCAG], they are really quite impenetrable and take a huge amount of time to get your head around.”
Other key findings from the research included that people often begin thinking about accessibility far too late into the lifecycle of a project – frequently when the project is about to be assessed and tested. “I guarantee that if that’s the first time you’ve thought about accessibility, you will find lots of issues … and that’s how accessibility becomes seen as a burden,” Duggin said.
What is needed is for teams to consider accessibility throughout the lifecycle of a project, said Duggin: “It makes [accessibility] much easier, it makes things more efficient, and you’re much more likely to design something good.”
As well as highlighting problems, the research was also used as a mechanism for finding solutions to the barriers faced by government teams. One solution was to provide clarity on what teams are expected to do. “Most people don’t know what it means to make something accessible,” said Duggin, “so you need to help people understand what the goal is.”
‘Building empathy’ was another proposed solution. “You can give people a checklist, but if they haven’t bought-in to why they’re doing something, they’re not going to embrace it,” said Duggin.
Other solutions included: helping teams to identify accessibility barriers as early as possible; building accessibility into the templates and patterns that people regularly use, and; educating, encouraging and supporting people throughout the process, while avoiding being too critical or judging people when accessibility problems do arise.
Findings and results from the research will be published soon on the GDS blog.
Find out more about the Government Digital Service’s accessibility work at the GDS blog: http://eab.li/35 .
Read more about the Business Disability Forum and the BDF Technology Taskforce at the following link: http://eab.li/36 .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/3j .
+03: Us Congress Called On To Create Technology Equality Bill.
The National Council on Disability (NCD) has made a series of recommendations to the United States Government on making technology more accessible, including a call to establish a ‘Technology Bill of Rights for People with Disabilities’.
Other recommendations called for by the NCD (which is tasked with advising key strands of the US Government on disability policy) include the following: action should be taken to clarify that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the internet, and; federal agencies in the US should take “aggressive steps” to comply with a law requiring that their ICT (information and communications technology) is accessible.
The NCD made the recommendations in ‘National Disability Policy: A Progress Report’, its annual publication for the White House and Congress. These reports explore different themes each year, making recommendations to government on issues that affect the lives of people with disabilities. Technology was chosen as the focus for the 2016 report, “because of the potential that it holds to transform how people with disabilities experience the opportunities of citizenship in our society,” writes NCD Chairperson Clyde Terry in a letter to US President Barack Obama, which opens the report.
As well as addressing the US Government, the latest NCD report also makes recommendations to the technology industry (including encouraging people with disabilities to participate in user-testing when developing new products), and both the private and public sectors (including making sure that procedures for purchasing new technology result in accessible equipment).
The key recommendation to government is to establish a Technology Bill of Rights for People with Disabilities. This is needed because of an “absence of clear language” around organisations’ current obligations to provide accessible ICT, the report claims.
The bill would clarify the rights of people with disabilities and “demonstrate how existing legislation applies to ICT and assistive technology,” claims the report.
The NCD’s plan for creating the bill would involve “creating a Federal Advisory Committee to draft a Bill of Rights with a budget specifically authorized by Congress”. This committee would then help to increase both the supply and demand of accessible ICT systems through targeted work, as well as expanding technology expertise to assist with policymaking, and reviewing existing regulations.
Read an executive summary of the key findings from ‘National Disability Policy: A Progress Report’, in PDF format, at the following link: http://eab.li/32 .
The full report can be downloaded in document or PDF format from the NCD website, found at the following link: http://eab.li/3d .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/3i .
+04: Free Online Learning Course Opens Up Accessibility To All.
An online learning course on digital accessibility, designed by field experts from a computer science team, has been launched.
‘Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society’ is free and open for anyone to enrol on, and no previous accessibility knowledge is required. The course aims to teach learners how accessible digital technologies can aid people with a range of impairments, as well as explaining the universal benefits of inclusive design.
Topics explored on the course include the following: ‘What is Digital Accessibility and why care?’; ‘Challenges and Barriers met by Disabled People, including Video and Audio Barriers and Subtitles’; ‘Desktop, Laptop and Mobile Accessibility’; ‘Digital Accessibility and Business’; and, ‘Screen Reader, Braille, Switch Access Technologies’.
The ‘Digital Accessibility’ course is classified as a ‘MOOC’ – massive open online course – a term for online learning programmes with no limit on the number of people that can study them. So far, around 2,500 people from more than 125 countries have signed up.
Course content has been designed by members of the Web and Internet Science (WAIS) research group within the Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) Accessibility Team from the University of Southampton.
The programme is being taught by Mike Wald – a professor at the University of Southampton leading a team that teaches digital accessibility – and E.A. Draffan – a senior research fellow and member of the university’s Electronics and Computer Science team.
Lead educator Mike Wald told e-Access Bulletin that after years of teaching digital accessibility at the university, the ECS team wanted to find a way to reach more people. Wald said that the course allows learners to “explore how a better understanding of users’ needs can enable the development of technologies that are accessible and provide a more inclusive environment.”
The course programme runs over five weeks on the Future Learn website, with approximately three hours per week of study time needed. Although the official start date was October 17, anyone is free to join at any point, as learners can study at their own pace and make up the extra time whenever they choose. Resources also remain available online after the course finishes. Wald said that he expects the programme to run again in February.
‘Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society’ is supported by MOOCAP (MOOC Accessibility Partnership – a European project that provides education on accessible design) and funded by the ERASMUS+ grant programme of the European Union.
To sign up for ‘Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society’, visit the future Learn website at the link below: http://eab.li/30 .
Find out more about the MOOC Accessibility Partnership at the project’s website: http://eab.li/31 .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/3h .
++News in Brief:
+05: Public Sector Progress:
European Union-based public sector websites and mobile apps will be required to be accessible to users with disabilities, after the European Parliament adopted the provisional ‘Directive on the Accessibility of Websites and Mobile Applications of Public Sector Bodies’ (see previous coverage from e-Access Bulletin: http://eab.li/19 ). Once the directive is published in the Official Journal of the EU, member states will have 21 months to implement the new rules.
Read the directive in PDF format at the following link: http://eab.li/3k .
+06: Accessible Apple:
Technology company Apple has launched an online portal to inform people about accessibility features in its products. The new portal was announced at the company’s ‘Apple October’ event, and allows users to explore and learn about different accessibility functions (based on differing impairments and needs) across a range of products, including iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac.
Find out more at the Apple Accessibility portal: http://eab.li/3f .
+07: Workplace Tech:
Using accessibility champions and performing regular technology evaluations were some of the suggestions to emerge from an online dialogue on increasing accessible technology in the workplace. The discussion was launched by the US-based Partnership on Employment and Accessible Technology (PEAT), as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Over 25 ideas were submitted and rated during the dialogue.
Read the full list of ideas at the PEAT website: http://eab.li/3c .
[Section Two ends].
++ Notice: Thomas Pocklington Trust.E-Access Bulletin is brought to you with the kind support of Thomas Pocklington Trust, a national charity delivering positive change for people with sight loss. Find out more about the work of Thomas Pocklington Trust by visiting their website: http://www.pocklington-trust.org.uk .
++Section Three: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.
Please email all questions, comments and responses to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
+08: Maximising Mobility:
Helen Petrie, a Professor of Human Computer Interaction at the University of York, has a reader request for participants to take part in a study she is organising. The aim is to find out more about how people use mobility aids, as she explains:
“Professionals who work with people around their mobility aids, including doctors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists, say they have little idea about how people really use these aids when they leave the hospital or clinic.
“We would like to hear from as many people as possible about their mobility aids – what they like about them, any problems they have. We have a survey at the following link: http://eab.li/39 .
“We will also run a detailed study, placing small sensors on participants’ mobility aids. These sensors will pick up data about how and when the aid is being used, and we also ask people to answer a few questions using a smartphone app.
“The study will help us develop the app. Mobility aid users could then use the app to report problems to a health professional. We will also create a system for therapists to track information from their clients, which could help provide more effective treatment.
Further comments, please, to: email@example.com .
+09: Tactile Touring:
Rick Williams replies to a reader query from last month’s Bulletin. In our previous issue, Thomas Bryan from the Blind Foundation in New Zealand wrote in to ask for advice on making museum and gallery exhibitions and tours more accessible for people with sight loss.
Rick (who co-designed the Click-Away Pound survey to investigate the online shopping experience of people with disabilities) has experience in this area, from his work as Managing Director of disability consultancy Freeney Williams:
“We developed a free tactile tour for visually impaired people at the Houses of Parliament in London. This includes a tactile experience and guided tour of Westminster Hall, Central Lobby, the Lords Chambers in the House of Lords and the Commons Chamber in the House of Commons. Specially made models and tactile diagrams are available for visually impaired visitors, along with trained guides to facilitate the whole experience.”
More information about the tactile tour and booking details can be found at the following link: http://eab.li/3b .
+10: More Museums:
Another reply to Thomas Bryan’s query on accessible museums and galleries comes from Waqas Hussain Chauhdry, Managing Director of DEO, a disability consultancy. Waqas suggests contacting a specific museum with plenty of accessibility knowledge:
“Regarding the query on making museums accessible, I’d recommend getting in touch with the British Museum. They have implemented a number of accessibility features, both on their website and within the museum. The museum also has a dedicated accessibility specialist.”
Further ideas and questions, please, to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
[Section Three ends].
++ Notice: RNIB Connect Radio and e-Access Bulletin.e-Access Bulletin will be appearing on RNIB Connect Radio each month on The Early Edition programme. Hear more about the bulletin and upcoming content appearing in each issue, as we discuss the latest accessible technology news and readers’ questions with Allan Russell.
Episodes will be available after broadcast as podcasts from the RNIB Connect Radio site. Listen to RNIB Connect Radio online, or via television, smartphone or radio. Listening details at the following link: http://eab.li/3e .
Find out more at the RNIB Connect Radio website: http://eab.li/1h .
+11: Hacking for good:
Section Four: Special report. - The Hackaday Assistive Technology Prize winners.
winners in their own words.
In July, e-Access Bulletin reported on the Hackaday Prize, a competition that asks designers, developers and hardware enthusiasts to “build something that matters” – something that can help people or change the world for the better.
Of particular interest for Bulletin readers is the Assistive Technology category. Earlier this month, 20 winning assistive technology projects were selected from hundreds of entries.
Each received a cash prize of 1,000 US Dollars and moved to the final round of the competition, where five projects from across all categories will be chosen November 5. These are awarded larger cash prizes, including the overall competition winner, who receives $150,000 and a residency in a design lab to further develop their project.
As you might imagine, the winning entries from the assistive technology category were a fascinating and accomplished list, showcasing all kinds of innovative accessibility ideas. e-Access Bulletin contacted a selection of the winners and asked them to explain more about their projects, which we’ve detailed below.
Winning project 1: Façade – tactile interfaces to appliances. Designed by Anhong Guo.
Anhong Guo: “Most common appliances have flat touchpads, making them inaccessible for blind people. Facade is a crowdsourced fabrication pipeline to generate 3D printed tactile interfaces for blind people.
“Assisted by the Facade iOS app, blind users capture a photo of an inaccessible interface, which is sent to crowd workers, who label and describe it. This is used to generate a 3D model for a layer of tactile buttons that fit over the controls.
“Blind people generally label appliances with Braille stickers, but doing so requires sighted assistance. Our solution is an end-to-end pipeline that can help blind people independently make appliance interfaces accessible.
“I’m glad that this technology is being acknowledged by others, and I’ll work hard to put it into the hands of blind people.”
Winning project 2: BOSI – a Bluetooth open-source switch interface. Designed by Joshua Chung.
Joshua Chung: “I believe that using computers and mobile devices is going to be one of the most frequent daily activities in our life, especially for students with disabilities, and this should not be a limitation to them. So, I’ve been looking for cheap, easy solutions that high school students can build at home or school. The BOSI was designed to be a 3D-printable computer access device for computers and mobile devices. People who have difficulties using traditional physical input devices – like a keyboard, mouse or touch-screen – may benefit from it.
“The BOSI costs much less than commercial switch interfaces and is easy to make. Also, as BOSI is open-sourced, people with disabilities can modify and customise it for their individual needs.
“Computer use is going to be a crucial activity in our life and many people are still struggling with it. I hope this project brings in more people to face challenges that able-bodied people don’t have now, but may encounter one day.”
Winning project 3: Shakelet – a wireless vibrating wristband to provide alerts to hearing impaired people. Designed by Alex Hunt.
Alex Hunt: “The inspiration came from a friend who has hearing difficulties. I wanted to make something that would allow her to interact with standard consumer technology without requiring expensive, specialised equipment.
“The Shakelet consists of a sensor and a receiver. The sensor is placed on whatever the user wishes to monitor, such as a doorbell or fire alarm. When that item goes off, a signal is sent to the receiver, notifying the user through a flashing light and vibrating motor. The project is unique because there is no specialist equipment required, and it has a very low component cost.”
“Being a Hackaday winner was fantastic and surprising. The standard of entries was very high and I was amazed to have been chosen. The next stage is to shrink the sensor to a size that can be integrated into a wristband. I would also like to add a Wi-Fi interface.”
Winning project 4: MOLBED – a modular low cost Braille electronic display. Designed by Marin Davide.
Marin Davide: “I decided to develop an affordable alternative to current (expensive) refreshable Braille displays. It had to be low cost and easy to manufacture, if possible using commercial parts. I’m in touch with associations for people with impaired vision, and their help is important to design a product that is really useful.
“This project is unique because I used a new idea (a magnetic core with magnetic retaining on each end) that has never been used in a Braille display. It has a working prototype already, and the entire project is open-source, as I decided not to patent it, so that it is available for anyone to make.
“Here in Italy, it is difficult to get funds for this kind of project, so winning prize money gives this project the opportunity to be developed fully – having test units made, optimised, tested by users, and then produced in a first batch.”
Winning project 5: Pallette – an open-source ‘tongue computer interface’. Designed by Dan Levine, Joanna Zhang, Oliver Hoffman, Rohit Jain, and Shawn Bramson.
Dan Levine: “We felt like the technology of today is functional, but often doesn’t consider appearance or obtrusiveness of a device. Tongue-based interaction, and the idea of discreet assistive technologies, can meaningfully help out.
“Hidden from view, Pallette enables people with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments to control technology using their tongue. It uses infrared sensors to track tongue motion and a microphone to detect tongue taps. It currently enables individuals to control computers, Android tablets, and Android phones as a Bluetooth mouse.
“The tongue interface has been explored before, but we’ve given it some new abilities and form. Pallette doesn’t require any buttons, meaning the tongue doesn’t get tired. It’s open-source and we have a website detailing how to make it – this is definitely a first for tongue interfaces. As far as we know, there are no commercial or other open-source tongue interfaces that exist today.
“We’re humbled and proud to have won. We’ve been working on Pallette for the last one-and-a-half years, and we really want to see it thrive and reach the people it’s meant for. It feels like a good beginning as we work to kick-start this community.”
Winning project 6: TNS B1i – an accessible prosthetic hand. Designed by Giovanni Leal and Jenny Pabon.
Giovanni Leal: “The hand opens and closes, makes gestures and lasts one week with a specific battery. It’s designed for people with transradial upper limb amputation. Just to change one person’s life would mean the world to us.
“Everybody is fixated on the fact that the hand only has four fingers – and we love it! We were worried about people’s reaction to it, but having four fingers on the hand really makes sense. Also, we built our own 3D printed microlinear actuators, making us independent from suppliers.
“We’re humbled to be a winner. The community [around the competition] is amazing. They praise you, give you advice and help you become a better maker.
“The goal is for the hand to be commercially available in December. We have a patent going on, but if anyone wants to make the hand to help another person, feel free and call us so we can see it afterwards and learn from your kindness.”
The overall winners of the competition will be announced at the Hackaday Superconference on November 5. More information can be found at the following link: http://eab.li/3m .
Read about other winners in the Assistive Technology category: http://eab.li/37 .
Find out more at the Hackaday Prize website: http://eab.li/38 .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/3g .
[Section Four ends].
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- Editor: Tristan Parker
- Technical Director: Jake Jellinek
[Issue 183 ends].