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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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Technology is key to making travel more accessible, new report finds

People with access needs still face numerous barriers when booking and undertaking travel, but existing and emerging technologies are crucial to making the process more accessible, research claims.

The new report found that while advancing technologies such as voice recognition, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are being used by some companies and hotels to make travel more inclusive, website accessibility and use of mobile devices – for tasks such as managing bookings – are still fundamental for travellers with access needs.

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‘Call for Evidence’ launched to help make voting more accessible

The UK Government is gathering public opinion to find out how accessible the country’s electoral system is for persons with disabilities.

The Call for Evidence was launched online by the Cabinet Office to collect information about direct experiences of voters with disabilities in elections.

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Procurement is key for accessible ICT in the workplace, claims new guide

A detailed online resource to help employers purchase effective accessible technology through their procurement processes has been released.

The guide, called ‘Buy IT!’, has been produced by the US-based Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT).

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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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Gaming industry takes One Special Day out to raise £100,000

The video games industry is being asked to raise £100,000 in a single day later this month, to boost and support the number of gamers with disabilities.

Organised by gaming charity SpecialEffect, the One Special Day fundraising project takes place on September 29. The organisers are asking developers and other companies from across the video games industry to donate revenue from games sales and in-app purchases on the day.

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Google Maps calls on millions of users to boost access info

The Google Maps team has requested its extensive user community help improve its accessibility listings.

As reported in previous issues of e-Access Bulletin, Google has taken various steps to increase its accessibility offerings in maps during previous months (see e-Access Bulletin December 2016: eab.li/7v ). Now, however, the Google Maps team have explicitly asked that its ‘Local Guides’ – a community of millions of users who voluntarily collect data – proactively add in wheelchair-accessible location information to maps.

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Global committee comes to the UK in new inclusive tech event

The UK chapter of an international accessibility organisation will formally launch at a new conference in London in November.

The TechShare Pro conference will host the introduction of the UK branch of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), alongside a programme of talks, workshops and activities on digital inclusivity.

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Opening up the arts: interview with Matthew Cock, VocalEyes chief executive

Matthew Cock is the chief executive of VocalEyes, a charity that works to make the arts more inclusive for people with disabilities, primarily through audio description services at theatres around the UK. He helped lead VocalEyes’ work on State of Museum Access, a report that delved deep if and how 1,700 UK museums publicised their access information online.

Matthew is also one of the organisers of the Jodi Awards. This annual event celebrates positive use of technology to widen access to information and resources in museums, libraries and other cultural organisations for people with disabilities. E-Access Bulletin caught up with Matthew to find out more.

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New app helps to combat poor customer service faced by people with disabilities

A new app-based system has been launched that aims to “shake up” the customer service industry across shops, banks and other venues.

The Welcome app lets people with disabilities tell shops and venues of their arrival, so that staff can provide tailored assistance suited to their condition.

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