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“New technology design agenda” needed for digital inclusion, research recommends

Digital skills training from local authorities and charities, and a bold new “technology design agenda” are needed to give people with sensory impairments the full benefits of digital services and products, a new study has claimed.

Conducted by Swansea University in partnership with RNIB Cymru (the Welsh chapter of the Royal National Institute of Blind People), the research looked at digital media usage by sensory impaired users in Wales, based on questionnaire responses from 396 RNIB Cymru members. Respondents were of a variety of age ranges (73% were over 65-years-old) and recorded themselves as possessing a range of visual and hearing impairments.

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Anticipated refreshable Braille reader launches, seeking to disrupt the market

The Orbit Reader 20 refreshable Braille device has been released in the UK, aiming to transform the current market by offering the technology to blind and visually impaired people at a low cost.

The device features 20 refreshable eight-dot Braille cells and can connect to Apple, Windows, Android and Kindle devices. Books and other texts (such as sheet music or magazines) in any language can be read from an SD card (the device also comes with a range of books and a dictionary pre-installed on an SD card). The Reader also offers basic note-taking, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and is compatible with widely used screen-readers, including Jaws, NVDA and VoiceOver.

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New app aims to transform rail travel for passengers with disabilities

A free mobile app to help improve train travel around the UK for passengers with disabilities is being tested by four rail companies, with other operators set to begin trials before a national roll-out.

The Passenger Assist app aims to overhaul the assistance booking process, solving problems faced by some passengers that use the system. Currently, passengers can request assistance online or over the phone before travelling. Types of assistance could include requesting help in boarding a train or moving around the station due to a visual or mobility impairment, requesting assistance with luggage, or booking a wheelchair ramp or on-board wheelchair area.

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Product reviews website asks consumers to get vocal

A consumer reviews website for people with disabilities and older people has put a call-out for users to give their opinions on all kinds of devices and products, helping inform other consumers before they buy.

The ‘Rate it!’ site features reviews of a wide range of products that can assist people with disabilities and older people.

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Vital Tech: Decoding assistive tech for all

It’s easy to take technology for granted. New devices and apps are being designed and built faster than most people’s appetite and understanding can keep up with, particularly in the rapidly evolving world of assistive tech (AT).

Despite this, there are surprisingly few resources available to help people navigate the sometimes-overwhelming world of AT. Vital Tech, a newly launched online platform, aims to change this by helping blind and visually impaired people get the most out of a range of assistive technologies.

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‘Audiogame Jam’ will spawn accessible games for visually impaired players

A series of audio-based videogames that can be played without sight will be created during a ten-day ‘Audiogame Jam’ in October, to raise funds for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and spread awareness of the barriers faced by blind and visually impaired gamers.

Game developers from around the world will take part in the event by developing and building accessible games during the ten-day period – October 12-28 – and uploading them to the Audiogame Jam website before the deadline. After the event, all games submitted are available for anyone to play for free.

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One in five museums do not provide online access information, research uncovers

Museums are inadvertently contributing to a “disability engagement gap” by not publishing accessibility information on their websites needed by millions of potential visitors, a new report has found.

The State of Museum Access 2018 report found that people with disabilities are less likely to visit a museum if it does not provide this information on its website. Published by VocalEyes (a charity working to increase arts access for blind and visually impaired people), the report recorded whether access information was available on the websites of the 1718 accredited UK museums.

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Accessible learning resources can help close disability employment gap, report claims

Making digital resources in further and higher education more accessible – in order to comply with new regulations – can improve disabled students’ learning experience and help get more disabled people into work, according to a new report.

‘Accessible Virtual Learning Environments’ was published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT) and cross-party think-tank Policy Connect, and written by Robert McLaren, Head of Industry, Technology and Innovation at Policy Connect. It sets out a series of recommendations on how institutions can make their digital content more accessible for students, particularly those with a disability.

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Lawsuit claims Apple’s website is inaccessible for visually impaired users

A lawsuit has been filed against electronics giant Apple in the United States, over claims that its website violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and is not fully accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

The action has been taken by Himelda Mendez, described as “visually-impaired and legally blind” in the complaint document. Mendez is filing the lawsuit on behalf of both herself and “others similarly situated”, according to the complaint text.

In the complaint, Mendez is described as a “proficient JAWS screen-reader user,” but has encountered “multiple access barriers” when visiting Apple.com that denied her the same level of access to the goods and services offered by the company as sighted users.

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Driverless cars and advanced tech highlighted in new Government transport plan

Autonomous vehicles, digital wayfinding systems and other technologies will play a key role in making transport more accessible for people with disabilities, according to plans in the UK Government’s Inclusive Transport Strategy.

Produced by the Department for Transport (DfT), the strategy sets out the Government’s goal to create an equal access transport system by 2030. Responses to a public consultation in 2017 on a draft ‘Accessibility Action Plan’ were used to help develop the strategy.

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