Great ways tech and computers can help when you have osteoporosis

Many of us might break a bone sometime in our lives, but while for most people this is just a very rare occurrence, for those who have osteoporosis, bones can frequently break causing pain and leading to periods of time off work.

The condition means that your bones are weak causing them to break easily.  According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation, more than 75 million people in the USA, Europe and Japan are affected by the condition. 

How can using a computer help people who have osteoperosis?

Every time you use the keyboard you put pressure on your fingers and your wrist. If you have osteoporosis, you might find that fingers and wrists tend to break easily and often. So it might be worth exploring technology where you don't have to use your hands and wrists so much. 

Using a compact keyboard can help so you don't have to move your hands and fingers so much. A light touch keyboard might also be useful to consider.  As part of looking at different keyboards, you might even want to consider using some type of word prediction software, so that you don't have to use as many keystrokes. There are a number of packages available, such a Typing Assistant and WordQ

I've heard of voice recognition. Tell me more about this. 

Voice recognition is a really quick and easy way of getting your thoughts down on paper, without using a keyboard. Voice recognition is available for desktop and laptop computers and if you have a smartphone or a tablet there is voice recognition already installed.   

With the advent of devices like the Alexa Echo or Dot from Amazon you can use tech to not only to select music from your playlists, but you can also get information from the web about train times and even order take-away food without using hands and fingers.  

Google has also brought out a similar device called Google Home. There is lots of potential we see here at AbilityNet, lots of it was explored at our event  'Building Better Bots' recently.

I find it very difficult to take breaks at work. What can help me?

Ergonomix screen shot

Research shows that exercise is important if you have a condition such as osteoporosis (or various other conditions for that matter). But in many places of work it can be difficult to take breaks.  Software such as StretchClock can actually help you exercise at your desk.  Other software such as Ergonomix and Workrave is also work checking out.  Breaks can encourage you to go and get up and stretch or just go and put the kettle on for a hot drink and enjoy a bit of movement in the process.

How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of services to help disabled people and older people with technology and communications.

  • Call our free Helpline on 0800 269 545 and our friendly, knowledgeable staff will offer one-to-one help.
  • If you are in work your employer has a responsibility to make Reasonable Adjustments which include helping you with invisible illnesses. Find out more about how we help disabled in the workplace.
  • Arrange a home visit from one of our amazing AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about computers and vision impairment useful
  • My Computer My Way is our free interactive guide to all the accessibility features built into current desktops, laptops, tables and smartphones.

 

 

 

 

 

Mixmag journalist: Nightclubs still not thinking about disabled customers and accessibility

The latest edition of renowned dance-music magazine Mixmag, published in LA, Cape Town, London and Sydney, explores the difficulties of accessing nightclubs for disabled clubbers and DJs.

Journalist Alex Taylor, who uses a wheelchair, writes the article Nightclubs need to be way more accessible for disabled clubbers, calling out the fact that music fans are still often struggling to get into or around nightclubs. Though he does praise Ibiza's latest arrival Hi, for being fully accessible. 

Amnesia nightclub Ibiza door sign

Alex begins: "This summer, I made a clubbing pilgrimage to the White Isle, Amnesia my final port of call. Ticket in hand, I joined the throng – only to find the door shut in my face unless I paid double. My crime? I use a wheelchair and need a carer to help me on nights out.

At some clubs, the fact that I need a qualified carer with me to help me transfer to the toilet, navigate stairs and – perhaps most importantly – reach the bar to order drinks – is a burden I must, literally, pay the price for. Disability and clubbing, it seems, still causes trouble in paradise.

Amnesia have since apologised, saying that, where possible, “full details” of carers should be given in advance. For spontaneous visits, Amnesia requires “some type of ID proving the position of the carer”. Given that such ID is not standard practice, it remains unclear what exactly would be accepted," writes the journalist. 

Taylor continues: "In the words of Tom Head, a disabled clubber who also performs as DJ Void, “I don’t think clubs think about disabled customers or accessibility. It’s as though anyone with a disability isn’t expected.” Little surprise, then, that he sees “few obviously disabled people in clubs”."

The inaccessibility of ticketing websites

2014 Research by Attitude is Everything (AIE), a UK charity dedicated to improving access to live music for deaf and disabled pe

ople, found that many were put off even going to an event because of the inaccessibility of booking websites.

The charity's State of Access Report 2014, found that, of 228 disabled people surveyed: 

  • 95% had experienMixmag October 2017 cover featuring Bicepced disability-related issues when booking tickets
     
  • 88% felt discriminated against due to an inaccessible booking system
  •  
  • 83% had been put off buying tickets after finding it inaccessible
     
  • 47% considered taking legal action as a result.

Taylor writes: "A senseless situation given that disabled people have a combined purchasing power of £80bn in the UK alone. But even for clubbers like Head, who persevere, a lack of info online is the next hurdle. “Is a club accessible? Is there a disabled toilet and parking? These are vital questions that need answers,” he says.

Club music should heal not hinder

The article discusses the healing power of music and clubbing for people with disabilities and references Chicago DJ Paul Johnson, famed for house classic Get Get Down, who uses a wheelchair, as well Ibiza’s newest – and fully accessible – super-club Hï, which has signed up Black Coffee - who performs without the use of his left arm - for a residency. 

 

Artificial Intelligence could offer a boost to charity giving

Technology using Artificial Intelligence (AI) / bots will likely encourage donors to donate even more money and increase their understanding of charities, according to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) thinktank's recent article titled "Is AI The Future Of Philantrophy Advice".

AI: reducing costs and increasing reach

The current and future use of AI by charities is expected to help better deliver services and inform donors.

Conversation on mobile phone with botAlmost everyone will have experienced 'AI' on the internet; either when using an automated chatbot linked to a website or via ads on the internet that use carefully crafted algorithms to target them.

As the internet grows smarter and better able to offer you a tailored service, without the need for human involvement, the more an organisation can use it to help maximise both the satisfaction and the engagement of the stakeholder.

In the case of charities, this promise of being able to extend the reach of your services through more meaningful messaging, whilst at the same time reducing the cost of delivery by offering automated advice and information, makes AI a very attractive project to pursue.

Earlier this year, in a news release from IBM, the details of Arthritis Research UK's virtual assistant were announced. Their IBM Watson-powered chatbot offers web visitors personalised information and advice on arthritis. Others are improving real-time language translation services for refugee and migrant projects or helping predict patterns of poaching and supporting conservation efforts.

Using AI to make giving quick and simple

Whilst AI, bots and better algorithms are helping charities to pursue their goals, there is one very significant application of AI that is ready to give ‘giving’ a boost.

Amazon Echo Dot light ring

We have had virtual assistants in our smartphones for several years now, but the popularity of the Amazon Echo and subsequent similar ‘smartspeakers,’ like Google Home, has taken everyone by surprise. Consistent best-sellers, they are helping to bring the benefits of artificial intelligence to the very air in our homes. It won’t be long before almost every house will have one or more such devices – either standalone or coming as standard in any white good you purchase. Soon speaking to a smart digital member of the family will be as normal as having a television or toaster – and infinitely more useful at almost everything (except perhaps making toast).

The abilities of these virtual assistants are almost inexhaustible. You can listen to my daily podcast on the Amazon Echo in which I demonstrate one or more Alexa Skills. Think of these 'skills' as new abilities, or apps, that you can add to your Echo simply by asking. You can visit the Amazon website for more information about Alexa Skills and to discover the breadth of 'skills' that are available. Since the Echo adds several hundred new skills each week, I'm not about to run out of new, entertaining and useful abilities to demonstrate.

Now let’s focus on the use of such smarts to make donating easy. Imagine that the ability to give to a good cause, at the very moment you’re moved to do so, is as simple as saying to the air around you “Alexa, give £100 to the Red Cross hurricane relief fund” or “OK Google, give £5 a month to Comic Relief.”

Donation and gift iconography

These devices already have your credit or debit card details. It’s already possible to purchase any number of products from Amazon through your Echo with a single command, for example; “Alexa, order more Paul Smith Floral Eau de Parfum please” which just happens to be my wife’s favourite perfume. You certainly aren’t restricted to purchases of a few pounds (again I refer to that same pricey perfume). Amazon wants to make buying through the Echo as natural and frictionless as possible – and the same is undoubtedly true of Google with their home assistant. Apple, will likewise, already hold your card details (via your Apple ID which you use to make iTunes and app store purchases) and we’d like all the manufacturers of these virtual assistants to extend that capability to charitable giving too.

The ability to use your Echo to make a donation, in a way that is as simple and straightforward as purchasing goods online, is not yet built-in. But, the option of adding a third-party skill that turns the Echo (or Google Home etc) into a giving machine for worthy causes certainly is possible today.

Just Giving and other high profile giving sites such as BT My Donate (which takes no commission whatsoever on donations) would be obvious and ideal organisations to create such a skill. Many donors already have accounts with these websites. So, enabling the giving process would be as easy as asking the Echo (or Google Home etc) to add the BT My Donate skill, for example. Then donations can be made as quickly and easily, whenever the generous owner of the smart assistant is moved to do so.

Such smart-giving skills needn’t be limited to the likes of Just Giving or BT. Any organisation could create a similar skill and accept donations through Alexa or the Google Home. An extra step of entering card details would need to be added by way of the Alexa app, say, but this would still make such smart-giving simple.

Making smart-giving more mobile

iPhone and Apple watchSeeing a campaign or real-life need might induce us to give and, with the virtual assistants built into our phones or other wearable technology, the act would almost be as natural and seamless as saying out loud; "I'd really like to give to that cause..."

There have been articles published and it is rumoured that Amazon plans to bring out a pair of smart glasses with Alexa built-in by the end of this year. The ambient nature of an ever-listening assistant might make giving that little bit more frictionless. We then wouldn't even need to take our phones out of our pockets to give to good causes.

These smart glasses wouldn’t of course be the first of their kind.  But unlike Google Glass and many similar smart glasses, Amazon's planned wearable avoids the option of a built-in camera - making it a far less controversial product. Wearers of Glass were banned from public restrooms (that's 'toilets' to you and me) and Google were quick to release a version that had a prominent light that clearly indicated when someone was using the camera. Snapchat's glasses similarly sport a circle of yellow lights when the user is recording.

Amazon's offering is said to simply include a microphone to hear you ask Alexa questions and issue commands. It will have an unobtrusive bone-conducting speaker tucked behind your ear to convey her response. This should make these smart glasses look relatively normal and avoid the disquiet that head-mounted cameras can evoke. At the same time they will give you all the functionality of the Echo wherever you are. Let's hope that they avoid the pitfalls experienced by earlier products, are attractive and affordable. And also bring all the utility of smart assistants to users in whatever they do - including giving.

Adding a safety-net to smart-giving

Security lettering with cursor hovering overBut what, I hear you say, about rogue donations made by madly generous family members or a change of heart when you realise that you were moved more than your bank balance can bear? In the case of online purchases made on the Echo, you have half an hour to cancel the order - and of course you would already have that capability turned on in the first place if you routinely had unpredictable or unscrupulous people around.

In just the same way, regardless of whether the capability was built-in or provided by way of a third-party skill, it would be easy to build in the ability to change the donation or cancel it altogether within a predefined period. Adding in a notification sent to the smartphone of the cardholder would also make sure he or she was aware of every donation made through the virtual assistant.

Related links

TechShare Pro on 23 November 2017 is a full-day conference aimed at accessibility and UX professionals, digital designers, developers and product managers. Expert contributors will explore the accessibility and inclusion challenges of the next generation of digital services.

Visit our wesbite to find out more about TechShare Pro 2017 and to book your ticket.

Google asks users to improve Maps feature with accessibility info

Google is asking the public - in particular its ‘local guides’ - to add accessibility information to Google Maps. It's hoping that visitors to restaurants, theatres, offices and lots of other venues, will add info on whether entrances, toilets and spaces are suitable for wheelchair users.

The company is encouraging its guides, and anyone else interested in improving accessibility, to hold group meet-ups with each other to populate Google Maps with such info.

Last month, AbilityNet accessibility consultant Guerman Botten, attended a Local Guides event hosted by Google to find out more and was inspired to see the initiative taking off.

Not just wheelchair accessibility 

“The latest update to Google Maps allows people to add information to venue detail. I’ve reviewed lots of places. You can say stuff about whether it’s noisy, busy, expensive or family-friendly, for example, and now we’re being encouraged to add information on wheelchair accessibility."

He added: “There’s nothing to stop people adding detail on whether a place has braille menus, for example, or audio guides for people with vision loss. We could also add other detail that's useful to people with a range of disabilities too."

There’ve been several hundred meets over the last few weeks focused on adding accessibility information to Google Maps including events in Gujarat, India, Tomsk, Russia, Vancouver, Canada, and Batticloa, Sri Lanka.

Check out g.co/localguides/meetup to see if a meet-up is being hosted near you, or add one in if you'd like to host one yourself. You can share your discoveries of accessible places on Twitter and social media using the hashtags #LocalGuides and #a11y.

How to add detail about wheelchair accessibility on Google Maps

• Go to “Your contributions” on your phone (click on the three horizontal verticle lines, normally in the top left hand corner of maps) 
• Tap “Answer questions about a place” or "uncover missing info" under 'improve the map near you' (Don’t see it? Make sure Location History is turned on.)
• Answer as many accessibility questions as you can (use this guide for reference).
• You may see other questions as well, until you move on to the next place.
• If you have an Android device, you can find places near you that are missing this info and edit these attributes by checking the facts.

See this article on Google Guides Connect for more information

Sci-fi Fun Becomes Serious Functionality – Making Home Automation Accessible Through AI

Robin Christopherson"It's just like being on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise... and if all you have is your voice - for example I'm thinking of my sister here who is both blind and has very advanced Multiple Sclerosis - then sci-fi fun becomes serious functionality..." says Robin Christopherson MBE, the Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet.

He made the comments after recently discovering how bringing together home automation devices with new ambient computing technology, like Alexa, has the power to dramatically improve accessibility and improve the lives of disabled people.

Are you keeping up?

The tech industry has been working towards a future where everything is smarter including your phone, TV and home. Things that seemed to belong in sci-fi a few years ago are suddenly becoming a reality, so it's important to keep up.

These tech advancements are good news for everyone, but its turning out to be life-changing for people with disabilities - if only they could access them!

It's a huge shame that many of the apps used to set-up and control home automation just aren't accessible to people with disabilities. Just a few small tweaks by developers could have made a huge difference.

Robin recently tested a couple of home automation products (Wi-Fi Plug by Wasserstein and The Smart Home LED Lightbulb) and neither of them were accessible to him as a blind VoiceOver user until he combined them with Alexa.

Instantly accessible, instantly empowered

New ambient computing products like Alexa, which is used to control the Amazon Echo Dot, and others such as Google Home and the Apple Home Pod (due to be released in December this year) allow people to use their voice to control things in their home.

Amazon echo dot

Need to lock the door? "Alexa lock the door". Turn on that light? "Alexa turn on the light". They have made these smart home automation devices instantly accessible.

Now instead of having to fiddle with inaccessible apps or rely on friends or family to set things up, people with disabilities just plug them in and connect via their ambient computer, using voice control. It's really very simple and straightforward.

Imagine until now having to rely on other people for everything. With the cost of this technology falling home automation has the potential to empower disabled people, giving them back their dignity and allowing them to look after themselves on their own terms. If we go back to the earlier Star Trek reference - they can be the captain of their own ship.

Working together to make inclusive apps

It's important that tech developers and designers work together and make sure new home automation tech is accessible to all people and that industry experts work with different groups of disabled people to spot these new opportunities and potential pitfalls.

TechShare Pro - AI, UX and the future of accessibility

TechShare Pro is an upcoming conference organised by AbilityNet in partnership with RNIB wher we will be bringing together industry experts to explore inclusive design. It will give people the chance to network with other like-minded people, passionate about making a difference to people's lives through accessibility.

To find out more about TechShare Pro 2017 and to book your tickets click here.

Guardian urges disabled shoppers to call out inaccessible shopping sites

Online shops who want to benefit from the £200 billion purple pound each year are being further urged to make their websites fully accessible to disabled customers. 

online shopping

The Guardian newspaper is currently asking Britain’s 12 million disabled people, who have a perceived spending power of at least £200 billion, known as the 'purple pound' to reveal and share which clothes websites are falling short of expectations.

The Guardian call out follows a report by the Extra Costs Commission last year, led by pan-disability charity Scope, which highlighted its research showing that 49 per cent of disabled people feel they only have some of the information needed or wanted when shopping on or off-line.

Inclusive fashion

The charity We Are Purple, which connects businesses and disabled people, also launched their Help Me Spend My Money campaign over the summer, encouraging businesses to offer an inclusive experience for all shoppers.

It is a legal requirement in the UK for public-facing websites to be accessible to disabled customers. This includes sites being created to interact with screen-readers for blind people, and to interact with customers who can only use a keyboard, rather than a mouse.

The Guardian writes:

“Where designers have supported the move towards diverse casting and even showcased disability models, many disabled consumers cannot access these trends due to poor shop accessibility. Retailers are commonly unaware of the needs of disabled customers…”

The paper also hopefully points out that Edward Enninful, the new editor of British Vogue, has said he wants the fashion industry to be more inclusive.

In the piece, the newspaper's readers are encouraged to fill in a form explaining their stories and experience to inform Guardian articles and coverage on this subject.

Complaining about inaccessible shopping sites

Almost one in five people has a disability. In last year’s report, the Extra Costs Commission, said: “Only by sharing information about our needs and expectations as shoppers, by complaining and speaking up when dissatisfied and by being more demanding as consumers, will companies have the market data to serve us better and to help reduce the cost of essential goods and services."

Joe Chidzik, senior accessibility consultant at AbilityNet works with businesses such as those in the fashion sector to ensure their websites meet legally accessibility requirements.

Commenting on the Guardian call out, he says:

“Shopping websites exhibit some particular types of issues. As transactional website, it is important for people to be able to not only add items to their basket, but also know that they have done so, and then be able to manage their basket eg, update amounts, remove items and add items."

"With shopping websites, more even than other sites, it is easy for users to ‘vote with their feet’. If a site is inaccessible, chances are that a more accessible site is a few clicks away. The additional difficulties that some disabled people encounter navigating physical shops, mean online shopping has the potential to be a life saver for some, but it must be accessible!"

Any type of e-commerce website is a prime method of tapping into the purple pound; the disposable income of disabled people is 100s of billions of pounds. A more accessible website leads directly to more customer conversions.

Care about accessibility?

Would you like to know more about creating an accessible website? Check our blogs below or find out more about our accessibility services.

 

 

 

 

Building Better Bots: Can Next Gen Tech Make the World a Better Place?

Robin Christopherson MBE is a founding member of AbilityNetEvery day brings news of amazing new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics and automation. It's the age of ambient computing and everyone’s world is about to change. In the build up to an AbilityNet event Brighton Digital Festival, Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at UK tech charity AbilityNet, asks whether the next generation of tech will make life better for disabled people.


A version of this post first appeared on the blog of Equal Experts, who are sponsoring Building Better Bots in Brighton.


We’re seeing a revolution in the power and capabilities of mainstream technology. Hardware costs are falling, software is becoming more intelligent, our phones, cars and washing machines have more and more computing power. We’ve moved way beyond the mobile revolution into the age of ‘ambient computing'.

Every day brings new stories about AI, bots and robots - from BBC stories about faking Obama’s mouth movements to DeepMind beating humans at Go and Honda using IBM Watson for its F1 IOT systems these are stories that pop up across everyone's news feeds.

What's a bot?

In this fast moving space the term Bot is used in various ways but in this case I'm referring to those digital tools or services that use these new capabilities – a piece of software that draws on the power of AI and the internet of things to create new functionality. Bots are linked to this next generation of tech in the way that Apps are now synonymous with mobile.

C The Signs uses advanced algorithms to help early diagnosis of cancerChatbots are increasingly common on websites, whether offering pre-qualification for insurance products or simply serving as glorified FAQs. We've had Siri for several years but I’ve been living with Alexa and my Amazon Echo Dot for almost a year and by my definition the Alexa skills I podcast about are also Bots

Services such as C The Signs uses a form of AI to help early diagnosis of cancer, we have apps and bots that use image recognition to help people with disabilities and the tech giants are competing to sell us the Bots that will control our homes. 

The world isn’t short of Bots, or people talking about AI, but why is it of interest to AbilityNet?

Using tech to make the world a better place

AbilityNet is a charity that helps disabled people use tech to achieve their goals at home, at work and in education – any disability, any age, any digital technology.

We started life in the 1990s, helping people like Prof Stephen Hawking use cutting edge tech such as voice recognition. Twenty years ago we spent most of our time talking about highly specialist and often very expensive technologies, that had to be carefully customised. These days we very often recommend mainstream technologies, and they’re usually built into the phone or PC in front of you. 

There are an estimated 12 million disabled people in the UK and the great lesson is that one size doesn’t fit all – there isn’t one app for blind people, or a piece of software that solves every problem for people with dyslexia. Every person has different needs, depending on the obstacles they face and the tasks they’re trying to complete.

So what does this next generation of technology offer disabled people?

A new kind of interface

Well the best place for me to start is voice controlled interfaces.

I am completely blind and even though I have learned touch typing I use the power of my voice everyday, from dictating emails and reports to asking Siri or Alexa to help with daily tasks such as checking train timetables. The speed and accuracy of the voice interface has improved at an incredible pace in recent years, it no longer needs extensive training and is built into phones, TVs and 101 other interfaces.

Or how about autonomous cars. Like most people who are blind or have physical disabilities I can’t wait to tap my phone and jump into a car whenever I fancy - free to go wherever I please.

So much potential...

Before I get carried away we need to sound a warning signal about the way that tech is built and the barriers we are likely to face in achieving this dream.

I’ve been involved in digital tech for over 20 years and as each wave of tech comes along we see almost as many barriers as we do opportunities. Whether that is websites that are not accessible, apps that can’t be used by disabled people or services that can’t be used by people with particular impairments, I know from bitter personal experience that it doesn’t happen by accident.

The good news is that we work with clients such as Barclays Bank, who are embracing inclusive design and building accessibility into every digital product and service. They recognise the moral case for better design but they also embrace it for commercial reasons – what will you do if millions of people with dyslexia prefer someone else’s Bot because they've designed it better than yours?

It's about people, not technology

But the people building the future bots need to work to agreed standards – the next version of the globally agreed Web Consortium Accessibility Guidelines, known as WCAG, will encompass mobile standards. But will they be relevant in the age of AI? How will we test a Bot – in all its various forms - for accessibility?

Will the law keep pace with changes in technology?More widely still, there are ethical and legal issues relating to disability. When will it be legal for a blind person to travel unaccompanied in an autonomous car? What about someone with a learning disability? At what level of impairment will the solo traveller be kept off the roads? Hopefully (and ethically) the answer will be “Never”

Similarly, we’re all worried about Bots taking our jobs, but how many employers will level the recruitment playing field for people with disabilities, when at the same time they may be using Bots to outstrip even their able-bodied counterparts? What will the law say when you may be able to choose between an exceptionally brainy Bot and a human for your next hire?

Our event in Brighton Digital Festival, sponsored by Equal Experts, is a chance to explore these questions. We want to engage with the humans who are building bots as well as some of the people who can benefit from them.

More information

Tech4Good Awards: Winners help disabled students skill up in emerging digital fabrication job market

As a new academic year starts, a new growing season begins and the seeds of the future are being planted at FabFarm! N Ireland. Could a digital aquaponics unit, run by young people with special educational needs, boost employment chances for a marginalised section of society?

The job market can be tough for graduates, and for those with a disability the chances of securing a job are even further reduced. According to the charity Scope, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled people. 

fabfarm

But Fabfarm!, set up at Ardnashee School & College by creative media hub The Nerve Centre, is trying to challenge this. It gained recognition over the summer, collecting the AbilityNet Tech4Good Digital Skills award for its fantastic work in equipping young disabled students for the digital marketplace.

The farm, which is run as a commercial operation, with fresh produce sold to local businesses, is equipped with 3D printers used by students to create modular parts for the project and other items for the business.

Digital inclusion and STEM

Students also use the latest open source software such as Inkscape, Google Sketchup and Cura and, importantly, gain an accredited training certificate in Digital Fabrication & Design in the process. Digital Fabrication technologies, like 3D printing, are rapidly impacting upon the employment market but accredited training is still relatively rare.

“We are innovating here in Northern Ireland with something that has not been done anywhere before," says Donna Cartin, vice principle of Ardnashee School & College. The combination of technology, STEM and social enterprise is powerful in unlocking key areas of learning for young people and its application to special educational needs learners is particularly powerful and socially driven.” 

She continued: “We feel that inclusion should be at the heart oftechnological development and our learners should have the earliest opportunity to engage with new and emerging tech.”

Inspired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s work in digital aquaponics and by digital aquaponics farms in the states and elsewhere, the team is developing its own model of creating sustainable food, while offering training skills to an underserved group. In the future there is potential for paid employment for FabFarm! graduates and expansion of the model to other schools."

Fabfarm collect the Digital Skills Award at Tech4Good 2017

Tech4Good Awards boost

The award means a lot to the project, which has just started the second year of its three year pilot. “The platform the award has given us has been fantastic,” says John Peto, director of education at the Nerve Centre.

“We want to share the work and see FabFarms growing beyond Derry and Ireland. The award can only help us to achieve that. It’s also been brilliant for the young people to achieve the recognition for what they do at such a high level. We think it can lead all of us on to bigger and better things.”

See the full list of AbilityNet Tech4Good Award winners 2017 here.

Scope Launches Work With Me Campaign

I'm 45 and have worked almost ever since I left university 22 years ago, and I think this is quite an achievement considering I have a moderate disability. I enjoy work because it helps me to have a great social life and I like the people I work with.  But for lots of people with a disability getting or staying in work is a real difficulty.

Scope is launching the Work With Me campaign today to try and try and change attitudes of employers and job seekers too.  I have quite a number of friends who have disabilities who are my age but have NEVER....NEVER worked.  I even know someone who has two degrees who has really struggled to find employment.

SCOPE has launched a campaign called Work With Me

How can technology help disabled people find work?

Regular readers of our blogs will be aware that there is technology out there that can help people succeed at their work.  Last week I was talking to some job seekers who seemed to think that they could never get work because they had a mental health issue.  I tried to explain to them that having a disability shouldn't actually stop you from being a real asset to an employer, but I could see that they weren't that convinced.  For me it has never been about earning money but I get a real sense of achievement too from helping people.

Getting your foot in the door of employment is really difficult.  I found that when I was first looking for work but I kept myself busy with volunteering so I could show a potential employer what I was capable of. Once you get your first job things can often be quite difficult at first. If you feel that you need any changes to be made at work, or further support we'd certainly advise you to fill out a Clear Talents profile and this could start a discussion between you and your employer so that they can help you make the most of your career.

We definitely support the work that Scope is doing to help end the awkwardness of employing disabled people.

How can AbilityNet help?

AbilityNet provides a range of services to help disabled people and older people with technology and communications.

  • Call our free Helpline on 0800 269 545 and our friendly, knowledgeable staff will offer one-to-one help.
  • If you are in work your employer has a responsibility to make Reasonable Adjustments which include helping you with invisible illnesses. Find out more about how we help disabled in the workplace.
  • Arrange a home visit from one of our amazing AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about computers and vision impairment useful
  • My Computer My Way is our free interactive guide to all the accessibility features built into current desktops, laptops, tables and smartphones.

Apple turns inclusivity up to 11: iPhone X, iOS 11 and accessibility

All the amps on Spinal Tap can be turned up to 11

Last week I wrote about Apple’s mission to remove physical buttons from the iPhone and the many options we have in a buttonless future. Now we've seen the launch of the new IOS11 and the iPhone X - so let's look at the accessibility benefits this new combination could offer…

Apple turns inclusivity up to 11

I’ve written in previous posts about the excellent and comprehensive accessibility features already present in Apple's iDevices - including a recent article on using accessibility settings to get more out of your device, from longer battery life to better productivity.

Anyone who remembers the cult movie This is Spinal Tap will appreciate the reference to turning things up to 11 - and that isn’t an exaggeration for what Apple has done in terms of new accessibility settings and features within iOS 11, which it released this week.

Reading the excellent ebook iOS 11 Without the Eye by the ambassador of accessibility himself Jonathan Mosen is my top tip for finding out about all the accessibility additions in the new operating system. It has powerful productivity pointers as well as a comprehensive review of those adjustments that can make our smartphone more accommodating to our needs, regardless of impairment or environment.

Text resizing – now just one swipe away

New to iOS 11, one accessibility feature that should prove invaluable to many users is the ability to now readily access the text resizing widget from within Control Centre. Jonathan explains how to add this feature (and many others) to your Control Centre which is then easily accessed, as usual, with a swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

As outlined in my last post, if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on an iPhone X then swiping up the screen is actually now the new way to close an app (like clicking the Home button) so in this case the Control Panel is opened by swiping only half way up the screen instead.

Confusing? Perhaps briefly but if you’d prefer another method then that same post of mine also explained how to use an on-screen menu instead.

screen shot from Robin's iPhone showing the new style control centre

New screen recording options

As you see from the screenshot above I also have the new screen recording widget (the concentric circles icon) added to Control Centre on my phone. 

Of course, this feature has many more mainstream applications (such as creating tutorial videos on how to use an app, website or game), but as a blind person I plan to use this feature to record myself using an app with the screen-reading function (called VoiceOver) running to show a developer where things are not correctly spoken. The video that is captured would include the screen activity, the speech from VoiceOver and your own comments. VoiceOver also puts a black outline around spoken items so the developer could see exactly what is proving problematic.

Lock yourself into a leaner, meaner online experience

There are numerous new features in iOS 11 that could be considered accessibility features. Some are found in the Accessibility settings and others elsewhere. And anyone who reads my articles regularly knows that I feel it’s unhelpful to distinguish between features meant specifically to address disability, dyslexia or impairment etc and those that happen to be found in other areas of the Settings app than the Accessibility section. They are far too numerous to mention here (check out Jonathon’s book or other helpful resources such as the ever-comprehensive iMore.com website but I will mention just one more before closing.

iOS 11 now allows us to lock our Safari web browsing experience into the permanently cleaner and less cluttered view that is Reader Mode.

Reader Mode has been available for a long time (simply tap the Reader button at the top of your browser to get a version of the page without many of the ads, social sharing links and other detritus that litters the average web page) but now it’s possible to have Safari intelligently apply Reader Mode to all pages that you visit – only allowing the more complex view to appear when the website is more dynamic. 

Reader Mode is perfect for information sites such as news sites like the BBC, but less so for interactive sites such as the online shopping giants of Amazon or eBay. Reader Mode can also be turned on on a site by site basis so you can choose which sites to lock into this lovely, lean viewing experience.

More resources: