Finding a way to include people who are hard of hearing in workshops, brainstorming sessions and similar events is not easy. Time delays with live captioning and signing tend to reduce the spontaneity of contributions when working with people with normal hearing. Researchers have developed a device to help overcome these issues and provide instant talk to text. In the process they found some interesting things about the way hard of hearing and deaf people communicate. It seems electronic instant speech to text does not always work well for this group. Captioning provided by a living person cuts out all the ums and ahs and hesitations, but an electronic device does not. This makes comprehension difficult, especially for people who do not generally communicate this way. The article, Live-Talk: Real-time Information Sharing between Hearing-impaired People and People with Normal Hearing charts the development of prototypes involving users throughout. As always, a reminder that one in six people experience hearing loss. This is not a small group. Older rock stars such as Roger Daltrey, Eric Clapton and Phil Collins have gone public about their hearing loss.
Microsoft has launched a new app, Seeing AI that helps people who are blind or have low vision. It converts text to talk, and recognises objects and people. Vision Australia’s David Woodbridge provides a detailed review of the app, which is able to complete multiple tasks without having to switch apps for different tasks. It can capture a printed page to read, locates bar codes and scans to identify products, identifies bank notes when paying by cash and recognises friends and their facial expressions, and even describes colour. Unfortunately it is only available for iOS devices at the moment. This is a good one to add to the list previously posted on apps for people with low vision. The Microsoft website has videos to explain the different features.
Editor’s note: Sometimes I think I could do with an app that recognises people and can tell me their name – it made me think of people with dementia or acquired brain injury. Another case of “design for one” becoming “one for all”.
Expedia gets a good write up from the Accessibility Wins blog site. Curator Marcy Sutton went looking for inaccessible tourism websites for a project she was doing and said she found many. However, she liked Expedia and claims: “They have a skip link, labeled form controls and icon buttons, and intuitive navigation. They’ve made it easy to navigate with a keyboard and a screen reader”. The blog site is aimed at web page designers and developers. Other posts are a bit more technical such as Google Chrome’s Color Contrast Debugger which tests the colour contrast ratios. Useful for anyone needing to brief a web developer as well as web designers and developers.
Editor’s Note: I haven’t checked this site out personally, but it seems Expedia is keen for any feedback about the accessibility of their site.
The Macular Society in the UK has a great list of different smart phone apps that help people with macular degeneration and low vision. Good apps can make a big difference to everyday life. The list includes both free and low cost apps as well as Android and iOS. A brief description is provided for each one with links to download the apps. Below are just some in the list. For more go to the Macular Society website:
Be My Eyes
The Macular Society is a large well-established UK based organisation. They have many fact sheets on the condition. Their website can be read in text only and they have the option to listen. The website lives the message.
Pedestrians who can’t see or can’t reach the pedestrian control button at traffic lights might not need to worry any more. In Edinburgh the problem has been solved with an app. No special cards (as in Hong Kong) needed to activate the pedestrian signal. And no special adaptations to the signal system either. The BBC Youtube video with captions explains how. The technology can also be used for finding the reception desk in large buildings with large open spaces. No doubt there will be other applications yet to be thought of.
Note: In the UK, people with disability prefer to be called “disabled people”.
Getting around a university campus is not always the easiest task for new visitors or students. For wheelchair users the task is all the more difficult usually due to uneven topography – steep slopes and lots of steps or long ramps. The University of Wollongong is piloting an App to help navigate the campus, which can then be applied to other places. Using UOW’s Wollongong campus as a pilot study, Briometrix will translate wheelchair-user-generated data into navigation routes on its Navability App, which will show the best routes for wheelchair users based on their relative ability to propel a wheelchair. Each time a user logs-on and makes a journey, the collected data will update the app ensure it reflects any changes in the built environment. Combining the location-based technology used in Google Maps and exercise monitors with new information specific to a wheelchair experience, the project has the potential to create a new understanding of life on campus and the wider world. It will be interesting to see how this evolves.
Another great post from Axess lab with excellent examples of before and after treatments for web page content. The simple layout and way the examples are presented are a good example in themselves. It covers the usual things such as text contrast, screen reader access, and colour coding. The main message of the article is to provide users with choice. To input using a keyboard or using touch screen. To read text or watch a video. Show the colour choices with the name of the colour. As Axess lab says in their article, “The point is that it’s not rocket science. Also, making your site or app accessible does not mean you have to make it boring and remove all colors, images and videos.” Axess lab is based in Sweden – you can sign up to their newsletter.
What will the digital world have for us in 2018? How much should we worry about artificial intelligence (AI), fake news, and new devices and social media services? Nick Newman sought out the views of various tech people and provides insights and ideas for 2018. Some might cause concern, but there is also some good mainstream tech stuff that can assist almost anyone. For example, hearables: Amazon Glasses with bone-conducting audio that links to Alexa and a smartphone. What about ear buds that offer instant translations from other languages? How will we know our news feeds are real news and not fake? Perhaps instant fact-checkers will help us decide. For a fascinating overview of what we can expect in journalism, social media and technology, see Nick Newman’s report.
Editor’s note: While some technology will be great for everyone (universal) and create more independence and inclusion, we still have to watch out for designs that exclude.
WCAG and W3C might be familiar acronyms, but do you know what they mean? And what, if anything, you should be doing about it? WCAG – Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0, can a bit off-putting at first because this is an international document that doesn’t translate well in all languages. The guidelines are also very long. Alan Dalton has taken away the legalese and provided a simpler and more user-friendly explanation of these guidelines. He covers text, operating the website, understanding content, ensuring the site works on all devices. The W3C – World Wide Web Consortium, is about the release the next version, WCAG 2.1.
The article has links to more complex documents such as Understanding WCAG 2.0, and the Techniques for WCAG 2.0 – together they become 1,200 printed pages. And there are links to other useful resources, such as Why Bother with Accessibility?
The advances in digital technology are opening up all kinds of opportunities and conveniences for everyone. Keeping up with advances is now the challenge, not what it can do. In the Rica video, three people discuss three mainstream connected products: Apple Watch, Amazon Echo and some Hive home automation products. They explain how it works for them and how it has improved their everyday living. That includes finding out what your guide dog is up to when you are asleep! Note that in the UK, they prefer the term “disabled people” rather than person with disability.
Rica is the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs focused on consumer research for older people and people with disability. They have a resource-rich website. Read more user experience with the Apple Watch.