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++Section One: News.
+01: Gaming Industry Takes One Special Day Out To Raise £100,000.
The video games industry is being asked to raise £100,000 in a single day later this month, to boost and support the number of gamers with disabilities.
Organised by gaming charity SpecialEffect, the One Special Day fundraising project takes place on September 29. The organisers are asking developers and other companies from across the video games industry to donate revenue from games sales and in-app purchases on the day.
Mark Saville from SpecialEffect told e-Access Bulletin that the idea for One Special Day came from a mobile games developer, who saw how much industry support was given to the ICAP Charity Day, where financial services company ICAP donated all revenue for one day to selected charities. Out of a desire to replicate this success for gamers with disabilities, One Special Day was born.
So far, over 40 companies are partnering the event, raising funds through donations and all kinds of other activities, such as bake sales, said Saville.
Companies can also donate prizes for a fundraising auction that takes place on the day. Prizes include VIP tours of top gaming studios and the chance for one winner to have a character from a game modelled on them.
Saville said that SpecialEffect are hopeful of raising the target amount of £100,000. Asked how the funds will be used to support gamers with disabilities, he said: “The money raised will be spent on supporting our core work, visiting and supporting gamers with disabilities across the UK and loaning specialist equipment.”
Saville continued: “A great example is Marley, who uses four chin joysticks to play his games. A spinal injury affects movement below his neck, but he’s got great head movement. We set up three chin-controlled joysticks for him and with the addition of some custom voice controls, he’s started playing ‘World of Warcraft’ again. We want people to play to the very, very best of their abilities.”
+02: Google Maps Calls On Millions Of Users To Boost Access Info.
The Google Maps team has requested its extensive user community help improve its accessibility listings.
As reported in previous issues of e-Access Bulletin, Google has taken various steps to increase its accessibility offerings in maps during previous months (see e-Access Bulletin December 2016: http://eab.li/7v ) ( http://headstar.com/eablive/?p=1278 ). Now, however, the Google Maps team have explicitly asked that its ‘Local Guides’ – a community of millions of users who voluntarily collect data – proactively add in wheelchair-accessible location information to maps.
As the Local Guides system works primarily by users answering questions (these questions help gather new data sets that help improve maps), the following calculation is made on a Google blog post announcing the call-out:
“If each of our tens of millions of Local Guides answers three of these questions [about wheelchair-accessible locations] every day for two weeks, we can gather nearly two billion answers to help people who rely on this information every day.”
The blog post was written by Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, a software engineer for the Google Maps, Content and Community team, who also uses a wheelchair. Read the Google blog post in full at the following link: http://eab.li/7w . ( https://www.blog.google/products/maps/better-world-wheels-google-maps/ )
As Blair-Goldensohn points out in the post: “Because anyone can identify and label wheelchair-friendly locations directly on [a Google Map], it’s easy to share this knowledge around the world. But not everyone knows this tool exists.”
The post then lets readers know how to add in this information: “First, make sure your Google Maps Location History is turned on. Then visit ‘Your contributions’ in the upper-left menu, tap ‘Answer questions about a place,’ and indicate whether businesses you’ve visited are wheelchair-friendly.”
Those using devices on the Android operating system can also search for nearby areas around them that don’t have this accessibility info, so that it can be added.
+03: Global Committee Comes To The Uk In New Inclusive Tech Event.
The UK chapter of an international accessibility organisation will formally launch at a new conference in London in November.
The TechShare Pro conference will host the introduction of the UK branch of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), alongside a programme of talks, workshops and activities on digital inclusivity.
Founded in the United States in 2014, IAAP is a non-profit membership group that aims to help embed accessible products, services and content globally, by supporting individuals and organisations wanting to improve their accessibility. It became part of G3ict (the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs) in 2016, and the new UK branch was founded by technology inclusion charity AbilityNet, Barclays, Lloyds, TextHelp and IT services company Atos.
Speaking to e-Access Bulletin about this new development, Nigel Lewis, CEO of AbilityNet and co-founder of the UK Chapter of IAAP, said: “The IAAP brings accessibility experts together to define, promote and improve the accessibility profession through networking, education and certification. We’re launching our UK Chapter at TechShare Pro as the conference is aimed specifically at digital accessibility and UX professionals – it’s the perfect platform for us to talk about the professionalisation of digital accessibility.”
TechShare Pro is a new event that has evolved from the TechShare Europe events organised by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) in previous years. The new conference is organised by RNIB and AbilityNet.
The event will explore how digital products and services are being designed to become more inclusive, both for people with disabilities and in a wider sense for all users.
A range of topics will be covered at the conference, but there will be a focus on how evolving technologies are increasing opportunities for accessibility, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and augmented and virtual reality.
Speakers announced so far include representatives from Google, O2, Orcam and Microsoft. O2 will be discussing voice-driven media players with RNIB, Google will be talking about how smart home developments can potentially aid independent living, and Orcam will be exploring wearable technologies and using the Amazon Echo for accessibility purposes. Microsoft will be leading an ‘inclusive hack’ throughout the conference.
Further speakers and a full programme will be announced nearer the event.
TechShare Pro takes place on November 23 at IBM’s office in South Bank, London. Tickets cost £150 or £75 for those from non-profit organisations.
Read more about TechShare Pro at AbilityNet’s website: http://eab.li/7x . https://www.abilitynet.org.uk/accessibility-services/techshare-pro-london-23-november-2017
++News in Brief:
+04: Age is No Barrier:
Smartphone use among older people (in this case classed as 55-75 year olds) increased by 42 per cent over the last five years, new research has found. The ‘State of the smart’ report, conducted by Deloitte, also found that while ‘over-usage’ of smartphones among older people was much lower than in younger age groups, one in eight 65-75 year olds believed they used their smartphone ‘excessively’.
Read Deloitte’s ‘State of the smart’ report in full (in PDF) at the following link: http://eab.li/82 . http://www.deloitte.co.uk/mobileuk/assets/img/download/global-mobile-consumer-survey-2017_uk-cut.pdf
+05: Helpful Hacking:
A guitar tuner for visually impaired guitarists and an ‘open source wheelchair’ designed to be built anywhere in the world are two of the 20 winning entries in this year’s Hackaday Assistive Technologies Prize. The competition is open to anyone and rewards projects that “enhance learning, working or daily living” for people with disabilities. Other winning entries (each receiving $1,000 to be developed) included a ‘digital white cane’ featuring a band with sensors that users wear around their forehead.
Read more about the Hackaday Assistive Technologies Prize at the Hackaday website: http://eab.li/83 . https://hackaday.com/2017/09/11/these-twenty-assistive-technologies-projects-won-1000-in-the-hackaday-prize/
+06: Smartening Up Cities:
Rio de Janeiro is making plans to ensure that citizens with disabilities and older residents benefit from ‘smart city’ technologies being put in place. As part of the drive to create a digitally inclusive city, G3ict (the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs) and non-profit World Enabled have been asked to assist with Rio’s efforts, including creating digital tools and hosting a recent talk on the Smart Cities for All initiative developed by the two organisations (see e-Access Bulletin issue 190 for more information on the initiative: http://eab.li/84 ) (http://headstar.com/eablive/?p=1357 ).
Read more about smart city technology at the G3ict website: http://eab.li/85 . http://www.g3ict.org/resource_center/g3ict_smart_cities_initiative
[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 . http://www.insightradio.co.uk/how-to-listen.html#.WcfTzdOGORt
++Section Two: Interview. – Matthew Cock, VocalEyes chief executive.
+07: Opening Up The Arts.
Matthew Cock is the chief executive of VocalEyes, a charity that works to make the arts more inclusive for people with disabilities, primarily through audio description services at theatres around the UK. He helped lead VocalEyes’ work on State of Museum Access, a report that delved deep if and how 1,700 UK museums publicised their access information online.
Matthew is also one of the organisers of the Jodi Awards. This annual event celebrates positive use of technology to widen access to information and resources in museums, libraries and other cultural organisations for people with disabilities. E-Access Bulletin caught up with Matthew to find out more.
- Tell us more about VocalEyes’ work:
“VocalEyes delivers live audio description for around 180 theatre performances each year, for between 80 and 100 UK theatres. We also audio-describe opera and dance, open-air theatre, circus and even fireworks displays.”
“We work with around 30-40 museums on different projects each year – training staff in visual awareness, guiding and the skill of audio description, so that the museum can programme audio-described tours of their exhibitions and galleries.”
“We’ve recently expanded our offer into producing large print descriptive guides and tactile drawings with Braille. We also support arts venues in attracting blind and partially sighted audiences, including through a free listings service on our website that any arts organisation can use to publicise their audio-described event.”
- How have audio description services in the arts and cultural sectors changed or improved over the years?
“I think that museums have become more aware of the broader context of the visitor experience, and more specifically for disabled visitors. VocalEyes did some research in 2009 that has informed our offer since – museums not only need support developing audio-descriptive skills, but also designing the events and an overall programme, marketing and ensuring front of house and other staff are trained in awareness and are knowledgeable about the museum’s access offer.”
- Tell us more about the Jodi Awards:
“Through championing and celebrating best practice initiatives and projects, we promote barrier-free access to cultural collections for disabled people. The panel of judges take a holistic approach, assessing projects and the organisation in multiple ways.”
- What institutions have been previous winners of Jodi Awards?
“Previous winners range from large national museums and organisations – such as the British Museum and Tate Modern – to smaller local museum and library services around the UK, such as Hampshire and Leeds. We’ve also had inspirational winners from across the world, including Berlin für Blinde in Germany, the Sign Language eLibrary of Finland and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. The most recent winner is the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre (in England) for their work with Signly, delivering smart BSL-signed content directly to the user’s device.”
- How did the State of Museum Access report come about?
“We know that there is lots of good practice and fantastic resources around the country, but there was no overall picture of what access information and resources museums offered. We undertook the report so that we could use it as a benchmark to campaign for improvements in the sector, and do more to bring to an end the exclusion of disabled people from museums.”
- How was the work carried out?
“A group of volunteers visited the website of around 100 museums each to find its access information (or not), and completed an audit on what was covered or not. It wasn’t an audit of the website’s technical accessibility, we simply followed the route that most members of the public do when planning a cultural trip – and our report is based on that premise: if a museum doesn’t address access barriers or promote access resources on their website, they may as well not have them at the museum itself, because people will decide not to visit. Lack of good information online effectively excludes disabled people.”
- What were the findings?
“Overall, 27% of UK museums provide no access information on their website for disabled visitors planning a visit. Only 30% of UK museums provide information on their website that would be useful for a blind or partially-sighted person. And when it comes to specific resources that they could use, the figures are even worse: only 18% publicised labels or information for their exhibits in large print, and only 10% publicise live audio-described tours and handling sessions.”
- How can museums and other cultural spaces go about improving their accessibility offerings if they don’t know where to start?
“Ask the community. Set up an access panel of disabled people; get in touch with local groups and invite them in. Ask them to use your website, and take a tour around your museum with you. There are also some amazing community sites in DisabledGo.com and Euan’s Guide, which have access audits and reviews.”
- What emerging technology in the arts and culture will become important areas for accessibility developments?
“Chatbots and the underpinning AI engines present an amazing opportunity for museums to engage with audiences, and I believe could be a fantastic way for reassuring visitors that their access needs will be met, and what resources or events might be available for their visit. The chatbots could be in text or voice format, offering accessible alternatives for a wide range of users.
“Secondly, virtual and augmented reality. We need to ensure that as with all formats, they are developed with inclusive and creative approaches. It’s an incredibly exciting area – marrying three-dimensional sound tech with VR – and an amazing challenge and opportunity for AD (audio, or verbal description).
“However, while new technology changes the landscape all the time, we mustn’t forget that millions of regular images of museum objects and artworks online still lack descriptions that can open them up for blind and partially sighted people, something that is only being addressed by a handful of museums across the world. A project developed by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago called Coyote could be the model that enables this to change, at scale.”
Read the State of Museum Access report in full at the VocalEyes website, found at the following link: http://eab.li/81 . http://vocaleyes.co.uk/state-of-museum-access-report-2016/
Read more about the Coyote project: http://eab.li/87 . https://mcachicago.org/Stories/Blog/2016/07/Reading-Images
[Section Two ends].
+How to receive E-Access Bulletin.
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Please encourage others to sign-up!
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Editor: Tristan Parker Technical Director: Jake Jellinek Accessibility Advisor: Dr. Nick Freear
[Issue 193 ends].