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++Section One: News.
+01: New App Helps To Combat Poor Customer Service Faced By People Withdisabilities.
A new app-based system has been launched that aims to “shake up” the customer service industry across shops, banks and other venues.
The Welcome app lets people with disabilities tell shops and venues of their arrival, so that staff can provide tailored assistance suited to their condition.
Designed by assistive technology company Neatebox, the free app is a two-way platform between users and customer service teams. Users tell staff, via the app, that they will be visiting a venue and flag up useful information or specific requirements they have, such as needing assistance with a wheelchair or that they will be bringing a guide dog.
GPS tracking lets staff know exactly when the customer arrives, and the app also provides links to useful information about various impairments, supplied by charities and specialist organisations; the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Guide Dogs have both provided information for the app.
The system only works with venues that have signed-up, but users are encouraged to request new venues within the app. Neatebox founder Gavin Neate told e-Access Bulletin that a “massive part” of the system is the team approaching venues identified by the user community: “I guarantee that if someone downloads the app now and requests a venue they would like to see using it, we will contact that venue within a week at most,” Neate said.
Venues that have signed up so far include Edinburgh Airport, hotels, shops, cafes, tourist attractions and the Royal Bank of Scotland, where the app has been installed at the company’s headquarters in the hope of demonstrating its benefits for more widespread use.
At present, venues are mainly in Scotland, where Neatebox is based, but users can request locations anywhere. Requests have been received for venues in Northern Ireland, Devon and London, as well as the United States, Canada and New Zealand. The app isn’t yet available outside of the UK, but this isn’t being ruled out.
Neate said that he believes Welcome can “shake up” customer services. “With more and more older people and people with specific needs, industries need to seriously look at the service they provide. Whether industries are aware of it or not, they have a whole new world coming towards them,” Neate said.
A former guide dog mobility instructor, Neate started Neatebox to help find a solution for problems that some of his visually impaired clients had when operating pedestrian crossings. This solution became Button, a system that allows a user’s mobile phone to automatically ‘push’ buttons at pedestrian crossings as they approach, using Bluetooth. This simplifies the process for those who may find it difficult to operate the crossings – for example, someone who is blind or using a wheelchair.
Crossings need to have simple hardware installed in them for the Button system to work, but as with the Welcome app, users can request locations and Neatebox will contact requested local authorities. The company is already working with some councils to install the technology. The system has already been installed throughout the town of Largs, on the West Coast of Scotland.
To download the Welcome app and find out more, visit the Neatebox website: http://eab.li/7h . https://neatebox.com/ .
+02: Housing Help Tips, Podcasts And Lifelines For People With Sightloss, Collected Online.
A new online housing guide for people with sight loss has been launched, collecting together existing resources, advice and podcasts to help people in a range of situations.
The free guide has been created by sight loss charity Thomas Pocklington Trust, as a comprehensive portal for visually impaired people who are looking for a new home or experiencing housing issues.
Users are linked to relevant information depending on their circumstances – for example, people seeking information on independent living, people whose homes need repairs, and those facing homelessness or eviction.
A wide range of topics are covered, including advice on renting and buying a home, resources to help with household tasks, local authority support, and a housing ‘jargon buster’.
Imogen Blood, co-author of the guide, told e-Access Bulletin that people with sight loss face a number of issues around housing. She said: “The process of finding housing and moving home can throw up a number of practical challenges for a person with sight loss: from getting accessible versions of tenancy agreements to thinking about where you will exercise your guide dog. Meanwhile there is a lack of clarity around whether and how you might be able to access social housing with a visual impairment, or use disability benefits to pay a mortgage.”
One section of the guide focuses on technology that can aid independent living, such as smartphone apps. More information on this topic can be found in Thomas Pocklington Trust’s Assistive and Inclusive Home Technology guide, covered in e-Access Bulletin’s July 2016 issue: http://eab.li/7b . http://www.headstar.com/eablive/?p=1208 .
Blood said that she was struck by the difficulty in finding useful online housing information for people with sight loss, and wanted to bring together relevant information in one place.
It was important to create a digital publication to reach more people, Blood said: “Putting the guide online will get this information out as widely as possible, to people who might not typically come into contact with some services,” she said.
Links to audio podcasts recorded by Thomas Pocklington Trust are also included in the guide, for users to stream or download. The podcasts feature people with sight loss talking about housing issues that have affected them. Speaking about the making of these podcasts, Blood said: “As we developed the guide, it struck us that many people we spoke to could benefit from hearing each other’s stories.”
She continued: “I met visually impaired people who had jumped around private sector tenancies as much as their sighted peers, but I also meet younger people whose confidence about independent living was very low. They seemed genuinely inspired to hear that living in your own place with a partner was even an option for someone with a visual impairment.”
The online housing guide for people with sight loss is available at Thomas Pocklington Trust’s website, at the following link: http://eab.li/7c . http://pocklington-trust.org.uk/guide-finding-home-visually-impaired-people1/ .
+03: Talking Atms Launched At All Branches Of Major Uk Bank.
Santander has announced talking ATMs for blind and visually impaired customers across all of its UK branches.
Many banks offer talking ATMs at some branches, but Santander’s move makes it the first bank to offer the service at every one of its UK outlets – around 1,400. In May, HSBC launched 1,500 talking cash machines around its UK branch network.
To use the service, customers can plug earphones into a socket on the front of the ATM, and voice assistance will then guide them through operating the machine. Users can also choose whether to use the ATM screen during the process for some functions (for example, if they are partially sighted and can see some information on-screen) or not at all. Staff in the branches will give out headphones to customers who don’t have their own.
Santander worked with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and the Digital Accessibility Centre to design the service.
Read more about talking ATMs at the RNIB website: http://eab.li/7g . http://rnib.org.uk/campaigning-current-campaigns-accessible-information-campaign/talking-cash-machines .
To find out which banks have talking ATMs, search the Link ATM Locator tool, which gives users a map of cash machines in an area and lists facilities, including audio assistance and wheelchair access: http://eab.li/7k . http://www.link.co.uk/atm-locator .
++News in Brief:
+04: Inclusive Mapping:
Google Maps users can now add in a range of wheelchair access information to venue listings on maps using an Android smartphone. Details that users can add include whether a building’s entrance, lift, bathroom and parking area are wheelchair-friendly. The information can then be seen by other people using Google Maps.
Read more at the official Google blog: http://eab.li/7d . https://www.blog.google/products/maps/building-map-everyone/ .
+05: Rewarding Braille:
The makers of what is claimed to be “the world’s first multiple-line digital Braille e-reader” – featuring 360 cells split over 40 characters per line over nine lines – were announced as the winners of the Accessibility Award in the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards 2017. The Canute Braille reader has been designed by not-for-profit social enterprise Bristol Braille and is planned for release in late 2017 or early 2018, with an estimated price of between £600-£800.
Read more about the Canute Braille reader at AbilityNet’s website: http://eab.li/7q . https://abilitynet.org.uk/news-blogs/worlds-first-multi-line-braille-e-reader-blind-people-wins-coveted-abilitynet-tech4good .
+06: Accessible Gaming Ask:
Academic publication The Computer Games Journal has issued a call for papers and information on accessible gaming, ahead of a special issue on the topic in 2018. Dr Michael Heron (from the School of Computing Science and Digital Media at Robert Gordon University in Scotland) will be the guest editor and has sent out an early request for perspectives and contributions from academics, industry, students, accessibility researchers and advocates, and “those with direct experience of inaccessibility.” Submission details below.
Read more and find out how to submit contributions on accessible gaming at the Meeple Like Us gaming design website: http://eab.li/7r . http://meeplelikeus.co.uk/computer-games-journal-special-issue-accessibility-gaming-call-papers/ .
[Section One ends].
++ Notice: Thomas Pocklington Trust.
E-Access Bulletin is brought to you with the kind support of Thomas Pocklington Trust, a national charity delivering positive change for people with sight loss. Find out more about the work of Thomas Pocklington Trust by visiting their website: http://www.pocklington-trust.org.uk .
++ Notice: RNIB Connect Radio and e-Access Bulletin.
e-Access Bulletin will be appearing on RNIB Connect Radio each month on The Early Edition programme. Hear more about the bulletin and upcoming content appearing in each issue, as we discuss the latest accessible technology news and readers’ questions with Allan Russell.
Episodes will be available after broadcast as podcasts from the RNIB Connect Radio site. Listen to RNIB Connect Radio online, or via television, smartphone or radio. Listening details at the following link: http://eab.li/3e .
Find out more at the RNIB Connect Radio website: http://eab.li/1h .
++Section Two: Interview. – Penny Melville-Brown OBE.
+07: Baking Blind – An Online And Global Adventure.
Cooking is yet another daily task that many people take for granted. Having sight loss can make cooking incredibly difficult, but Penny Melville-Brown OBE – disability rights advocate and Director of Disability Dynamics – wanted to show the world otherwise.
Baking Blind is her YouTube channel and online project, featuring videos of Penny – who is blind – preparing all manner of dishes, from curries to quails’ eggs to Turkish delight.
Earlier this year, Penny entered the Holman Prize, a competition run by San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired organisation to fund big ideas and innovative projects pitched by people who are blind. Penny’s ambition was to take her online cookery project around the world, cooking across the globe and filming it as she went.
After progressing through the competition, Penny was recently announced as one of the three winners to receive funding. Her global dream is about to become a reality and audiences will be able to follow her travels and exotic recipes through the Baking Blind YouTube channel.
E-Access Bulletin chatted with Penny to find out how video, social media and other technology helped her in the Holman Prize and how she plans to use these platforms in the next stages of her grand trip.
E-Access Bulletin: Please tell us a bit about Baking Blind: Penny Melville-Brown: “I’ve been working in the disability employment field for nearly 20 years and it is abundantly clear we aren’t going to succeed unless employers change their attitudes. We need to change their hearts and minds. I thought that cookery might be a great way, as I do lots of cooking, and food programmes get so much attention. I was cooking about 50 mini-Christmas cakes last December for gifts and my brother had time to spare to shoot the videos – and Baking Blind was born!”
- What was your goal if you did win the Holman Prize? “My goal was to take Baking Blind around the world to cook with professional chefs and home cooks, sighted or not, to create a year’s worth of videos and show that blindness, and any other disability, doesn’t cramp our ambitions, capabilities or zest for life. I’ll be cooking in America, Costa Rica, China, Australia and Africa, and I have a full programme of activities when I get back to the UK.”
- What part did technology play for you in the competition? “I entered by providing a 90-second video called ‘A Taste of the World’. I’ve also been using social media and email to gather all the support I need for my travels.”
- Video is obviously key in making and sharing Baking Blind. What challenges and benefits are there to working with video and YouTube? “Obviously I can’t shoot the videos (although I am trying to develop some ability with a headcam) and nor can I edit, although I do make editorial decisions based on the recorded sounds/voices. Managing YouTube doesn’t work for me either. But nowadays, one has to use all forms of modern media and technology to have any reach and impact – so as a team, we are trying hard.”
- How did it feel to be one of the winners of the prize? “Actually, it was very difficult, as I knew before the formal announcement and it was tricky to keep my excitement controlled. Now, several weeks later, I am beginning to realise how very international the project has become, with emails, messages, social media and much more from all over the world. What is absolutely clear is that being able to access all these different forms of communication is essential for this type of project.”
- Tell us about the project you’re now planning: “I’ll spend a week in San Francisco with the LightHouse team and then a few days cooking there, before flying to Tamarindo in Costa Rica. I’m spending a week there in a jungle culinary adventure restaurant. After that, I’ll be in Virginia Beach, cooking with local people and meeting up with a colleague from the Women’s Royal Naval Service, with whom I’ve had no contact for nearly 40 years – the power of social media!
“Soon after that, I’m jetting off to Chongqing in China to cook with and help the Rotary Club there with a project supporting local visually impaired people. Then to Kiama and Melbourne in Australia with a bevy of different cooks, before Lilongwe in Malawi where I’ve linked with local groups with visual impairments. Back in the UK, I’m planning a range of activities to reinforce my naval links with the Holman Prize, plus baking with different local people.”
- What part will technology play in the project? “I’m aiming to produce at least one video a week for 12 months, plus a blog and social media. There’s no doubt that this whole project would not have been possible without being able to contact a worldwide audience. Before I started, I only had one possible contact in Australia – all the others simply responded to my emails and videos.”
- What’s next for you after that trip? “I’d love to continue as a flag-bearer for blind and disabled people over the world. With the right adjustments we can do most jobs, contribute to our communities and be as independent, fulfilled and ambitious as anyone else.”
[Section Two ends].
+How to receive E-Access Bulletin.
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Editor: Tristan Parker Technical Director: Jake Jellinek Accessibility Advisor: Dr. Nick Freear
[Issue 192 ends].