Free help to make your computer system work for you

I've just done a webinar on a subject that's close to our hearts at AbilityNet, which "How to change your computer accessibility settings without spending money". It was a great success. After all, no-one likes spending money if they don't have to, do they?

I always try to refer people to My Computer My Way as it gives you easy step by step advice on what to do. It's our flagship resource that we like to shout about!

Need help with slowing down the keyboard response rate? Need help adding tails to your mouse cursor to make it easy to see? You can do all this and more at My Computer My Way.

My Computer My WayHang on moment! What if you have a mobile device or an Ipad or an Android device?  No problems, My Computer My Way covers the latest systems for all Apple, Android and Windows devices. 

It's your computer. You can change it so it meets your requirements. Our detailed guidance will give you the appropriate skills to change the way that your computer works, just for you. 

Find out more:

Alex Barker, Advice and Information Officer

Are you eligible for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSA)?

Many of the the thousands of students heading off to university and college could be eligible for a grant to help them with their disabilities. Although many disabled people will already know about these grants there could be many others who are eligible but don't consider themselves to be disabled, such as people with dyslexia, who would benefit from this extra help.

You don't have to be registered as disabled to claim DSAs. IAre you eligible for disabled students' allowances?f you have UK student status and have a disability, long-term health condition, mental health condition or a specific learning difficulty (SpLD) such as dyslexia you may be eligible for a grant that covers the cost of extra equipment and learning support. For example, DSAs can currently help pay for:

  • specialist equipment you need for studying, such as a book scanner or digital voice recorder
  • specialist software, such as text to speech, speech to text or mind mapping
  • non-medical helpers, such as a note-taker or reader
  • extra travel costs you have to pay because of your disability
  • additional accommodation costs you have to pay because of your disability
  • other costs such as photocopying or printer cartridges

DSAs are paid on top of the standard student finance package, or on their own, and do not need to be repaid.

Staff at AbilityNet's DSA assessment centres can help you with the application, including checking your eligibility. If you are eligible they can then carry out an assessment at one of our centres and recommend specific solutions to meet your needs.

For more help please call 01962 815 012 or visit www.abilitynet.org.uk/assessment/claimitdsa

Free Webinar: SEO and Accessibility

AbilityNet recently ran a webinar with an SEO expert from a leading digital marketing agency to explore the connections between SEO and accessibility. The highly practical session offered top tips on getting SEO dividends from accessible websites and other digital content and is available now to view again in our webinar archive.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and accessibility are commonly understood concepts for anyone involved in web development, ecommerce or marketing. For many SEO is seen as an essential function for any business but accessibility is often viewed as ‘nice to have’, or worse an inconvenience - a legal tick box. Few people realise that paying attention to accessibility can deliver real SEO dividends: SEO brings more traffic to your website; accessibility is about opening your website up to the widest possible audience. 

How accessibility can help with SEO

A key part of the process of optimising for accessibility is ensuring that your content is well crafted and properly tagged, which are also essential when optimising for search engines. Since Google and its fellow search engines focus on delivering the best results for users, tagged, crafted content will win every time with search engine bots. Given that the two fields share such fundamental aspects, just how much can optimising your website for accessibility deliver better SEO results?

In the first instance, opening your website up to a wider audience who otherwise might not be able to fully access your content increases the traffic moving through the site, thereby helping improve the authority of your site on search engines. By opening up for this audience you also increase potential for your content to be shared on social media and for backlinks to your site, both of which can be enormously effective in boosting your pages in search engine rankings.

Ask the experts 

AbilityNet’s Head of Digital Inclusion Robin Christopherson is an expert in web accessibility and a firm advocate of the position that optimising your website for accessibility can go a long way towards helping to optimise the site for search engines.

We asked Robin and special guest Gerry White from leading SEO agency SiteVisibility to discuss the links between SEO and accessibility with real-life examples to show the many ways that the two fields are interlinked.

Watch the webinar and view the slideshow.

AbilityNet wins Digital Leaders Award

AbilityNet has won the best NGO Category in the Digital Leaders 100 Award 2014 and was placed second in the overall rankings, just behind our patron Baroness Martha Lane Fox. The photo shows AbilityNet's Dennis Dearden receiving the NGO Award from Chi Onuwrah MP and comedian Richard Herring at the Awards Ceremony that took place in London in June.

AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis said:

"Considering the competition and the short list of 100 companies and people, AbilityNet has achieved a fantastic result. We feel incredibly proud of what we have achieved, beating off some really strong competition and other major charities, commercial and public sector organisations."

FInd out more about the Awards on the Digital Leaders website.

Abilitynet's Dennis Dearden receives the NGO Digital Leaders Award 2014 form Chi Onuwrah MP

 

Join Abilitynet's Inclusive Design workshop at UXPA London 2014 conference, 21-24 July

AbilityNet's Chris Bailey and Raphael Clegg-Vinell are running a workshop on mobile accessibility at the prestigious UXPA conference in London on 21st July.  

The conference is a highly regarded fixture in the UX conference calendar, with speakers from several top design agencies and companies such as Google, IBM, Yahoo, Ebay and Plan. Although it is an annual event, this is only the second time it has been held in the UK, with the full conference running 21-24 July.

The event allows AbilityNet to stand alongside renowned UX design agencies and companies and present the importance of mobile accessibility to a number of experienced professionals. 

Inclusive Design: A strategy to deliver an effective mobile user experience

Designing for effective use in the mobile context presents fresh challenges for accessibility. The tutorial will highlight the benefits of inclusive mobile design and demonstrate that by checking and testing for inclusivity you can solve user experience problems you didn’t know you had.

Through a series of presentations, case studies, demonstrations and group activities this tutorial will give participants an understanding of issues which can present accessibility barriers to disabled users but also show how these are in fact user experience issues which could affect us all.

Group and individual activities will equip participants with the skills they need to conduct independent accessibility evaluations and be able to use mobile operating system features that are designed to assist people with alternative needs.

Details and how to book

The accessibility workshop is being held on Monday 21 July 6pm – 9.30pm. For more information about the conference, or to buy tickets for the mobile accessibility workshop, please visit the UXPA conference website.

 

Free webinar shows how to adjust your computer, laptop and smartphone

Every computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone can be adjusted using the settings that are built in. For some people it’s just about personalisation but for a disabled person it can be life-changing. It means they can surf the web, send and receive email, keep in touch with family and friends, control a mouse, use voice control and much more. 

In this this free webinar you will learn about:

  • The options available on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones
  • How to help identify what changes would be useful
  • How to make the changes
  • The free resources that AbilityNet provides to help disabled people.

My Computer My Way

The session will be ideal for anyone who advises disabled people, including Disability Advisers, charities that work with disabled people and staff and volunteers or others who support disabled people. It will feature examples based on the people that AbilityNet supports through its free helpline, and include a guided tour of MyComputer My Way, our free interactive guide to every accessibility feature on every desktop, latop, tablet and smartphone.

A video recording of the webinar will be shared with anyone who registers.

The webinar will not include BSL or other signing provision but a transcript can be provided.

Sign up now for this free webinar

Options for Accessible TV

There’s a wealth of options available to catch up on your favourite TV programmes, but how do they measure up if you’re looking for accessible features? Whether you want Audio Descriptions, subtitles or signing, this is how the major catch-up providers compare. This Guide has been produced in partnership with Ofcom-accredited broadband deals comparison site www.cable.co.uk

iPlayer

If you’re watching the BBC catch-up service on your desktop, you should find that almost every programme has subtitles – but disappointingly, this isn’t the case for any mobile versions of the player.

Both Sign Zone and Audio Described programming is listed in the Categories menu, making shows with either facility easier to find. Like subtitling, Audio Description and signed programming isn’t available on mobile versions of the iPlayer. Fortunately, all versions of the iPlayer app are compatible with screen-reading software.

ITV Player

At the time of writing, the ITV Player doesn’t feature either Audio Description or SignPosting facilities, but the network says it “hopes to be able to offer these services in the near future”.

According to the ITV Player site, around 70% of on demand content has subtitles, but as with iPlayer, this facility isn’t available on mobile devices.

4oD

If a programme was originally transmitted with Audio Description on, then you’ll find it will still have it on 4oD. For users of Jaws or NVDA screen readers, the 4oD player is fully compatible and can be controlled via the keyboard (Tab cycles through screen options, Shift + Tab cycles backwards while the Spacebar or Enter activate any controls, buttons or links).

A word of caution to Dragon speech recognition users: your voice controls won’t work on the fullscreen version of 4oD. 

Demand5

The Channel 5 player Demand5 is controllable via the keyboard (spacebar or enter to play and pause, arrow keys to fast forward or rewind). Any programmes with subtitles feature an ‘S’ icon at the bottom of the video player and will start automatically when you view the show.

Although there’s no list on the Channel 5 website of which shows have Audio Description, subtitles or are signed, the (S), (AD) and (SL) descriptors on the standard listings can help you find what you’re looking for.

Sky Go

We’ll focus on the positive first: Sky offers a Sky Talker set-top box, which provides speech-controlled access to programme and channel information and Sky+ play/pause functions. The £60 box means anyone who is blind or partially sighted can access Sky TV more easily.

Now the bad news: there are no subtitles, signing services or Audio Descriptions for any on demand content on the Sky Go platform. This is a major omission for such a major broadcaster.

Virgin TV Anywhere

If you’re accessing the Virgin Media player on your computer, you should find that keyboard controls, screen reader navigation and other accessibility features still work. Yet again, however, viewers seeking signed programming, Audio Description or subtitles will be out of luck: the Virgin TV Anywhere player doesn’t support any of these standard accessibility features.

NowTV

In something of a recurring theme, on demand service Now TV isn’t particularly accessible. There are no subtitles, Audio Description or signed features available for viewers who have additional needs.

YouTube

Ending things on a high note, video-streaming site YouTube takes a proactive approach to accessibility. An increasing number of videos on the service feature subtitles or auto-captioned text. Although YouTube generally uses a voice-to-text software package to auto-generate the subtitles and captions that appear on its videos, it’s an invaluable addition to a site with such a wealth of online content.

Researched and written in partnership with Ofcom Accredited broadband deals comparison site www.cable.co.uk

Three key issues for the future of accessibility

As part of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) on 15 May we spoke to accessibility experts from around the world to get an idea of the key issues across the globe they see on the horizon. Each of the experts talked about current accessibility issues in their part of the world and a number of common themes emerged:

  • WCAG and the internet of things
  • harmonising accessibility legislation
  • accessible social media.

Visit the webinar archive to view a recording of the webinar and download the transcript.

The interviews included:

  • Shadi Abou-Zahra ­- World Wide Web Consortium/Web Accessibility Initiative
  • David Woodbridge ­- Vision Australia
  • Thomas Richter - Samsung Ricardo Garcia ­- Technosite
  • Dennis Lembree - Easychirp/PayPal
  • Ken Nakata at Hi Software/Compliance Sheriff

WCAG 2.0 and the internet of things

One important thread to emerge during the conversations was the emergence of the ‘Internet of Things’ and, more specifically, how the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) can be used to ensure accessibility as devices start to communicate with each other.

WCAG guidelines may provide a framework for websites being viewed on desktops and phones, but how relevant will they be when your fridge is talking to your TV? The biggest issue for WCAG 2.0 is that rapidly advancing technology means that the tools available are almost always one step behind in their evolution; having to play catch-up with new versions of software, which often don’t update in-built accessibility features as they advance.

Shadi Abou-Zahra of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) explained that, unlike the first iteration of WCAG, WCAG 2.0 is intended to be “technologically agnostic”. It is not tied to a specific technology but is a flexible set of principles which prioritise the idea of accessibility being at the core of new technology, rather than an afterthought.

illustration showing how components relate, detailed description at http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/components-desc.html#relateHe pointed to resources on the WAI website that show how Web accessibility depends on several components working together and that the guidelines can be used ensure accessibility across different components.

Accessibility is a global issue

Another theme to emerge was a desire to see accessibility legislation harmonised on a global basis.

Ken Nakata of Hi Software is based in Seattle feels that the US authorities are taking a more proactive approach to enforcement, which should push developers and corporations towards prioritising accessibility. A recent high profile case in the US saw the law being clarified in relation to making web content accessible on phones and other devices. As he said, this has raised awareness of the offices of accessibility in corporate America, and CEOs now know that every day there is a chance of someone suing them for accessibility-related issues.

Meanwhile Thomas Richter of Samsung made a plea for harmonising accessibility legislation. If legal action is to be effective, he said, it must recognise accessibility as a global issue. From its perspective as a multinational supplier to every market on the planet, Samsung sees too many countries treating accessibility as a local issue, instead of using WCAG as a global framework.

Accessible social media

Another major talking point, and one that might not immediately spring into the mind of the everyday Tweeter, is the issue of accessibility in social media.

Social media presents a unique case in accessibility terms because whilst it is the duty of the platforms themselves to ensure, for example, that the sites are all navigable using only a keyboard, the content on social media is uploaded by millions of people across the world and accordingly social media users also need to consider accessibility when using the various platforms to ensure their content is accessible to the broadest audience possible. For example, many tweets and posts include images, videos or animated GIFs and, without a text description to explain what this content is, it is lost on many users who aren’t able to perceive the visual content.

Easychirp.com (a more accessible version of the standard Twitter website) is combating this by enabling users to provide a text description to images and is unique in social media platforms in this regard.

Watch the webinar

The webinar covered a number of other topics and we would encourage you to check it out if you weren’t able to attend the broadcast on the day.

Visit the webinar archive to view a video recording and full transcript of the webinar.

Accessibility research wins international award

AbilityNet staff have won ‘Best Communication Paper’ at the annual Web for All (W4a) conference, a prestigious international event with a strong focus on accessibility. Their paper described a study on the validity of current mobile web accessibility guidelines and beat off competition from world-leading organisations IBM and the W3C.

Dr Chris Bailey and Raphael Clegg-Vinell with their Award from W4A_2.jpegDr Chris Bailey and Raphael Clegg-Vinell, shown in the picture with their Award, are consultants from AbilityNet’s accessibility team. They worked with Dr Voula Gkatzidou, a Research Fellow at Brunel University, to prepare the paper for the conference called “Investigating the Appropriateness and Relevance of Mobile Web Accessibility Guidelines” and passed a rigorous peer review process before being accepted.

W4A is one of the largest accessibility events in the calendar. attended by a number of delegates from around the world including academics, policy makers, disability groups, technology advocates and representatives from large corporations such as Google and includes representatives from the W3C – the body who develop standards for the web.

Raphael, the lead author of the paper, explained the research:

"The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develop guidelines for making the web more accessible to people with disabilities. These guidelines are known as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0) and Mobile Web Best Practices (MWBP 1.0) (Mobile Web Best Practices) and are internationally regarded as the industry standard guidelines for web accessibility.

“Our work at AbilityNet is increasingly focused on mobile platforms. We carry out mobile testing sessions with users who have a range of different access needs and preferences.  For the benefit of clients, findings from these sessions are mapped wherever possible to the industry standard guidelines.

"However, our experience shows that many issues reported by users cannot be easily mapped to guidelines, or do not appear to be covered by a guideline at all.  This motivated us to conduct more detailed research and analysis into the matter, to ensure that guidelines really are there to benefit the users.”

Dr Chris Bailey attended W4A, which this year was held in Seoul, Korea, to present the findings of the research: 

“The presentation was a great success and was very well received by delegates. Feedback was highly positive and it sparked a lot of debate among attendees. As a direct result of presenting at the conference, the W3C asked AbilityNet to engage directly with them. This will ensure that the findings and  any fuuture work feeds into the development of the next generation of Mobile Accessibility Guidelines."

Chris, Raphael and Voula hope their research will help bring about much needed enhancements and updates to the current mobile guidelines.  The work also helps pave the way of others to conduct similar research into this fast-growing and important area of mobile web accessibility. 

Their work doesn’t stop here, and they will continue to monitor the results of user testing sessions and evaluate the effectiveness of the guidelines for both the benefit of AbilityNet, its clients and the wider UX community.    

The paper is available in the ACM Digital Library

AbilityNet recognised for innovation in workplace assessments

AbilityNet has been named as a runner up in the RIDI Awards, a new national competition that recognises best practise in supporting disabled people in the workplace. The Innovation in Assessment Award recognises how alternatives and adjustments to assessments are often so simple and yet have such a positive impact for disabled candidates.

AbilityNet was commended as a good example of an expert partnership bringing the technological expertise to deliver results and remove barriers and offering highly competent professional advice and support.

AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis, who is shown with Ben Chalcraft and Sheekha Rajani of DiversityJobs.co.uk, said he was pleased to see AbilityNet perform so well in the new Awards:

"The RIDI Awards recognise the many different ways that employers and suppliers can help meet the needs of disabled people in the workplace. As well as being runners up in the Innovation in Assessment Award, AbilityNet sponsored the Technology for Inclusion Award, which was a great way for us to recognise the many ways that digital technology can help disabled people in the workplace.

"The Awards Ceremony was a great event and showed just how many employers are investing their time and expertise to ensure that they recruit and retain the best talent."

Read more about all of the Awards on the RIDI website.AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis is shown with Ben Chalcraft and Sheekha Rajani of DiversityJobs.co.uk