+++E-Access Bulletin - Issue 156, March 2013.

Access To Technology For All, Regardless Of Ability

A Headstar Publication. http://www.headstar.com/eab/ . In Association With Go ON Gold: http://www.go-on-gold.co.uk/ .

Please forward this free bulletin to others So they can subscribe directly, at no cost. (subscription details at the end).

++Section One: News.


+01: Tech Giant Launches Smartphone For Older People

A smartphone designed for elderly people has been developed by global technology company Fujitsu.

When setting up the Stylistic S01 phone the user inputs their age, which customises some aspects to work differently. For example, the audio frequency range will be optimised for older people so they can clearly hear the voice of the person they are speaking to, and the phone can also slow down the speech of a caller without losing audio quality, again making it easier to understand.

The Stylistic also features a forgiving touch-screen which highlights icons if they are only touched lightly. This means that accidental touches – common by people not familiar with smartphone controls – will not immediately lead to an undesired function.

Each sub-screen on the phone also contains a question mark icon which gives the user guidance for that page.

“People are living longer, have access to better healthcare and want to have access to the same communications channels (email, social media) that their younger family does.” James Maynard, product marketing director at Fujitsu, told E-Access Bulletin.

The Stylistic S01 phone will be released in France in June. The cost has not been confirmed, but it will be priced as a “mid- range handset”, Maynard said. The phone’s release in other countries is under discussion between Fujitsu and telecommunications partner Orange.

Fujitsu also recently unveiled another technological innovation designed to assist elderly people, the ‘New Generation Cane’. This is a prototype of a walking stick with built-in GPS and heart-rate monitor, which could send the user’s location and health data to a cloud network. Data could then be sent back to the cane to help direct the user. Family members can also check the heart rate of an elderly relative using the cane via the cloud, to check that they are not encountering difficulties. There is currently no indication of if and when the cane might become a purchasable product, however.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=838

+02: Uk Government Funding For Assistive App “Georgie”

Up to 200 blind and visually impaired people are to be trained to use a package of smartphone apps that can help with communication and everyday tasks, with £14,000 of funding allocated by the UK government.

The training is for an app bundle for Android smartphones named “Georgie”, developed by husband and wife Roger and Margaret Wilson-Hinds through their company Screenreader.net. The apps help blind and visually impaired people operate smartphones using functions such as voice- assisted touch-screen operation, and also help people with daily tasks such as catching public transport, reading printed text aloud and navigation outdoors (see also our previous report on the apps – full link: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=751 Short link: http://bit.ly/X8zS7I ).

The free training sessions will be available at 30 locations across the UK with funding from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provided to the charity Communication for Blind People, the parent organisation of Screenreader.net. As well as funding the trainers’ time, the money will help buy phones and develop learning resources including Braille and large print manuals, Tim Carrington, Screenreader.net’s business development manager, told E-Access Bulletin.

The app training programme is part of a three million pound government funding project entitled Strengthening Disabled People’s User Led Organisations, launched in July 2011.

“A training session will enable a hesitant smartphone user to learn how Georgie can provide them with the confidence to better venture out into the world”, Carrington told E-Access Bulletin. “Trainers will provide hands-on use of Georgie to Blind Association staff who will go on to act as local learning champions, to support Georgie users and direct them to web pages and other learning resources once the trainer has left.”

Local maps and data will also be integrated into the sessions, Carrington said. For example, one of Georgie’s features is a bus app, and this will use local information to help users find their nearest bus stop, see bus times and find out when to get off at the right stop.

Sessions will begin in May, and blind and visually impaired people can find out more by emailing: mailto:reply@screenreader.net.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=836

+03: Web Content Accessibility Checker Pitched At Wideraudience

An updated version of a free web content accessibility checker, originally developed because its creator was frustrated at the limitations of similar products, has been launched in JavaScript to allow wider usage.

QUAIL ( http://quailjs.org/ ) is a piece of software that uses more than 200 tests to assess if web content conforms to the widely used Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.

Kevin Miller, a web developer at California State University, Monterey Bay, developed the first version in 2009 after he found other accessibility checkers that he used in his job too limited. “I wrote QUAIL out of frustration about what products were out there at the time,” Miller told E-Access Bulletin.

Issues for which QUAIL can test include seeing if headers on web pages are being used correctly; if links to other pages make sense when read on their own – perhaps by a screen- reader; and if images have appropriate text to describe them for someone who cannot see the image. It can be used to provide accessibility checking for any web page, including learning management systems, social media sites or content management systems.

The software is aimed primarily at developers and content authors. “Ultimately, the goal was to provide instant feedback to content creators, kind of like spell-check-as-you-type lets users know they misspelled a word with a red underline, QUAIL can do the same about images missing a description … When a document is easier to read for everyone, it’s also a big win for users with assistive technology” Miller said.

QUAIL has now been converted from PHP (a programming language commonly used in web developing) to a jQuery plugin – software that uses the widely used JavaScript programming language – to open it up to more users. “I really wanted this to be a project that could be embraced regardless of what someone was building”, Miller said. “Because JavaScript is ‘the programming language of the web’, moving to JavaScript meant a much broader potential audience.”

Speaking about how he would like to develop the software in the future, Miller said that QUAIL can help make accessibility testing a more automated and integrated experience, by registering and testing every change made when a web application is being built, for example.

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=834#more-834

++News in Brief:


+04: Partner Power:

Go ON Gold, the national campaign to raise awareness of the barriers faced by disabled and elderly people in accessing the internet and digital technologies, has signed up several new high profile new partners. These include the Rix Centre; Birmingham-based Castle Vale Community Housing Association (CVCHA); and the Scottish Disability Equality Forum. All partners have agreed to helping to raise awareness of the barriers faced by disabled and elderly people in accessing technology and the internet. To find out more about how your organisation can help the campaign, see:

Full link: http://www.go-on-gold.co.uk/resources/champion/partner- signup

Short link: http://bit.ly/11nW8rU

+05: Tech4Good Returns:

The third annual Technology4Good Awards is now open for nominations. The event, organised by technology charity AbilityNet, celebrates the power of computers and the internet to affect positive social change. Categories include an Accessibility Award, which recognises the work of an individual or organisation using digital technology to help people overcome a disability. Nominations close on May 3:

Full link: http://www.technology4goodawards.org.uk/

Short link: http://bit.ly/gwQUvZ

+06: Newspaper Problems:

Changes made to the website of daily Australian newspaper the Sydney Morning Herald – to link in with the printed paper moving to a smaller, tabloid size format – have created a number of accessibility issues, claims IT consultant and web accessibility expert Tom Worthington. Worthington found 29 problems with the site by using the AChecker tool, which bases its tests on the widely used Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0:

Full link: http://blog.tomw.net.au/2013/03/new-tabloid-sydney-morning- herald-fails.html

Short link: http://bit.ly/WPNmUO

+07: Generous Grant:

US accessibility software company Deque is offering 10,000 US Dollars to one innovative idea – with working prototype – that makes the internet more accessible. International applications are allowed for the Amaze Digital Accessibility Grant, with the deadline for submission 1 May:

Full link: http://www.deque.com/amazegrant

Short link: http://bit.ly/YJdVX2

[Section One ends].

++Section Two: 'The Inbox'- Readers' Forum.


Please email all contributions or responses to: inbox@headstar.com .

+08: Smarter Homes:

Australian accessibility academic and consultant Tom Worthington, a regular contributor to the bulletin (see News in Brief, this issue), writes in to point readers to a response he has posted on his “Net Traveller” blog to a story in our last issue on the release of some new Smart Home Accessibility Guidelines by John Gill Technology (E- Access Bulletin, February 2013 – Full link: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=821 Short link: http://bit.ly/160aLCL ).

“These recommendations suggest that ICT in the home can help the elderly and others with disabilities, but only if their needs are taken into consideration when designing the interfaces for the smart home”, Tom says. “I suggest that voice and other hands-free controls would be useful for the population generally, as well as those with a disability. Also designers of smart home controls and displays tend to make them too complex and hard to use, and so an accessible design would benefit everyone.

“However, I question the value of controls and displays for smart homes. A truly smart home should anticipate needs and adjust, without having any explicit input from the occupants and any need for them to look at displays.

“Smart meters are an example of what is not a ‘smart’ technology. Householders should not have to read the tariff from a meter and then manually adjust the appliances in their home: this should happen automatically. Smarter technology has existed for decades with off-peak electric hot water systems, which switch on automatically when tariffs are low. An electronic smart meter should be able to be interfaced to major energy using appliances, which also monitor the pattern of use and so can optimise energy saving without bothering the householder.”

More can be found at Tom’s blog, below:

Full link: http://blog.tomw.net.au/2013/03/accessible-smart-home- guidelines.html

Short link: http://bit.ly/160aLCL

[Comments please to inbox@headstar.com ].

[Section Two ends].

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Section Three: Profile - Neil Cottrell, Founder, LexAble

+09: How To Spell Innovationby Tristan Parker

After being diagnosed with dyslexia as a child, Neil Cottrell used various forms of assistive technology to help him study. He went on to develop his own autocorrective software, Global AutoCorrect, forming the company LexAble to develop and market it. Global AutoCorrect has now sold about 10,000 copies. E-Access Bulletin spoke to Cottrell about how his own innovations helped him achieve a first-class degree at university and start his own business.

E-Access Bulletin: How did it all begin?

Neil Cottrell: I was identified as being dyslexic when I was about 10 or 11-years-old. I was a very bright kid but my dyslexia was really quite severe, so it meant that I was really good at some things and really bad at others.

I ended up using lot of technology through school and university. My Local Education Authority bought me a laptop with a couple of assistive technology (AT) programs on, which I used in all of my lessons. My computer would read everything aloud to me, and I was using it to help organise my ideas. So I grew up benefiting from technology from a young age.

Then when I got to 15, I started doing my GCSEs. Once I’d written something I could read it back with text-to-speech and spell check and all those things, but where I still had a problem that the AT wasn’t solving was with the process of writing.

I’d start writing a sentence and get to a word I didn’t know how to spell, then the red underline would pop up from the spell check and when that happened, what I’d do – which was a really bad strategy – was stop mid-sentence and go back and work out how to spell that word. I’d lose track of the sentence, because I was constantly switching between the processes of writing and checking. What I often ended up with were sentences that were disjointed and didn’t make practical sense.

So I started developing a tool for myself which would automatically correct my spelling as I was writing. Whether I was writing in Microsoft Word or doing a PowerPoint presentation or using Facebook, I could have this tool that would sit in the background. It really helped because it meant I wasn’t worrying about how I was spelling a word when I typed, I could just get my ideas down and not have to go back and correct things later on.

EAB: How did you learn to build this tool?

NC: Basically using the internet and online tutorials. Initially, I hadn’t envisaged this being something that thousands of people would use, it was just a case of, “I’ve got this problem, so it’s worth investing a few hours to do something that’s going to make everything a lot easier.” I enjoy writing software and in order to get it working pretty crudely it was quite quick, but then I was making a lot of improvements and building it up to work better. I got really into it and saw the benefits.

EAB: Did the tool help you with your studies at university?

NC: Yes, I had a very basic version I could use and then it was just adding improvements as I went through school and university. My degree was an essay-writing subject, Psychology, so I had to write projects and other things. I did very well actually, I graduated with the top mark in my year in Psychology at Cardiff University and I also got the top mark for an essay in my year out of everyone who took Psychology, so it showed me that once I had overcome those barriers, I was quite good at the fundamentals of writing essays – coming up with ideas, forming arguments, putting it together logically. It was just the spelling and my thought process getting disturbed that was causing problems.

EAB: How did LexAble and Global AutoCorrect take shape?

NC: I set up LexAble as soon as I graduated and built a commercial version of the tool, which became Global AutoCorrect. Then I started to show people Global AutoCorrect, asking companies if their clients would benefit from the software.

That lasted a couple of years, then it got to the point where, as LexAble developed, I would call people up and ask if they wanted to know more about the software, and they would say ‘Oh yes, I’ve already heard about it, my colleague recommended it.’ So, we hit critical mass when we realised that people were becoming aware of it. And at that point, things just really exploded.

EAB: You went on to win the ‘Accessibility’ category at the Technology4Good Awards…

NC: That was really useful for us, partly as a validation that what we were doing was a really good thing, but it also introduced us to some corporate clients. Some of the people we met at the awards are now helping us to distribute Global AutoCorrect across large companies.

EAB: Do you think people with dyslexia and other print impairments might struggle with computer-based tasks but not know how they can go about overcoming those difficulties?

NC: Yes, I’m sure they do. If you have the correct, easy-to-use assistive technology on a computer, it can actually circumvent a lot of the problems that you have.

When you’ve invested time and perhaps when you’ve got some support with using a computer and technology, then actually, using a computer can make your life so much easier and more fulfilling.

Using a computer is quite a stressful, new thing, and you’ve got to learn skills in order to start using it. For some people that can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. The same goes for pieces of software. There are a lot of things out there that can help people, but you’ve got to find out what suits your working style and how to use the piece of kit. Once you’ve got over those initial barriers to using computers and AT, the benefits they can give in terms of productivity and reducing stress are absolutely massive.

NOTE: You can find out more about Global AutoCorrect at LexAble’s website: http://www.lexable.com/

And you can comment on this story now, on EAB Live: http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=831

[Section Three ends].

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++End Notes.


+How to Receive the Bulletin.

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  • Editor: Dan Jellinek.
  • Reporter: Tristan Parker.
  • Editorial advisor: Kevin Carey.

ISSN 1476-6337.

[Issue 156 ends].