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Dr Scott Hollier - Digital Access Specialist Posts

South Australian accessibility toolkit nominated for Human Rights Award Toolkit

The South Australian government has published an online accessibility toolkit that is a finalist in the Australian Human Rights Awards 2019.

South Australian government accessibility toolkit

The resource has been co-designed with over 100 organisations including Vision Australia, the Royal Society for the Blind (SA), Blind Citizens Australia (SA), not-for-profits, people with disability and leaders in the disability sector.

The toolkit contains a wealth of information, designed to assist across all areas of digital access including project management, digital content, development, visual design, policy and support.

It’s my view that the toolkit is a valuable and comprehensive accessibility resource that demonstrates both the importance of digital access and how such information can be delivered in a straightforward and practical manner. I’d encourage everyone to have a look at the resource and it’s great to see this work receiving the recognition it deserves.

Microsoft releases Surface Earbuds with live captioning support

Microsoft recently announced at its October Surface Event in New York a number of new products. While the new tablets and laptops were the primary focus, an important accessibility feature was also highlighted in the form of real-time captioning using the new Surface Earbuds and its integration into Office 365.

The earbuds feature two microphones to minimise background noise and improve audio clarity. The live demonstration showed how new functionality in Office 365’s PowerPoint can effectively show live captioning.

In addition to the captioning feature, PowerPoint can also be used to instantly translate the text providing improved accessibility to culturally and linguistically diverse audiences.

While automated captioning remains an issue in relation to its quality and accuracy, recent evolutions in audio quality, speech processing and improved integration between hardware and software have seen a notable improvement in the ability for largely usable captions to be more widely available at events and in the classroom.

The initial price of the Surface Earbuds will be $UDS249. There is currently no release date. For additional information, visit the Microsoft Surface Earbuds page.

BBC ‘Would I Lie to yYou?’ features humourus take on disability and technology

The BBC recently aired an episode of its popular TV show. ‘Would I Lie to You?’ which features blind actor and comedian Chris McCausland.

The show talks about many disability-related scenarios with a humourus take on life as a blind person, along with thebenefits and challenges of assistive technology.

It’s great to see some mainstream discussion – and a bit of humour – on disability-related issues and technologies.

Thank you DHS for the opportunity to support your access journey

One of the things that I find exciting working in the digital access space is to see large government departments working hard to make their digital content and processes accessible.  Recently I had the privilege to work with the Department of Human Services (DHS) in Adelaide who are in the process of growing internal accessibility knowledge.

The DHS are likely best known to Australians for their Centrelink online presence, but the Federal government department undertakes a lot of work across many different areas. My involvement has been to support staff that are working hard to incorporate accessibility into their work practices.

A core part of the initial work was to deliver two presentations to approximately 150 staff providing a broad overview of digital access, from the personal journey of a blind user through to the use of assistive technologies. There was also information provided on the importance of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 standard and future technological developments in which accessibility needs to be considered.

Another focus of the work was the delivery of a digital access workshop to approximately 20 staff which provided more specific guidance on interacting directly with web content and documents. The workshop provided an opportunity for attendees to experience the use of assistive technologies for themselves and assess web content using automated tools. The workshop also provided opportunities for discussion of the issues and put strategies in place to continue the conversation.

Given the fact that DHS interacts with millions of Australians with disability on a regular basis, it’s exciting to see access issues being identified and addressed as the processes internally and externally continue to improve. Many thanks to the management and staff for the opportunity to meet your digital access needs.

Lego to develop Braille and audio building instructions

Lego has recently announced plans to create Braille and Audio Instructions to give people who are blind or vision impaired a chance to create Lego sets.

The idea began when Matthew Shifrin, a blind Lego fan since childhood, was given a Lego set from a family friend that came with a binder of Braille instructions, hand-written using a Braille typewriter. He realised that this wasn’t something he could keep to himself, and so he started up the Legofortheblind website. The website was where he and his family friend, made Braille and audio instructions for people who were blind or vision impaired.

The website was a success and almost immediately Matthew and his family friend Lilya were flooded with requests for different sets to be made accessible with their Braille system. Unfortunately, Matthew had to turn down many of these requests as he didn’t have the capabilities to be filling out hundreds of orders with just him and his friend. He turned to The Lego Foundation, who embraced the idea of Braille and Audio Based Lego Instructions with open arms.

Sharlini, a 13-year-old Lego Fanatic , shares her enthusiasm about the news:

“It’s a great chance for everyone, no matter your capabilities, to be able to enjoy a personal favourite pastime of mine. Building Lego is meant to bring people together, and this news is proof that nothing, not even being a person that’s blind or vision impaired, can stop that.”

The Pilot project has commenced with The Lego Foundation dubbing it as ‘Lego Braille & Audio Building Instructions: A pilot experience’. The timeline on the website shows they are planning to review feedback from September – November before announcing any future plans in January 2020.

While Lego may not be seen as a traditional access story, its growing relevance in teaching children how to interact with robotics and the Internet of Things makes this an exciting new development.

Special thanks to Sharlini for contributing to this article.