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Dr Scott Hollier - Digital Access Specialist Posts

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Welcome to the home of Dr Scott Hollier, Digital Access Specialist

Get Scott’s professional and personal perspective on how to make your digital content accessible.

Dr Scott Hollier

The recent changes to guidance on international and Australian accessibility requirements makes it a great time to assess your organisation’s digital access credentials and maximise your support for people with disabilities.

With his collaborative, non-militant approach to consultancy, Scott can provide you with a range of workshops, auditing assessments and research endeavours to make websites, apps and documents accessible. Scott can also be booked for speaking engagements based on a variety of topics relating to disability, education, current and future technologies and his life story discussed in his book ‘Outrunning the Night: a life journey of disability, determination and joy’.

Scott’s credentials include a PhD in the field and two decades working across the corporate, government and not-for-profit sectors. Scott is also an active contributor to W3C research and has a personal understanding of digital access as a legally blind person. You can learn more about digital accessibility in the news items below.

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Audio description officially launches in Australia 28 June 2020

The following announcement has been provided by Blind Citizens Australia regarding the official launch of audio description services on the ABC and SBS starting 28 June 2020. This has been a long time coming and marks an important move forward in the provision of media access for people who are blind and vision impaired. Congratulations to everyone involved.

The ABC and SBS are launching audio description services, providing greater access to their programming for Australians who are blind or vision-impaired. 

From 28 June, both broadcasters will each be providing around 14 hours per week of audio described programming across SBS and SBS VICELAND TV channels on the SBS network, and ABC, ABC ME, ABC Comedy and ABC Kids channels on the ABC network. This means that some of the best documentaries, dramas, movies, lifestyle and children’s programming on free-to-air TV in Australia will now be available with audio description.

To access audio description on relevant programming, televisions and/or set top boxes must have audio description settings enabled. Many devices will require the assistance of a sighted person to adjust these settings and it is recommended you take the time to set up your device ahead of the launch to ensure you have audio description enabled and ready.

To set up audio description you will need to update the audio language setting on your device using your remote control and on-screen menu options, or activate the accessibility features of your equipment. Settings will vary between brands and models so both SBS and the ABC have provided guidance, including instructions for setting up audio description on a large number of tested television models, on their websites. You can also check your device manual or contact your manufacturer for specific information about your equipment if needed.

Both broadcasters want to ensure it’s clear to all audiences when audio description is available. As part of the upcoming launch, they will be introducing a chime which will sound as a program commences, signalling to audiences that the program they are about to watch is audio described. The chime used will be the same on both networks. Both the ABC and SBS also have listings of upcoming audio described programming available on their websites, which are regularly updated. In addition, ‘AD’ will be displayed alongside programming information available on electronic program guides on your device, and this will also feature in the online TV guides for both broadcasters.

For more information about the services SBS and the ABC are providing, please visit the audio description sections of their websites where you can access a range of information to assist in enabling audio description on your device, be aware of what programming is available, and how you can contact them with feedback or for further support: 

SBS: sbs.com.au/audiodescription

ABC: ABC audio description service

Google Lens handwriting scan and language updates coming to Android and iOS devices

The Google Lens app and its related integrated camera features in the Android operating system has provided significant benefits to people who are blind or vision impaired due to its ability to analyse photos and provide contextual image descriptions. Now a new update is adding functionality related to the reading out of handwritten text in images and sending that data to different devices.

The new update, announced in May and now rolling out, provides additional text functionality with the ability to  scan handwriting or digital text and paste it into Chrome on a computer along with support for multiple languages being read out loud through a ‘listen’ audio playback mode.

The ability to extract text from images provides significant benefits to people who are blind or vision impaired as it moves the text from an inaccessible image to text that can be read by a screen reader. The addition of being able to move that text to another device such as a computer further enhances the ability for the text to be used.

In addition, the new language feature builds on the existing abilities of Lens. Prior to the update it could extract the text of 100 languages, but now with the Listen audio playback feature the language can be heard with its correct pronunciation.

The update further enhances Lens as a useful free tool that can quickly and easily provide information about a particular location and any text within it simply by taking a photo.

The update is currently rolling out to Android devices with the iPhone update to follow soon.

Groundbreaking neuromuscular resource ‘The Loop’ launches 27 May 2020

Muscular Dystrophy Foundation Australia will be hosting a live stream event on YouTube at 3pm AEST 27 May to celebrate the launch of this new resource hub ‘The Loop – a space built for the neuromuscular community by the neuromuscular community. 

Two people holding a lightbulb with a thumbs up
The Loop logo

Find out more about The Loop’s development, how it works and hear from some of our content contributors!

Funded through an NDIA Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) grant, The Loop is an accessible website and forum that connects you health and wellbeing information and other members of the neuromuscular community. Learn from those who’ve travelled a similar path and share wisdom based on your lived experience.

For more information, see The Loop’s Facebook page: Facebook.com/theloopcommunityau

GAAD 2020 presentation by Dr Scott Hollier now online

The South Australian ICT and Digital Government hosted an online ‘lunch and learn’ to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) 2020. The video of the event is now available on YouTube.

Guest presenter Dr. Scott Hollier spoke on the topic ‘From personal journey to W3C developments and beyond’. Scott provided an overview of his life journey, as a person who is legally blind, and discussed the evolution of assistive technologies. Dr. Hollier then discussed the important work he’s involved in with the W3C RQTF, including:
• addressing the accessibility of remote meetings
• XR accessibility requirements
• best practice in the use of CAPTCHA

The second presentation was Microsoft’s Manny Silanesu who provided details on Microsoft’s partnership with South Australian Government to produce an upcoming online accessibility webinar series.

Scott would like to thank Cliff Edwards and all the attendees of today’s webinar.

Why Global Accessibility Awareness Day matters: reflections by Dr Scott Hollier

Growing up in Australia as a legally blind person has been an unexpected combination of challenging scenarios, a strong sense of determination and joy all rolled into one. This may seem like a strange combination but a lot has been possible thanks to the support of family and friends, the pursuit of education and a stubborn streak that has always included a fierce sense of social justice and independence. Yet through it all, the evolution of technology and the pursuit of accessibility has been there to support me.

My passion for technology started as a child with a games console and moved into computing with my beloved Commodore 128D computer in high school. As I undertook Computer Science studies at university in the 1990s the Internet became more commonplace. At this time, it was rapidly becoming apparent to me that this was an extremely powerful medium. You could potentially work from anywhere, customise the computer in the way that worked best for you, and achieve true independence.

Fast forward to today and there’s a lot on offer for people with disability: mainstream computer and mobile devices have great accessibility features in them, and the web is increasingly becoming accessible thanks to the work of great guidance such as the world standard in the W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

However, issues still remain and for people with disability their impact can mean the difference between participation or exclusion, success or failure. To share an experience of my own, A few years ago I started work on a research project with two prominent academics. The project started well, based on an idea I had relating to research into the accessibility of the Internet of Things. The two academics agreed to host and participate in the project if I could source funding, which happily was achieved through a successful grant. However, it became apparent immediately that the ethics submission system at the university was completely inaccessible for me as it was not built to the WCAG standard. This led to the project lead, who was also head of the department, agreeing to do the ethics submission instead. However, I was still required to do the ethics training.

What followed became the most challenging accessibity experience of my career. The department head didn’t have much time for the project, meaning the ethics was submitted late resulting in a late approval. The training was also inaccessible resulting in a lot of time being spent chasing up web developers and equity staff to sit the test by an alternative method due to the developers deciding after several months that it would be too costly to fix the website.

Although I managed to complete a full first draft of the project unpaid beyond my contract, the academics wanted changes. When I enquired as to how I could maintain my access to library facilities as an unpaid volunteer, it started a chain reaction whereby I was removed from the project as it turned out the academics had breached university policy when they required me to work unpaid. The academics then took my work and wrote a new report based on my work without authorship. I lodged a complaint as it seemed clear there were several breaches in university policy, but I was unsuccessful although my draft did receive academic recognition in the end thanks to the support of others who recognised what had happened.

The reason I mention this story in the context of Global Accessibility Awareness Day is because in order for people with disability to receive all the benefits the internet can provide, we need to not only focus on accessibility as an action, but also ensure that global policy and legislative frameworks have the abiity to support it. Here in Australia, this means fixing the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 so that it is the organisation, not the person complaining that has to show their content is compliant to accessibility standards. Some have argued that there’s great policy that provides support to the DDA in this space, but the reality is it doesn’t work; In my case, the university has great policy on digital access, but due to the ineffectiveness of the DDA there is no consequence if it is not followed. At this time of writing the issues have not being fixed meaning that if a blind person today were to undertake the same tasks at the university, they would end up facing the same issues and face the same outcomes.

While there are always challenges and battles to be fought as a person with disability, it’s important to return to the word ‘joy’. Thanks to the accessibility features on my computer and mobile phone, I can independently participate in online meetings, enjoy my favourite TV shows, catch up with my interest and hobbies and importantly actively work in the field despite the accessibility challenges that pop up. Indeed, this year has seen unprecedented opportunities for people with disability to participate in education and employment due to courses and working from home opportunities rapidly expanding as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic in fields that were considered impossible to participate in online just a few short months ago. If we don’t forget about accessibility in the scramble to get online, GAAD 2020 may mark the start of improved accommodations for the working environments and assistive technology support to improve employment opportunities: again, assuming we don’t forget digital access in the rush.

With that in mind, it’s also important to recognise that while accessibility challenges do happen – and we need to be vigilant in calling them out, win or lose – there’s also an amazing community of supporters that are passionate in this space who have dedicated their lives and careers to making accessibility happen. As such, there’s lots of passion out there to make improvements if we as a global community create the opportunities for improvement.

So on this Global Accessibility Awareness Day, let’s continue to work together to make the web as good as it can be, and offer thanks to everyone committed to the the pursuit of digital inclusion.