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++Section One: News.
+01: Evolving Technologies Won’T Automatically Empower People, Saysparalympian.
Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence have huge potential to empower assistive technology users, but we cannot simply wait for this to happen, a renowned Paralympian and member of the House of Lords has said.
In an opening speech at the Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC) in London earlier this month, Lord Chris Holmes told delegates that these technologies must be harnessed in the right way.
Using the ‘Internet of Things’, artificial intelligence, ‘big data’ and robotics as examples, Holmes said: “All of these technologies are neutral when it comes to accessibility. They can have such a transformative impact, but it won’t just happen as a matter of course. They could just exacerbate existing patterns and structures of exclusion.”
Holmes claimed that technology provides a “phenomenal opportunity” to enable people in education, employment and through social inclusion, but also that these processes will not just evolve automatically. He said: “It’s as much down to politicians, policy-makers and government to lead on so much of this if we’re going to realise the opportunities that exist.”
Holmes also revealed that the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT – read more in e-Access Bulletin’s previous APPGAT coverage: http://eab.li/6v ) will soon be launching its first enquiry. Holmes, who is a co-chair of the group, said it would be “a great focal point for parliamentarians from all parties, a chance for them to focus on getting people into [assistive technology] who’ve never considered it.”
During his time as an athlete, Holmes won 15 Paralympic medals for swimming, nine of them gold. In his speech to ATEC delegates in London, he discussed the evolution of assistive technology and how it provided an invaluable lifeline to him growing up and in his swimming training, after he suddenly and unexpectedly lost his sight at 14-years-old.
Speaking about the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Holmes explained how in-ear audio description devices designed for visually impaired spectators quickly became popular with all visitors, demonstrating the benefits of universal design. Accessibility and inclusion were “hardwired” throughout the 2012 games, he said.
This kind of innovative thinking will continue at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, said Holmes, who visited technology labs in Tokyo to find out more about accessibility measures at the event. Holmes said: “What they’re currently working on and what will be showcased and rolled-out in 2020 will be quite sensational. In terms of mobility, communication, translation and every element of the games – it’s not just technology that’s being thought of, but assistive technology.”
Read more about Lord Chris Holmes at his website: http://eab.li/75 .
Read more about the Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference at the ATEC website: http://eab.li/6w .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/79 .
+02: Research Uncovers ‘The Real Digital Divide’ Facing Millions Inthe Uk.
Fresh data has shown further evidence of the digital gulf in the UK facing millions of people with disabilities and older people.
A report by digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation and Professor Simeon Yates, titled ‘The real digital divide?’, examines the demographics of people in the UK who never or rarely use the internet. The report is based on (and builds on) a 2015 report from telecommunications regulatory body Ofcom on ‘Adults’ media use and attitudes’.
In terms of usage, the research found that 15.2 million people in the UK were found to be either ‘non-users’ (defined as people who have no internet access or don’t use the internet even if they have access) or ‘limited users’ (people who rarely and infrequently go online).
47.7% of the ‘non-user’ group were found to have “a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity,” representing around 3.7 million people in the UK. This compares to previous data from the Office for National Statistics, which found that 22% of disabled adults in the UK have never used the internet.
Age was also a key factor in non-use. 64.4% of non-users in the report are aged 65 or over, with 25.3% aged between 65-74 and 39.1% aged over 75.
Looking at the ‘limited users’ group, 47.4% reported having a disability or poor health, representing 3.5 million people. The report also state that: “Age is again a clear indicator of limited use, although not quite as marked as for non-users.” 18.5% of the ‘limited users’ group are aged 65-74, and 18.8% of the group are aged over 75.
Tom French, Research and Data Manager at Good Things Foundation, who led the report writing, told e-Access Bulletin that further work is necessary to explore the reasons behind non or limited internet use among people with disabilities and older people. He said: “We need to commit to exploring this link so that we can influence government and digital leaders to truly embrace accessibility.”
Discussing what can be done to increase internet usage among these groups, French said: “Sustained support at a trusted community and peer level is essential. We recognise that basic digital skills pave the way for internet use, but we need to ensure that all types of use are catered for and that we support people to take advantage of the full breadth of benefits … The key finding [from the report] for us is that digital exclusion needs to be redefined as the digital landscape evolves, and is much, much wider than simply assessing whether someone has access to the internet (or devices) and whether they have online skills.”
Download ‘The real digital divide?’ (in PDF format) from the Good Things Foundation website: http://eab.li/6z .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/78 .
+03: New Guidance Helps Recruiters Dodge Digital Accessibility Pitfalls.
A guide on recruitment and digital accessibility has been released, aiming to help companies and organisations ensure that their digital resources are inclusive for all applicants when searching and applying for jobs.
The Accessible Recruitment Guide has been produced by Media Access Australia, a non-profit digital accessibility organisation. Designed primarily for HR staff, the guide aims to offer “real world guidance” on digital recruitment resources.
A ‘digital accessibility checklist’ in the guide suggests a number of areas to consider, which will benefit applicants with a wide range of impairments, including those who are blind or visually impaired, and those who are deaf. These areas include: accessible document templates; requesting knowledge of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 for roles involving content creation; advertising jobs through accessible websites, intranets and social media platforms; and providing an online audiovisual alternative to telephone interviews, such as Skype.
There are also tips on making recruitment videos accessible, such as adding captions and audio description.
To ensure that these measures are effective and that the recruitment process is a fully inclusive one, the guide suggests undertaking user-testing with users that have a disability.
The final section of the guide lists other useful tools for recruiters, including several Media Access Australia resources (guides on social media accessibility and accessible technology in the workplace) and a ‘colour contrast analyser’ from accessibility consultancy The Paciello Group.
Register to download the accessible recruitment guide at the Media Access Australia website: http://eab.li/6y .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/77 .
++News in Brief:
+04: Feedback That Matters:
An Australian website that collects user-ratings and reviews has been called ‘TripAdvisor for disability support services’. The Clickability site encourages users to leave feedback on different care and support services across Australia (in categories including housing, software and apps, and home help), which others can then view. The aim behind the site is to help people with disabilities choose the best service available with the budget allocated to them through the Australian Government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
Read more at the Clickability website: http://eab.li/72 :
+05: A Winning Translation:
A recent e-Access Bulletin feature on EU accessibility legislation has been translated into French and published on a web accessibility blog, Tanaguru. Written by Carine Marzin (a consultant and member of the European Disability Forum ICT Expert Group), the article was translated by digital accessibility consultant Frédéric Halna. The translated article has also been highlighted on the website of a French Government department, the Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition.
Read the French translation of the article on the Tanaguru blog (can be toggled to English language): http://eab.li/73 .
Read the original article on e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/6o .
+06: Inclusive Movie-Making:
Three winning entries of a short film competition about living with a disability can be watched online in full. The films were chosen as part of the Business Disability Forum’s (BDF) Technology Taskforce Film Festival, which gave students and graduates 72 hours to make a film about the experience of searching and applying for jobs with a disability. The winning film, ‘Big Day’, follows Jake, who is deaf, as he begins a new job as an app developer. All three films have audio description and can be viewed at the BDF website, linked to below.
Read more about the film festival and watch the winning entries at the BDF website: http://eab.li/74 .
[Section One ends].
++ Notice: Thomas Pocklington Trust. E-Access Bulletin is brought to youwith 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 .
++ Notice: RNIB Connect Radio and e-Access Bulletin. e-Access Bulletinwill 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 .
++Section Two: European report. - The European e-Accessibility Forum.
+07: Opening Up Digital Culture.
Just as digital accessibility picks up more and more mainstream interest, certain topics within the accessibility field also begin gathering momentum. One such topic is accessible culture. Clearly, this can mean many things, but in this case it refers to cultural spaces (such as museums and art galleries), projects and resources being made more inclusive through digital technology.
For some people, this has already been a focal point for years, perhaps through employment, personal interest or just frustration at the lack of accessibility within these areas.
Earlier this month, the eleventh European e-Accessibility Forum sought to explore this vast subject with its theme of ‘e-accessible culture’. Held in Paris at the Cité des sciences et de l’Industrie, the event was organised by French non-profit BrailleNet, an organisation that works towards improving digital accessibility.
BrailleNet’s director Alex Bernier was one of the speakers, alongside a host of other accessibility professionals and representatives from various cultural institutions.
Here is e-Access Bulletin’s report from the Forum, covering talks and workshops from across the event.
In a session entitled ‘Building inclusive cultural services from the bottom up’, Sandrine Sophys-Veret from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication spoke about the Ministry’s efforts to increase cultural access through technology.
One example given was a robotic device being trialled. These devices help visitors with a mobility impairment view exhibits on inaccessible floors in museums or galleries. Visitors control the robot remotely from a different floor and view a video feed from a camera attached to the robot.
Future projects from the Ministry include an ‘accessibility barometer’ to measure the online accessibility levels of arts and culture websites, and a ‘hackathon’ to inspire new cultural projects.
Sophys-Veret explained that in the Ministry’s efforts to help create a “universal and inclusive” society, “no single tool can be the response.” She also spoke about accessible books, stating that “access to [these] books is a colossal issue.”
Exploring this theme in more depth were Jesper Klein (from the Swedish Agency for Accessible Media and the DAISY Consortium) and Alex Bernier, Director of BrailleNet.
Klein spoke about ‘Producing and distributing accessible e-books: the Swedish model’. He began by talking about the ‘book famine’, referring to the severe lack of accessible format books for people with print disabilities. Although reading is still an important and popular cultural activity, over 90% of all printed materials are not available in accessible formats, Klein said.
The DAISY Consortium has been working to end the book famine, and after exploring some of the Consortium’s work, Klein spoke about Legimus, a Swedish digital library and app that serves people with print disabilities. Legimus has 120,000 accessible books and 75,000 active users in Sweden.
He said that although the core principles behind accessible reading (people with a print disability should be able to read the same titles as anyone else, at the same time, through the same distribution channels and at the same costs) have not been achieved yet, new technologies are making a lot of progress.
Klein said: “The tide is turning. Inclusion of people with print disabilities and accessible reading are moving into the mainstream, fast.” He finished by predicting that libraries serving people with print disabilities will offer more specialised services and titles in future, as mainstream outlets will begin offering well-known and popular books in accessible formats.
Alex Bernier spoke about the emergence of accessible publishing, including OPALINe, a project that aims to drive forward the production of accessible format books. He also presented some of the issues facing the industry.
Bernier said: “The industry receives very little financial support and it is fragmented. We have to find new ways to cooperate.” Replication of labour is also a problem, he said: “In France, a lot of the same books are being adapted [for accessible formats], especially schoolbooks.” Bernier claimed that a new collaborative publishing platform is being developed to tackle this issue. The tool will help divide up and record work, to avoid repetition.
Elsewhere, a session on ‘celebrating diversity and driving creativity through digital technologies’ unearthed some fantastic innovations. Gawain Hewitt of Drake Music spoke about the organisation’s experimental musical instrument design with disabled musicians, using the example of the Mi.Mu Gloves, a wearable musical technology that offers the wearer a range of control and production tools.
The Mi.Mu Gloves proved invaluable to Kris Halpin, a disabled musician that Hewitt and Drake Music had been working with, giving Halpin “a new lease of performing life,” Hewitt said.
Similarly, Hewitt helped James Rose – a conductor with limited mobility who conducts primarily by moving his head – with a new design for his conducting baton, by ‘hacking’ a pair Rose’s glasses and attaching a baton and electrical fitting to the side of the glasses.
“Good design can remove the barriers faced by disabled musicians and allow them to succeed on their own terms,” Hewitt said.
An afternoon session titled ‘From the visual to the textual – describing the arts in a digital world’ featured Lauren Trimble from ITHAKA, a non-profit platform that hosts digital academic databases. Trimble explained how some of these databases have been building accessibility into their digital archives.
One example used was JSTOR, a cloud-based library hosting journals, books, images and other content. Trimble explained that improving JSTOR’s accessibility meant meeting WCAG (the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 requirements – a process which Trimble had long understood the benefits of, and helped steer JSTOR towards achieving. JSTOR is now rated at level ‘AA’ for WCAG compliance and has developed a process for fixing archived content that was previously inaccessible for visually impaired users.
Trimble concluded with the following observations: “We should be making decisions from the user’s perspective, as opposed to what we think the user should want or need. If it turns out that anything we try is not best serving the intended community, we’ll go where that community is and make our products better from their perspective.”
Following on was Matthew Cock, CEO of the VocalEyes charity, which provides audio description services in theatres, museums and galleries. He discussed a VocalEyes project that audited 1,700 UK museum websites, to examine the online access information provided on these sites.
Cock explained that the study was based on the theory that a lack of access information for disabled visitors will mean lower attendance at that museum. He said: “Using a website is a vital step in the decision-making process for many people. Without answers to key access questions beforehand, people are less likely to visit.”
The study found that 27% of UK museums have no access information on their website, and a further 43% have some access information, but make no mention of visually impaired people. “That’s 70% of museums that are not catering for blind or partially sighted people,” Cock said.
Reflecting on the forum after a day of thought-provoking talks, it seems that e-accessible culture is finally being pushed, gradually, into the spotlight. Though some sessions uncovered a worrying lack of accessible cultural practices, suggestions and solutions were also offered to attempt to fix the situation.
Sometimes these solutions were based around innovative new technologies, sometimes simply through better use of existing technologies. Either way, let’s hope these solutions are taken on board, fully opening up cultural spaces, projects and resources to a far wider audience.
Read more about the European e-Accessibility Forum at the event website: http://eab.li/6x .
Find out more about BrailleNet (French language website): http://eab.li/71 .
Comment on this story now at e-Access Bulletin Live: http://eab.li/76 .
[Section Two ends].
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Editor: Tristan Parker Technical Director: Jake Jellinek Accessibility Advisor: Dr. Nick Freear
[Issue 191 ends].