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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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Online shopping ‘not as inclusive as it should be,’ new research finds

The websites of six popular UK retailers would not achieve the basic standard of online content accessibility, according to new research by a usability consultancy.

After a series of ‘mini-accessibility audits,’ accessibility design consultancy User Vision found that some online shoppers with impairments would have difficulty purchasing items from each of the websites examined, due to a number of common barriers.

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AI app learns as it provides a window to the world

An image recognition app that identifies objects and colours for blind and visually impaired people through AI (artificial intelligence) technology can ‘learn’ about its surroundings as users teach it.

The free version of the Aipoly Vision app comes pre-loaded with information and is able to identify around 1,000 ‘essential’ items (such as coffee cups, headphones and flowers) immediately after being downloaded.

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Closure threat for digital inclusion charity seeking £20,000 to survive

A UK charity offering digital skills training to hundreds of people with disabilities will be forced to shut unless £20,000 of running costs are provided urgently.

Cambridge Online provides 4,000 one-to-one tutorials by ‘digital champions’ for over 300 disabled, disadvantaged and older people each year from around Cambridgeshire and beyond. The charity teaches learners a wide range of digital literacy skills, including beginners’ online courses, online shopping, services and job-hunting, Facebook and social media, and individual training requested by learners.

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City mobility apps trialled to fight Blue Badge fraud across Europe

A three-year pan-European project to improve urban transportation for mobility impaired citizens – featuring a smartphone-based parking card to stop fraud – is drawing to a close and preparing recommendations for the European Commission.

The aim of the SIMON project is to increase independent living for people in cities with mobility impairments. Two mobile apps were developed as part of the process: an ‘ICT-enhanced parking card’ for drivers, and a journey-planning app.

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One third of councils fail web accessibility testing in UK-wide survey

An annual review of council websites across the UK has revealed that one third of local government sites failed first-stage testing to find out how accessible their websites are for users with disabilities.

Carried out by Socitm (the Society of IT Management), the Better Connected survey is a nationwide examination to evaluate local authority websites on a range of factors.

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Gaming interview: ‘Tau Station’ – making a whole universe accessible

As the accessible gaming community grows at a rapid pace, so too does the number of games being developed with accessibility for all users in mind. ‘Tau Station’ is a fascinating example of good practice in this area.

A free, text-based MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) with a science fiction theme, ‘Tau Station’ gives players an entire universe to explore – a universe which its developers have taken great care to make accessible for players with impairments, through a huge range of features.

e-Access Bulletin chatted to Lainie, one of the game’s developers, to find out more about the quest to make ‘Tau Station’ accessible for all.

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Inaccessible websites dent business profits, as online shoppers ‘click away’

UK businesses are losing out on huge sums of money – potentially totalling billions of pounds – by failing to make their websites accessible to users with access needs, new research claims.

Published by disability consultancy Freeney Williams, the Click-Away Pound (CAP) Survey assessed the “online shopping experience of customers with disabilities, and the costs to business of ignoring them.”

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Video games without the visuals for blind gamers

A series of five new audio-based video games for blind and visually impaired users are being designed, after a crowdfunding campaign to support the project achieved over 150% of its target funding.

The games, including versions of classic arcade title ‘Frogger’ and a cricket game, will be available on mobile devices, tablet computers and desktop computers, through the iOS and Andriod operating systems, as well as Windows PC.

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