Plug and Pray? AI and Emerging Tech

Front cover of Plug and Pray report People with disability are often early adopters of new tech, but these new ideas can also come with unintended barriers to users. As we improve built environment accessibility, it is important we don’t fall into the same design traps with digital designs. Plug and Pray? A disability perspective on artificial intelligence, automated decision-making and emerging technologies is the title of a report by the European Disability Forum. There are two versions of this report: the standard full text and an Easy Read version. The Easy Read version is great for non tech people. It is a great way to get your head around the many issues that need consideration without wading through lots of words.

Click-away customers

Five red balloons in a row with the title 5 common myths about accessibilityClick-away customers are not those clicking on the pages on your website. They are clicking off because they can’t navigate the pages. A neat video by Barclays Bank 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. 

Ethical AI: But will it be inclusive?

Front cover of the discussion paper showing a perspex object held between finger and thumb.Artificial Intelligence is here and it’s global. Australia won’t have the last word on all developments. Indeed, we have AI elements in our technology now that was developed overseas. AI holds promises of improved quality of life for most people, assuming all the privacy issues can be solved adequately. And we have to make sure it is fair and inclusive. But AI runs on data – data collected from individuals, their behaviours, and life events. How can we be sure this data is applied through algorithms in a fair and inclusive way? There’s a survey you can do.

Now is the time to ensure the Australian Government and others get the feedback they need on future developments of AI. I encourage you to contribute to the consultation on the Australian Government’s  AI ethics framework. You don’t have to be an expert on the topic, just an expert on inclusion or your experiences of being excluded by design.

The online survey is short and allows lots of space for your opinions and experience. Or you can write a submission and send it in. The discussion papers are easy to read and available in a PDF document and a Word document. Submissions close 31 May. 

Designing good mental health into banking

Looking upwards to the gable of a federation building with the name Bank on itAccording to an article by the Design Council, mental health conditions can have an impact on spending, something which banks and financial institutions often neglect. Zander Brade, Lead Product Designer at Monzo, talked to Design Council about the importance of design and innovation in implementing a broad range of features to help people with mental health conditions. Research has resulted in Monzo designing product features to help people with mental health conditions, including real-time balance updates and an option to block transactions relating to gambling. Zander believes that accessibility applies as much to mental health as physical health, and that embedding accessibility within their services will ultimately benefit all their customers.

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. 

10-step guide to queer UX

smoke swirls of rainbow coloursThe concepts of universal design are expanding to encompass marginalised and disenfranchised groups in our community. In the article A 10-step guide to queer UX, there is a nice quote “There’s nothing revolutionary about technology if it is only for a limited number of people.” Making products and places more accessible for gender non-conforming and trans folk is also making them more welcoming for everyone. Roniece Ricardo writes about her observations and interaction with software as a queer gender non-conforming woman. She makes ten points:

    1. Allow users to change or write in their own gender
    2. Consider not having users specify gender
    3. Allow users the choice to hide or display identifying information from profiles
    4. Don’t assume anything about gender presentation
    5. Don’t assume your user’s pronouns
    6. Be careful with your marketing materials
    7. Don’t make assumptions about who your users date (or don’t)
    8. If you are making a niche product, receive actual feedback from the people in the niche
    9. Be mindful of regionalisation
    10. Diversify your staff.

For more detail on these ten points go to the article on the FastCompany website.    

Progress on UD in Norway: A review

Tall houses are reflected in the water.The houses are different colours, yellow, red and blueNorway’s planning policies are underpinned by the principles of universal design. With a focus on policy, not design detail, this means everyone has to think about inclusion and accessibility in everything they do. Olav Rand Bringa, author of the early reports and papers on universal design in Norway, writes a review of progress with Einar Lund.

In the introduction, they discuss the work and writings of British architect Selwyn Goldsmith that go back to 1963. The review asks the questions, What did we learn? and What did we Gain? In short, new buildings, outdoor environments, websites and more are all designed according to universal design. However, there is much left to do with the existing environment. The paper Picture of the front cover of the Norwegian Action Planconcludes with, “And Universal Design, will it remain a particular design-concept in the future or will it simply be what everyone associates with good design? We should have good reasons to expect the latter.”  Also of interest is the Nordic Charter for Universal Design initiated in 2011, and the main policy document, Norway Universally Designed 2025 that was updated in 2016.

Abstract: The national policy in Norway have since the last part of the 1990s been organized in programs that erected actions including national authorities, municipalities, regional authorities and private enterprises. What have we gained by our national activities to mainstream inclusive and accessibility policy for persons with reduced capability through the principles of Universal Design? Have we made society accessible to everyone and prevented discrimination. Are the results visible? We can measure results on several sectors, inter alia public buildings, outdoor areas, central communication hubs, public transport and the occurrence plans for Universal Design in municipalities and regions. Through several programs and action plans the Norwegian government has developed a sectoral approach for including persons with disabilities in the society. The majority of ministries have participated in these plans. Local initiatives, local councils for disabled people, and later on municipalities and county administrations were supported by national authorities as complements to regulations and laws. In addition, guidelines and assisting funds were used. The main objective was to redefine the national policy, using better defined national goals and introducing Universal Design to replace accessibility as the basic tool. The mainstreaming of the accessibility policy, where Universal Design was included in relevant sectors and activities, was a crucial part of the strategy. The national policy was organized in programs that erected actions focusing on how to reach, inspire and include municipalities and regional authorities in their own struggle for Universal Design. Through the mainstream approach ministries have both earmarked economic transfers to their own agencies and used steering documents guide to these agencies how to implement Universal Design in their advisory services, in practicing laws and regulations and in their own planning and building activities.

The full title of the paper is, From Visions to Practical Policy: The Universal Design Journey in Norway. What Did We Learn? What Did We Gain? What Now? 

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

 

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.

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.