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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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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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Disabled music fans asked to get vocal about access barriers at live shows

A charity is asking people with disabilities to contribute to new online research about accessibility issues at live music events and nightclubs, and by acting as ‘mystery shoppers’ at gigs and events.

The research is being conducted by the Attitude is Everything charity, which works to make live events more accessible for people with disabilities. The charity is asking anyone with a visual or hearing impairment to complete a survey on ‘sensory impairment and live music’ on its website.

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Going global: The Global Disability Innovation Hub

In July, a bold new partnership to improve global access to assistive technology was announced at the UK Government’s first Global Disability Summit. The ‘ATscale’ project features various strands being worked on by different partners, including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Department for International Development (DFID), UNICEF and GDI (Global Disability Innovation) Hub.

For some, this will be the first they’ve heard of GDI Hub, although the organisation has been active in a wide range of global, disability-focused projects since launching in 2016.

Here, we take a closer look at the Hub and its work – including the ambitious assistive technology (AT) project announced at the Disability Summit –  through a chat with its Research Development Manager, Paul Steynor.

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Improve online booking to make live music events disability-friendly, says report

A survey has found that 79% of people with disabilities have been put off buying live music tickets due to problems with booking access requirements, and 73% have felt discriminated against when booking, with many of the issues related to problematic websites and online booking systems.

The findings are taken from the State of Access Report 2018, published by the Attitude is Everything charity. The report examines the process of ‘access booking’ for live music events, defined as booking ‘reasonable adjustments’ or access requirements alongside tickets. This could include wheelchair accessible spaces, step-free seats, or additional tickets for a ‘personal assistant’ to attend a show and provide support.

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Can smart tech create smart homes for older people?

The phrase ‘smart homes’ may bring to mind images from science fiction, and thoughts of robots vacuuming and cooking for their human masters, but the reality is far simpler and within reach – and it could save the NHS and social care services millions of pounds per year.

Smart home technology is, in fact, already being used (the Amazon Echo, for example) and will only keep on growing in popularity. But its use and the types of technologies need to be assessed and accelerated in order to address a crucial and often-overlooked issue: care for the elderly.

A report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, ‘Healthy Homes: Accommodating an Ageing Population’, explores how home technology can benefit older people and allow them to stay healthy and independent, remaining in their homes for longer and therefore taking pressure off care services.

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An exercise in missed opportunity: inclusive fitness equipment for people with sight loss

Going to the gym or using exercise equipment at home is simply part of a daily routine for many people, but locking-in this routine isn’t as easy for everyone. A huge amount of modern fitness equipment just isn’t accessible for those with a visual impairment, as a new report has demonstrated.

The study, ‘Inclusive fitness equipment for people with a visual impairment’, was commissioned by sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust and carried out by Rica (the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs). It showed the prevalence of console systems that are partially or entirely unusable to people with a visual impairment, despite a widespread desire among this group stay physically active.

e-Access Bulletin found out more about the study from Lynn Watson, Head of Research at Thomas Pocklington Trust, and Chris Lofthouse, Outreach Manager at Rica.

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Innovative tech solutions sought to help ageing consumers

A newly launched initiative is seeking innovative technological products and services to address some of the challenges presented by ageing.

The Innovation for Ageing project will bring together different groups to support older people as they become more vulnerable with age, through conditions such as sight loss, hearing loss and dementia.

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Websites, not assistive tech, are key to accessibility, say screen-reader users

New research into screen-reader usage has revealed the majority of users feel that improving existing websites would have a bigger impact on accessibility compared to better assistive technology.

The newly published findings are taken from the seventh Screen Reader User Survey by non-profit organisation WebAIM, conducted in October 2017. A total of 1,792 people responded to the survey, 89.2% of which reported using a screen-reader due to a disability.

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Technology is key to making travel more accessible, new report finds

People with access needs still face numerous barriers when booking and undertaking travel, but existing and emerging technologies are crucial to making the process more accessible, research claims.

The new report found that while advancing technologies such as voice recognition, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are being used by some companies and hotels to make travel more inclusive, website accessibility and use of mobile devices – for tasks such as managing bookings – are still fundamental for travellers with access needs.

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