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Low-cost refreshable Braille display set to revolutionise the market

A device that could become ‘the world’s most affordable refreshable Braille display’ – costing around 80-90% less than current systems – has been unveiled, and should be available for purchase later this year.

The Orbit Reader 20 was announced at the Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference – known as CSUN – in the United States, by the Chair of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), Kevin Carey, in his role as president of the Transforming Braille Group (TBG).

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Integrate accessibility into teaching practices, says field expert

Accessibility should be weaved into more educational curriculums and demonstrated in teaching, a specialist consultant told delegates at a recent conference.

Speaking at the ‘Digital Accessibility in Higher and Further Education Conference 2016’, David Sloan, a user experience engineer from accessibility agency The Paciello Group, said that accessibility needs to be integrated into the fabric of any curriculum featuring digital content creation, and can no longer be taught in isolation.

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Technology company wins award for ‘helping kids learn’ across the globe

A UK assistive technology company has been given a prestigious business award for exporting an e-learning software package for children with disabilities.

Inclusive Technology – which provides equipment for individuals with physical disabilities, sensory impairments or learning difficulties – received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its HelpKidzLearn product. HelpKidzLearn features games, activities and tools designed for young children with a range of specialist learning needs.

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ICT barriers for older people: how can we keep in touch with technology?

By Kate Hamblin and Sue Yeandle
All too often, the deterioration of sight and hearing are seen as ‘just part of getting older’, and as a result are under-reported and inadequately assessed. When hearing and vision are both impaired, they present a unique challenge which requires new strategies and management. It’s estimated that 222,000 people in the UK aged over 70 have dual sensory impairment (DSI), and that by 2030 that number will be close to 418,000. Recognising this, UK deafblind charity Sense established a research team in 2010 to undertake new projects evaluating the impact of DSI across the lifespan. One of these projects created a screening tool for DSI for use in residential care settings, while another project explored issues related to living independently in older age with DSI.

A study at the University of Sheffield, ‘Keeping in Touch with Technology?’, is part of this research, and explores the use of assistive technology and telecare by older adults with DSI. Sense commissioned the study in 2014 and we completed it in 2015. The University of Sheffield’s CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities) worked with Sense and the Oxford Institute of Population Ageing to examine issues related to the challenges faced by older adults with DSI, and the role of assistive technology and telecare devices in promoting active and independent lives.

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Asking the right questions: a tribute to Dan Jellinek

As many readers of e-Access Bulletin will know, the publication’s editor and founder, Dan Jellinek, passed away in October last year. This tragic event was completely unexpected and utterly devastating news for everyone that knew Dan. As well as the immeasurable loss to his family, countless good friends and colleagues, Dan’s passing will also be felt deeply throughout the digital accessibility sector, an area to which he contributed so much invaluable work.

Accessibility was not Dan’s only area of expertise and interest, but it was always a sustained passion and something he felt compelled to cover journalistically. This was probably because he knew that intelligent, informed, progressive coverage – which his always was – could help push forward the important issues and the debates that needed to be had.

To mark his achievements in the sector, some of his many friends and colleagues have paid tribute to Dan, sharing their thoughts about his work and influence on digital accessibility.

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Governments warned not to “exclude millions” by legalising digital barriers

A letter from 20 NGOs has warned European ministers of the severe impact on disabled citizens’ lives that proposed changes to a web accessibility directive would have.

If exemptions to the EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector bodies’ websites are adopted, then electronic communication with public organisations, downloading documents and accessing intranets at work will all be affected, and in some cases made impossible for disabled citizens throughout Europe, say the NGOs.

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Innovations for independent living take a step forward

A Braille tablet computer, an online tool to seek out low-cost 3D-printed prosthetics and other projects to assist independent living were showcased earlier this month at the European Parliament.

The projects on display were part of an event in Brussels, ‘Accessible technology for independent living’, organised by the European Disability Forum and Google. Featured projects were supported by $20 million from the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities – a scheme funding non-profit ideas that utilise new technologies.
(Read more at the Google Impact Challenge website: http://eab.li/a .)

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Academia and industry combine forces to push forward gaming accessibility

Research into how video games can be made more accessible is being led by a computer science team from a UK university, who will work with game developers and partners including the BBC.

Dr Michael Heron and Dr Michael Crabb from the School of Computing Science and Digital Media at Robert Gordon University, Scotland, will also explore how academic institutions can help identify problems faced by gamers with disabilities.

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UK-wide digital champions network launches, backed by £2 million

Home-based digital skills training will be given to elderly people and those with disabilities in a newly launched project.

One Digital is a UK initiative to improve digital literacy around the country, led by a consortium of six charities and training organisations, funded through £2 million from grant-giving organisation the Big Lottery Fund. These partner organisations will work on separate projects, but all will be involved with training digital champions to pass on their skills.

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Special report: How accessible is WordPress?

By Graham Armfield

WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system (CMS). It now powers over 20% of the world’s websites, and that figure is steadily rising. People choose WordPress for its flexibility as a web platform, and because it can be used to create a stylish website extremely quickly, using freely available themes (or templates) and plugins. But how accessible are the websites produced with WordPress and the admin screens used to manage those sites?

WordPress is a true open source project. It has been created and amended over ten years by literally hundreds of developers. Sadly, many of these developers had little or no knowledge or experience of accessibility, meaning that many inaccessible practices were baked into WordPress themes, plugins and admin screens.

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