Getting subtitling right

A brightly coloured film strip with the word Video on it.The European Union funded a project to find out more about subtitling and how best to do it for immersive media. Media accessibility usually focuses on users with disability, but this group chose not to go that route. Instead they took a broader section of participants. One of their conclusions fits with other findings on universal design – make it part of the design from the beginning. The findings from this research have recommendations that are good for everyone. One key point is that creation and production processes should have testing that includes users with diverse capabilities. The title of the article is From disabilities to capabilities: testing subtitles in immersive environments with end users“.  With more content being delivered online and the rise of virtual reality and other types of media, this is an important contribution to understanding how best to present current media, as well as media that will be developed in the future. 

From the Abstract:  To illustrate this point and propose a new approach to user testing in Media Accessibility in which we would move from a disability to a capability model. Testing only with people with disability brings poorer results than testing with a broader range of people. This is because subtitles (closed captions) are not just for people are deaf or hard of hearing, but for everyone. This means they should be considered a mainstream feature of video and film production, not an add on feature. The study addresses issues with vision, colour, and being able to navigate digital services to find and use the subtitles. 

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Inclusive designing includes technology

A young woman sits at a desk with her laptop open. She has her face covered by her hands and is indicating distressDesigners rarely design to exclude, but sometimes it just happens. Creating digital materials that are usable and accessible means many more people have access. Here is a book chapter that introduces readers to the ways people with disability use technology. It includes specific steps you can take and highlights the benefits of accessible design. Testing by people with disability is informative and should be included in the design process. As always, planning for accessibility from the start is always more cost-effective than fixing problems later. The title of the chapter is, “Designing for Inclusion: Ensuring Accessibility for People with Disabilities”.  You will need institutional access to SpringerLink for a free read. Otherwise there is a payment option. The book is titled, “Consumer Informatics and Digital Health”

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Mobile apps, smart cities and older adults

A hand holds a smartphone with various apps showing. A computer keyboard is in the background.With talk of Smart Cities, it is important for older people to be included in digital designs. Twenty-two industry built apps were evaluated in this open access study from Trinity College Dublin. Some were designed specifically for older people, and others for a broader target audience. Text re-sizing and zooming were the main issues. Overall, the apps did not meet accessibility principles of being perceivable, operable, or understandable for older people. The platforms supported accessibility settings, but for older people, finding these settings is a problem.

The article is titled, “Are Mobile Apps Usable and Accessible for Senior Citizens in Smart Cities?” It provides a comprehensive review and good conclusions. It is expected that more people will use mobile apps and computers to accomplish daily tasks and to access important information and services. This kind of study and ongoing research is therefore important.

Abstract. The population in cities is expected to exponentially grow by 2050, and so is the world population aged 65 and over. This has increased the efforts to improve citizens’ quality of life in urban areas by offering smarter and more efficient IT-based services in different domains such as health-care and transportation. Smart phones are key devices that provide a way for people to interact with the smart city services through their mobile applications (Apps). As the population is ageing and many
services are now offered through mobile Apps, it is necessary to design accessible mobile interfaces that consider senior citizens’ needs. These needs are related to cognitive, perceptual, and psycho-motor changes that occur while ageing, which affect the way older people interact with a smart phone. Although a comprehensive set of design guidelines are suggested, there is no evaluation on how and to what extent they are considered during the mobile App design process. This paper evaluates the implementation of these guidelines in several industry-built Apps, which are either targeted at older people or critical city services Apps that may benefit older people, but are targeted at a broader audience.

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Website design guides compared

A pair of older hands are placed over the keyboard of a computer.Buried in this paper is a comparison chart of web design features for improved accessibility for older people. Older people have been singled out in this study because they are most at risk of being left out of the evolving digital world which includes e-health and internet based health information. The authors have combed through several guidelines and picked out the main elements that relate to this group because the WCAG 2.0 guidelines are deficient in this area. So they have turned to organisations such as the US-based AARP for the additional design features needed to help deal with motor and cognitive issues, and low vision. The article is in both English and Spanish.

The title isReview of accessibility and usability guidelines for website design for the elderly people

ABSTRACT: By 2050, the growth of the elderly population in Colombia is estimated at 10% and thus a greater demand for special services (such as health services) for the elderly. This justifies the exploration of digital health content as an important source of information for this population. The accessibility and usability guidelines for website design – e.g., TAW and WACG – do not have special guidelines to mitigate the motor, cognitive or visual disabilities characteristic of aging, which become a barrier for this group to consult necessary information for administrative processes that involve health. This review of accessibility and usability guidelines is presented, facilitating the consumption of special contents and generating better interactions with such systems, which will lead to the construction of guidelines based on existing recommendations that allow the development of aspects related to interaction, legibility and usability in digital content for the elderly.

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Mapping Access: People, Place and Justice

picture of a Google map with icons for parking and transportCreating access maps using data collected from individuals is part of a Google Maps project. But there is more to this than just knowing how to get from one place to another when you are a wheelchair user. What does it say about architecture and how we value citizens? Codes for architectural compliance do not include the human perspective of how people actually use places and spaces and relate to each other. This point is made in a philosophical article by Aimi Hamraie, “Mapping Access: Digital Humanities, Disability Justice, and Sociospatial Practice“. She covers the history of access mapping and uses a university campus as a case study, and challenges notions that access mapping is just a database of directional information. Hamraie claims she has developed a methodological tool for “excavating the politics of design embedded in the most banal features of everyday built environments”. A good read for anyone involved in mapping, GIS projects and the architecture of digital inclusion.  

Note: This article uses academic language and concepts, but is thorough in discussing all aspects if the issues.

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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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Can something be too useable?

A toddler sits smiling at a laptop computer screen.“Design is never neutral” is the title of an article by Adobe’s Khoi Vinh in the FastCompany newsletter. Is there is a down-side to making apps and websites too easy for children to use? The dilemma of course is that if young children can use these applications, most everyone else can too. But is this actually good? is the question: 

“Habits are formed around the usability of a product; if an app or website makes it easy to complete a task, users are likely to do it more often than not. Usability advocates often treat this as an inherently good quality; by and large every business wants their products to be easier rather than more difficult to use. But as the aforementioned research suggests, it’s become clear that guilelessly encouraging longer, more frequent sessions isn’t necessarily better for kids.” 

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AI for captioning

A speaker stands at a lectern and captioning sceen is behind his right shoulderArtificial Intelligence (AI) can take captioning to another level claims Microsoft. AI for automatic speech recognition removes the need for a human captioner for lectures in universities, and elsewhere. The Microsoft AI blog article and video below focuses on deaf students, but as more people take to captioning on their phones, it could make like easier for everyone. We already know that captioning helps all students by adding another layer of communication and this point is made in the article. The captioning is turned into transcripts and students have a reference to read after the lecture. They can also have the lecture automatically translated into several languages. This is a detailed article and covers automatic speech recognition, translations, and a growing demand for accessibility. This technology is not expected to take over from Auslan or ASL as they are languages in their own right. However, this is another example of how technology is helping humans by taking over from humans and bringing the advantages to more people.  

 

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Inclusive Self Service Terminals

A pink cupcake ATM.Gone are the days of having face-to-face customer service as we transition to the digital age and the Internet of Things. Self Service Terminals (SST) in banks, shops, and transport hubs are taking over and humans are disappearing. So, how to make these terminals accessible and useable by all? Well it starts at the beginning of the design phase. At a recent conference, Computers Helping People with Special Needs, held in Austria, there were seven papers focused on this topic dealing with design issues and standards for self service. One paper was about SST in Norway, another about standards development and yet another about touchscreens.  See below for abstracts. You will need institutional access   for a free read.

Accessibility of Self-Service Terminals in Norway  Abstract: 

This short paper outlines a project on SST accessibility conducted by Funka on behalf of the Norwegian Agency for Public Management and eGovernment (Difi). The aim of the project was to establish a set of usable guidelines for the accessible placement of SSTs in Norway. To do this, Funka reviewed and compared the relevant existing standards. From the resulting corpus, Funka culled requirements relevant to issues of placement and harmonised them. The eventual result was a step-by-step guide for the accessible placement of self-service terminals. Funka would like to continue the work on role-based filtering tools. Funka has already launched such a tool for its Swedish market, drawing on several open-source standards. Something similar could be done for SST accessibility on the basis of, for instance, the EN 301 549 European standard.

Standards Guidelines and Legislation Related to Self-service Technologies Abstract: 

The intention of the standards, guidelines and legislation discussed here, along with other initiatives mentioned, is to ensure accessibility for all is built into self-service technologies from the outset. This paper presents developments in relevant standards, guidelines and legislation since 2013. In reporting on this work, the intention to give an idea of its scope, but also to place these standards, guidelines and legislation within a critical framing that reviews both the material and its impact on efforts to make SSTs accessible to all users.

Accessible Touch: Evaluating Touchscreen PIN Entry Concepts with Visually Impaired People Using Tactile or Haptic Cues, Abstract:

Findings are presented from a user test of several different concepts to enable personal identification number (PIN) entry on a touchscreen by people who are blind or partially sighted. A repeated measures experimental design was used for the user test, with all participants using all concepts in a randomised order. Results are presented, and wider implications of this study and the subsequent approvals are discussed.

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Seeing with saying: wearable AI

close up of the device sitting on the right arm of the wearer's glasses.Orcam MyEye is a wearable for people with low vision. It tracks your finger, reads what the finger points at and announces it. The device is worn on the arm of a standard pair of glasses. This is also a great device for people who have difficulty reading. Another design idea for one group that also suits another. The captioned video clearly shows how it works.

From the CoDesign website: “There is a clever, intuitive interface based on a gesture everyone understands: pointing. All users have to do is point at whatever they want the device to read; the camera identifies their hand, then takes a picture of the text and reads it. It’s so precise that you can point to a specific line on a page and it will start reading from that point. “We believe that pointing at something is the most natural thing a human does,” says Aviram, who serves as the company’s CEO. 

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