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++Section One: News.
+01: Technology Is Key To Making Travel More Accessible, New Report Finds.
People with access needs still face numerous barriers when booking and undertaking travel, but existing and emerging technologies are crucial to making the process more accessible, research claims.
The new report found that while advancing technologies such as voice recognition, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are being used by some companies and hotels to make travel more inclusive, website accessibility and use of mobile devices – for tasks such as managing bookings – are still fundamental for travellers with access needs.
The study, ‘Voyage of discovery: Working towards inclusive and accessible travel for all’, was commissioned by travel technology consulting firm Amadeus and carried out by Ilunion, a consulting firm owned by ONCE, the Spanish National Organisation of the Blind. It looks at the requirements and first-hand experiences of travellers with access needs and explores how ‘the travel experience and customer journey’ can be made more accessible by examining three stages of the process: ‘The pre-travel stage: what happens before the trip’, ‘In transit: what happens on the journey’ and ‘In destination: what happens upon arrival’.
Results are based on responses from focus groups and interviews with consumer travellers and industry experts, featuring contributions from people with “visual, hearing, cognitive and physical disabilities,” and travellers over 65-years-old with accessibility needs, all from the United States, European Union and India.
Speaking about the findings of the report, Elizabeth Aston, Senior Advisor for Industry Affairs at Amadeus IT Group, told e-Access Bulletin that “Technology will be a pivotal factor in making travel more accessible. We are already seeing companies use mobile applications, more intuitive user interfaces, voice recognition, data analytics and customer management systems to help address [access barriers] identified by travellers … But technology is not the sole answer, it must also be seen in the wider context of accessibility, as an enabler and facilitator of change and action.”
As demonstrated in the report, the same technology that can aid more accessible travel can also become an obstacle when it is not designed inclusively. For example, difficulty in navigating inaccessible travel websites was found to be one of the biggest barriers for users during the booking stage.
The report also notes that when booking a trip online, “there is a lack of standard procedures for communicating passengers’ specific needs.” Despite this and other issues, the report found that online booking was still by far the most popular method for booking trips.
A later section of the report examines how technology is empowering travellers. The report notes that “Some hotel chains are using mobile apps to allow guests access to their rooms and other facilities, and others are using virtual reality to demonstrate accommodation and services.”
Here, the study points towards the increasing use of Bluetooth-enabled navigation beacons, wearable technologies and even driverless cars as potential future aids for accessible travel.
Other significant findings from the report include the discovery that “travellers would increase their travel budget by 34% if accessibility barriers were eliminated,” representing a clear business incentive for the industry alongside moral obligations.
The report ends by making recommendations on how the industry can work towards making travel more accessible for all, including a call for the development of “global standards for accessibility in travel and tourism.”
Read the full report at the Amadeus website, available in accessible PDF: http://eab.li/8n . http://www.amadeus.com/web/amadeus/en_1A-corporate/Amadeus-Home/Resources-and-downloads/Research-reports/voyage-of-discovery/1319560217334-Page-AMAD_DetailPpal?assetid=1319713177380& ;assettype=AmadeusDocument_C&parent=1319609444141
+02: ‘Call For Evidence’ Launched To Help Make Voting More Accessible.
The UK Government is gathering public opinion to find out how accessible the country’s electoral system is for persons with disabilities.
The Call for Evidence was launched online by the Cabinet Office to collect information about direct experiences of voters with disabilities in elections.
The document claims that responses will “help identify if current mechanisms to support disabled people to participate in the democratic process are sufficient,” as well as identifying good practice from the Electoral Services Team in elections.
Questions in the Call for Evidence ask respondents detailed questions about their experience in registering to vote and casting a vote, including what can be done to make these processes easier for persons with disabilities.
Other sections focus on support provided to persons with disabilities at elections, and whether any support received has been sufficient. The document also provides a summary of the support that must be offered by law to persons with disabilities at elections.
Responses to the Call for Evidence will help inform a report highlighting key findings and giving recommendations for making elections more accessible. The report will be published by the government and the Accessibility of Elections Group in spring 2018 after responses are reviewed by the Cabinet Office Accessibility Working Group, whose members include RNIB, the Royal Mencap Society, Scope, the NHS and the Electoral Commission.
The Call for Evidence is available online in HTML or in accessible Word document and PDF versions (produced with guidance from RNIB), and ‘easy read’ Word and PDF versions, produced with guidance from Mencap.
The deadline for responses, which can be sent via email or post, is November 14.
Find out more and respond to the Government’s Call for Evidence on access to elections at the Cabinet Office consultation page: http://eab.li/8d . https://gov.uk/government/consultations/access-to-elections-call-for-evidence/call-for-evidence-access-to-elections#Support-Annex
+03: Procurement Is Key For Accessible Ict In The Workplace, Claims New Guide.
A detailed online resource to help employers purchase effective accessible technology through their procurement processes has been released.
The guide, called ‘Buy IT!’, has been produced by the US-based Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT).
The introduction to Buy IT! states that a successful accessible ICT purchasing strategy means: “doing vendor research, specifying your requirements, and validating the accessibility of your product choices prior to accepting and implementing them. Most importantly, it means approaching ICT procurement with an eye toward accessibility and usability from the very beginning.”
A detailed step-by-step plan for employers and purchasing staff is then set out, explaining how to work towards an accessible procurement programme in three sections: planning, solicitation and ‘post-award’.
The ‘planning’ section explores how employers can gain executive support for accessible procurement and what to look for when researching vendors. ‘Solicitation’ gives a thorough grounding in writing an accessibility-focused procurement solicitation, including requesting accessibility information from vendors and contractors, and ensuring that the solicitation documents are fully accessible. As the guide points out, this last step “is especially useful for attracting vendors that may employ people with disabilities who may not otherwise be able to access your solicitation.”
The final section, ‘post-award’, gives a detailed breakdown of steps to take when employers are ready to make a contract award. The guide emphasises the importance of ‘testing and validation’ here, to avoid potentially difficult scenarios in the next stage of the process: “All too often, customers take vendors at their word when they say a product is accessible, and then accept it without testing the product and validating the claim,” the guide says.
The key to avoiding this situation is ‘acceptance testing’, claims the guide, which helps determine whether a procured product meets the necessary criteria drawn up in the sales contract. The guide then goes on to outline models to test for ICT accessibility.
++News in Brief:
+04: Consumer Voices:
A consumer reviews website focusing on products to assist independent living will be launched in spring next year by national research charity Rica, with reviews written by disabled consumers. The new site, named Rate it!, is being funded by the Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning (DRILL) programme, and will be shaped by responses to a recent Rica survey, plus upcoming focus groups and user-testing.
Read more about Rate it! at the DRILL website: http://eab.li/8e . http://www.drilluk.org.uk/rate-consumer-product-reviews-disabled-people/
+05: Screen-reader Research:
A screen-reader user survey is being conducted by non-profit accessibility organisation WebAIM, to help inform web developers and content producers. All screen-reader users are invited to complete the survey, which covers users’ preferred screen-readers, mobile apps and accessibility of social media sites. The survey closes at the end of November 1.
Find the screen-reader survey at the WebAIM site: http://eab.li/8f . https://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey7/
+06: Insightful Viewing:
A new video has been released by RNIB, giving an overview of different types of sight loss and explaining that 93% of people registered blind or partially sighted are able to see something. The video features contributions from people with different conditions – including glaucoma and macular degeneration – speaking about their experiences, and is part of RNIB’s #HowISee campaign.
Find RNIB’s video on YouTube at the link below: http://eab.li/8i . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ovtjg2Ne1jo
[Section One 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:
++Section Two: ‘The Inbox’- Readers’ Forum.
Please email all questions, comments and responses to: email@example.com .
+07: iPhone vs. Android:
Tony Moss from Manchester, UK, has contacted e-Access Bulletin to ask for advice on purchasing a smartphone. Tony wants to know the benefits that both iPhone and Android phones offer for blind and visually impaired users. As Tony points out, it’s a much-discussed issue and many people are loyal to their preferred brand, but what if you need some objective advice about both systems? Over to Tony:
“I am looking for impartial information on the pros and cons, for a visually impaired consumer, when deciding whether to purchase an iPhone or Android smartphone, reflecting the most up-to-date accessibility features for either a blind or partially sighted person.
“I am trying to compare systems and deciding which is best for me. I’m registered blind but have some residual vision in my left eye, and in certain conditions with high-magnification I can see the phone’s screen, but I would need inverted colours. However, at other times – outdoors, for example – I would be unable to see the screen and would need to rely on speech output to operate the phone.
“It’s difficult to find a comprehensive comparison article or independent information resource, and individuals’ views are often solely informed from one perspective. Most blind people I know swear by their iPhone, but Android are making great strides with their accessibility features, but it’s harder to find a proper assessment of these.
“It would also be useful to know about the availability of apps for visually impaired users on each system, and which apps are popular with VI users.”
Do any readers have advice or resources for Tony? Please send over to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
[Section Two 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:
Find out more at the RNIB Connect Radio website: http://eab.li/1h .
++Section Three: In focus.– Navigating daily life.
+08: How To Buy A Hamburger Without Losing Your Self-Esteem.
By Mel Poluck.
When the CNIB (formerly the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) opened its community hub last summer in Yonge St., Toronto, it set its ambitions high.
“We moved in, sat down and thought ‘how can we make this neighbourhood the most accessible in Canada?’” says CNIB’s Kat Clarke, Specialist Lead (Toronto), Advocacy and Government Relations (Ontario).
“The closest intersection to us wasn’t accessible, so we advocated to the [local council] to make it more accessible, which they’ve done,” says Clarke.
Now, a CNIB pilot aims to take local accessibility a step further using simple technology. ‘ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled’, allows blind and visually impaired people to find their way around the interiors of shops, cafés and other businesses in the neighbourhood via an app on their phone.
Small Bluetooth devices (‘beacons’) are mounted on the wall of the premises, near the door. When the user is in range, the app picks up on the Bluetooth signal, then speaks directions to the user. These directions use the clock-face method, such as: ‘Upon entrance, washrooms are at nine o’clock’. The directions also orientate users with distances, like ‘forward five metres to counter.’
To activate the GPS-enabled app, users simply shake their phone. Shaking a second time triggers further information, such as shop opening times.
“Businesses don’t have control over what the messaging is,” says Clarke. “We would never want it hijacked so business owners could include a two-for-one offer, for example.”
CNIB can also tweak or add new information based on changing circumstances – if the layout of a store changes or construction work is taking place at the entrance, for example. The range of the Bluetooth signal is normally set between five and ten metres, but can be adjusted to avoid interference, such as when beacons are located in consecutive shops.
The app itself is a free version of the BlindSquare app from MIPSoft, which allows blind and visually impaired users to navigate outside. The app can be downloaded from the iTunes store in a range of languages (read more at the BlindSquare website:
So far, “under 50” beacons have been deployed in the Yonge and St. Clair neighbourhood, says Clarke, but CNIB aims to install 200 by February 2018.
For now, the focus is on getting more organisations on board. CNIB staff, volunteers and the visually impaired community are informing businesses of the scheme via email and in person. ‘Hello neighbour,’ opens its standard letter, ‘We want to help you make your business more accessible and inclusive,’ it says.
Clarke says this part of the initiative has been challenging, not least because of common misconceptions.
“Some people have declined to take part. It comes from misunderstanding what accessibility means,” she says. “It’s the attitude when people have an invisible disability: ‘I don’t have blind customers!’ How do you know? Maybe you would if you had the beacons,” says Clarke.
She says that reluctance may also stem from fears over security, with banks showing particular concern. But CNIB has won over many sceptical organisations, explaining that they do not capture data on users and the beacons emit low-frequency Bluetooth, meaning there is no cost to businesses, as neither electricity nor wi-fi is being used.
There has been an “overwhelmingly positive” attitude from the majority of local businesses, says Clarke. Once a business agrees to host a beacon, the process is simple. “We go out and look at the space,” Clarke explains. “Once we know where beacons will be placed – someone literally puts it on the wall with tack – we can create messages based on that.”
“It opens up a whole new world,” says Ray Smith, who is blind and uses the app. “Let’s say I want to get a hamburger. Once I open up the door of the restaurant, I lose my independence and I lose my self-esteem.
“And then there’s the safety concern – there may be stairs facing me. The app will tell me if there are stairs in front of me and if I turn to three o’clock there’s a counter. So I can independently find the counter. I’m not asking anyone else. It’s amazing.”
Smith has already used the app in a chemist, several restaurants and the local Baptist church, the largest in the country.
“Some people don’t want to ask ‘where’s this?’ or ‘where’s that?’ I’ve talked to people using it and they are getting about more. I think I’ve got more independence, absolutely.”
Smith says he is particularly looking forward to banks using the beacons, because locating a cash machine (ATM) as a blind customer is traditionally difficult due to the wide variation in their positioning.
Such indoor navigation systems are gathering pace globally. The same BlindSquare technology has been used in Wellington, New Zealand, where 200 shops are participating in the ‘No Dark Doors’ project.
Meanwhile, in the northern hemisphere, a notable example is Wayfindr, which is being trialled on the London Underground. Originating from the Royal London Society for Blind People’s (RLSB) Youth Forum, the idea received £1 million funding through the Google Impact Challenge Disabilities programme. Wayfindr has also developed the world’s first standard for accessible audio navigation (Read e-Access Bulletin’s previous coverage of Wayfindr:
The CNIB’s initiative has enough money to run for a year, thanks to funding of $26,000 from the Rick Hansen Foundation’s Access4All Program. Once the target of 200 beacons has been reached, the priority will be to secure sustainable funding beyond 2017, and then expand the scheme, based on data and feedback.
The future looks promising. A property development company recently requested beacons for all of its buildings, and a bank, the Transit Commission (Toronto’s local government department for transport) and library are also interested. Most recently, a theatre installed four beacons, so that users of the app can independently find their way to the box office to buy tickets, get to their seat and find the bar.
And with some 10,000 people with sight loss expected to visit the new CNIB community hub in its first year, take-up of the system is likely to be significant.
The project is improving the independence of blind and visually impaired people living in or visiting the neighbourhood. But one gets the impression that the real aim is a long-term change in attitude.
“We’re hoping we can use this as an interesting conversation starter and have a much longer discussion with businesses – what about access to customer services or your sandwich board in the street, for example?” Kat Clarke says. “There’s a longer-term educational piece. Already we’ve had a fantastic result. We’ve started conversations.”
Smith echoes the sentiment. “You’ve still got to have customer services and etiquette, but it’s planting a seed.”
Read more about ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled at the CNIB website: http://eab.li/8m http://www.cnib.ca/en/ontario/ShopTalk/Pages/default.aspx
[Section Three ends].
+How to receive E-Access Bulletin.
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To forward this free publication to others, use our forward link underneath the end of the bulletin instead of your email application’s ‘forward’ button.
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Editor: Tristan Parker Technical Director: Jake Jellinek Accessibility Advisor: Dr. Nick Freear
[Issue 194 ends].