Look No Hands! Assistive Tech Tips for people with MS

What is Multiple Sclerosis, how does it affect people's lives and how can computer technology help?

What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is one of those conditions that most of us have heard of, but not many of us know exactly what it is or how it effects people.
MS is a condition which affects the central nervous system.  The coating of the nerve fibres (myelin) in your body is affected. This means that you can have difficulty using your hands and arms and your mobility may be reduced.  Speech and memory can also be affected. In some people their eyesight can be affected too.

How many people are affected?

Photo of computer user with zoom magnification software and also a rollerball mouse

  • In the UK there are at least 100,000 people affected by the condition.
  • Worldwide there are estimated to be at least 2.5 million.
  • It's most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 20 and 40.
  • MS tends to affect almost three times as many women as men.

How can you adapt your computer to help someone with MS?

  • Within Accessibility settings within the computer system you can slow down the keyboard via Filter Keys and if you need to you can also slow down the mouse so it doesn’t shoot off across the page the moment you touch it. 
  • It also might be a good idea to use a rollerball so you’ve got a little bit more control over it.
  • As long as the voice isn’t affected too much you can also use voice recognition to control the computer.
  • If your sight is affected at all you could use the built in magnification tool within Windows or just simply change the settings within the control panel to make sure that text is in the most visible colour for you to see.
  • If your speech is affected but you can still access the computer there are many different communication packages available to help you to communicate your requirements.

    Case Study

Ms S rang us up to see if we could help with a client of hers that uses her MS Centre.  The client was finding it increasingly difficult to use the standard computer keyboard. We recommended that she trialled a much larger keyboard with a key guard on it, so she didn’t hit the wrong keys. We also spoke to her support worker about making sure that she slowed the keyboard down by using filter keys so she didn’t get lots of unwanted characters.

How can we 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 www.mycomputermyway.com
  • Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free www.abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets.
  • 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!

Help us raise money to help disabled people in 3 easy steps:

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.

 

Look No Hands! Stroke survivors can be as active as ever on the web

One of the UK's highest causes of disability is a Stroke. This article looks at what assistive technology can help those who survive a stroke.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke can affect people in different ways. It is caused by a blockage when blood can’t get to the brain. As a result part of the brain dies so it may affect movement on one side of your body.
If you spot the symptoms of a stroke which are FAST you should call 999 immediately:

  • Face-does the face droop on one side.
  • Arms-can the person lift their arms up.
  • Speech-is their speech affected.
  • Time-It’s time to call 999 quickly.

Spotted quickly medical treatment can help save someone’s life. About 85% of strokes are caused by a blockage (ischaemic stroke) and about 15% are caused by a bleed (haemorrhage) in or around the brain.

How many people are affected?

  • Every year at least 15 Million people are affected by strokes.
  • According to the Stroke Association, there are around 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK.
  • More than half have been left with disabilities that affect their daily life.
  • Stroke is the largest cause of complex disability in adults.

These disabillites can range from loss of speech, paralysis and muscle weakness, difficulty understanding speech or writing, memory problems , all which can cause great difficulty performing every day tasks.

Top tips for computing after a Stroke

What assistive technology would be useful for a person who is recovering from or had a stroke? It is really difficult to give a general view on what IT can be used for people with strokes as everyone can be affected in different ways. If one side of the body is affected causing reduced finger and hand movement one of the solutions might be to use a smaller compact keyboard so you don’t have to reach from one side of the keyboard to the other. Other solutions might be to use word prediction which means you can cut down on the amount of typing needed. If your voice is still good then voice recognition might be a good idea. It also might be a really good idea to consider using alternative pointing devices which can be positioned correctly for the client.

Case Study

Ms Q rang on behalf of her Dad who is 85 and has had a stroke. He has lost his speech and is paralysed down the right hand side. He’s right handed too. We sent them some information about different sorts of one handed keyboards that he could use effectively and  we also sent some information about text to speech software so he could still make himself understood.

How can we 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 www.abilitynet.org.uk/myway/
  • Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free www.abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets.
  • 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!

Help us raise money to help disabled people in 3 easy steps:

  • 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.

AbilityNet's Look No Hands! campaign kicks off

Stephen Fry supports the Look No Hands! campaignOur Look No Hands! campaign kicked off in great style this week thanks to Stephen Fry, who tweeted his message of support to his millions of followers and created a surge of interest. He joined Martha Lane Fox and hundreds of AbilityNet supporters in raising money to help disabled people get the most from computers and the internet, by donating £2 without using their hands.

The Look No Hands! appeal was launched last week by Baroness Lane-Fox, patron of the charity, who texted with her nose to show how challenging technology can be to disabled people.  She said:

“Just think about how many texts you’ve already sent today.  Have you ever considered how challenging such daily tasks would be if you couldn’t use your hands?  This is reality for many disabled people. And that’s why AbilityNet is asking people to text Look132 to 70070 using their nose (or their toes) and make a £2.00 donation to support AbilityNet’s free services for disabled people.”

Martha Lane Fox tries to text with her noseAbilityNet's CEO, Nigel Lewis is delighted with the attention the campaign is getting:

“For the UK’s 11 million disabled people, the internet can be a vital lifeline, enabling them to communicate, socialise, shop, express themselves creatively and even get a job.  AbilityNet is there to provide the critical advice and information they need to transform their lives for the better.”

The Look No Hands! Campaign runs until Friday 17th May 2013 and by the end of its first day, nearly 4000 people had visited AbilityNet's website to find out more.

The campaign video is on the Look No Hands campaign page and features familiar faces including Baroness Lane-Fox and BBC presenter, Peter White.

 

Look No Hands! Don't let Arthritis stop you surfing the web...

Did you know that there are around 10 million people in the UK who have arthritis? What is Arthritis, how does it affect people's lives and how can computer technology help?

Photo of hands Our Look No Hands Campaign runs from Monday 13th May to Friday 17th May so every day this week we will be looking at a number of disabilities which cause people difficulty in using their hands. Some of these conditions are more common than you might think so we will tell you a bit about each disability, what forms of assistive technology can be used and where you can find  more information.

What is Arthritis?

Most of us have heard of Arthritis. You’ve probably been told at some point in your life that cracking your knuckles would give you it. Which, might I add, is a complete myth, you’ll be pleased to hear.  It’s a condition which causes inflammation and pain within a joint, also tenderness, restricted joint movement, joint weakness and sometimes muscle wasting. It affects people of all ages.

There are two type that are most common:

  • Osteoarthritis: Which is the most common where the cartilage between your bones wastes away. This causes painful rubbing and is most common in the Hands, Spine, Hips and Knees.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: This is more severe but less common form. This can lead to reduction of movement and breakdown of bone and cartilage.

How many people are affected?

There are around 10 million people in the UK who have arthritis. Our hands are one of the most frequently used body parts. When you think about it, we have 27 bones in each of our hands.  That’s a lot of joints in which people suffering from arthritis would experience pain. This is one of the many reasons that arthritis can be such a debilitating condition.

Top Tips for computing with Arthritis:

So what assistive technology would be useful for a person with Arthritis in their hands? Using a keyboard or a mouse might be really difficult for someone with arthritis.  So  we’ve got to look at alternatives:

  • A roller-ball mouse might be easier for someone to use as they can put their whole hand on it, rather than just their finger.
  • If they find a normal keyboard difficult to use they might want to look at a really soft touch keyboard or try an ergonimic keyboard or mouse.
  • If using the keyboard is a bit slow they might want to use a word prediction package which makes things just a little bit easier and quicker. It also reduces the level of movement required. Why hit 6 keys when you might only need to hit 3?
  • You can also use voice recognition to control the computer.

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. http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/myway/
  • Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets
  • 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!

Help us raise money to help disabled people in 3 easy steps:

  • 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.

Making computers easier for people with Parkinson's

What is Parkinson's Disease, how does it affect people's lives and how can computer technology help?

What is Parkinson's Disease?

  • People with this condition don’t have enough of a chemical called dopamine in their bodies because they have lost some of the nerve cells in their brain. Because of this their muscles become stiff, and some people experience tremors and slowness of movement.  Not everyone will have the same symptoms though. Famous people to have had the condition include Michael J Fox and Muhammad Ali.

How many people are affected?

  • According to Parkinson’s UK there are 127,000 people in the UK affected by Parkinson’s. That’s one in 500. Worldwide there are 7.4 million people affected.

Top Tips for computing with Parkinson's

  • Use the accessibility settings on your computer to slow down the keyboard with the ‘Filter Keys’ feature - you can also slow down the mouse so it doesn’t shoot off across the page the moment you touch it.
  • It also might be a good idea to use a rollerball mouse so you’ve got a little bit more control over it.
  • A Keyguard can be laid over the top of your existing keyboard, this helps you hit the right keys. 
  • As long as your voice isn’t affected too much you can also use voice recognition to control the computer.

Photo of Roller Ball Mouse

Photo of Keyboard with a keyguard and large buttons

How we helped David

Mr David W from North Yorkshire has Parkinson’s and it is making computer use very difficult especially typing on the keyboard.  He called our Advice & Information line and had a chat with us about the options available. We have recommended that he trials an adapted keyboard, suggested a supplier and organised an AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteer to go and help set up the equipment and try it out. If it works for him he can regain his independence and use his computer effectively.

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. www.mycomputermyway.com
  •  Call our free Helpline. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.
  •  We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. www.abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets
  •  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.

Inclusive Design: Free Event, 9 May 2013

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

AbilityNet is hosting a free event in London to mark Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2013. Inclusive Design: Where Accessibility Meets Usability will feature speakers including Robin Christopherson and Julie Howell, followed by a panel that includes Jeremy Keith, Ian Hamilton and Meera Pankhania.

The event is part of AbilityNet's Mind The Digital Gap Digital Inclusion Strategy, which launched at Westminster in November 2012 and called for a more user-centred approach to the design of digital products and services.

Tickets are free but booking is essential.

Inclusive Design: Where Accessibility Meets Usability

  • An AbilityNet event for Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2013
  • 4:30-7:30pm, Thursday 9 May 2013
  • Google Campus, London

Robin Christopherson, Julie Howell, Jeremy Keith and other special guests will be looking at the crossover between usability and accessibility. They will debate the merits of connecting the two disciplines and offer practical ways for UX practitioners, web designers, developers and their clients to ensure that websites, digital devices and information resources can be designed to be used by everyone.

Mind the Digital GapThis is a free, ticket-only event and numbers are strictly limited.

Book now

To reserve your ticket please use our Eventbrite page or contact Kat.Upton@abilitynet.org.uk.

Accessibility and Eventbrite

The venue is accessible and a sign language interpreter will be available. Please tell us if you any specific needs. If you have any accessibility issues using Eventbrite please send an email to Kat.Upton@abilitynet.org.uk or call us on +44 207 7962 144

Why Google Glass is a clear winner for the blind

Robin Christopherson is Abilitynet's Head of Digital InclusionRobin Christopherson is AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion

What?? Google’s glasses with heads-up display are a winner for users who can’t even see? Absolutely. Moreover they promise huge potential benefits for users with a range of other impairments too.

I’ll explain – but first it’s worth giving a bit of background to what Project Glass is all about (if you already know all about these uber-geeky glasses then skip down to the next paragraph).

As you’ll have gathered from the picture these are indeed glasses, but they’re glasses with a difference. They have a computer built-in and that computer is intelligent and able to do a lot of what a smartphone does including running apps, making voice or video calls, taking photos or videos and playing you your favourite music. The best introduction is probably Google’s own Project Glass promo video they put out a year or so ago.

For a recent update on progress check out a video of The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky spending a day with the project team at Google.

Yes but how will a pair of glasses help blind people?

So what has Glass got to offer disabled users – and blind users in particular? Well it’s a no-brainer to say that disabled people often find certain things more difficult than people who don’t have an impairment of any kind. Technology can really help overcome those difficulties – and the more mobile, aware and intelligent that tech is the better.

I myself as a blind person, for example, could really do with a pair of eyes that are always looking where I’m looking and, at the same time, applying some significant smarts to what’s in front of me. OK, so Google Glass only has one eye – but one eye’s better than none believe me!

Google co-founder wearing a pair of Google glassesYou’ll have seen from the videos that the camera is always on the look-out and analysing your surroundings, serving up useful information that it thinks you need to know. You look at the clock and it assumes you are interested in the time and tells you appointments coming up. Look out of the window and it gives you the weather.

On my phone I already have an app that tells me what product I have in my hand at the supermarket (and even gives me nutrition information and where I can buy it cheaper round the corner). I have an app that tells me whether I’m holding a £5 or £50 note before I hand it to the cabby – and all without taking a photo. I just wave it under the camera and it speaks the result. So this sort of real-time object recognition is a reality.

For blind people to have that eye looking wherever they’re looking and telling them lots of useful information (such as notification of an obstacle across your path or the location of your wallet) and combine that with speech output which is already standard on smartphones and you have a potentially life-changing proposition. So, as you can imagine, I’m interested.

But it's not just about visual impairment

Glass has potential for many other users too. Here’s a video showing another example of real time image recognition – this time it’s emotion recognition.  

This software extends facial recognition to identify the emotions of the person you’re looking at. Crazily enough this software is actually better at recognising human emotions than humans are – tests showing that it gets it right 65% of the time as opposed to 56% for us mere mortals.

Imagine how empowering that would be for someone with Asperger’s or autism who finds it extremely difficult to interpret people’s emotions. Combine that with a heads up display that tells you to “Tell another one, they liked it!” or “I think they could do with some sympathy.” And you begin to see the potential benefits.

Live transaltion, with sub-titles...

As a final example let’s think about people with a hearing impairment. There are dozens, probably hundreds, of apps that offer real-time voice recognition (and often simultaneous language translation too) which is extremely useful if you are in a foreign country (or Glasgow) and need to understand the local lingo. Now combine that with a heads-up display and you have live subtitles overlaid over life. Great for all of us that aren’t polyglots. But if you’re deaf then we’re now talking about a truly life-changing gadget.

So now you see why I’m excited for myself and for millions of others too. As soon as I can wangle a pre-order on company expenses I’ll join the orderly queue to look like extras from an abandoned series of Star Trek. I’m hoping that Google’s Project Glass will be opening doors for disabled users with all sorts of needs - and I’m also hoping they may even stop me walking into a few that are still closed…

AbilityNet joins Helplines Association

AbilityNet is pleased to announce that it has become an associate member of The Helplines Association - the membership and good practice organisation for all helplines in the UK and beyond.

Joining the Association means that AbilityNet can share good practice of its renowned Advice and Information Line to other charities - and also get ideas on how to improve their service from the Helplines Association network of helplines who deal with a wide range of topics. The Helplines Association currently has over 400 member organisations.

AbilityNet's Anne Stafford said of the partnership:

“We are very pleased to be associate members of the THA and benefitting from the network that ensures standards of excellence for helplines”. 

AbilityNet's free helpline service is open Monday to Friday on 0800 269 545, providing specialist information about how disabled people can use computers, the internet and other forms of new technology. In 2012 the Advice and Information Line took over 1400 enquiries.

Small charities get easier access to IT support

small charities coalition Most small charities know that they need reliable IT systems but don't know where to turn for high quality, independent advice. Whether they need help with a database or website, have questions about social media or any other aspect of IT, they either don't know who to ask or can't afford the specialist support they need. Now a new partnership between the Small Charities Coalition and AbilityNet's IT4Communities programme gives small charities access to a network of over 9,000 IT professionals who offer their time for free.

Anne Stafford is Manager of AbilityNet's IT4Communities network:

"We already have a lot of small charities as members but we've been working with the Small Charities Coalition to see how we can help them get what they need. This new agreement means we can help them keep their costs down whilst still accessing our network of amazing IT professionals. We're also working on various projects that will provide specific advice and information relevant to small charities."

John Barrett is the Operations Manager at Small Charities Coalition:

"We know first hand the difference an IT professional from AbilityNet's IT4Communities can make to a small charity. This new partnership means even more of them can benefit from the experience and expertise on offer."

Both AbilityNet’s iT4Communities programme and the Small Charities Coalition are committed to helping vital small charity services benefit from effective office infrastructure, of which IT is an increasingly large part. This partnership will raise awareness of the pro bono support of 9,000 IT professionals to the joint networks of Small Charities Coalition and Charity Trustee Networks 6,000 small charity members.

Find out more about AbilityNet's iT4Communities programme.

Free webinars: Accessibility for Designers & Developers

AbilityNet is the UK's leading expert on digital accessibility working with some of the UK's largest companies to deliver digital content and services that reach every customer on every platform. We also work with a network of over 6,000 IT professionals, who provide IT support to charities and not for profits through our AbilityNet iT4Communities service. In 2013 we are offering all our volunteers a series of free webinars to help them deliver the same high quality accessible solutions to the charities we support, as well as influencing the work they do in their day job. Recordings of the webinars are available to view below.

The webinars are led by highly experienced web developers from the AbilityNet Accessibility team. Each is approximametly 90 minutes long and cover a range of practical tips for any web designers and designers who want to know more about online accessibility.

These are free events and we will run more free webinars, please look out for news or sign up for our latest news.

Accessibility - an Introduction: 


Accessibility for Designers: 


Accessibility for Developers