Digital Divide: Age and Equity

Two hands of an older person are poised above the keyboard of a laptop computer.Older people are getting left behind in this digital world, especially if they are women and don’t live in a major city. The Conversation reports on the Australian Digital Inclusion Index (ADII) which measures which social groups benefit the most from digital connection, and which ones are being left behind. The score is based on access, affordability and ability to manage digital devices. While regional areas don’t have the same access to internet services as cities, there are programs that can help older people get internet-savvy. Telstra has its Tech Savvy Seniors program and the federal government has a Be Connected Program, and there is the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association. There are others listed in the article including an internet cafe set up by Umbrella Multicultural Community Care. The title of the article in The Conversation is, The digital divide: small, social programs can help get seniors online.  

The ADII also measures how things change over time for people depending on their circumstances. After all, Australia’s digital divide is not going away. 

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Accessibility toolkit from Ireland

Foyer of a public building looking towards the front entrance. A reception desk is in the foregroundThe National Disability Authority, which funds the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Ireland, has produced an online Accessibility Toolkit that is targeted towards services, both public and business. The home page has a list of items that you can look at individually. They are listed and linked below. The home page also has a 16 minute video briefly outlining each of the items. Each of the links below has links to further resources.

Commit to providing accessible services

Provide disability equality training to staff

Consult customers with disabilities

Develop an Equal Status Policy

Consider accessibility when procuring

Include accessibility in a Customer Charter

Appoint an Access Officer and Access Team

Make your services more accessible

Make your buildings more accessible

Plan safe evacuation for all customers and staff

Make your information more accessible

Make your websites more accessible

Accessibility Statement Template

 

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Barclays debunk five myths

Five red balloons in a row with the title 5 common myths about accessibilityNeat video by Barclays Bank that debunks common myths about customer complaints, costs of being accessible, access being someone else’s job, it’s too small a market for all that time and effort, and accessible design is boring design. Towards the end there is a great statement, “accessible design should work well for those who need it, and be invisible to those who don’t”. A really useful video for anyone promoting accessible customer service in our digital world, and for others wondering if it really is worth the effort. The video is captioned. You can find out more about Barclays work in this area. They also have a Twitter feed.

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Automation and universal design

Wall-e robot. Yellow cube body with eyes mounted on top and robot arms and wheelsAs technology races ahead we need to be thinking quickly about policy development, and ethical questions related to artificial intelligence and the level to which it can affect our lives for good and perhaps not so good. Monash University has produced an 11 minute video in which several speakers have their say on the topic of automation and artificial intelligence. Good points are made from both an ethical perspective and a practical perspective. One point not mentioned is whether all such technology will be inclusive for all users.

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Digital world still scary to some

A close up of an ATM with a person holding their hand over the pin keyboard to hide their numbersOlder adults are still suspicious of digital transactions. This is one of the conclusions from a study in Ireland. It would be interesting to see if we would get similar results in Australia. With institutions such as Centrelink and Medicare going digital, it is important that we don’t leave people behind. This report, “A Social Policy Report of Older People’s Everyday Experiences of Banking and Telecommunication Providers in County Roscommon” gives some good insights into older people’s behaviours in this digital world. Using ATMs was not popular mainly due to concerns over safety, so there is still a preference to physically visit the bank. Online banking and telephone banking was not favoured either, in spite of many people having a smart phone and a computer. At least visiting the bank means an outing and some exercise for people who spend most of their time at home. Perhaps this should be factored into policies as well. The report lists the key findings at the front of the document. The Economist posted an article on a similar theme. Would be good to see an Australian study.

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Digital Inclusion: Lessons from Australia

shows corner of a laptop and a smartphone on a deskProfessor Gerard Goggin’s latest publication about internet accessibility covers some history of digital inclusion in Australia as well as related social policy. He and his co-authors discuss how the legal action taken against the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games set a new standard in providing information in accessible formats. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) cites this case as how not to do web accessibility in “A Cautionary Tale of Inaccessibility: Sydney Olympics Website” (W3C, 2009).

However, little progress has been made since the Olympic Games in 2000 as any reporting on web accessibility compliance within the Australian government appears absent. In the United States, legislation is pushing the boundaries, but no such legislation exists in Australia. The article, Internet accessibility and disability policy: lessons for digital inclusion and equality from Australia, also discusses the nexus with the National Broadband Network, the NDIS, and other aspects of social policy. The article concludes, “As the Australian case shows, all these broader social aspects are important coordinates, when it comes to internet policy for digital inclusion to people with disabilities”.

Professor Goggin was a Keynote speaker at the 2nd Australian Universal Design Conference in 2016. You can download an edited transcript.

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Time for the inclusive revolution

book cover showing outline drawing of an older couple with an iPad tabletThe sub title from the e-book “Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility: Time for a revolution!” says it all. The book includes chapters from UK, Denmark, USA, Slovenia and Norway. The theme is the digital age and how to include everyone. It covers the economic case, putting people at the centre of the design, keeping it simple, and user testing.

In the foreword CEO of BT Retail, Gavin Patterson, says, “The experts interviewed for this book have given all who are involved in developing technology food for thought. It sets out the opportunities, challenges and impacts that communication solutions present to users, to help ensure that what we develop in the future does not end up excluding people whose lives we actually set out to improve. “

Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility is published by the Engineering Design Centre at the University of Cambridge and is free to download. Several well known authors are featured, including Valerie Fletcher, Roger Coleman, Ger Craddock, Hua Dong, and Baroness Sally Greengross.

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Closed captions help all students

YouTube logo and Closed Captions logoWith tertiary education institutions turning to online learning and creating videos of lectures, the need to caption these videos could be more important for all students than first realised. The findings of this study show the need for more work in this area, but early results show that captioning benefits most students, with or without disability. This finding could transfer to the general community. 

“When queried whether captions were helpful, 99% of students reported they were helpful (5% slightly, 10% moderately, 35% very, 49% extremely). We were unable to determine differences among students with and without disabilities, as we did not track individual survey responses.” Interestingly, in this study 13% of respondents indicated having a disability, but only 6% were registered as such.

young female at a desk with laptop, coffee cup and notebookVarious reasons were given for the benefits of closed captioning – noise in their listening environment, unclear speech in the video, spelling of new or unfamiliar words, and being able to take notes just by stopping the video and not needing to rewind to listen again. Students with English as a second language also benefitted. Although these results show the need for more research, they found there was a 7% increase in student results compared to the previous year’s students who did not have captioning. The article also discusses the cost of captioning and other options, such as speech recognition. The title of the article is, Closed Captioning Matters: Examining the Value of Closed Captions for All Students, and is published in the Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability, 2016.

Editor’s note: Anyone who has seen the results of “automatic” online Google captioning will know that the results are very haphazard. It is good to see how captioning is now being seen within the scope of universal design and could be more widely applied.

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Website accessibility – is it worth the hassle?

picture shows a tablet in a person's hand with a computer screen in the backgroundThis article from the Prototyping blog site uses its own advice in the presentation of this useful information for anyone involved in website design and content. They acknowledge that designing a website is already a hassle with so many things to think about that it seems too hard to think about accessibility as well. Find out why you should consider it. At the end of the article the give sources for the article – Why designing an accessible website benefits your company and all its users. Below are a couple of snippets from the article.

There are four guiding principles for accessibility, acronymed as POUR:

  • Perceivable: content must be perceivable in multiple ways;
  • Operable: content can be navigated through multiple means; the structure makes it easy to find what user is looking for;
  • Understandable: interface behaves in a predictable way;
  • Robust: content works well with mobile devices and assistive technology.

Links that inspired the article:

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Inclusive Toolkit by Microsoft

A black circle with the word inclusive in white letteringMicrosoft has produced a great set  of resources to introduce digital designers the the world of inclusive design. You can download separately the manual and activities in PDF,  and the informative videos. The website has additional resources of interest including gaming and film making. There is an opportunity to download the text to the videos so that people using screen readers can access the content. Videos are captioned. Microsoft are living the message with their own web design and content.

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