AbilityNet Accessibility Award: Bristol Braille Technology
Bristol Braille Technology is building a revolutionary and radically affordable Braille e-reader for blind people called Canute, designed with and by the blind community. The Canute is the world’s first multiple line Braille e-reader, forty characters per line by nine lines, and it will be affordable too. They want to be able to sell it for the price of a Perkins typewriter or iPhone. This would make it 20 times cheaper than existing digital Braille devices.
There are 12 million disabled people in the UK, and an estimated 1.1 billion worldwide. Since 1992 the UN has promoted a day of observance and understanding of disability issue and this year's theme is is 'Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want'. We asked 17 of our followers, supporters and staff about the role of technology can play in achieving current and future life goals.
What is the role of technology in achieving life goals for disabled people?
“I was lucky to be born in the computer age, without computers my life would have been miserable and my scientific career impossible. Technology continues to empower people of all abilities and AbilityNet continues to help disabled people in all walks of life.” (2012)
“As someone who now has limited vision, I can honestly say that technology has been the game changer for me. Although I have no secrets - with large font on phone and computer and I regularly share my texts out loud with fellow passengers. But I am independent at home and at work and just awaiting the driverless car!”
“Technology has transformed my working life. As a deaf person I can now communicate directly with hearing people using emails, text messages, live messaging, or have conversations with them via Skype or FaceTime. For larger meetings, the advent of reliable wifi means I can use my mobile phone or tablet to access remote captioning so I don't miss a word."
"Working one-to-one with students, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the wonderful impact technology can make to someone with a disability or specific learning disabilities. The confidence of being able to proof-read an essay using text-to-speech, the independence offered by voice recognition software that finally allows a student to fully express their ideas, or the relief felt by a student who has just discovered mind-mapping strategies that compliment the way they think. Technology is changing people’s lives."
"There's masses of tech out there that allows people with disabilities to reach their full potential. Long gone are the days when assistive tech was cumbersome, expensive and specialist, now your smart phone can give you much of the help you need to deal with everyday tasks you may find difficult. "Surprisingly a lot of this assistive functionality is built into your phone's operating system or is available from third parties for free or for a small charge."
I've never had a computer before, but it's opened up a whole new world since my stroke. But I did say one day to Andy, my ITCanHelp volunteer from AbilityNet, 'what idiot put Angry Birds on there. There are so many of them and I'm absolutely hooked! Technology and AbilityNet has helped me tremendously to be in the modern world." See more of Georgina here in our video.
“For many disabled people, a simple daily goal is to enjoy the same entertainment options. For video and TV that could mean captioning or audio descriptions, or using the text to speech features in their computer or phone to read out newspapers, magazines or blogs.”
“Education is a vital way for disabled people to achieve their goals. I work with many students who face cognitive impairments such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, which make it difficult for them to organise their thoughts.
"Zotero is one of the most popular free tools I recommend. It takes the pain out of managing references when you’re working on essays and reports and integrates with Microsoft Word to use those references in whichever style you require. It works for Mac and PC, creates an alphabetical list of your sources (bibliography) and can keep track across multiple essays.”
Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet
“Technology helps everyone reach their full potential. Like nothing else on this planet, technology can embrace people’s differences and provide choice – choice to suit everyone and empower them to achieve their goals both at work and at play. On this day, please raise the cheer for technology and digital inclusion, wherever in the world you are.”
“Assistive technology makes a real difference, without spellchecker I’d be doomed!”
Nicola Whitehill - founder of Facebook Group: Raynauds Scleroderma Awareness
“The internet is a lifeline for me. I'm under house arrest with Raynauds, but I still run a global community in my pyjamas!”
Nigel Lewis, CEO of AbilityNet
“Accessible technology can really help disabled people live their lives fuller, let’s all work together to make tech accessible and inclusive on this #idpd and always.”
Sarah Simcoe - chair of SEED Network, Fujitsu UK and Ireland
“Technology plays an important part in building an environment of accessibility and enablement – the use of tools, software and hardware in enabling disabled talent to fulfill their full potential is key to innovation and business growth.”
“There are so many things: Social media and the cloud's ability to connect us all and find people who can relate to our experience. Text communication and short messages are a great leveler. Images and video convey messages much more quickly. Twitter chats, blogs, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups all offer professionals with huge amounts of experience somewhere to share their knowledge.
"It's all part of the Global Cloud for Good agenda - we need to understand Industrial Revolution 4.0 - the Internet of Things, and automation for example - and our place in it. We need a socially responsible cloud which improves life for everyone and leaves nobody behind.
"Finally I still think eyegaze as a direct control method needs to be tried first for people with physical access issues. The price is changing and the previously held view that it was only for those that had tried everything else is completely out of date but pervasive.”
“In twenty years of disability discrimination legislation, the biggest change has been that what was once impossible or unreasonably difficult is now entirely possible - because of technology. Technology means that the way we all live and work has changed immeasurably and 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people have become the ordinary way of life for everyone because of the technology on our desks, in our pockets and in our homes and workplaces.”
"At PurpleSpace we are massive advocates of virtual networking and learning. While our members have a wide range of disabilities, the accessibility features built into smartphones, tablets and PCs mean that we can keep in touch and share career development opportunities on an equal level regardless of the different ways that we access technologies."
“I use lots of assistance software to over come my spelling and grammar issues to look more professional as a founder. I don't write anything without Grammarly now. It's like having my own copywriter! Anyone who is dyslexic should definitely get it.”
How can AbilityNet help you make the most of tech?
- Use our free expert resources to find the solution that works for you
- My Computer My Way is our award-winning free tool that tells you about every accessibility feature on every laptop, desktop computer and smartphone
- Our wonderful ITCanHelp volunteers provide free IT support at home for older people and disabled people of all ages
- We can work with your employer to ensure your workplace is fit for you, or if you are an employer, we can enable your disabled staff to do the best job possible, with our workplace services.
- Use our digital accessibility services to ensure your website and apps can be used for everyone