14 Sept 2011

Accessibility Workshop in Edinburgh–Friday 16 September

Some of you who know me know that I’m putting together some accessibility workshops on behalf of Mobile Monday London, The Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards and ICT KTN. Well, the first one is this Friday in Edinburgh with our friends at Mobile Monday Edinburgh. And I’m really excited about it.

Accessibility really isn’t my area, although it’s becoming increasingly important to me and many of those around me. Both my parents are partially deaf and my mother’s eyesight is failing her. Despite their agility and good health bearing in mind their age, there are so many things I take for granted that I know in years to come, I just won’t be able to manage. In the same way my Mum is frustrated that she can’t thread a needle easily or manage to read a newspaper, I expect in the future I’ll be frustrated that I can’t type at speed, that I can’t manipulate a touchscreen or access my digital files to watch TV/listen to music/interact with the world. TV viewing is already a more complex operation than before and all the things I’m used to now may become just too difficult unless we start thinking about accessibility now.

The more I’ve looked into this area, the more I realise that accessibility issues have to enter the mainstream and have to be everyone’s area. This is not a niche consideration. Nor is it a nice to have any more.  This is certainly a business consideration. I think it’s 10% of the UK have some kind of disability and about 40% of the population are classified as elderly, that’s an awful lot of people that we may, unwittingly, be excluding. But it’s also a human consideration. We should be helping each other as best we can and surely technology is one of the ways to do that? I for one, am hoping to come away with some top tips and some inspiration of how this accessibility jigsaw puzzle fits together and how it can and needs to be applied day to day.

So, if you’re in Edinburgh on Friday, and fancy joining me and the Mobile Monday Edinburgh crew to chat with some other people about this area and how it relates to mobile apps and services, then come and join us. Registration is open here and it’s FREE to attend. The agenda is a good one with a mix of demos, discussion and presentations. We kick off at 3pm and we’ll finish around 6.30pm with drinks and networking afterwards.

The presenters will be:

* Jonathan Anderson of Vodafone will tell us about their Smart Accessibility Awards

* Ian Osborne of ICT KTN , @ianfosborne, will speak briefly about what ICT KTN is and how they can support businesses interested in this area.

* Kate Ho of Interface3, @kateho, will share some thoughts on how multi-user multi-touch interfaces can be used to help people with particular challenges.

* Dr Nava Tintarev on the How was School Today Project http://howwasschooltoday.computing.dundee.ac.uk/. Nava will describe the functionality of a (partially mobile-based) system which helps children who have severe cognitive impairments and have trouble speaking, talk about their day at school.  She will also highlight some of the challenges of developing this sort of system, and share her experiences of deployment in a special needs school.

* Gary McFarlane of Access4AllApps on the business case for accessibility. Assist Mi, their first app which launches next month, is the first mobile LBS services to offer comprehensive access to disability-related information and services for people on the move helping you find disabled parking spots and virtual booking capability. You can also request and book assistance and services from a wide range of places including restaurants, cafes, hotels, cinemas and more.

* Alison Smith of Pesky People, @peskypeople & @alisonvsmith, will tell us about her personal experience with disability and digital and share with us the background, research and insight that went into building Go Genie.

* Anthony Ashbrook of Mobile Acuity, @anthonyashbrook, will show a brief demo of their "What Can Is That?" prototype - helping visually impaired people to shop and cook independently.

* Matthew Aylett of Cereproc will show off some of their mobile voice generation technology, and talk about the work they have done in recreating the voices of people who have lost them due to illness - in particular Roger Ebert.

The event is being held at Inspace, 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB. There is wheelchair access and we will have a BSL sign interpreter available for some of the sessions.

Further workshops will be happening this month in London and Belfast (26 September) and Manchester (tbc).