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Global committee comes to the UK in new inclusive tech event

The UK chapter of an international accessibility organisation will formally launch at a new conference in London in November.

The TechShare Pro conference will host the introduction of the UK branch of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), alongside a programme of talks, workshops and activities on digital inclusivity.

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Evolving technologies won’t automatically empower people, says Paralympian

Advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence have huge potential to empower assistive technology users, but we cannot simply wait for this to happen, a renowned Paralympian and member of the House of Lords has said.

In an opening speech at the Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC) in London earlier this month, Lord Chris Holmes told delegates that these technologies must be harnessed in the right way.

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The European e-Accessibility Forum: opening up digital culture

Just as digital accessibility picks up more and more mainstream interest, certain topics within the accessibility field also begin gathering momentum. One such topic is accessible culture. Clearly, this can mean many things, but in this case it refers to cultural spaces (such as museums and art galleries), projects and resources being made more inclusive through digital technology.

For some people, this has already been a focal point for years, perhaps through employment, personal interest or just frustration at the lack of accessibility within these areas.

Earlier this month, the eleventh European e-Accessibility Forum sought to explore this vast subject with its theme of ‘e-accessible culture’. Held in Paris at the Cité des sciences et de l’Industrie, the event was organised by French non-profit BrailleNet, an organisation that works towards improving digital accessibility.

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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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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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Assistive technology industry must address challenges, warns expert

Poor levels of website accessibility, financial issues and pressure to integrate with mainstream technology are some of the challenges facing the assistive technology (AT) industry, according to the Executive Director of the British Assistive Technology Association (BATA).

Speaking at the second Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference (ATEC), held in Sheffield, UK, BATA’s Executive Director, John Lamb, said that the industry must face and address nine key issues to succeed.

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From 3D radio to disruptive innovation: evolving assistive technology at ATEC

Earlier this month, the second ATEC (Assistive Technology Exhibition and Conference) event took place, held in Sheffield, UK. A wide range of figures from the assistive technology (AT) industry were in attendance, including e-Access Bulletin.

Here, we present an overview of some of the many thought-provoking seminars and workshops that took place throughout the day.

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World’s first ‘bionic Olympics’ will tackle everyday obstacles with assistive tech.

Cutting bread, climbing stairs and unwrapping a sugar cube all feature as competitions in an event being dubbed the ‘world’s first bionic Olympics’, which will set out to show how advanced technologies can help people with disabilities in daily life.

Taking place in Kloten, Switzerland, on October 8, the Cybathlon championship features six types of contest, with disabled competitors using and controlling assistive devices and robotic technologies.

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Innovation and impact honoured at Tech4Good Awards

A digital audio navigation system and a portable asthma management device are two of the winners in this year’s Tech4Good Awards, which recognises projects and individuals that are using technology to improve lives.

People honoured at the event included an IT volunteer who helped to set up a charity by establishing its ICT systems, and digital inclusion expert and campaigner Robin Christopherson.

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Bristol accessibility group ‘could be national model’

A cross-sector group of technology developers, academics and public sector workers, formed in the UK city of Bristol to exchange knowledge about digital accessibility, could be a model for similar initiatives across the country, one of the group’s founders has told E-Access Bulletin.

Léonie Watson, an accessibility consultant who advises the Government Digital Service, said the idea for Accessible Bristol was first sown about three years ago when she was working at digital agency Nomensa. Alongside colleagues from her work, Watson joined forces with developers from Bristol City Council and University of Bristol.

“We realised there was a thriving tech scene in Bristol, and quite a concentration of accessibility and usability companies and accessibility and usability departments within bigger companies such as Nokia and Orange”, Watson said. “So we thought – why don’t we create something to bring people together?”

After a year of activity, the group petered out in 2013 as some of its core people moved away or changed jobs, she said. Then a few months ago, a conversation on Twitter started by someone looking for accessibility experts in Bristol led to Watson pointing out the group was still there, but dormant. “We had an overwhelming response.” The group has now been restarted with monthly speaker sessions followed by open discussion and networking. January speaker was Steve Faulkner, technical director for web accessibility at the Paciello Group and co-editor of the HTML5 specification. Its February speaker is set to be Ian Pouncey, senior accessibility specialist at the BBC.

The idea behind the events is to give developers and designers in the city, the chance to hear some excellent speakers and to get to know each other in the hope they can share information and solutions, Watson said. “There are umpteen developers in different teams across the city all going through the same problems, so there is a good chance someone, somewhere has found a solution.” The group can also start bringing practitioners together with people with disabilities, allowing developers to talk to people using a range of different devices or assistive technologies, she said.

Watson said she is not aware of such a diverse accessibility practitioner group meeting elsewhere in the UK, though the model should translate well to other areas. “If it works, it would be brilliant if other places took it up.”

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