Vote for AbilityNet in the Digital Leaders Awards

AbilityNet has once again been nominated in the Digital Leaders 100, which recognise individuals and organisations making a difference in the world of citizen-facing digital services. Last year our work was recognised with a place in the Top Ten, alongside the BBC, Google and Mozilla (the makers of Firefox).

The final decision is based on a public online vote that closes on 2 June.

Please visit the website now and vote for us in the NGO Category

Digital Leaders finalist

 

Using a computer after a brain injury

Having a brain injury can cause many different issues but the use of a computer can certainly allievate some of these issues and make your day to day life that bit easier.Brain Awareness Week logo

What is a Brain Injury?

A brain injury happens when the brain gets damaged in some way, either by a traumatic occurrence, for examples a car accident, or the brain might be damaged by a stroke or an infection.

How many people in the UK have the condition?

According to Headway, the UK's leading charity for people with a brain injury,  there are 1 million people living with the long term effects of a brain injury the UK. (source:https://www.headway.org.uk/key-facts-and-statistics.aspx.)

How can computers help someone with a brain injury?

These commonly asked questions about having a brain injury illustrate some of the many ways of using a computer effectively.

I sometimes find it difficult to take my finger off the keyboard so I end up getting lots of characters. What can I do?

Firstly,  it would be worth seeing if the keyboard you are currently using is the most effective one. You can also turn on a function called Filter Keys which is built into every new computer and basically slows down the keyboard repeat rate to your own specific needs. You can find some information on it within our website. (http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/mcmw/category/changing-keyboard-settings/) . There are lots of different keyboards to choose from so it should be fairly easy to find a keyboard that you can use easily.

Every computer, smartphone or tablet includes options for adapting the way the keyboard works. AbilityNet’s award-winning My Computer My Way provides information about all the main computer and smartphone systems,

Can I talk to my computer?

If your voice is clear then we’d advise trying out voice recognition. It’s built into all new computers that run Windows. For more details have a look at our easy to understand step by step instructions on My Computer,My Way.

We’ve also written an overview of how voice recognition can help you. If you do have literacy difficulties it might be a really good idea to get support in reading the text to the computer.

Sometimes I have difficulty with reading text. What can I do?

There are a number of free and cheap text to speech packages which will read text out to you.  We really like the text to speech package at: http://www.ivona.com/en/.

I find it really difficult to remember important appointments. Can a computer help me?

Using Google's Calendar application is just one way of making sure you never miss an inportant appointment again. It is free of charge and you can synchronise it between your smart phone/tablet and your desktop computer meaning that you always have your schedule at your fingertips.


Case study

 Emma rang us to say that her boyfriend Bob was having issues with reading text on emails and web pages as well as PDF files. We suggested Bob ought to consider the Natural Reader software. This means that he is able to read documents independently.  He can also use the software to help him when he’s responding to emails too.

How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people.

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.

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.

We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free.  You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition, keyboard alternatives and learning difficulties useful.

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.

Free webinar. Sector Spotlight: Home Insurance Websites

Our sector reports shine a light on web accessibility in specific industries, showing how well the leading players are delivering accessibility best practise. In April we looked at the sites of six of the UK's leading Household Insurance companies, including Aviva, Axa, Direct Line, Hiscox, NFU Mutual and Zurich. 

This fiercely competitive industry continues to drive as much business as it can though the web. That means that every site relies heavily on the quality of their forms and the online customer experience to win and retain customers, so good user experience for disabled people should translate into better service for every customer.

With over 11 million disabled people in the UK - with a combined spending power above £100bn per year - how do these big hitters respond to such a potentially lucrative market?  

This is a great chance to learn more about how we test sites, hear feedback from our testers and ask us questions about the results. Everyone who regsiters for the event will receive a copy of the report and can access a video recording of the webinar. 

This webinar took place in April 2014 - visit the Webinar Archive for more details and to watch the video of the webinar.

Support Martha’s Mad May March

It is 10 years since AbilityNet’s Patron Baroness Martha Lane Fox had an awful car accident which left her with a number of life-threatening injuries. Since then she has become a tireless and inspiring champion for digital inclusion and to show how far she has come she is going to walk 50 miles along Hadrian’s Wall in 5 days over the May Bank Holiday, raising money for AbilityNet and other charities.

Martha Lane FoxShe will be joined by family and friends who have helped her on her journey and aims to raise £50,000, so please visit Martha's MyDonate page and show your support for this amazing feat.

Tender Opportunity: Join our digital mission

Tinder Foundation, together with our partners Abilitynet, Digital Outreach Ltd, SCVO, Supporting Communities Northern Ireland and NIACE Dysgu Cymru, has reached the second stage of the Big Lottery Fund’s Basic Online Skills programme.

Our proposed programme - Digital Mission- will support people to gain basic skills through local awareness raising and engagement campaign, the establishment of new digital clubs to train people in communities across the country, and by establishing a network to support people to gain digital skills in their own home.

As we prepare our full bid for round 2, we will be looking for partners to deliver Help at Home. We’ll be looking for partners in all of the four nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) with a track record of supporting the hardest to reach at home.

Download the Tender Documents below -  closing date for applications is 25 April

Os hoffech chi gopi o’r ddogfen dendr hon a ffurflen gais yn Gymraeg, anfonwch e-bost at dianne.cockburn@abilitynet.org.uk
 

Tinder Foundation Digital OutreachNIACE WalesSupporting Communities NIScottish Council of Voluntary OrganisationsAbilityNet

 

Parkinson's and Computing

Parkinson's Awareness Week 2014As it is Parkinson's Awareness Week in April we thought we would write a blog to show people who have the condition how easy it is to use their computer.

What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson's is a degenerative condition which affects the central nervous system. It causes tremors and difficulty with movement. Speech may also be affected. The condition is caused by lack of a chemical called dopamine. Famous people with the condition include retired boxer Muhammed Ali.

How many people in the UK have the condition?

According to Parkinson’s UK there are 127,000 people with the condition in the UK www.parkinsons.org.uk/content/what-parkinsons

How can computers help someone with Parkinson's?

These commonly asked question about having Parkinson’s illustrate some of the many ways of using a computer effectively

1. My hands shake and I can’t use the standard keyboard. What can I do?

If you have the condition you might want to use a different keyboard (perhaps also using a keyguard which is a piece of plastic which fits over the top of the keyboard making it easier to hit the right key.) You may even want to change the way the keyboard reacts when you hit a key, such as slowing it down.

Every computer, smartphone or tablet includes options for adapting the way the keyboard works. AbilityNet’s award-winning My Computer My Way provides information about all the main computer and smartphone systems. We also have a Factsheet about alternatives to keyboards and a mouse and there are lots of different keyboards to choose from.

2. I find it hard to use the mouse. Are there any other pointing devices out there?

If you’re having issues with the mouse then there are lots of different pointing devices (such as rollerballs) to choose from. It’s a really good idea to try them out before you buy; additionally it is worth considering if you might want to install some software that does automatic clicking. Dwell Clicker 2 is a very effective piece of software.

3. Can I talk to my computer?

If your voice is clear then we’d advise trying out voice recognition. It’s built into all new computers that run Windows. For more details have a look at our easy to understand step by step instructions on My Computer My Computer. We’ve also written an overview of how voice recognition can help you.

4. My speech is good sometimes but gets worse throughout the day. People find it hard to understand me. What can I do?

If your speech is affected there are a number of packages which you can install on a smartphone or tablet computer. However, if you’ve got issues with tremors then using a smartphone may be difficult for you to use. Switch access is possible on a Mac or Windows tablet. The switches can be wireless too for easier use. Search for more information about switches on our website.


Case study

Kenny called us as his partner John was having difficulties researching information on his Android tablet. Our A&I team talked to him about the different ways that John can access his tablet, using Google’s voice control and we went on to tell him about a piece of software called Evi which you can ask questions with your voice and it will go away and find the answer.


How can we help?

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people.

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.

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.

We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.

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.

Hannah Cockroft launches Tech4Good Awards 2014

Double Paralympic Gold Medallist Hannah Cockroft MBE officially launched this year’s Tech4Good Awards at an event that took place at BT Tower last week.

Hannah is one of the judges of this year’s Awards and will be present at the ceremony itself on 10th July at BT Centre. Although she was unable to attend the launch event in person she sent a video message from her training base, which you can view below.

Nominations are open until 5pm on Tuesday 6th May.

How Preston City Council got to grips with web accessibility

February’s AbilityNet webinar saw us join forces with SOCITM to give a practical overview of web accessibility. Our Head of Digital Inclusion, Robin Christopherson shared his expertise in the area, helping attendees with web accessibility queries.

A key element of the webinar was the contribution of Mel Moville, Web Manager for Preston City Council (PCC) who shared the story of her organisation’s journey towards a more accessible website.

Preston’s website failed the accessibility test in SOCITM’s Better Connected assessment (an annual assessment of all local authority websites). From the feedback in the report, Mel and her colleagues were surprised to find that their website was nowhere near as accessible as they had thought and particularly surprised that some of the third-party elements of the site weren’t as accessible as they had been told.

Mel and PCC wanted a clear picture of where their website was performing well in terms of accessibility and any areas for improvement, so they commissioned a Digital Accessibility Centre (DAC) accessibility audit of the website in April 2013. Mel travelled to the DAC centre to watch the tests being carried out, a step that she found really helpful and one that we at AbilityNet recommend with our testing. She said, “It was good to go in and see the videos of the testing so we could understand exactly where the problems were. It was interesting to see the technologies being used.”

In total, the audit identified 24 web accessibility failures on the website and third-party add-ons. The problems took a total of eight months to resolve, with the third-party elements proving particularly problematic as Mel and the team at PCC had to work through the actions with the third-party suppliers.

Among the problems highlighted was the fact that Google Maps plugins on the site, which were used to show locations of services, were inaccessible to non-visual users. This is a common issue that is easily solved by adding a list of addresses to the maps page.

Preston City Council web accessibility issue, Google Maps

PCC received accreditation from the DAC in November 2013 but they are glad of the lessons learned during the process. According to Mel, they learnt how vital it is that accessibility be included from the start of any new web build, with the web development team conducting tests at every stage of the process. The other major area highlighted by their problems with third party suppliers was the need to have accessibility requirements built into the procurement process.

Click here to find out more about AbilityNet’s web accessibility services.

To view the full video recording of the webinar and hear Mel's story in her own words, please click here.

Webinar slideshow available on Slideshare here.

 

 

 

Chris Bailey heads up accessibility for UK UX Professional Association

Dr Chris Bailey, senior consultant in AbilityNet's London office, has been elected Accessibility Officer for the UK Chapter of the User Experience Professional Association. Chris recently completed his PhD in Human-Computer Interaction at Teesside University and is keen to promote better understanding of accessibility in the UK's growing UX community.

Dr Chris Bailey, Accessibility & Usability Consultant, AbilityNetUXPA UK is a not-for-profit organisation which supports UX practitioners in their professional development and promotes all disciplines of user-centred design. His role involves leading UXPA activities around accessibility and inclusive design as well as raising awareness of the need to cater for users with diverse needs in the wider community and industry. He will also build and maintain UXPA UK relationships with other organisations related to accessibility and inclusion.

As Chris says:

"Accessibility and UX best practice share a great deal in terms of putting users’ needs at the centre of design processes. I really believe that developing an accessible product showcases the discipline of user-centred design at its very best.

"I know many UX professionals are committed to ensuring that accessibility is embedded in every digital project and I hope I can help build awareness of the business benefits and UX enhancements that inclusive design can bring to a product."

Find out more about UXPA at www.uxpa-uk.org

UK User Experience Professional Association

Down's Syndrome and Computing

The needs of people with Down's Syndrome vary enormously and there may be many ways that computers could help them with communications at work, at home or in education. This blog covers just a few of them and is written to mark World Downs Syndrome Day on March 21.

Down's Syndrome, also known as Down's Syndrome in the USA is a genetic condition that typically causes some level of learning disability and a characteristic range of physical features. Source: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Downs-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx. There are over 40,000 people in the UK with the condition. Source: http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/

Top tips for easier computing for people with Down's Syndrome

It’s difficult to be specific about what the challenges and obstacles that someone who has Down’s Syndrome might face but whatever they are ther will almost certainly be there will be software or hardware adaptations available that will help.

World Downs Syndrome Day is 21 MarchIf you have the condition you might want to use a different keyboard (perhaps alphabetical) or alternative pointing device to make it easier for you to use the computer.  You may even want to change the way the keyboard reacts when you hit a key. Ifg you're not sure how to do that check out My Computer My Way, AbilityNet's interactive guide to all the many ways you can change setting in your computer, tablet or smartphone

You also may benefit from some software which helps you plan and write your work and have text spoken out to you.  Mind mapping software such as Freemind (http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page) or Inspiration (http://www.inspiration.com/) is useful for making notes on content that you want to include in your work. You could even use the outline feature in Word to help you make brief notes.

If you find reading a bit difficult you could change the font style (http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/mcmw/changing-your-fonts/) for one that is easier for you to read. You can also get software which will actually speak text out for you. (http://www.ivona.com/en/mini-reader/). Best of all, this package is free!

One of the ways that people who have Down’s Syndrome communicate is via Makaton which is a sign language vocabulary. There’s a Makaton-based app for this which will run on an Ipad although please note this is not free.

Case study

Imran’s dad called our helpline as Imran had some difficulties with using the keyboard. We suggested using an alphabetic keyboard and some word prediction software so that Imran could effectively use the computer and do his homework for college.

If he gets tired he can also get the software to read back what Imran has written. After he’s done his homework he can chat to his friends on social networking sites.

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. 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.
  • 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.
  • We have a range of factsheets which talk in detail about technology that might help you, which can be downloaded for free.  You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.
  • 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/mcmw

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