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Archive for November, 2008

‘Digital Mentor’ Trials Form Part Of Draft Inclusion Plan

The government is to pilot a ‘digital mentors’ scheme to help people in deprived areas use technologies such as websites, podcasts and digital photography to make their voices heard, collaborate and improve access to services.

The initiative forms part of a new action plan for digital inclusion (http://fastlink.headstar.com/action2),launched by Digital Inclusion minister Paul Murphy and the department of Communities and Local Government (CLG).

An estimated 17 million people over the age of 15 are not using computers and the internet, and there is a strong link between digital and social exclusion and disabled people with disabled people among those most excluded from the digital technologies at the heart of the developing knowledge economy, the plan says.
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Focus – Access To The 2012 Olympics: Running To Catch Up

by Sir Stephen Duckworth

Planning for the 2012 Olympic games in London began some time ago, and there are many considerations that have been sadly ignored by previous hosts when it comes to making the games accessible to people with disabilities.

Accessibility issues relate not just to disabled spectators, but also disabled athletes. What are we doing for these groups? For example, is there technology that can help? I remember going to the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing and watching the blind sprinters running with their guides. When they had run the 100-metre race and crossed the finishing line, they didn’t have a clue whether they had come first, second or third. Is there an electronic wrist band that they could have that would indicate to them where they had come as they crossed the line? Surely it is technically possible to let them know. Of course, their guide was a few paces behind as they crossed the line, because those are the rules, and he or she would tell them, and you would see a sense of euphoria or disappointment depending on where they had come.
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Paper Urges Better Integration For Assistive Technologies.

A range of emerging technologies integrated with existing solutions could offer blind people and others with disabilities new ways of solving their everyday problems, according to a paper from Kevin Carey, director of the digital inclusion charity humanITy (http://www.humanity.org.uk).

The paper was presented at a recent inclusive digital economy conference at the University of York. In it Carey says: “There is enough technology to assist us with most of our problems but it is not integrated in the right way. If we spent more time, energy and money integrating rather than thinking up clever new, specialised and expensive assistive technologies, we would all be better off.”

For example in the future, modular user interfaces “will allow us to couple a large, portable screen with a small mobile telephone, bring the sound of a television into a remote controller or cable-free ear phones, allow the use of a large screen to ‘blow up’ an image or show a small part of it in great detail.”
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Democracy Websites ‘Inaccessible To Audio Browsers’.

Many government, politics and news websites present significant barriers to¬† web users with disabilities using special access technologies such as text to speech convertors, delegates heard at last week’s E-Democracy ’08 conference hosted by Headstar (http://www.headstar-events.com/edemocracy08/).

Robin Christopherson, head of accessibility at technology access charity AbilityNet, presented a live audio demonstration of many of the difficulties that blind web users experience.

Among the sites he examined was the recently revamped Number 10 Downing Street website, which while relatively accessible in many ways, still has various untagged links which read simply ‘click here’, offering the audio browser no clue as to what lies behind. The website also features auto-start videos, with unlabelled control buttons, so that blind users are confronted with video noise drowning out their own audio controls and cannot work out how to turn it off.
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