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

Government must raise awareness of mainstream accessibility technology for disabled people says AbilityNet

Following today’s publication of a Work and Pensions Committee report on assistive technology (AT), leading digital incluRobin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNetsion charity AbilityNet is calling on the Government to raise awareness among employers and disabled people of the availability of mainstream accessibility technology.

The charity supports the recommendations in the report, calling on the Government to further the promotion of mainstream, cost-effective AT and AT support, including the signposting of free resources including Microsoft's accessibility helpdesk, AbilityNet's My Computer My Way website or the Disabled Living Foundation's Living Made Easy website.

Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet explained that "ten or fifteen years ago AT was the domain of the specialist provider. With the advent of mobile computing, the vast majority of mainstream technologies can enable disabled people to work in full-time roles and embrace the benefits of modern life.”

Commenting further, he explained, “There is a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding of what mainstream technology can actually do for disabled people. Users themselves do not know what their existing system is capable of, which adjustments would be relevant, or which menu to use to make that adjustment.

"If Government can do more to raise awareness of accessibility options in partnership with organisations like AbilityNet and the major technology companies, everyone will benefit. Disabled people will become more confident in using technology and, this in turn will improve independence and employability, it’s a win-win.”

Earlier this year AbilityNet was invited to give written and oral evidence into the Committee's Assistive Technology Inquiry which led to the AT report. AbilityNet told Parliament that web accessibility, in particular making online job opportunities accessible, is also essential if the Government wants to hit its target of one million more people with disabilities in employment in the next decade.

AbilityNet is looking for technology that’s inclusive by design

Accessible gaming for disabled children, e-reader for blind people, AbilityNet is looking for technology that’s inclusive by design

Leading digital inclusion charity AbilityNet is on the hunt for inspiring tech projects for this year’s Tech4Good Awards. That includes the Tech4Good Accessibility Award, which recognises people using tech to transform the lives of disabled people. Past winners include SpecialEffect and Lifelites, who are doing amazing things like making computer games accessible for disabled people and helping children in hospices keep in touch with family and friends. Entries close on 8 May – it’s free to enter and is open to any individual, business, charity, social enterprise or other public body with a base in the UK.

Lifelites provides tech equipment and support to children with life-limiting conditions in everyone of the UK’s children’s hospices and was the first ever winner of the Accessibility Award in 2011. Their CEO, Simone Enefer-Doy, says:

“Winning the Accessibility Award was a pivotal moment for us. I realised that we weren’t just a start-up; here we were, being told by our peers that there was something very worthwhile about what we did. It’s helped us to sell our cause to potential funders and has helped us continue to grow and help more children and their families.”

Last year’s winner was Bristol Braille Technology, who have created an affordable Braille e-reader for blind people called Canute, designed with and by the blind community. Ed Rogers, Bristol Braille says: “Winning the AbilityNet Tech4Good Award came after a long stretch of work to finish the latest Canute prototype. We certainly weren't expecting to win but we're very grateful for the recognition after so many years' work."

The AbilityNet Accessibility Award is one of eight categories open for entry as part of the 2018 Tech4Good Awards, organised by AbilityNet and sponsored by BT. Now in its 8th year, the awards recognise organisations and individuals who create and use technology to improve the lives of others and make the world a better place. Other past winners include Open Bionics, WayFindr, Barclays Bank and LexAble – all of them demonstrating creative ways that tech can change people’s lives.

Mark Walker, Head of Marketing & Communications at AbilityNet says:

‘Technology has become part of everyone’s life but it can be a real game changer for disabled people. It’s always amazing to see the entries for this Award because there is so much innovation happening across the country, and we want to see how it is being used to make a positive impact in the lives of people with disabilities.’

Entries are judged by an expert panel of judges who have worked across the technology, digital and charity sectors and have the unenviable job of narrowing down 250+ entries to just 28 finalists.

So, if you or your team are working on something exciting that solves a problem for disabled people – be it the everyday mundane action, or the once in a lifetime experience - we want to hear about it. Let’s celebrate the brilliant work that the sector is doing in creating these life-changing and empowering technologies for good.

Deadline for entries is 6pm on 8 May 2018. For more information and to enter, go to:


A new way to log in will put an end to passwords, and that's good news for people with disabilities

A new web standard called WebAuthn will soon remove the need to enter a password each time you log in to a website - and may even mean the end for CAPTCHAs - those evil and (quite literally) twisted codes that annoy everyone but often bar users with a disability.

The problem with passwords

Passwords are not a good approach to securing our online lives. Not only do we need to remember which username or email address we used on a certain website, but we also need to make sure we always devise a cunning password and then make sure we make a note of it.

Everyone experiences the challenge of remembering passwords that are complicated (or should be) and different from site to site. Yours aren’t different you say? Yikes – that’s another major aspect to the problem with passwords. Once someone has got yours for one website, they’re simultaneously into several others. Add to the mix a disability or impairment that makes the practicalities of remembering or retrieving passwords even more problematic, and it’s easy to see the benefits that a new approach might bring.

monitor with a post it note on it displaying the word 'security'

Another significant flaw in the whole password approach is that, with all that we betray of ourselves on social media and the internet, it’s almost child’s play for someone to masquerade as us when contacting a company to reset a supposedly forgotten password.

Finally putting passwords in the past

This new standard does away with the need for passwords by using some other device – it could be your smartphone, computer or a specialist handheld ‘widget’ – to enable you to confirm that you are who you say you are. We’re all familiar with receiving a code by text or an email with a link we need to click to complete a registration process.

Having to manually enter a code is inconvenient and may include mistakes, but clicking a link is relatively pain-free. This latter approach is in essence what is proposed by WebAuthn – but in a much more seamless way. Being a fully-fledged W3C standard means it won’t involve anything so clunky as email, it will be able to be built right in to the device you would use to provide that all-important authentication.

Got a smartphone? If so, when logging into a website on your computer using this new WebAuthn approach, a simple message will pop up asking you to confirm that you wish to log in and – voila! No need to go into your emails or open an app – the integration on a wide range of devices permanently authorised to approve your login will make it as simple as a click of a button, a tap of a screen or perhaps (for a little added security) the tracing of a special gesture.

Our passwords cannot be forgotten as they will no longer exist - and our online accounts will be as secure as those devices used to provide authentication.


Will WebAuthn kill CAPTCHAs?

And what about the dreaded CAPTCHA? I won’t go into the ins and outs of these critters here – go and read many of my other posts – but surely these scrambled codes that prevent so many disabled people (myself included) from being able to prove we’re human and not robots are just another point at which we are asked to prove that we are who we say we are.

Dear W3C, please say that WebAuthn will kill CAPTCHAs once and for all...

Take Robin's 2 minute CAPTCHA challenge!

Robin Christopherson is AbilityNet's head of digital inclusion. Find more of his blogs here. 

Robin is hosting a webinar on the business case for accessibility, this Wednesday (18 April). Find out more now. 

Find out how Skype is paving the way to more accessible cross platform apps.

Support the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards - join our Thunderclap campaign

We want to encourage as many people as possible to enter the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards this year. Our awards are free to enter and attend, and there are some fantastic categories to choose from. To help us, please support AbilityNet's Thunderclap campaign.

What is Thunderclap?

Thunderclap is the first-ever crowdspeaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. Join our Thunderclap campaign, and you and others will post the same message at the same time, sharing our message about there being a week left to enter the 2018 AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards - deadline 8 May 6pm.

How can you help?

To support our Thunderclap campaign you choose between your Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr account to grant Thunderclap permission to post a message on your behalf. If our campaign reaches its support goal by the deadline, Thunderclap with automatically post our message and all other supporters' messages at the same time.

What about privacy?

When you log into Thunderclap, you're allowing their platform to share a single message on your behalf. They use the absolute minimum permissions possible. The platforms they integrate with sometimes include additional permissions that they do not use and they will not post anything from your friends' accounts.

For more information about and to join our campaign please visit the Thunderclap website

Free Webinar: The Business Case for Accessibility

Many of the UK’s biggest brands understand that accessible websites and apps are good for business, but too many people treat it as a bolt-on. As well as facing legal threats they could be missing out on a market that is estimated at £250bn. Our free webinar will explain the business case for making sure that your website and apps can be used by every customer.

The session is hosted by Digital Leaders and will be delivered by AbilityNet’s Robin Christopherson MBE, who has been a global expert in accessibility for 20 years and regularly speaks at international tech events.

Robin Christopherson has been a leading figure in accessibility for 20 years

He will use examples to show how inclusive design can boost revenue, deliver financial savings, improve your brand and reduce legal risks. He’ll also explain how accessible apps and websites can improve the experience for every single one of your mobile users – whether they have a disability or not.

The webinar will consist of a 30-minute presentation followed by a 20 minute interactive Q&A