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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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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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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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From smartwatch wayfinders to robot farmers: Tech4Good Awards 2018

Earlier this month, the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards took place in London, showcasing everything from tiny farming robots to an innovative new way of contacting emergency services.

Now in its eighth year, the event was created by technology access charity AbilityNet to celebrate digital technology projects designed to improve people’s lives and benefit society. Entries can be new or existing ideas, and can come from anyone, such as a charity, business or individual.

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Government asks for public input on accessibility directive, but exemptions remain

The UK Government is using a public consultation to help plan how European accessibility legislation will be implemented later this year.

The EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector websites and mobile applications is scheduled to become legally binding in the UK on September 23 of this year. It aims to make public sector digital content easier to access, particularly for people with disabilities.

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Tech funding, employment and apps on the agenda at assistive conference

The government’s technology fund, disability in the workplace and new apps were among the topics discussed at the latest Assistive Technology Conference and Exhibition (ATEC).

Taking place in London, the conference featured a wide range of speakers from the accessibility sector, charities, government and beyond.

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3D audio maps out the world in new app for visually impaired users

Soundscapes and audio landmarks are two of the features in an innovative new navigation app designed for users with sight loss.

Designed by Microsoft, the Soundscape app maps out locations using 3D audio to help users build a picture of their surroundings, allowing them to locate specific places, such as restaurants, shops and specific addresses.

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Apps combine forces to give visually impaired passengers a smoother ride.

Popular global transportation app Moovit has partnered with Be My Eyes, an app service providing sighted assistance to visually impaired people, aiming to make transit easier for users with sight loss.

Moovit, which is used by over 120 million people in 80 countries and claims to be ‘the world’s number one transit app’, helps people move around cities by providing users with transport information, such as bus and train trackers and real-time updates. Be My Eyes connects visually impaired users with sighted volunteers to answer queries through a video call– for example, checking the sell-by date on food packaging. The service is used by over 60,000 people with sight loss and has over 876,000 sighted volunteers.

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Funkify plugin reveals impaired browsing to all users

A new browser plugin that distorts web pages to simulate the online experience for users with impairments is aiming to encourage developers to create more accessible websites and apps.

The Funkify tool is available in Google Chrome and features a range of filters, which intentionally make it difficult to read and navigate online content. The intention is to recreate how users with visual, print and motor impairments experience the internet.

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How to buy a hamburger without losing your self-esteem: bluetooth beacon technology in Toronto

By Mel Poluck.

When the CNIB (formerly the Canadian National Institute for the Blind) opened its community hub last summer in Yonge St., Toronto, it set its ambitions high.

“We moved in, sat down and thought ‘how can we make this neighbourhood the most accessible in Canada?’” says CNIB’s Kat Clarke, Specialist Lead (Toronto), Advocacy and Government Relations (Ontario).

“The closest intersection to us wasn’t accessible, so we advocated to the [local council] to make it more accessible, which they’ve done,” says Clarke.

Now, a CNIB pilot aims to take local accessibility a step further using simple technology. ‘ShopTalk: BlindSquare Enabled’, allows blind and visually impaired people to find their way around the interiors of shops, cafés and other businesses in the neighbourhood via an app on their phone.

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