Apps for well-being and mental health

We use technology to enhance our lives every day by shopping online, keeping up to date with friends and making travel plans, but have you thought about using apps to look after your mental health? Stress is present in all of our lives at varying times but for students this is a particularly stressful point in the year with exams, essays and dissertations due, not to mention MA applications. Managing our wellbeing can largely increase our productivity in times of stress.

There are all sorts of apps being developed all the time so we’ve chosen five of our current favourites.

Please note, whilst these apps can be helpful, they are not a replacement for seeking medical advice if you have concerns about any symptoms you are experiencing.

SAM app: SAM will help you to understand what causes your anxiety, monitor your anxious thoughts and behaviour over time and manage your anxiety through self-help exercises and private reflection.This app has been developed in collaboration with a research team from UWE, Bristol.

SAM app on mobile phone

In Hand: This app has been made by a team of people passionate about technology and destigmatising mental health. They have worked together for nearly a year to create an app that promotes awareness of mental well being and could help you in a moment of anxiety or low mood.

In Hand app

Stay Alive: The first of its kind in the UK, the Stay Alive app is a free, nationwide suicide prevention pocket resource, packed full of useful information to help you stay safe. Their vision is that no one has to contemplate suicide alone, the app is designed to be a lifeline for people at risk of suicide.

Stay Alive app

Stop Breathe Think: A friendly app to guide people through meditations for mindfulness & compassion. Check in with how you’re feeling and try short activities tuned to your emotions.

 Stop, Breathe & Think app

Headspace: Headspace is designed to enourage positivity through meditation. Live a happier, healthier life with just a few minutes of meditation a day.

Headspace app

5 new accessibility features in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update released this month has promised ‘breakthroughs in creativity’ – offering options for mixed reality and faster broadcasting for gaming. But, the update - free until the end of the year - also offers several new and updated accessibility features.

Here we offer a snapshot of those updates and what they offer disabled people.

Microsft's latest OS update provides a range of assistive technologies

Eye Control

A beta version of the much talked about Eye Control is now available. It means those who use eye movements for communication, such as people with physical disabilites, can now combine a compatible eye tracker with Windows 10 to operate an on-screen mouse, keyboard and text-to-speech experience.

New Learning Tools capabilities in Microsoft Edge (the new Internet Explorer)

Microsoft Learning Tools are a set of features designed to make it easier for people with learning differences like dyslexia to read, says Microsoft. In this update, a user can mow simultaneously highlight and listen to text in web pages and PDF documents to read and increase focus.

Dictation on the Desktop



This feature already allowed people with vision, mobility and cognitive disabilities to speak into their microphone, and convert that using Windows Speech Recognition into text that appears on screen. In the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, a person can now use dictation to input text (English only) in a wider variety of ways and applications. As well as dictating text, you can also use voice commands to do basic editing or to input punctuation.

Narrator Screenreader new image descriptions and Magnifier link up

Microsofts screen reader - Narrator - now uses Microsoft Cognitive Services to generate image descriptions for pictures that lack alternative text. For websites or apps that don’t have alt-text built in, this feature will provide quick and accurate descriptions of an image. It's also now possible to use Magnifier with Narrator, so you can zoom in on text and have it read aloud.

Colour Filters for colour blindness colour blindness

Color Filters help those with colour blindness more easily distinguish between colours. All installed software and third-party apps will follow the filter a users sets up. The colour filters are available in greyscale, invert, greyscale inverted, Deuteranopia, Protanopia or Tritanopia.

More information

17 big ways tech is helping disabled people achieve goals: 2016 International Day of Persons with Disabilities #idpd

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?

Prof Stephen Hawking has achieved amazing things in his life thanks to technology

Professor Stephen Hawking

“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)

Kate Headley, Director of Consulting, The Clear Company

“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!”

Joanna Wootten: Age, Disability and Inclusion expert at Solutions Included

“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."
 

Sarah-Jane Peake, assistive technology trainer, Launchpad Assistive Technology

"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."
 

Sean Douglas

Sean Douglas, founder of dyslexia podcast The Codpast

"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."

Georgina Eversfield Tanner, client of AbilityNet's ITCanHelp volunteering service

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. 

Gareth Ford WIlliams is Head of Accessibility at BBC Design and Engineering

Gareth Ford Williams, Head of Accessibility, BBC Design and Engineering

“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.”

Abbie Osborne, Assessor for AbilityNet

“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 ChristophersonRobin 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.”

Morgan Lobb, Director, Diversity Jobs

“Assistive technology makes a real difference, without spellchecker I’d be doomed!”

Nicola Whitehill

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.”

Hector Minto, Accessibility Evangelist, Microsoft

“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.”

Bela Gor is a Disability Legal Adviser at Business Disability ForumBela Gor, Disability Legal Adviser, Business Disability Forum

“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.”

Kate Nash OBE, founder of PurpleSpace community of disability employee networks

"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."

Ed Holland leads Driven MediaEdward Hollands, founder of Driven Media UK

“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?

AbilityNet staff gain national volunteer management qualification

AbilityNet staff have completed a national qualification in volunteer management to support their work with a network of over 8,000 volunteers with IT skills. This will help them support the continued growth of the volunteer network, who help meets the IT needs of charities and disabled people. Volunteer Administrator Josie Ray and Advice and Information Officer Alex Barker have both been awarded the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Certification.

“It made sense to study for this qualification as AbilityNet works closely with volunteers” said Alex. "We have a UK-wide team of volunteers who provide home visits for disabled people in the community. They are all CRB/Disclosure checked and can help with all kinds of technical issues, from installing broadband and removing viruses to setting up new software and backups. We also have a network of IT professionals who provide IT support to charities, including web design, databases and troubleshooting and helping to reduce costs and improve services. ”

Volunteering manager Anne Stafford said “It is important to AbilityNet that we deliver high standards & our volunteers are important members of our team. I am pleased that our staff have the opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism in volunteer engagement.”

More information:

Mind the Digital Gap: AbilityNet proposes new digital inclusion strategy

In our increasingly digital self-service economy technology now dominates shopping, entertainment, work and communication, as well as citizenship itself, but age and disability are barring people from full participation. Organisations like AbilityNet, Go ON UK and its disability focused partner, Go ON Gold, are making great strides to close the gap between the computer literate and the technologically disenfranchised, but the gulf is wider than that. 

AbilityNet’s new digital inclusion strategy ‘Mind the Digital Gap’ looks at the obstacles faced by the huge numbers of people who struggle to use digital technologies that are badly designed and just don't meet their needs. AbilityNet believes that we urgently need to recognise the social and economic costs of this digital gap, and identify clear actions to begin closing it.

Mind the Digital Gap logoThe strategy was launched at the House of Commons on 21 November at a reception hosted by Anne McGuire MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People. It calls for better design practices through implementing user-focused testing at all stages of the design of digital systems (rather than relying on post-hoc accessibility checks).

AbilityNet urges those who commission and build online services, operating systems and digital devices (whether business, government or third sector) to put a user-centred approach at the heart of the design process. The strategy also proposes tax incentives to promote inclusive design, closer partnerships between business and other sectors and a commitment to embed inclusive design at all levels of professional design education.

AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis says it's time to change how we design and deliver inclusive digital systems:

"For too long the debate about accessibility has focused on issues that are specific to disabled people, but testing a website after it has been built, or pursuing legal action to ensure that every website includes alt-tags for people who use a screen reader, just isn't working.

“There is a much more important strategic issue at stake and we need a new approach that goes beyond what we currently think of as ‘Accessibility’. To close that gap, it’s imperative that business, government and the third sector work together."

AbilityNet patron and chair of Go ON UK Martha Lane Fox agrees and believes that in addition to making design practices more inclusive we need to focus equipping people with the skills they need to participate in the digital age:

"Both Go ON UK and AbilityNet are working on building digital skills to enable everyone to benefit as much as possible from available technology."

The full strategy is available for download on the AbilityNet website.

 

Anne McGuire MP and Nigel Lewis of AbilityNet at the launch of AbilityNet's Mind the Digital Gap, House of Commons, November 2012'

Shadow Minister for Disabled People Anne McGuire with AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis at the reception at the House of Commons.

See more pictures from the event on Flickr

How to learn from Apple's mistakes on website accessibility

We often post about how good Apple is on accessibility, but a legal complaint against the company by a screenreader user last month has shown that even the biggest tech giants can fall foul of accessibility regulations and guidelines sometimes. Smaller organisations are often not considering web accessibility at all, meaning they could be discriminating against disabled people without realising. 

apple website screenshot with the message 'welcome to the big screens' introducing their new iPhones

According to the complaint against Apple, the company's website misses out some descriptions of images for screenreader users and presents confusing and unclear links about store locations and hours. These problems can make using a website frustrating and difficult for a blind person. 

Myself and the AbilityNet accessibility team looked at the case last month and then ran through the Apple.com website to check out the issues. It revealed some simple, easily fixable problems which I've mentioned below. They found that although there were no issues here which completely prevented reaching the final stage of buying an iPhone, there are a number of challenges with the flow that will cause some users difficulties such as:

  1. Dynamic progression through shopping process
  2. Unclear method for returning to previous steps
  3. Insufficiently labelled radio buttons

Check out our detailed analysis for an expert insight on how to address accessibility issues. And feel free to use the code and ideas to make changes to your own website to provide a more inclusive digital experience. 

Investigating Apple website accessibility issues

First we looked at difficulties accessing store locations and hours.

One of the issues noted within the complaint was that screenreader users had difficulty finding store information e.g. location and opening times. So we ran through the user-journey for finding a store, using the JAWS screenreader as this is one of the more popular screenreaders available - and is specifically mentioned in the case.

There were multiple difficulties noted. The key issues were:

  • Insufficiently labelled input fields (meaning screenreaders are left unsure of what information is needed in the boxes they're asked to enter information into)
  • Links with identical text, that lead to different locations. While this is not a failure of WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines), it is not good practise.
  • Dynamic content not made accessible to screenreader users, e.g. auto-suggest search results

Further difficulties noted in the complaint were:

  • Unable to browse and purchase electronics such as the iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro laptop
  • Inability to make service appointments online
  • Trouble finding a store

Finding a store

We found that navigating to the 'Find a store' page was relatively simple. From the homepage, using a JAWS screenreader, the user presses H until 'Apple Store' heading is selected. Then they tab to the 'Find a store' link, which leads to the find a store page. The form on this page is presented as the image below.

Find a store, City and State or Zip, complete store list

Sighted users are informed that this input field requires the City and State or Zip code (US).  JAWS users will hear the placeholder text (City and State or Zip) announced if they use the JAWS form field list, or JAWS users who tab onto the input field will instead just hear 'Find a store. Edit. Required.'

This tells them that:

  1. The label is 'Find a store'
  2. It is an edit field, so they need to enter some information
  3. It is a required field

But it is not clear what information they need to enter. Is it a town? Postcode? County?

Whilst users may opt to guess at this point, it is straightforward to ensure that screenreader users get the same information as sighted users by entering the following code:

<input class="global-retail-search block" required="" type="search" placeholder="City and State or Zip" autocorrect="off" results="0" data-autoglobalsearch-module="retail-locator">

This uses the placeholder attribute (highlighted) to label the input field. However, the placeholder attribute should not be relied on to convey information. This article on the popular Smashing Magazine website explains why not to rely on the placeholder attribute. 

This issue is easily remedied - simply use the aria-label attribute, as below, to duplicate the placeholder text for sighted users in the process.

<input class="global-retail-search block" required="" type="search" placeholder="City and State or Zip" aria-label="City and State or Zip"autocorrect="off" results="0" data-autoglobalsearch-module="retail-locator">

Alternatively, the more traditional HTML <label> element could be used to provide a hidden label, announced for screenreader users.

Accessing Apple store information online

Let's assume the user tries to enter a city name (not an unreasonable assumption) to see what happens.

Entering some characters into the search field displays the following auto-suggest results:

New York, New York Mills

While these are easily visible below the search input field, screenreader users are not informed of these results. In addition, pressing enter has no effect except to set the focus back to the top of the page. This means that screenreader users will need to manually navigate to the search results in the bottom half of the screen – they are still not made aware of these results however, so would need to manually explore.

Once they reach the results, further challenges are presented. Each of the store location results has identical 'View store details' links:

graphic showing list of Apple store locations

These are all announced as 'View store details' - there is no easy way for screenreader users to distinguish them. On the homepage, Apple uses hidden text to distinguish otherwise similar links e.g. 'Find out more', or 'Buy now'. This is not the case here. When reading through the links on the page, a screenreader hears the following:

view store details, view store details, view store details, view store details

Note the multiple 'View store details' links.

However, each of the stores is prefixed with a descriptive heading, so a user can select a link and then use a shortcut to hear the preceding heading announced. This would tell them that the first link to 'View store details' is about 'Apple Upper East Side'.

As there is already a technique in place elsewhere on the website for augmenting links with descriptive hidden text, it would not be difficult to replicate this here such that the links were announced as 'View store details: Apple Upper East Side' for example.

Viewing store details

Selecting a link to view the store details leads to a further page with store information:

Apple East Side Address, Madison Avenue

It was relatively straightforward to read the store information here. The address and store hours were announced as expected by the JAWS screenreader.

Browsing and buying products

When looking to buy products from the online store, some specific difficulties were encountered. For example, when following the flow to purchase the iPhone X, the flow consists of multiple steps, at each step making a choice such as model, carrier, finish.

These steps are dynamic – as soon as a user chooses the option for step 1, they are taken to step 2 without warning. This is a failure of the WCAG 2.0 success criteria on input. Users inputting data (e.g. making a selection via a form control) should not experience a change in context e.g. being taken to a new page, or step, without warning.  

However, otherwise this flow works reasonably well - the user is told when they land on a new step, and can proceed as expected. The dynamic nature may cause difficulties for some users however, especially as the method for returning to the previous step is not clearly explained – vital in case a user selects an option by mistake. A preferred solution is to let the users make their choice – colour, carrier, capacity etc – and then select a button to confirm their choice before they are taken to a new page.

There was one interesting issue related to the final step of selecting the capacity of the iPhone being purchased:

Now choose your capacity click options 64gb or 256gb

These buttons are marked up as radio buttons. However, the labels are not usefully announced. Sighted users can see the superscript 2, but this is not distinguished as such by JAWS users, who hear this announced as "64GB 2$49.91/mo" and it is further not clear that this 2 relates to a footnote which gives further information about the available capacity on the selected model.

Mo is also not explained adequately. It would be better to use 'Month' in full to avoid ambiguity.

Summary

There were no issues here which completely prevented reaching the final stage of buying an iPhone, but there were a number of challenges with the flow that will cause some users difficulties such as

  1. Dynamic progression through shopping process
  2. Unclear method for returning to previous steps
  3. Insufficiently labelled radio buttons

The fixes described above provide an expert view of the way to address these issues to deliver a more inclusive user experience.

For more on making your website accessible, click here. 

Joe Chidzik is the Principal Accessibility Consultant at AbilityNet

Common questions about fibromyalgia and computing answered

Fibromyalgia Awareness Week banner via Fibromyalgia Action UK - around 1 in 20 in the UK affectedFibromyalgia has been in the news recently with Radio 4 presenter Kirsty Young announcing that she is going to take a break from the programme 'Desert Island Discs' as her fibromyalgia is causing her issues.

Fibromyalgia is much misunderstood, can cause pain all over the body and can also have symptoms such as non-refreshing sleep and clumsiness. This week (2 - 9 September 2018) is Fibromyalgia Awareness Week and we wanted to answer some questions we frequently get asked about how computers and digital technology can be adapted to help those with fibromyalgia and other similar conditions.


From day-to-day, I have really sore fingers. I’ve heard about voice recognition - is it difficult to set-up?

No, not at all! If you have a fairly new Windows or Apple computer then you have built-in voice recognition. It is easy to use and as long as you practice for a while you should be able to get fairly good voice recognition. We’d always suggest getting a USB microphone as normally the external microphones are not of a high enough quality to be effective at recognizing your voice.

I want to keep on typing to control the computer. What might work for me?

Depending on how you are affected by fibromyalgia there are a couple of solutions that might work for you. There are keyboards which are known as 'compact' - these don’t tend to have the number pad on the right-hand side so it means you don’t have to stretch from one side of the keyboard to the other.  Other keyboards have a bit of a 'softer touch' so you don’t need to hit the keyboard quite as hard. Other technology we might suggest includes word prediction software which will automatically predict the words you are typing.

Fibromyalgia causes 'brain fog' and I have real issues trying to work. I find software with many options confusing. What can I do?

Within software packages like Microsoft Word there are lots of ways of making things easier for you. One of the most effective options is the ability to hide toolbars and taskbars in your Microsoft Office applications to remove options and tools you never seem to use. This should help you focus more effectively on the functionality that you do need to use.

What about smart home devices? Could they help me?

Devices such as Google Home and Amazon's Alexa device can certainly help you in all sorts of ways. If you have poor memory skills you can ask the devices to remind you about important appointments or things that you need to buy at the supermarket. They can also help you if you feel anxious, as there are lots of 'skills' that can improve your mental health and help you to relax.


Case study

Clive's sister Fiona has fibromyalgia and she has lots of difficulties with trying to keep up-to-date with hospital appointments. They had a chat to AbilityNet's friendly Advice and Information Officer who suggested using an online diary in conjunction with a smart home device so they could make (and more importantly remember) important hospital visits. Fiona is a very visual person so one of our volunteers also visited Fiona in her home and helped her to colour-code her appointments to make them easier to see.


How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help people with disabilities and older people use computers and other digital technology to achieve their goals. There are a number of ways and situations in which you can contact us and request our help.

Call our free helpline - our friendly, knowledgeable staff can help with many computer problems and questions about adapting digital technology to your needs. Our helpline is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.

In a work environment, all employers have a responsibility to make Reasonable Adjustments to ensure people with disabilities can access the same opportunities and services as everybody else. For more details on this visit www.abilitynet.org.uk/ctod and www.cleartalentsatwork.com.

Arrange a home visit - we have a network of volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you remotely over the phone.

We have a range of factsheets which can be downloaded for free and contain comprehensive information about technology that might help you.

My Computer My Way - a free interactive guide to all the accessibility features built into current desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Project Silver - what it means for accessibility and how you can help make the web more inclusive

silve panel

It’s just a few months since the Web Accessibility Guidelines 2.1 (WCAG) were publicly released by the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3). But, work has already started on the guidelines’ successor, currently known as Project Silver.

AbilityNet will be following the guidelines’ development over the coming years (the project might be in development for five years) and will be looking for ways we can contribute our wide-ranging expertise from working on web accessibility for numerous large organisations. 

Can you help with Project Silver?

Anyone can contribute to the project and, after a year of initial research, it already has some good foundational ideas about what needs development with the guidelines. The project is particularly looking for participation from experts in the accessibility community who can help with:

  • Writing plain and simple language. The current WCAG 2.1 uses some complex language and we would welcome simplification for our clients and other organisations.
  • Links and resources for supporting content, examples and tutorials. We believe this would hugely help organisations understand accessibility much more clearly and mean that more disabled people could access essential services online. 

The new update comes because a group of people within the WC3 wanted to work on the next major evolution of accessibility guidance with a User Experience model. This meant researching what users needed from accessibility guidance and potentially recommending a major restructuring of WCAG.

A Silver Design Sprint has been already completed, developing a prototype and user testing. This is due in September 2018. 

Experts and members of public needed

If you’d like to contribute to Project Silver, here are some options:

Task Force Participant: the most time-consuming level of participation. The time commitment is estimated to be 6-10 hours per week. To join the Silver Task Force, individuals must be participants of the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group. 

The Silver Community Group is open to the public, and only requires a (free) W3C account and agreeing to the intellectual property commitment for W3C Community Groups. Participants contribute at the amount of time that is convenient for them. 

  • Research Partner: The Silver Task Force seeks qualified researchers in accessibility fields to assist with user research and background research on Silver and WCAG 2. 
  • Silver Stakeholder: people who would provide valuable perspective on a new design of accessibility guidelines. 
  • Comments on publications: The Silver Task Force invites the public to comment on its work. Announcements on Silver Task Force work will be announced on the Silver Email list (public-silver@w3.org)].

Publications will be also be tweeted with the #a11y and #wcag hashtags. Silver publications use the #a11ySilver hashtag. All publications include instructions for comments. 

Writing in plain English

Main topics you can help with:

  • Writing Silver in plain/simple language. Great for editors.
  • Linking to more helpful information that is hard to find.
  • Creating a homepage useful for both beginners and experts.
  • Developing a method for accessibility experts to contribute new content.
  • Changing how to define conformance beyond true/false success criteria statements.
  • Improving specification development tools, i.e. a simplified interface to Github so more people with disabilities can participate.
  • Helping to organise usability testing of the different ideas.

Find out more

This blog was written by Marta Valle and Joe Chidzik from AbilityNet's accessibility team

Eye-opening blind mobility service Right-Hear is coming, er, right here (to the UK)

Based upon an award-winning blind mobility and orientation system, Right-Hear is a service that is about to boost the confidence and choices of blind people out and about – well, actually indoors - in the UK.

Being blind brings challenges when getting around

Robin Christopherson with service dog ArchieWith a trusty guide-dog or long cane, blind people can effectively navigate the cluttered streets and swarming crowds (often comprising many people distracted by smartphones) and avoid the pitfalls (quite literally) of roadworks and vehicles parked on the pavements. We can usually end up where we intended to go without incident or misadventure. 

The challenge often comes, however, when you are so close to your destination that you could probably touch it – although you don't know that you can because, well, you can't see. GPS apps on our phone are great at getting us to the approximate area of our goal (the door of a shop, say) but not accurate enough as to enable us to find it without a lot of feeling around and trial and error. 

Once in the door there are all the other challenges associated with finding our way around the aisles or corridors, locating lifts or (and this is by far the most important one) loos and sourcing a helping hand by seeking out the customer-service desk.

Tech to the rescue

Bluetooth beacons, combined with cleverly coded software on our smartphones, can help blind people not only precisely find the door of the building but also every other desired destination within it. Using an open standard that has been developed specifically to help the visually impaired and those with other orientation impairments called Wayfindr (winner of the 2016 Tech4Good Accessibility Award), the Right-Hear solution is about to hit the streets (or at least the buildings and unmapped open spaces) of the UK and it's worth a look. Let's see it in action in this short video:

Mobilising mobility solutions - made easy

Wayfindr has prepared the ground for services such as Right-Hear to be more readily realised. The challenge of how and when to present just the right amount of spoken information to help someone orientate and navigate around in an open space has been clearly laid-out in the Wayfindr open standard

Right-Hear has used that foundation and built both an app for blind end-users and an easy-to-use dashboard for venue owners to configure the experience for their customers. 

Let's take a look in this video at how a venue can be set up to use the service:

Showing the way forward

Easy and effective, let's hope that Right-Hear and other such services represent significant steps to enhanced mobility for everyone who faces challenges finding their way around. Wayfindr has paved the way for many such services to be developed and deployed in the UK and across the world. 

Just as there is a plethora of GPS apps to choose from, so should there soon be choice and a competitive landscape in which everyone can easily find their way around both indoors and out. 

Bravo to Right-Hear. We encourage everyone responsible for a building or unmapped open space to use such solutions to make them truly accessible.

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