A low cost service to remotely evaluate the computing needs of disabled people is to be launched this week by AbilityNet, the UK computing charity for people with a disability.
Aimed at users in the home, workplace, college, school or rehabilitation unit, the ‘Barrier-free assessment service‘ will enable users to be assessed by a trained consultant wherever they are located to establish which adjustments or assistive technologies are needed.
Once users have completed an online assessment form to gather background information about them, assessors make the necessary changes to the user’s computer, using ‘GoToAssist’ remote desktop support from technology company Citrix. This allows assessors to download screen reader and magnifier demonstration software onto clients’ computers from their own.
AbilityNet assessors plan to talk to users over the ‘voice over IP’ (VoIP) telephony service Skype and a webcam will be loaned to users so assessors can spot any physical access problems in their work station set-up. AbilityNet has a small stock of equipment to lend to clients so they can “try before they buy” any assistive devices or software.
“It’s about what can you do to improve the accessibility of your work station without spending much money,” David Banes, AbilityNet’s Director of Operations told E-Access Bulletin. “The biggest barrier we face is cost.”
The scheme aims to eliminate the need for users to travel to an AbilityNet centre, saving time and money, although the initiative does not replace AbilityNet’s existing in-centre assessments. According to Banes, these can be “expensive to the point of insupportable,” particularly where consultants need to visit people in remote areas such as the UK’s small islands in Scotland, he told E-Access Bulletin.
The programme, which follows a year-long pilot in Scotland funded initially by the Big Lottery Fund, will be launched at an event at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on 22 November.