AbilityNet recommends that every site should have an Accessibility help page. Whether you have a fully accessible site or not they provide a useful stepping stone on a user journey, they offer practical help to your customers and show them that you have thought about their needs. As a minimum we recommend that they include:
AbilityNet recommends that every site should have an Accessibility help page. Whether you have a fully accessible site or not they provide a useful stepping stone on a user journey, they offer practical help to your customers and show them that you have thought about their needs.
As a minimum we recommend that they include:
- a statement about the accessibility of the site,
- an explanation of any special accessibility features and links to tools such as My Computer My Way
- contact details for feedback.
Why do you need an accessibility help page?
Of course we want every site on the web to be accessible but you can have an accessibility page even if your site isn't accessible. It's not a legal obligation - more of a way to deliver a better customer experience. Having an accessibility help page doesn't make a site compliant or accessible, but a good accessibility help page can make your site more usable and could encourage people to choose you instead of the competition.
An accessibility page gives you a chance to warn people if you know there are parts of the site with accessibility issues or which have been difficult to adapt. It also gives you chance to offer alternatives, such as a customer support telephone number.
Help as much as you can
Imagine a relatively wealthy, recently retired couple planning their first luxury cruise. They don't consider themselves disabled, but when thinking about a cruise they have all sorts of questions about the facilities and adaptations which may help make the experience more comfortable.
Like many older people they are comfortable using a tablet computer to browse websites but often have a problem with small text, scrolling images and forms that are hard to use.
Of course it also makes sense for the site to be accessible. The law says it should comply with the WCAG 2.0 guidelines but in a competitive market it needs to be designed and tested with the needs of these customers in mind. Some of the target market will be using assistive technology, whether that is voice over to compensate for a visual impairment or an alternative mouse due to arthritis.
Just as the people joining the cruise will remember the help they get from attentive staff, their first experience of the company may well be a website which also caters for their needs and makes them feel welcome. It makes sense for the cruise companies to think about accessibility and making sure that people have the help they need to use their site - or risk seeing them switch to a competitor.
What to include in your accessibility help page
1. Compliance statement
Many sites use the accessibility help page to state that they comply with WCAG 2.0, which is the internationally-accepted minimum standard for web site accessibility. UK law requires AA compliance, so the statement is seen as fulfilling a legal obligation. Even if the site is fully accessible this is helpful, as it reassures the site user that common features should be available to all, but there is more to it than that.
Of course it is best to be working towards compliance, but where you know something on your site isn't fully accessible it is an opportunity to provide alternatives. Imagine how frustrating it is to be trying to use a service which the site owner knows cannot work for you - where it may well be better to offer customer support by phone.
Not sure how compliant your site is?
Speak to your web team, or ask an external expert like AbilityNet to conduct a test and provide some suggested wording. Or you can conduct simple single page tests using something like WAVE from WebAim at wave.webaim.org - you just enter a webpage address and discover how many accessibiliy issues it contains.
Some of them will be easily solved, like adding Alt Tags to images, whilst others may be more difficult to unpick, but at least you know where you stand and have an idea of the barriers your customers face.
2. Help with accessibility features
Think about the customers that may need your help to complete their user journeys. Many will be using a smartphone or tablet instead of standard browser and desktop PC and most will not know about the ways in which they can adjust their device to suit their needs.
Somewhere in the settings they may well be able to increase text size, add voice output or increase colour contrast - that may make the difference between sticking to your site or going elsewhere.
That's why we recommend a link to My Computer My Way, a free tool that explains all the accessibility features built into common desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. You can link to it for free, but if you don't want to people to leave your site it's also possible to embed that information within your site, branding it to your look and feel - there's more details about this elswehere on our site.
You may also have specific tools that help people use your site.
For example AbilityNet uses BrowseAloud, which reads content to people who are dyslexic or have others reasons for needing help with reading content. We link to the software in various places on our site and we include details in our accessibility help page.
3. Feedback mechanism
A final part of the jigsaw is to encourage feedback from customers. Make it easy to get in touch so that people choose you instead of your competitors - and listen to what they have to say about their experience.
Of course this is good practise for many other reasons but in terms of accessibility it encourages people to highlight issues they have using your service.
You can also tell people about other ways of using your service, such as email or phone, or even face-to-face alternatives.
Where to put your accessibility help page link
Make it easy to find. A common place to put a link is in the bottom menu, in a small font size alongside with various corporate information. Although convention means many people will look there it is better if you can place it at the top of the page in a more prominent position, or both.
To help people using screen readers it could be one of the first links, so that they don't have to tab through endless content to find it, or put a link next to any extras you offer such as style switchers.
- Review your accessibility help page
Take a look at your current accessibility page and see how helpful it is. It may contain a simple statement about compliance, but does it help some one use your service? Does it encourage them to choose you instead of a competitor?
- Update your help page
It may take some time to sort out the compliance of your site but it should be easy to put in a few links, such as My Computer My Way. And it won't take long to add a feedback method, whether that is an email address, a telephone number or a new form.
- Watch the video
This article is based on a webinar run by AbilityNet in September 2013. Watch the video of this webinar on Vimeo, although at the time of writing it had not been captioned.
- You can also view the slides from the webinar on Slideshare.
Mark Walker, AbilityNet
When Technica Solutions, a managed IT support company asked for recommendations on LinkedIn for a charity that uses technology to benefit others, the overwhelming response was ‘AbilityNet’. That introduction led to a new relationship that means AbilityNet is now the beneficiary of a dynamic company that is determined to give something back to the community.
Explains Technica Solutions’ partner, Craig Fisher: “Our desire to launch ‘Technica in the Community’ and support AbilityNet is rooted in our will to inspire others and raise awareness, which is part of the ethos of how we operate."
Determined to experience AbilityNet’s work first hand and gain a thorough understanding of our services, the Technica team spent a day finding out about the problems that face disabled and elderly people online and how their needs are often overlooked when designing apps, ticketing or payment systems for everyday transactions.
Says Business Development Manager, Vanessa Fisher: “I learnt how AbilityNet helps companies improve their websites, databases and other IT systems and was particularly fascinated to hear about the accessibility testing services that AbilityNet provided to the London 2012 Games.” Technica was also thrilled to discover that AbilityNet’s volunteer-led, IT Can Help service providing free advice to disabled people in their homes, is particularly active in their home county of Hertfordshire – a facility which Vanessa and her colleagues are keen to promote to their network.
Says AbilityNet CEO, Nigel Lewis: “We are absolutely delighted that Technica has selected AbilityNet as their charity partner and we look forward to their support and working with them to help the most in need to engage and benefit from technology within our digital society."
For each client received by recommendation, Technica Solutions will be making a direct donation to AbilityNet.
Find out more about Technica at www.technicasolutions.co.uk
Smartphones open up a whole new world to people with visual impairments. In this blog AbilityNet's Head of Fundraising Rory Field talks about his experience with Fleksy, an app designed to make texting easier.
There are a few of us that post on our Facebook page, so I should let you know that I am partially sighted, registered blind. Yes, it may be a little odd to start an article like that, but the context will soon be clear. I’m sure everyone out there with visual impairments will know what I mean when I talk about typing on our phones. Smart phones really open a whole new world to us and there are different ways for us to input information. If you are like me, you use a combination of those methods. I have a Bluetooth keyboard that works fantastically well and is the main way of inputting information for me. It is however, not always appropriate – for example when walking or sitting for a short time, like when travelling and having to make changes every couple of minutes. So, I also combined this with voice input, either Siri or dictation.
Now at this point, I should probably say that I do have an iPhone and find it the most accessible phone for me. Having said that, there are many great phones out there on different operating systems.
Anyway, back to my blurb. Sometimes voice input is not appropriate either, such as in noisy environments. In these instances, I revert back to the onscreen keyboard, where I have my setting on touch type, which is a setting that allows you to drag and lift your finger rather than having to find and then double tap on the correct letter (I use voice over, to know what is on the screen). That is until yesterday!
I came across this fantastic free app called Fleksy. Again, if you, like me, know the onscreen keyboard pretty well, you know the approximate location of the letters, but don’t always put your finger on the correct key, perhaps the one next to or below it etc. Fleksy is intuitive based on the location of the keys on the keyboard. So, you type in the approximate locations of the letters and most often Fleksy is able to calculate the correct word. Here is another kicker for voice over users – it is all based on single taps! So if you for example want to type “Hi”, just tap twice; once where you think the ‘h’ is and once where you think the ‘I’ is. To make a space, simply swipe (with one finger!) to the right and the voice over will tell you what word has been put in. Even if you mistakenly hit ‘G’ and ‘I’, the word chosen is most likely to be ‘Hi’. If it is not correct, you can swipe down and a number of the next most likely options will appear. If in the unlikely event none of the answers are correct, you can swipe left and the word will be deleted and you can retype that word. I played around with it for a couple of hours last night, and in that time I had one word that I needed to delete and go back on. It really made it so much faster, quite unbelievable. You really should try it to believe it.
Have a look at Fleksy's Video: http://youtu.be/MhzHyHLIg4g
You can very easily do punctuation, simply by swiping right for a second time. The default punctuation is a full stop, but if you swipe down, the other options are there. Fleksy checks out the names that you have in your contacts, so if you type names, it can match likelihoods to ones that you have in your contacts. You can switch to a number keypad by touching in the bottom left corner and it interacts very well with other functions on your phone. Whilst I was playing around with it, it interacted very well with my voice over. In addition to this, a two fingered swipe up will bring up the menu, where amongst other things you will find options for Facebook, Twitter, email etc. So, open the app, type your text, swipe up with two fingers and decide what you want to do with the text!
There is more you can do with Fleksy; this is just what comes to mind from my little play around with it last night. There is also a very handy little summary guide in about eight lines when you open Fleksy, so no need to be apprehensive. As I said near the beginning, this app is free. I think it is fantastic for visually impaired people, and I am sure that other people who don’t always hit the right letter when typing on that little onscreen keyboard will also benefit from it. The app is currently available for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad; watch this space as I stole the word currently from elsewhere, so it may be available on other platforms soon.
This blog post is part of a series that answers on some of the most common requests on our free advice and information helpline. This one looks at how technology can help people with Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
What is Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?
AMD is a sight condition that is normally found in people who are over 50. People with the condition lose their central vision over time. The vision loss may make it harder for people to recognise faces, drive and read print. It is worth noting though that people with the condition still have peripheral vision. There are two types of AMD, wet and dry. Famous people with the condition include writer Stephen King.
How many people in the UK have the condition?
According to the Macular Society (http://www.macularsociety.org/) at the moment there are around 500,000 people in the UK with this condition.
Top tips for easier computing
Using the accessibility options (or universal access) you can make the text bigger and you can also change the colour of it so you can view it more easily. Using the basic magnification software on the computer may also be beneficial. Positioning the computer, especially the monitor may also be really useful too. If your sight gets to the point where reading text is impossible you can consider using text to speech, where the computer can read text out to you in a synthesized voice.
Enid called us. She explained that her condition was meaning that she had a lot of dazzle from the screen. She used to use her computer a lot for online shopping as she also has some mobility problems and finds it difficult to get out.
We explained that she could customise the accessibility options within her computer to make the screen easier to read and so she could continue ordering her shopping online. We even suggested that a volunteer might be able to come out and help
How can we help?
There are a few ways that we can help:
- Call our free Helpline. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm 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.
- Arrange a home visit. We have a network of freindly 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.
- We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may well find the factsheet on Vision Impairment and Computing useful
The winners of this year’s Technology4Good Awards were announced by broadcaster Mariella Frostrup at a glittering Awards Ceremony hosted by BT on 4 July. Winners included Barclays Bank for installing accessible ATMs, Code Club for teaching primary school children the forgotten art of computer programming and The Big Give, a website that helped charities raise over £10m last Christmas. This year's Ceremony also included a Special Award for Dame Stephanie Shirley who shared her amazing life story as an IT pioneer and one of the UK's most generous philanthropists.
The Technology4Good Awards are organised by Abilitynet and BT and supported by a host of business and not for profit partners. This year's winners are:
Accessibility Award 2013 sponsored by AbilityNet and BATA
Barclays has installed over 3,500 accessible ATMs and introduced Hi Vis Debit Cards
BT Get IT Together Award 2013 sponsored by BT
Tackling digital exclusion by working with communities, individuals and businesses in South West England for over 20 years
Self Help Services
Community Impact Award 2013 sponsored by Camelot and UK online centres
Self-help group in Manchester using innovative IT solutions to help people with mental health issues
The Big Give
Digital Giving Award 2013 sponsored by NFP Tweetup
Not-for-profit platform for charities to fundraise online in innovative ways and helps donors to give intelligently
Digital Skills Award 2013 sponsored by Barclaycard
After-school clubs for 9-11 years with volunteers teaching kids the forgotten art of computer programming
The Prospects Trust at Snakehall Farm
Grow Your Charity Online Award 2013 sponsored by Media Trust and Microsoft
A social enterprise farm that has used Facebook to reach new people and raise funds
IT Volunteer of the Year Award 2013 sponsored by IT4Communities and Microlink
Has been a tech volunteer at RNIB for over 40 years
Local Digital Champions Awards 2013 sponsored by Go ON UK
An inspirational tutor helping people from disadvantaged parts of Merseyside get online for the first time
My Home Helper
T4G People’s Award 2013 sponsored by Brandwatch
An information system to help dementia sufferers stay healthy and keep in touch with family and friends
T4G Youth Award 2013 sponsored by BT, Amey, Fujitsu and Installation Technology
The team is creating an app to help visually impaired people navigate using their smartphone
Congratulations to all the winners and finalists - you can photos more details about the winners at the Technology4Good Awards website.
Abilitynet's ITCanHelp service provides IT support to disabled people in their homes and Bob Twitchen has been a central figure in its development for many years. It became part of AbilityNet last year but Bob and his colleagues have spent almost 20 years setting up and running this service completely voluntarily. Bob has now resigned as Chair of ITCanHelp, due to ill health, and asked that we publish this extract is from his resignation letter:
"For some time my own health and that of my wife has been deteriorating and, with great regret, I have decided that the time has come for me to step down from the Chair of the Steering Group and from taking an active part in the work of ITCanHelp.
It has been a great pleasure and privilege to have worked with so many committed and enthusiastic volunteers in all roles throughout ITCanHelp since the mid 1990s. All of us who knew Ken Stoner were inspired by his vision, fuelled by his own experience, of the isolating effects of disability and the transforming effect that being able to use computers could have for severely disabled people. Ken was not just inspired, he also worked very hard at the detailed organisation of ITCanHelp and the processes and procedures to support and organise the work of enthusiastic volunteers. Over the years so many others have given and continue to give great dedication and commitment to the work.
Although ITCanHelp has been unusual in the amount of responsibility taken by volunteers, we have had great support from BCS and more recently from AbilityNet and am grateful to all those who have supported our work. Continued participation in planning and operations by volunteers with experience of organising and providing support to clients is vital for the future success of ITCanHelp.
To try to thank everyone by name now would be impossible, but I do want to mention particularly the members of the Management/Steering Group in the last three years, who have worked together with people in BCS and AbilityNet to set up ITCanHelp as a key part of AbilityNet Volunteering. Josie and Anne have been towers of strength, and it has been good to see relationships developing with other people in AbilityNet, for example on marketing, training, press office support and fundraising.
2014 will be the twentieth anniversary of the creation of ITCanHelp as a pilot project in three English Counties, and I do hope it may be possible to celebrate this milestone, perhaps with some event to commemorate the work done over the years and the effect this has had on the lives of our clients.
It is good to see that the work is continuing to grow and develop as ICT and the on-line world become ever more essential in people’s lives. I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing of continued success in the future."
With thanks and best wishes to everyone
Bob Twitchin BSc FBCS CITP
Mariella Frostrop will announce the winners at this year's Technology4Good Awards Ceremony in early July. Twenty-four finalists have been chosen by a panel of experts who will now decide who wins the eight Awards, but you can have a say now by voting in the T4G People's Award. You can vote on the Technology4Good website, or register your vote on Twitter!
The Technology4Good Awards are organised by Abilitynet and BT and celebrate the people and organisations that use computers and the internet to make the world a better place. They are supported by a range of businesses and not for profit partners, who use their expertise to decide the winners. Previous winners include a group of volunteers who help stroke victims relearn computer skills, Lloyds Banking Group for their commitment to meeting the needs of disabled employees and a charity that provides games machines to children in hospices.
This year's entries range from Barclays Bank, who have introduced accessible ATMS across the UK, to an IT volunteer who helps a riding school for disabled children in Barnsley. It's a tough choice to know who to vote for but we've had over 1000 votes so far, so if you would like to get involved vote now at www.technology4goodawards.org.uk/peoples-award-2013 – entries close at midnight on 30 June.
A huge thank you to all of our partners and sponsors for supporting both Technology4Good and Technology4Good Youth Awards including Amey, BT, Barclaycard, BATA, Brandwatch, Camelot, Go On UK, IT4Communities, Media Trust, Microlink, Microsoft, Pleece&Co, Plug-In Media, PWC and UK Online Centres.
Good luck to all finalists and we look forward to announcing all winners on July 4th.
The whole world is going mobile, but what does it mean for accessibility? The latest of AbilityNet's free accessibility webinars will review some of the opportunities and potential problems that mobile and tablet devices provide when thinking about how to reach every customer on every platform. It's free of charge at 1pm BST on Wednesday 26 June.
Register now on the gotomeeting website - a video copy of the webinar will be available after the event.
As part of our Look No Hands! Campaign this blog looks at Motor Neurone Disease and what assistive technology can be life changing for people with MND.
What is Motor Neurone Disease?
Motor Neurone Disease is also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease (after an American baseball player). It affects the muscles in your body causing them to be weak. There is no known cure for this condition, but symptoms can be managed to help people to achieve the best possible quality of life. The causes of the condition aren’t really known but it may be something to do with chemicals and structures in the motor nerves. The effects include difficulty speaking and movement. Eating and swallowing are also affected and eventually the muscles that assist breathing fail. There are different types of the condition.
How many people are affected?
According to the Motor Neurone Disease Association (www.mndassociation.org.uk) the condition affects over 5,000 people in the UK and worldwide it has an incidence of 1 – 2 per 100,000 of the population.
One of the most famous people ever to have lived with MND is Professor Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease when he was only 21. He is one of the most internationally recognisable people who use assistive technology, whether he is delivering a speech to 11 million people at the Paralympics opening, writing a new book or working in his office at Cambridge University. As of 2012, Stephen Hawking is almost completely paralysed. He lost the ability to speak after he had a tracheotomy operation following pneumonia back in 1985.
“For a time, the only way I could communicate was to spell out words letter by letter, by raising my eyebrows when someone pointed to the right letter on a spelling card." says Hawking, “ It is pretty difficult to carry on a conversation like that, let alone write a scientific paper.”
Technological advancements have allowed Hawking to communicate through a text to speech device. Before Prof. Hawking lost the mobility in his hands, he had used a thumb switch and a blink-switch attached to his glasses to control his computer and select the correct letters. He now uses muscle movement in his face, combining squeezing his cheeks and "blinking” which activates an infra-red switch which can scan and select characters (letter by letter) on the screen in order to compose speeches, surf the Internet and send e-mails.
Top Tips for computing with MND
People who have computers and who have the condition can use the computers in lots of different ways:
- If their voice is still strong they can use voice recognition to control their computer.
- If their voice isn’t that strong but they still have some useful hand use they may be able to use a compact keyboard (a keyboard without the number pad on the right hand side.) They may also feel the need to use a keyguard to help.
- As the condition progresses people might want to use head movement, via a head mouse to control the computer or even switches to use an on screen keyboard and or communication software.
- Eye tracking or Eye Gaze software allow people with severe physical disabilities to access a computer. These high-tech systems have an inbuilt camera which tracks where your eyes are looking, enabling you to move the mouse pointer around. You can 'click' by blinking, dwelling (staring at the screen for a certain length of time) or using a switch.
Future Technology in the making
In July 2012 it was announced that several American companies are researching new ways that Assistive Technology can help Prof. Hawking. Due to Hawking’s condition, his cheek muscles will eventually deteriorate, which could eliminate his ability to communicate, leaving him with “Locked-in Syndrome”.
One American scientist, Professor Philip Low, is working on something called ‘iBrain’. The iBrain is a headset that records brain waves through EEG (electroencephalograph) readings - electrical activity recorded from the user's scalp. This may allow Prof. Hawking to "write" words with his brain as an alternative to his current speech system which interprets cheek muscle movements.
Alternatively , US chipmaker, Intel, announced that it had also started work to create a new communication system for Prof. Hawking. It is attempting to develop new 3D facial gesture recognition software to speed up the rate at which Prof. Hawking can write. Hopefully the research and discoveries from these scientists will benefit many others who face similar communication restrictions due to their disability.
How can AbilityNet help?
There are a few ways that we can help:
- My Computer My Way. A list of free hints and tips that you can use to make your time on the computer that bit easier.
- Call our free Helpline. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm 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. .
- We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free.
- 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.
Look No Hands!
You can help disabled people get the technology advice they need by donating to AbilityNet:
- Donate Now! Text LOOK132 to 70070 without using your hands to donate £2 to our free services – try using your nose or toes!
- Smile. Have someone take a picture of you trying to text without using your hands.
- Share. Share the picture with us and your friends through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram use #abilitynet #looknohands so we can keep track of your pictures