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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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An exercise in missed opportunity: inclusive fitness equipment for people with sight loss

Going to the gym or using exercise equipment at home is simply part of a daily routine for many people, but locking-in this routine isn’t as easy for everyone. A huge amount of modern fitness equipment just isn’t accessible for those with a visual impairment, as a new report has demonstrated.

The study, ‘Inclusive fitness equipment for people with a visual impairment’, was commissioned by sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust and carried out by Rica (the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs). It showed the prevalence of console systems that are partially or entirely unusable to people with a visual impairment, despite a widespread desire among this group stay physically active.

e-Access Bulletin found out more about the study from Lynn Watson, Head of Research at Thomas Pocklington Trust, and Chris Lofthouse, Outreach Manager at Rica.

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Innovative tech solutions sought to help ageing consumers

A newly launched initiative is seeking innovative technological products and services to address some of the challenges presented by ageing.

The Innovation for Ageing project will bring together different groups to support older people as they become more vulnerable with age, through conditions such as sight loss, hearing loss and dementia.

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Websites, not assistive tech, are key to accessibility, say screen-reader users

New research into screen-reader usage has revealed the majority of users feel that improving existing websites would have a bigger impact on accessibility compared to better assistive technology.

The newly published findings are taken from the seventh Screen Reader User Survey by non-profit organisation WebAIM, conducted in October 2017. A total of 1,792 people responded to the survey, 89.2% of which reported using a screen-reader due to a disability.

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Facebook uses AI to open up photos for blind users

Blind and visually impaired users of Facebook will be able to find out which of their friends are in photos thanks to facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition is already used by the social networking site – for example, to suggest friends that users may want to tag in photos – but the company recently extended the use of this feature for screen-reader users. The new feature means that those users will be able to hear which of their friends are in photographs that appear on the user’s news feed, even if those friends are not tagged in the picture.

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Interview – Jackie Brown, Chair of the British Computer Association of the Blind: finding your game-changer

When Jackie Brown was introduced to the speech synthesiser on the Acorn BBC Micro computer in 1984, it was to be the beginning of a valuable and productive interest in assistive technology. Jackie, who is blind, continued to use and explore different technologies as they evolved, finding them beneficial to her career as a writer.

In 2007 Jackie subscribed to the email list of the British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB). She went on to edit the BCAB newsletter and stood for the Board of Trustees in 2015 before becoming Secretary. In November 2017, Jackie was appointed as BCAB Chair. e-Access Bulletin spoke to Jackie about her work within BCAB and aims for the organisation, and about the kinds of assistive technology she uses on a daily basis.

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New online platform aims to be a game-changer for accessible ICT

An accessibility resources platform that claims to be ‘the first of its kind in the world” has been launched.

DeveloperSpace aims to be a comprehensive portal for information on inclusive digital content and systems, for a wide-ranging audience. Although primarily aimed at developers, designers and anyone building digital systems or content, the site has been created to foster collaboration between different industries and disciplines, in the hope of creating and sharing what the site calls ‘accessible solutions’ to ICT accessibility problems.

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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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New website guides businesses towards accessible tourism

Tourism businesses in England and Scotland, such as hotels, restaurants and sightseeing attractions are being encouraged to produce ‘accessibility guides’ online to let visitors know about access facilities.

VisitEngland and VisitScotland, the official tourist boards for both countries, have launched a website that gives organisations a template for creating a guide. The result is a single, standardised page containing comprehensive access information for users.

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Artificial intelligence and accessibility at TechShare Pro 2017: the voice of things to come

Artificial intelligence (AI) was high on the agenda at the recent TechShare Pro 2017 conference in London. Hosted by AbilityNet and RNIB, the event explored a wide range of topics and ideas around digital accessibility and accessible technology, with a range of speakers discussing key ideas and developments.

One of the most popular themes of the event was AI and its potential benefits for accessibility. AI technologies have evolved at a tremendous pace over recent years and are now being used in everything from stock market trading to email management – but how can these technologies be utilised to help people with disabilities and impairments?

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