Are your events accessible? Freshers’ Week prep for faculty staff

It’s that time of year when staff and students are thinking about the start of the university term and Fresher’s Week. During this exciting time, it is important to consider access needs, provide support for people with a range of abilities and also to think carefully about student and staff mental health.

Whilst a lot of new starters, returners and staff are ready for a new challenge and may enjoy all that the university experience has to offer, for some the university environment can be both challenging and overwhelming.

A stick person surrounded by icons representing barriers, such as sound and technology

AbilityNet believe the learning environment should be as accessible as possible, so we’ve pulled together a list of top tips for faculty staff during Freshers’ Week:

  1. Have a friendly ‘go-to’ person available every day throughout Fresher’s Week. Someone who is able to meet and greet people and point them in the right direction, advise, listen and help students feel at ease.
  2. Access needs; have you considered if everyone can access your Freshers’ event areas? Accessible location tips from our experts include: Find a wheelchair friendly location i.e. one with ramps, remove physical obstacles for those who may be visually impaired and avoid overbearing and loud music
  3. Share university support services information. Where can people go for additional support? Consider including advice on Disabled Students’ Allowances and information on assistive technology.
  4. Student Union information and societies can be the making of some people during their time at university. Provide easily accessed information on everything that is on offer at your institution.
  5. Suggest that students sign up to their local GP, which will help them feel more relaxed should they need an emergency appointment with any health concerns.
  6. Provide information on the NHS’s ‘5 steps to well-being’ 
  7. Provide links to useful platforms which can help students. We suggest including Student Minds, a UK student mental health charity, Campus Society, an advice platform where anyone can join the conversation and share any concerns they have and AbilityNet, a UK charity which provides advice on technology and disability. We have a large range of free resources for students including advice on apps and software, factsheets, webinars, videos and assistive technology training days
  8. Are your presentations accessible? Perhaps consider if your videos have subtitles or audio description. Include explanations of your slides as part of your presentation this will prevent excluding anyone who can’t see the screen. If you’re sharing slides afterwards consider doing an accessibility check before sharing. 
  9. The Whole University Approach is well worth a read 

Freshers’ Week is an exciting time for most people and making a few simple adjustments means your event will be able to provide the maximum enjoyment for everyone involved

If you’d like to contact us about how we may be able to support your needs whilst studying, you can call our free technology and disability helpline on: 0800 269 545 or email: enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk

Find out more about our services at www.abilitynet.org.uk

Results Day... Are you off to university? You may be eligible for additional support

School’s out for summer, but along with lots of sunshine and fun it also means results day is looming! A- levels results day is today, Thursday 16th August and students all over the country are preparing to find out how they did in their exams. If you’re one of the lucky ones off to university it could be time to see if you’re eligible for additional support in higher education.

Use our HE support checker

Getting a degree is a huge challenge for every student but some students face additional challenges and barriers. You could be eligible for extra help from your university and the UK Government's Disabled Students' Allowances.

Use our free HE Support Checker to find out if you could be eligible for extra support at university due to a health condition or impairment. This is entirely anonymous, and you do not have to supply any personal information.

four students jumping in a park

What support could you get?

Many students face extra challenges due to medical conditions or disabilities and could be getting extra help to make sure they are able to achieve their full potential. This can include specialist hardware or software, changes to timetabling and deadlines or support from specialist staff to make their learning activities as accessible as possible.

Who could be eligible?

The Government’s Disabled Students’ Allowances offer a grant to help pay for equipment and other adaptations - this is funding which you don’t have to pay back. People who have claimed DSA include people with a wide range of conditions and impairments, including:

  • ADHD
  • Anorexia
  • Anxiety
  • Autism
  • Bi-polar
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Fatigue
  • Crohn's disease
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Dyslexia
  • Eating disorder
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • IBS
  • Migraines
  • Spina Bifida
  • Specific Learning Difference
  • Tinnitus
  • Visual or Hearing Impairment
  • and many more

"As an autistic/other woman the support has been crucial to my success on the course. I got my first distinction ever last term! My learning mentor was so supportive and practical keeping me on target. The equipment provided meant I could work anywhere and recall important information. Because I didn’t know about DSA until the end of my first term I nearly left the course then. But a BCU advisor told me about it and helped me apply. It has still been challenging BUT with DSA support/equipment I am nearly there. Thank you!"

- Alison, Birmingham City University

Even if you are not eligible for DSA you can also check with your university to see what they may be able to provide for you. They will have specialist staff who will listen to your concerns and do what they can to help you address them.

Who are AbilityNet and how can we help?

AbilityNet is a UK charity that helps people of any age and ability to use tech to achieve their goals at home, at work and in education. We do this by providing specialist advice services, free information resources and by helping to build a more accessible digital world.

You can find out more online www.abilitynet.org.uk by using our freephone number: 0800 269 545 or email us: enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk

Looking to secure a place at university this results day? We’re here to help

Around this time every year there are thousands of people using Clearing to secure their university place, so you are not alone. Clearing is a way for universities to fill any spaces they have left for the new academic year and gives those who do not hold an offer an opportunity to find a university place. The important thing to remember is that universities all over the country are currently focusing on one main thing: attracting new students just like you.

Do You know how in demand you could be?

UCAS stats show university application numbers have fallen again this year which means many institutions could have more spaces to fill, which is great news for students. You can take a look at your course options ahead of the rush at compare the course.

A student wearing mortar with a certificate, a phone and laptop

Didn't quite get the results you want?

If you’ve received your A-level results, didn’t do as well as you wanted, but still want to go to university -have no fear! Universities are waiting to speak to you so make sure you do your research as understanding the Clearing process can largely increase your chances of getting an offer that is perfect for you. Below we’ve listed some places for help and guidance.

Where can you go for help?

UCAS have some brilliant resources and information available including how Clearing works, a search tool to see what courses are available and details of how to add a Clearing choice in Track.

The complete university guide also has some great answers to frequently asked questions including queries about deferred entry, what to do if you can’t get through to the Clearing hotline and organising your accommodation and student loans. Take a look at their FAQ section.

Looking for extra additional help?

Once a university place has been accepted through Clearing it’s important to find out if you could be eligible for extra help. AbilityNet HE support checker is a free tool which can direct you towards extra support that may be available to you during your studies.Each user is entirely anonymous, it doesn’t use any personal information and it’s free!

Who might this help?

Previous eligible students have had a wide range of conditions and impairments including ADHD, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, a hearing or sight impairment and many others.

AbilityNet is a UK charity, we help people of any ages and abilities to use technology to achieve their goals at home, at work and in education. We do this by providing specialist advice services, free information resources and by helping to build a more accessible digital world. You can find out more about our services online or contact us with your query using our freephone number: 0800 269 545 or email us: enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk.

Is there an Echo in here? Six ways that Alexa can help you be organised and productive

We now have three Amazon Echos in our house and, more and more often, I find myself about to speak to the air in a room where Alexa isn't, and have to stop myself before I look foolish. Here's a round-up of recent episodes from my Dot to Dot podcast which show why smart speakers like the Amazon Echo (AKA Alexa) and Google Home are so useful - and also addictive.

Simpler than a smartphone

Smart speakers really do represent the next significant paradigm shift in computing.

The PC was powerful but also complex. Then came the smartphone which, with its smaller screen, brought simpler content with the same amount of power and much more portability. Throw away your software instructions manuals and antivirus anxieties and enjoy the all-round easier experience. One didn't replace the other, but choice is a good thing - especially when the options are getting easier and easier to use.

Then came these natural-voice focused devices and the simplicity score just shot up several more notches. Again, not intended to replace smartphones or computers, these devices offer huge amounts of useful features nonetheless.

Information, entertainment, services and so much more

Most of us use our phones for so many different things each day that it would be hard to list them all. While smart speakers can't (yet) do all of those things, due to their ease of use and overall usefulness, it's inevitable that having one or more in your house will mean that some of those daily tasks will shift from your phone to the helpful assistant who is ever-listening and ready to help.

A lot of what I cover in Dot to Dot - the daily podcast about all things Alexa - focuses on entertainment, and she is so very good at a wide variety of games. But it's not just about trivia - I recently dedicated a series of episodes to the way Alexa can help with being organised and productive.

Six ways Alexa can help in your daily life

These episodes give you a flavour of Alexa's awesome array of talents. You can click on the links to listen to each one - or you can subscribe in iTunes or by searching for 'Dot to Dot' in your favourite podcast app. 

Dot to Dot - Episode 522 on finding out general information

  • This one's all about getting general information from Alexa - from facts on every possible topic, to detailed weather info, word definitions and synonyms and language translation.

Dot to Dot Episode 523 - on health and cooking

  • From recipes and cooking tips to first aid info and stopping smoking motivation - this one’s all about health. As with all these episodes, we cover Alexa's built-in abilities as well as third-party skills. What are skills? They're basically apps for your Echo.

Dot to Dot Episode 524 - on news, timers and alarms

  • Some of the most useful things you could ever use your Echo for are setting multiple cooking timers and a variety of alarms to make sure you're up in the morning. When you're up, there are a million ways of catching up with the news.

Dot to Dot Episode 525 - on accessing media of all kinds

  • Music, radio stations and podcasts from around the world are available on your Echo and there's a huge amount of educational and informative content to be consumed. The challenge is just where to start.

Dot to Dot Episode 526 - on reminders, connected devices, voice calling and audio and Kindle books

  • This one is chock-full of tips on setting reminders, connecting to smart devices around the home, calling and messaging using your Echo and even listening to your favourite audio or Kindle books read out by Alexa. Oh and buying things by voice from Amazon - nearly forgot that one!

Dot to Dot Episode 527 - on travel info and tips on finding Alexa skills

  • This final episode (and a gold star to everyone who listens to/survives them all) covers a range of travel skills to help you find the best driving route, check the traffic or get train times and the cheapest fares. We also cover how to ask Alexa to help you find out what she can do and how to remember your favourite skills.

Clever, entertaining and useful

I hope you'll agree that smart speakers like Alexa are amazingly useful and entertaining on so many levels. For people with disabilities, the ability to get news and other information by voice and to control your media and environment with a word is a game-changer.

The episodes in this article focus on her non-game skills, but to hear what Alexa can do in the game-department then simply subscribe to Dot to Dot and you'll find out a lot more on a daily basis.

Related articles

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

Government identifies body to enforce website accessibility - now will they step up to the task?

The UK Government has recently published its response to a consultation process on its plans to implement European accessibility legislation for public sector websites. In it, the Government clearly states who will be monitoring and reporting on websites and apps and who will be enforcing the law - but will proactive enforcement finally become a reality?

Which websites and apps are affected?

An illustration of web page design on desktop and mobileAn EU Directive on the accessibility of public sector websites and mobile applications will be implemented in the UK on 23 September and concerns all public sector bodies. There are, however, several notable exemptions including schools and nurseries, public sector broadcasters such as the BBC, some NGOs and some third-party content that appears on public sector websites.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the consultation were critical of these proposed exemptions - organisations including AbilityNet, the British Computer Society, Scope and the RNIB. However, the Government has chosen to stand by their original proposal; “Government policy is not to go beyond the minimum requirements of European Directives unless there are exceptional circumstances. In accordance with this policy, we will make use of all exemptions available in the Directive.”

This is, of course, disappointing and not a little concerning. It is also seemingly in contradiction with existing legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 which most definitely requires organisations across all sectors not to discriminate against people who need website and app accessibility to participate in today's digital world.

The Government response does state that a review of the regulations will take place two years after they come into force, which will include examining how exemptions are working and “if these need to be changed.” Let's hope this includes asking those affected about how the inaccessible websites are impacting their lives.

Moreover, deadlines for public sector organisations to comply with the regulations do not come into effect until 2019-2021 (depending on when content was created). This proposed delay also drew criticism in the consultation process and yet has remained unchanged. It has been a legal requirement for websites to be accessible since 2003 so this further 'grace' period seems a little unnecessary…

Enforcement of the law - is now finally the time?

A person with two pieces of paper, one saying 'illegal' the other saying 'legal'OK - enough of focusing on the negative aspects of the outcomes of the consultation process. One aspect that may mean future movement in the long-standing glacial progress of accessibility advancement in the UK - advancement that has seen less than 10% of websites meet the very minimum level of compliance in a decade and a half of legal requirement - is the Government's identification of a body to monitor accessibility and another to enforce it. Will this combination be akin to an accessibility dynamic-duo - fighting crimes against inaccessibility wherever it rears its ugly head - or will things remain all but unchanged in the months and years to come?

The response outlines how the Government Digital Service (GDS) will monitor and record public sector bodies’ compliance with the Directive. This is good news. Up until now I wasn't aware that any government body was actively doing this and, being a public body activity, will be subject to an FOI (freedom of information) request. This means that, even if the reporting they mention remains largely internal, an FOI request will easily enable it to get a much wider press. Oh, that they would extend this activity to report on websites and apps across all sectors - and maybe they will. Fingers crossed.

So, what about enforcement? We've been calling for enforcement of the law in this area for years and now, finally, the Government have specifically named a department who will be responsible for enforcing the EU directive; the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Additionally, the Minister for the Cabinet Office will be given some enforcement powers. The government claims that this approach “makes sure the process for resolving accessibility concerns is robust.” Let's hope it is and that, again, they take it upon themselves to broaden enforcement to all sectors and in a crime-busting, proactive manner. More fingers crossed!

It's not fine to fine, apparently - so what will the sanctions be?

Handcuffs being used to reprimand a personOne area of concern across many of the organisations that responded to the consultation was the lack of detail on a proposed enforcement mechanism. Many suggested, as above, that a published list of non-complying organisations should be used as penalties, but most were in agreement that fining non-compliant organisations is the best way to go. Money is a great motivator and yet, in the Government's final response, they state that there are no plans to introduce ‘new fines’ for organisations failing to comply with the Directive. Hmmm.

This lack of firm financial sanctions is labelled as “disappointing” in the consultation response of Policy Connect – a cross-party think-tank providing support to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Assistive Technology (APPGAT). Policy Connect correctly claims that “Sanctions are a well-established part of effective enforcement mechanisms and should be a part of enforcement of the present regulations.”

We would want to restate our concerns to those of both Policy Connect and the majority of organisations who contributed to the consultation process. What exactly do the EHRC plan to use to force organisations to make their websites and apps accessible? If it's the threat of brand-damage alone then don't forget that 90% of organisations will be along-side them in the firing line and, to that extent, the sting-factor will fade and some feeling of safety in numbers may soften the blow.

Fines for speeding, illegal parking and non-payment of taxes (to mention a very few examples) are common-place and almost inevitable - and yet crucial digital services that impact many millions of users (did you know that there are 12m people with a disability in the UK today?) aren't worth fining because… er… I can't think of a good reason. Let's hope that the EHRC can't either, collectively put on their superhero cape, and leap into action.

Find out more

Read the UK Government's response in full

Read the response from Policy Connect

Here's how Government can help disabled people in a digital world

Open letter to Government: Please ensure websites and apps comply with legal accessibility requirements

Award-winning app could transform customer services for disabled people

An award-winning app that is transforming the lives of blind and visually impaired people across the planet is set to boost customer services in the public and private sector. Be My Eyes is used by almost 100,000 blind people in 150 countries around the world – connecting them with a network of 1.5 million volunteers who can help them with anything from checking food sell-by dates to choosing clothes or catching the right bus. And now they can connect directly with customer services teams in Microsoft – offering a new way for any customer-facing service to connect with its customers.  

Setting up wifi, changing settings on the TV or using online banking can be frustrating for any customer, but for someone without sight such tasks can be impossible. Users of Be My Eyes can now speak directly with sighted customer service staff at banks, tech companies and other organisations - via their phone camera. 

 

The first business to sign up is Microsoft. Since February, Be My Eyes users have been able to connect to a sighted person on the Microsoft Disability Answer Desk for advice on tasks such as setting up new programmes or using the accessibility features within Microsoft programmes.  

Understanding the needs of disabled customers

Since launching four years ago a common theme for Be My Eyes has been calls from people who need help with higher level technical tasks or who need help from companies directly, which prompted the creation of the new service known as ‘Specialized Help’. 

“The world is very badly designed for people with visual impairment,” says Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, community director at Be My Eyes. “We also know that many companies want to improve the customer support they offer people with disabilities. It’s good for customers to talk to those who know a lot about a specific product or service, ie the relevant company themselves.”

“Close your eyes and try to set up wifi in a new place,” adds Jensen, “It’s more or less impossible. Live video just makes the interaction so much faster.

“If someone from the company can see the problem in real time, issues with their products or service could be resolved more efficiently," he adds. "Each call represents something that’s poorly designed from an accessibility standpoint. It will mean companies will get very unique knowledge and then can change things - whether that’s identifying bugs or making packaging which is more accessible.”

Improving customer services for disabled people

Many businesses or services do not conduct user testing with people of different abilities and are unaware of the accessibility barriers they face when using their services or products. As well as legal risks they are potentially turning away millions of valuable customers. 

Microsoft has been able to reduce the time taken on calls to the answer desk by 30% since it started using the app. “They’re receiving a significant number of calls through the app and agents have been able to identify problems immediately using the camera,” explains Jensen.

The app won the AbilityNet Accessibility Award at the Tech4Good Awards 2018 – with judges particularly impressed by its plans to improve the support that organisations can offer its customers, so that no one is left out in the digital age. It can offer a simple way of delivering support to anyone who could potentially become excluded and an easy way to remove some of the barriers to technology and digital services.

Find out more about the Tech4Good Awards.

Summer time and now reading is even easier

JK Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series of books once said “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” That's good advice from someone who has sold millions of books. But what about people who'd love to be able to read but haven't found 'the right way to read the right book'? 

They might have conditions such as dyslexia or ADHD, or have had a stroke and can't hold a book in the way they once could. Technology can allow you to experience the joy of reading, even if it's not following the conventional way you 'read' the book. 

Read anywhere with an e-book

Amazon Kindle with coffee cup and chocolatesYou can read books anywhere; on your commute, on your lunch hour or even on the beach. There are many different ways to enjoy a book; you could pop into your local bookshop and buy a book in print or if you have a smartphone or tablet you could use one of the many different e-book apps to read the latest thrillers or biographies (along with the usual classic titles).  

If you are visually impaired you could connect to the EasyReader software. There are some readers who have dedicated e-book readers such as the Nook - I'm one of them! 

It is interesting to look at how popular e-books are as opposed to physical books. Earlier this decade e-books were more popular than printed books,  but now it seems to be the other way round, with paperback book sales outperforming digital titles. I must admit that I'm currently reading an e-book but my home is full of physical books and in my spare time I can be found in charity shops looking for (more) second-hand books.

Reading on your smartphone

To me, both ways of reading are pretty useful. Of course, because the smartphone is now so small we don't think twice about popping it into our pockets whereas a book, especially a many-paged book, can be quite heavy. Smartphones have changed the way that we read just as they've changed the way we stream music.

If you have an Amazon Echo device you can have books read aloud to you through technology accessed via the Kindle store and now there is a technology called WhisperSynch which will start reading exactly from where you finished off reading the last time. Let's face it, there's nothing quite as annoying as not being able to find exactly where in a book you finished listening up to last time, is there?  Currently Echo devices will also read Audible books, but not books from the Overdrive store.

Ask Alexa

Oh and if you are lucky enough to have an Echo you could always ask Alexa what books she'd suggest and she will come back to you with some recommendations. More and more skills relating to books are appearing on the Alexa skills list all of the time. If you have a Google Home device you aren't left out either - you can download books via the Play Books store on your Android phone. 

So as we've seen, you can now read on a number of different devices. Whether you're off on holiday or having a staycation or just reading on the way home from work - you've now got even more ways of escaping into a good book!


How can we help?

AbilityNet helps disabled people use computers and the internet at work, at home and in education. There are a few ways that we can help:

  • Call our free helpline on 0800 269 545 - our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. Our free helpline is staffed Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
  • Arrange a home visit - we have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone/remotely.
  • Download our factsheets - these share in detail the many ways technology might be able to help you, and can be downloaded for free. 
  • Use My Computer My Way - this shares hints and tips that you can use to make your time on the computer that bit easier.

AbilityNet appoints new CEO

The Trustees of AbilityNet announced the appointment of Gary Moore as Chief Executive. Gary brings strong sales, marketing and leadership expertise from senior management roles in major technology enterprises including BT, O2 and Colt Technologies. He is a trustee of the WCIT Charity, and has extensive experience of assisting charities with information technology.

 

Alan Brooks, Chairman of Trustees, noted: “We are delighted to welcome Gary as our new CEO. Technology is rapidly changing, and the need for AbilityNet’s services is greater than ever. We are convinced that Gary will steer the charity to greater success in this fast-moving environment.”

 

Gary Moore commented: “AbilityNet helps thousands of users with disabilities every year to get the best from technology. I have been very impressed with the staff, with the services offered, and with the attentive engagement of the Trustees. I look forward to leading the team to delivering ever greater impact and benefit”.

 

Gary takes up his new permanent position from 01 August 2018.

 

Three positive habit forming apps

How do we break our bad habits and form good ones?

Summer is well and truly here and it’s a good time for students to be building momentum for the new academic year. For all of us working, it’s a good time to refelct on how we might better manage our time so we can enjoy those precious moments of time out. Let’s face it when we’ve been in education or work life for years it’s easy to assume we’ve formed some habits that would be better off booted out of our regimes. Good habits can help us be more productive, prioritise our do-to lists and remember our important tasks. You can feel satisfied too by tracking your progress through small, manageable goal posts.

Kicking bad habits or establishing new ones is not a piece of cake, but we believe you can make these changes. Plus it can be fun with the help of some handy apps.

image: 2 pieces of paper saying bad and good. A hand is picking up the one that says good

It can take between 2 weeks to 2 months to form new life habits

According to research by brainingpickings.org, it can take 66 days to form a habit. If you can commit to something as easy as drinking a glass of water after breakfast this habit could form in as little as 21 days. If we can make these small changes over a period of time it's more likely that we'll be able to stick with these traits well, forever. Imagine how much more we could achieve!

We set our experts on the case to track down the right apps that may well help you make these positive changes and keep you motivated.

  1. HabitBull: (Free – iOS and Android) is described as ‘perfect for people who have flexible habit-building goals’such as walking to work or university three times a week instead of everyday. The app doesn't limit you to one daily reminder and you can customise alerts for certain days and times of the week. The app allows you to track your habits with a number so if, for example, the desired habit is to take a break and think for 15 minutes every day, you can just enter "10 minutes" when that is completed and you’ll still feel like you're working towards your goals. You really can visualise your habits in a variety of ways, track streaks, look at a calendar, and even discuss habits with other users. You may need some patience to learn the interface quirks but, HabitBull is a great app with a lot of data available for you. 
  2. LifeTracker: (Android and web app) Achieving goals can be simple, it’s down to knowing when to do the right things at the right time. LifeTracker is built to know when to remind you about them. Get reminders about your most important activities when the time and place is right. Achieve more, remember important purchases, stay foucsed on your goals and feel a sense of achievement everyday. 
  3. Google Goals: (web app) Trying google goals for a few weeks can lead to some positive small changes that can really benefit all of us. Some people have reported being better hydrated, being able to meditate more frequently and achieving better sleep. But how does it work?
  • Open the Google Calendar app
  • In the bottom right, tap Create
  • Tap Goal
  • Choose a category, for instance Family & friends or Exercise 
  • Follow the directions on your screen to set up your goal such as ‘take a break’
  • Tap Done
  • Sessions will be automatically added to your calendar, starting with the first four weeks

 

AbilityNet is a UK charity that helps provide information on technology and disability, if you’d like to know how technology may benefit you, you can call us on 0800 269 545 or email enquiries@abilitynet.org.uk

 

Can Alexa improve your health?

AbilityNet Accessibility consultant Adi Latif has contributed to a UK government video demonstrating the value of digital tech for people with specific needs. The video sets out specific goals for the NHS to invest in tech such as Amazon Echo (Alexa) and VoiceOver, showing how accessible technology can deliver health benefits and provide greater independence for people with disabilities.

AbilityNet's Adi Latif spoke at the BMA Conference in June 2018 about the role of tech in helping disabled people with their health care

Adi is an Accessibility & Usability Consultant at AbilityNet. He has a visual impairment and he uses a wide range of tech including VoiceOver on iPhone, Alexa, laptop with screenreader, Be My Eyes app, Seeing AI app, iWatch and a Braille display. 

Adi spoke at the British Medical Association's Annual Conference in June 2018 - sharing his insights about how medical healthcare could be improved in terms of accessibility. He has now worked with officials from the Department of Health to discuss the potential benefits of accessible tech in meeting people's health needs.

He says that accessible health-related apps and websites would give him control over this vital aspect in life: 

‘I can book train tickets. Send and receive emails from my phone or manage my finances through my banking apps, but I can’t manage my medical healthcare. This is a great opportunity for the Government to take a lead in ensuring that NHS services meet the highest standards of accessibility for all patients.'

He sees lots of opportunities for using Alexa to communicate with the NHS and suggested some ideas for the future: 

  • Asking Alexa for basic medical advice  - for example 'Alexa, I’ve cut my finger, what should I do?’
  • Asking Alexa to tell him test results or when his next hospital appointment is as at the moment, so he wouldn’t need to rely on paper.
  • Using a video camera (for example on Amazon Show) to connect with an NHS GP to avoid travelling to the surgery.
  • The camera would also allow him to show the NHS GP any physical symptoms which he may not be able to see for himself.

Adi believes that voice interfaces such as Alexa are potentially easier for people, especially for older people, as they may find smart phones or computers hard to operate.  Using your is almost like having a conversation, and so can be more natural.

The video showing Adi’s experience was posted on the Department of Health & Social Care Twitter page after an introductory speech by Matt Hancock his new role as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. Matt Hancock is tech-savvy and wants the NHS to use tech to become more productive and accessible for people with disabilities. 

Useful information