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Archive for the 'Digital inclusion' Category

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Gaming interview: ‘Tau Station’ – making a whole universe accessible

As the accessible gaming community grows at a rapid pace, so too does the number of games being developed with accessibility for all users in mind. ‘Tau Station’ is a fascinating example of good practice in this area.

A free, text-based MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) with a science fiction theme, ‘Tau Station’ gives players an entire universe to explore – a universe which its developers have taken great care to make accessible for players with impairments, through a huge range of features.

e-Access Bulletin chatted to Lainie, one of the game’s developers, to find out more about the quest to make ‘Tau Station’ accessible for all.

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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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US Congress called on to create technology equality bill

The National Council on Disability (NCD) has made a series of recommendations to the United States Government on making technology more accessible, including a call to establish a ‘Technology Bill of Rights for People with Disabilities’.

Other recommendations called for by the NCD (which is tasked with advising key strands of the US Government on disability policy) include the following: action should be taken to clarify that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to the internet, and; federal agencies in the US should take “aggressive steps” to comply with a law requiring that their ICT (information and communications technology) is accessible.

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Free online learning course opens up accessibility to all

An online learning course on digital accessibility, designed by field experts from a computer science team, has been launched.

‘Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society’ is free and open for anyone to enrol on, and no previous accessibility knowledge is required. The course aims to teach learners how accessible digital technologies can aid people with a range of impairments, as well as explaining the universal benefits of inclusive design.

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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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Steering digital inclusion from the driving seat: Q&A with Robin Christopherson, AbilityNet

When he helped co-found UK technology access charity AbilityNet in 1998, Robin Christopherson was already on his way to helping drive forward digital accessibility, and since then his work has continued to change people’s lives. He is now AbilityNet’s head of digital inclusion, after helping to grow the charity’s services. These services include website and mobile accessibility consultancy, which AbilityNet now delivers to companies including Microsoft, the BBC, HSBC and Sainsbury’s.

Christopherson has also led and worked on all manner of projects and campaigns to increase digital accessibility, particularly for blind and visually impaired people. This has included providing expert commentary for news sources such as The Guardian, and presenting on and testing new technology, whether that’s a driverless car or the latest smartwatch.

In recognition of his valuable contributions, he was surprised with a special award at the annual Tech4Good Awards earlier this month. e-Access Bulletin caught up with Christopherson to find out more about his work and get his thoughts on the evolution of accessibility.

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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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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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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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“Embedded outreach” key to digital inclusion, conference hears

Digital inclusion projects must work with community and voluntary sector bodies if the UK is to ensure people with disabilities engage with the digital world, a national conference has heard.

The call was made by Jude Palmer, managing director of Digital Outreach, a social enterprise formed in 2007 by three organisations – Community Service Volunteers, Age UK and CEL Group – to run outreach work for the UK’s digital TV switchover.

Research at the time from lead TV switchover body Digital UK found there was a group of about 20% of the population who would not naturally engage with a major mainstream publicity campaign, Palmer told delegates at November’s digital inclusion conference hosted by non-profit Tinder Foundation.

These included older people, people with a disability and those for whom English is not their first language, all of whom can be socially isolated, she said.

“A lot of people found the switchover daunting, because TV for a lot of people is their main connection out into society”, Palmer said. “They were putting their head in the sand, saying ‘it’s technical, it’s not for me, why do I need to change? I’m perfectly OK as I am’. So a lot of this resonates with why people have not got online yet.”

The key to developing a successful strategy to reaching people in these groups was to work with and through voluntary and community groups who are already interacting with and trusted by them, she said.

Palmer said the nature of “embedded outreach” was “about people hearing messages from the person they see every week, every day: finding that one person and that one organisation that they do trust and interact with.

“We often describe it as ‘knitting’ – we were able to knit organisations together so you can cut across geographical barriers, social groups. You need to ask – how can you develop relationships with local voluntary and community groups?”

Once the right groups have been found, it is important for digital inclusion groups to strike the right balance between passing them consistent materials to fit their own messages, and allowing the trusted intermediaries to remain in control, she said.

“It is about making sure you work consistently with every organisation so key messaging is cascaded down, and people are signposted consistently for where they can get further help.

But at the same time once you hand over the framework, [you must] leave it to the organisation to deliver that. What we find with embedded outreach is there needs to be an investment from those organisations as well, and that is a really big ask.”

In the course of its work, Digital Outreach was asked to run a trial project in the North West of England to see how its embedded outreach model for digital TV might work for broader digital inclusion, and the results strongly supported the concept, Palmer said.

Overall, research found that some 77% of people reacted positively to online training if it was led by someone they knew, compared with only 17% reacting positively to a session led by someone they did not know.

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