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World’s first ‘bionic Olympics’ will tackle everyday obstacles with assistive tech.

Cutting bread, climbing stairs and unwrapping a sugar cube all feature as competitions in an event being dubbed the ‘world’s first bionic Olympics’, which will set out to show how advanced technologies can help people with disabilities in daily life.

Taking place in Kloten, Switzerland, on October 8, the Cybathlon championship features six types of contest, with disabled competitors using and controlling assistive devices and robotic technologies.

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‘Hidden’ sight loss and dementia tackled in technology campaign

The Scottish arm of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, RNIB Scotland, has signed-up to the Technology Charter for People Living with Dementia.

Originally launched in December 2015, the charter was developed by organisations including Alzheimer Scotland, NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government. It encourages greater use of technology in health and social care for people with dementia, and features six key values, including: “Routes and access to technology are ethical, equitable, simple, understandable and user-friendly.”

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Accessibility without the excessive price: affordable tech site launched

A new online resource has been launched to help people make informed choices about low-cost accessible technology.

The Affordable Access project (found at the following link: )
provides easy-to-understand information on a wide range of products and devices, all for under 250 Australian Dollars (equivalent to around £150 / 190 US Dollars). Technology covered on the site includes: tablet computers, smartphones, apps, desktop computers and TV streaming devices.

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Government for all: opening up online services – Q&A with James Buller, Home Office Digital

James Buller is a user-researcher at Home Office Digital (HOD) leading on access needs, and has been contributing to the Government Digital Service (GDS) accessibility blog on GOV.UK, the UK government services portal.

Below is a republished, adapted version of the Q&A in James’ GOV.UK post (with some additional material), explaining how he works with service users to meet accessibility requirements, as well as his own use of assistive technology and the wider work of HOD.

James’ original post can be found in full on the GDS accessibility blog, linked to at the end of this article.

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Top travel websites still failing users with disabilities, report uncovers

Many of the most popular travel companies are still not making their websites accessible, new research has found.

The report (named ‘Are travel companies burying their heads in the sand when it comes to user experience and accessibility?’, compiled by digital user experience agency Sigma), tested ten of the most popular travel websites in the UK across three main categories: accessibility; usability; ease of use on different devices.

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New guide on home technology launched for people with sight loss

The “blurring” of assistive technology and inclusive design into mainstream technology is helping to provide both high-end and everyday devices that can benefit visually impaired people around the home, claims a new guide publication.

Talking microwaves, smart watches, audio thermometers, e-readers and online banking apps are just some of the innovations featured in ‘Assistive and Inclusive Home Technology: A guide for people with sight loss’. The free guide has just been published by UK sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust, and covers a wide range of devices that can improve independent living. Assistive technology funding information and tips for product designers are also featured.

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Innovation and impact honoured at Tech4Good Awards

A digital audio navigation system and a portable asthma management device are two of the winners in this year’s Tech4Good Awards, which recognises projects and individuals that are using technology to improve lives.

People honoured at the event included an IT volunteer who helped to set up a charity by establishing its ICT systems, and digital inclusion expert and campaigner Robin Christopherson.

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Steering digital inclusion from the driving seat: Q&A with Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet

When he helped co-found UK technology access charity AbilityNet in 1998, Robin Christopherson was already on his way to helping drive forward digital accessibility, and since then his work has continued to change people’s lives. He is now AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion, after helping to grow the charity’s services. These services include website and mobile accessibility consultancy, which AbilityNet now delivers to companies including Microsoft, the BBC, HSBC and Sainsbury’s.

Christopherson has also led and worked on all manner of projects and campaigns to increase digital accessibility, particularly for blind and visually impaired people. This has included providing expert commentary for news sources such as The Guardian, and presenting on and testing new technology, whether that’s a driverless car or the latest smartwatch.

In recognition of his valuable contributions, he was surprised with a special award at the annual Tech4Good Awards earlier this month. e-Access Bulletin caught up with Christopherson to find out more about his work and get his thoughts on the evolution of accessibility.

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Crowdsourcing site aims to be world leader for venue accessibility data

A new online platform built around user ratings and feedback is aiming to become “the world’s leading provider of accessible venue information,” according to the site’s developer.

The Access Earth site is about to launch in full after ten months of public testing in beta stage, with a mobile app to follow soon. The platform allows users to give scores and leave comments about the accessibility of hotels, restaurants and other locations around the world. This information is then available to other users.

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Social networking through voice rather than vision

A free communication app based on voice messages is proving popular with blind and visually impaired users, and has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to help expand its community.

Users of the Vorail app communicate by recording questions or thoughts as short voice messages, which are available for other users to listen to and reply. Users just need to set up a basic profile, without any photos or images.

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