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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Telco to tech-co

A diagram of a two storey house with indications of the different types of technology that can be used and operated with a mobile phoneAn Australian Financial Review article tells how Telstra is moving into the tel-tech market. The article gives an insight into what kind of technology we might be using in our homes in the future. It explains how infinite control of household appliances can save on electricity as well. Many of the ideas come from the inventions created for people with disability – another example of design crossover where something designed to aid people with disability becomes an item everyone wants and then it becomes universal design, and is no longer specialised design. The wheelchair access ramp is the classic example of creating something specifically for disability access, but then finding it is good for everyone. Read the article for more on Telstra’s market move and that of other tech companies.

The community aged care market sees advantages for installing technology in the homes of their clients. But how will the client like the idea of someone monitoring thier every move? People at home alone can be monitored for getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, and opening the fridge to get their next meal, for example. Will older people receiving care at home agree to be monitored – will they get the opportunity to have a say, or refuse this technology? There are some ethical issues arising, as always, when technology moves faster than policy and regulations.

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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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The right to read: Copyright barriers and e-publications

Picture of a Kindle reading deviceFluent readers might be surprised to find that their world of books is not accessible to everyone. In Gerard Goggin’s foreword to Paul Harpur’s book, Discrimination Copyright and Equality, we are introduced to some thorny problems in the e-publications world. The ability to read is something that most people take for granted. Books can expand a person’s worldview, be entertaining, enlightening, and of course open up a world of knowledge and understanding. But what if you can’t read the printed word? Hard print books are translated to Braille, talking books, and there are apps that will ‘read aloud’ the text. But the e-Book world is another matter.

Goggin provides a comprehensive overview of the issues covered in Harpur’s book and gives an excellent snapshot of things we should all consider. The actions of Amazon and the impact on Kindle are mentioned. The right to read is clearly not recognised in the e-publication world. Goggin says, “The continuing oppression of print disabled readers, and their exclusion from the world of books, can no longer continue…” It is time to bring these issues into the mainstream, apply the principles of universal design, so that those who need accessible formats are no longer considered an exception needing special treatment. 

Those unable to access the printed word include people who are blind and have low vision, people with difficulty holding or manipulating a book, and people with cognitive disabilities such as dyslexia, autism, and acquired brain injury.

Gerard Goggin was a presenter at the 2016 Austalian Universal Design Conference. He is Professor of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney.

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