The Australian Government has produced a short video, Web Accessibility: what does it all mean? The first important point made in the video is that web accessibility is not about disability – web accessibility is about universality. There is no speech in the video. Instead all the messages are delivered by interesting text. At the end there is a link to more information. There is no speech in the main version, only upbeat background music and poster messages in the video below. You can get speech with the video or you can get an audio only (MP3) version. This is a great example of providing information in different formats where the original design is not universally accessible.
Another acronym has arrived: MOOC – Massive Open Online Course. These are unlimited open access courses delivered online and devised for wide participation. So now it is important to think about accessibility of these courses. Enter MOOCAP. This is a joint European project and the name stands for MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership. This project is to provide education on accessible design in ICT. MOOCAP will create free online courses that show how to “create accessible media and content, such as web sites, mobile apps and office documents”. The MOOCAP website itself is a good example of how to do things well. They also offer a wide range of specialised courses:
Intellectual disability and inclusion
Inclusive teacing and learning environments
Design Innovation: Inclusive approaches
Accessible Mobile Apps
User Interface Personalisation
User Centred Design for Accessibility
You can subscribe to their newsletter. There is detailed information on the website on each of the specialised courses.
Note: Open Educational Resources are made available under the terms of creative commons. These can be shared as long as they are attributed to the creators.
The Inclusive Design Team at Microsoft have written a thoughtful piece about artificial intelligence (AI) and inclusion. They ask, can AI be racist? What if a software algorithm for facial recognition was based on light skinned people, how would it recognise dark skinned people? Using these questions they discuss how bias in a system can cause design “missteps”. The consequences of these missteps are that trust between the design system and the user is diminished. As the digital world expands, we need to have trust in the technology and programming for it to be of social and economic benefit to us all.
Microsoft says its first inclusive design principle is to recognise exclusion and identify bias, which could apply to any design professional. The article goes on to describe five biases: Association, Dataset, Interaction, Automation, and of course Confirmation bias. An interesting article because the digital world touches all of us. So you might also be interested in Weapons of Math Destruction that discusses the role that software and its algorithms play in our lives without us realising it.
Older 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.
There are many resources and articles that remind us of the economic value of including people with disability and older people. Each person with disability can influence the spending decisions of another 12 to 15 people who are colleagues, family members, business owners and other service providers. Making products, services and buildings accessible is only part of the job of inclusive business. The task is completed by creating promotional materials, websites, telephone systems and customer services usable by all. The Accessible Information and Communication: A Guide for Small Business was developed by a consortium in Canada. It provides tools for small business operators to help create accessible information and promotional materials. There are checklists to help assess the current situation, some thoughts on organisational commitment and employee training, and some technical information about accessible formats. It also includes an example of an Information and Communications Accessibility Plan and implementation strategies. This is a detailed document that covers all aspects of information and communication. There is no place for “fine print”. The guide was developed in Canada by GAATES* but the content is applicable anywhere. There is also a web-based version of the document.
* Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES).
Smart phones have changed many things about the way we live.There are apps for almost anything. Some are of particular benefit to people with disability and create greater convenience and independence. Smart phone owners will be familiar with Google Maps for navigating both short and long distances. The maps also contain additional information about parking, places to eat, toilets, and more. For people with wheels, knowing the level of accessibility is critical to their journey and destination planning, whether its a holiday or a local restaurant. Google is encouraging people to sign up to their mapping project that will expand their database of accessible places, spaces and points of interest. You can find out more about this project and see two really interesting videos. One is a wheelchair user in Chicago, and the other is in Indonesia – she uses a modified motor bike to get around. There is also a short introductory video with the key points.
Of course, parents with strollers or anyone with wheels, or with difficulty walking will find this map information useful, so this is taking us closer to a universally designed world.
The development of digital technology has made made possible many things that were impossible. A cliché to some, but for many people with disability it has real meaning. What is a convenience for some becomes independence for others. The IBM blog features what looks like an extended advertisement for Apple iPhones, but a closer look at Innovating for people with disabilities: Why companies should invest in universal design, discusses how the Internet of Things has changed the world and is now designing for diversity. Tracey Lindeman says that embracing the principles of universal design makes financial sense in the log run as retrofitting can be costly. It may also uncover unintended client bases – a device for people with low vision can help a fire fighter in a smoke filled building. The article contains some nice videos explaining how technology has opened up life and created new opportunities to participate and to retain dignity and independence. Nicely written piece.