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Age doesn’t bridge the digital skills chasm, new research reveals

Americans with disabilities are using technology at a lower rate than those without a disability – including teenagers and younger citizens – research has found.

In the report, conducted by the United States-based Pew Research Center (which defines itself as a “nonpartisan fact tank”), those with disabilities in the two age groups measured (18-64 and over 65) showed similarly low levels of technology ownership, compared to those without disabilities.

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Countdown to the UK release of the first Braille smartwatch

The first Braille smartwatch for visually impaired people is planned to be shipped out to customers in May, after initially taking around 140,000 orders from customers around the world.

The Dot Watch lets users read messages through four Braille characters on the watch face. It connects to a user’s phone via Bluetooth and can then receive messages and notifications from services and apps on the phone, such as WhatsApp, Google Maps or traditional SMS texts.

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Let’s educate the supply chain, says Barclays head of accessibility

Suppliers to businesses often struggle with the concept of accessibility, particularly when providing technology products and services, the head of accessibility at a major UK bank told delegates at a recent event.

Speaking at a technology-focused session at the Business Disability Forum (BDF) Conference on ‘Disability-smart suppliers and partners’, Paul Smyth – head of accessibility at Barclays – said that there is a need for businesses to explain the principles behind accessibility to their suppliers: “[Suppliers] are new to accessibility, so we need to spend a lot of time talking about the ‘why’, what we mean by accessibility and about why it’s important to us.”

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Sounding out the web: web accessibility for people who are deaf or hard of hearing

By David Swallow.

This is a condensed version of a two-part article originally published on the blog of The Paciello Group, an international accessibility agency. Links to the original posts can be found at the end of this article. David Swallow is an Accessibility Associate at The Paciello Group.
The largely visual nature of the web means that there’s a lot of focus on supporting people who are blind or partially sighted. But deaf and hard of hearing people are often overlooked. Ruth MacMullen, a copyright and licences officer at York St. John University, explains her experience of being deaf and how it affects her use of the web.

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New parliamentary group on assistive tech launches to level the playing field

A “flood” of new technology represents a unique opportunity to increase education and employment for those with disabilities in the UK, claims a new cross-party parliamentary group.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT) launched on March 6 and aims to spark debate and share knowledge on assistive technology (AT) throughout parliament. Its work will include contributing to government consultations and raising awareness of AT.

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Impaired users and mobile access prioritised in new web accessibility guidelines

The first public draft of an update to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) has been released, with an increased focus on mobile content, users with low vision, and users with cognitive and learning disabilities.

The current guidelines – WCAG 2.0 – are seen by many as a benchmark for web accessibility. WCAG 2.0 is widely used by authorities and organisations seeking to review websites, and to make and keep them accessible for users with disabilities. For example, the Society of IT Management (Socitm) uses WCAG 2.0 to test the accessibility of UK council websites in its annual Better Connected review.

The public working draft of the update, WCAG 2.1, seeks to build on the existing guidelines, adding in new recommendations for those creating and designing web content.

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Many US government sites not accessible for disabled users, claims new research

Various high-profile US government websites, including major service portals, are not accessible for users with disabilities, according to a new study.

The ‘Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites’ report found that 42% of US federal sites tested failed to meet the necessary accessibility criteria.

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Interview with Chad Leaman of Makers Making Change: The Access Makeathon – building your own rules

How do you ensure that the device you’re building for someone with a disability is going to be genuinely useful for that person, and that it meets their individual needs? Simple: put that person at the centre of the design process and find out exactly what they want.

This thinking is at the root of Makers Making Change (MMC), a new project that connects ‘makers’ (skilled individuals or small teams building things on a DIY-style basis) with people with disabilities. The person with a disability explains a piece of equipment they need built or a problem they want solved, and the makers design and build something that meets those needs – with the disabled person involved at all stages.

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Interview: Sonya Huber, Disability March – impactful online activism

On January 21 2017, around half a million people took part in the Women’s March in Washington D. C. Symbolically scheduled for the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as 45th President of the United States, the aim of the Women’s March was to support and stand up for women’s rights and equality around the world, with millions more marching across the globe in related events. But what about those people who wanted to support the cause but couldn’t attend a march in person?

This was the dilemma facing many people with a disability or health issues. To address this widespread problem, an online virtual march was set up. The Disability March platform enabled anyone to show their support for the cause without having to physically march – a task that would have been dangerous for some and impossible for others.

Supporters signed-up to the online Disability March and shared their messages through the project’s blog and Twitter account. Thousands took part and others were able to see their stories unfold online.

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Hollywood-voiced avatar solves citizens’ accessibility queries

An online avatar voiced by an Oscar-winning actor has been created to give disabled Australian citizens information on the country’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The virtual assistant ‘Nadia’ is voiced by Australian actor Cate Blanchett and is able to answer common questions about the NDIS – a support scheme for Australian citizens under 65 with a permanent disability, replacing a previous national disability scheme. Users interact with Nadia through their computer’s webcam and microphone. This gives the process a human element and means that only minimal keyboard or mouse navigation is needed.

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