Damian Radcliffe

December 11: Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month.

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on December 8, 2011 at 1:43 pm

1.         Smartphones

  • The Department of Health has reported around 500 responses to its ‘Maps and App’s project to create new smartphone and tablet applications in the healthcare arena. The department has received thousands of comments and votes on the various apps, with one of the most popular being ‘Me, Myself & I’ , an independent self-assessment tool which identifies health and social needs via innovative game play. More here.
  • The Telegraph reported that smartphone adoption is rocketing among young adults and those aged 55-64. Data from Nielsen shows that smartphone penetration among users who are around retirement age jumped by five per cent in the last three months alone. That rate of increase is outstripped only by those aged 18-24. It should be noted however that older people are still only likely to have a modern mobile phone in three out of every ten cases. Nearly two-thirds of those aged 25-34, by contrast, own a smartphone.

On the Nielsen blog, the company wrote that “while only 43 per cent of all US mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone, the vast majority of those under the age of 44 now have smartphones”.

  • High levels of assistance for disabled customers are being pioneered by the new flagship store for mobile network operator O2 in central London. The shop offers in-store advice on the benefits that mobile devices such as smartphones and their applications, features and functions can provide for people with sensory impairments.

All staff have also received sight loss and deaf awareness training in partnership with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and consultancy Positive Signs, and the shop is also home to O2 “guru” Abigail who is deaf and fluent in BSL. Plans are in hand to provide further advice and services for people with motor and learning difficulties

See:  http://bit.ly/vvrCYj for more details (NB: the store is on Tottenham Court Road)

  • A smartphone app offering digital versions of shop loyalty cards will open up card schemes to many disabled people for the first time. The “mClub” app from print and digital directories company Yell – which is free to download –allows retailers to offer deals such as “buy nine cups of coffee, get the 10th free” without using a physical card. A pilot service – available for both the Apple iPhone (http://bit.ly/pDmUyC ) and Android phones ( http://bit.ly/rfB9u6 ) – has been launched in London, Plymouth and Reading, with a BlackBerry service due to be released in the next few weeks.

Although the service was not originally designed for use by disabled people Artur Ortega, senior accessibility developer at Yell, used its potential to influence the design process.

“Before, it wasn’t possible for blind people to use loyalty cards,” … “You couldn’t find the right card in your pocket, and you didn’t know how many stamps were on it. The app is also useful for someone who has reduced mobility in their hands and who might have problems getting a card out of their pocket or wallet.”

Running the app itself was not too hard for blind users, with iPhones coming pre-installed with VoiceOver text-to-speech functionality and Android phones able to run similar software such as the Mobile Accessibility suite from Code Factory. This kind of approach, combined with geo-location technology, is implemented in the new smartphone version of the company’s home page www.yell.com, can be hugely liberating for disabled people,

 “If I need a taxi, I can find one immediately and then call the taxi using the same device, I don’t have to copy telephone number – it’s two clicks away. Or I can order a table in a restaurant – it’s a huge advantage for blind people or people with reduced mobility…. Before, you had to call someone and ask them to put you through to the restaurant. If the line was busy you had to call again and ask them to look it all up again.” (Artur Ortega, via eAccess Bulletin)

2.         Subtitling

  • The Daily Express reported on Deaf viewers’ anger at BBC subtitle gaffes citing errors including calling Labour leader “Ed Miller Band” the Ireland rugby team described as “Island” and Dr Rowan Williams as the “arch bitch of Canterbury”.

The errors are so regular that viewers have set up a website listing all the mistakes. But groups representing the deaf said the problem had led to many complaints.

Emma Harrison, from Action on Hearing Loss, said: “Access to television is really important to people with a hearing loss. We urge all broadcasters to monitor the quality of their subtitling to ensure high standards, and invest in technology to reduce mistakes so people with hearing loss can access television in the same way as hearing people.”

The paper noted that “usually, pre-recorded subtitles are done before transmission and appear in time with a programme However, live subtitles are made by a stenographer typing words phonetically as they listen to a show, or with speech recognition, where someone talks into a microphone while listening to the broadcast, and a computer recognises their words. “

3.         Technology

  • Speakbook is an inexpensive, low-tech communication tool that allows someone to talk with a speaking partner using only their eyes. They claim it is easy to use and takes only seconds to learn. Speakbook was developed by Patrick Joyce, who has motor neuron disease, also known as MND or ALS. Patrick wanted to make his idea as cheap as possible, so speakbook.org is a not for profit organization, and anyone may download and print speakbook, for personal use, free of charge.  More information via this link.  


4.         Telehealth

  • A report from Audit Scotland says the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland should do more to consider telehealth when introducing or redesigning services. ‘A review of telehealth in Scotland’ looks at how the health service is providing care to patients at a distance, using a range of technologies such as mobile phones, the internet, digital televisions, video-conferencing and self-monitoring equipment. The report argued NHS boards must look at new ways of delivering care, particularly as the NHS is facing growing demand. It suggested telehealth has the potential to help deliver a range of clinical services more efficiently and effectively, and boards should be considering it when introducing or redesigning services.

Audit Scotland assessed the use of telehealth to monitor patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) at home. The report concluded that telehealth management of COPD patients at home might help NHS boards avoid costs of around £1,000 per patient per year, mostly through reducing admissions to hospital. The report is here and there is a BBC news item here

  • The King’s Fund has launched a dedicated area of its website for telecare and telehealth topics, which is here.
  • Computer Weekly magazine has published an article outlining the costs and benefits of implementing telecare services, which is available via this link.


5.         Older People

  • Interesting item on the ILC-UK Blog pages looking at older drivers and behavioural change: how ‘nudges’ can support the process of self-regulation. See: http://bit.ly/uRonzL

I know my stand has made a massive difference to women in broadcasting. You are seeing more older women on prime time, which is fantastic.

 I’d like to see more older women anchoring programmes, rather than just contributing to them, but hopefully that  will happen.

The BBC is changing. A friend heard a conversation in the loos there the other day, during which one producer said to the other: “Oh, are you going to this Miriam O’Reilly thing?” It turned out the BBC are running workshops to inform people about treating older people fairly and understanding ageism. So the message is  getting through.’


  • Ageing research consortium KT_EQUAL has launched a national photography competition which set out to challenge our preconceptions about how older people interact with technology now and in the future. Entitled ‘Left to Our Own Devices’, the contest is run in partnership with Age UK. Entries will be judged not only on their photographic merit but also on how they address issues related to the central theme of older people’s interactions with technology — perhaps by challenging stereotypes, defying expectations or delivering a powerful message. 

The most successful images will be selected from across four categories:  

    1. Gadgets and Gizmos
    2. In the Home
    3. Out and About
    4. An open category

All the selected images will be included in a touring exhibition that will visit the Parliament at Westminster and the Assemblies at Cardiff and Stormont, and finishing at the Scottish Parliament next spring, and one image in each category will also receive a cash prize of £250.

The closing date for entries is 31 January 2012 and there is more information here.


6.         Disability

  • Disability Alliance, the National Centre for Independent Living and Radar have agreed to unify to form ‘Disability Rights UK’. Following a year of discussions, the three charities will come together on 1 January 2012. Details here.


7.         Accessibility

  • ICT Access Barriers are ‘Common Across Europe’ according to early findings of a survey of policies in 30 nations (the EU countries, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland). Problems encountered include creating accessible content; standards compliance; problems procuring accessible systems; and a lack of awareness and understanding. The project is run by the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education to raise awareness of the issues surrounding accessible information provision for lifelong learning.

“There are an estimated 80 million people in the EU with disabilities of varying sorts and to differing degrees, and as the age profile shifts, so too will the proportion with disabilities”, John Galloway, a consultant working on dissemination of i- access findings. “There is no one solution to the issue of ensuring that any information in an electronic format, whether a web-page, a text message, an on- screen document, or an information film, is available to all of them equally.”

“For each country, we need to find out – what policies do they have, and how do they put them into practice? What are the differences and similarities? The lessons learned from across Europe will be brought together for everyone to share, so this difficult issue can be addressed.”

Full details of the research and a report of a project conference co-hosted by the Danish Ministry of Education in Copenhagen this June are due to be published shortly, with the final project recommendations expected towards next summer.


8.         Digital Inclusion

  • The Nominet Trust has just launched their £250k Challenge to support projects that address the recommendations set out in their second State of the Art Review ‘The internet and an ageing population’. In particular, they are looking to invest in projects that work with older people (65+) and involve the internet and other technologies. The minimum level of funding is £1,000. Project outlines should be submitted by the 1 February 2012 and those shortlisted will be invited to submit a full application by 1 March 2012. Find out more here.   
  • In an interview with the Daily Telegraph Esther Rantzen argued: ‘Old folk need to get web-wise’.

Rantzen argued that community-minded neighbours could help to solve two real problems for elderly people: loneliness and lack of technological expertise. She recently wrote a piece about how lonely she is, as a widow of 10 years, and said that the article had had “an amazing response”.

“Perhaps there are older people living near you that you could identify. Why not bang on a door, or pick up a phone? What many people miss most is the chance for a chat and a cuppa, and all of that could lead to mentoring, or a friendship. Maybe you could help people to get online to do banking. What is they say – don’t bank on it? Well I say – let’s bank on it.”

The article also cited recent research from the Payments Council which shows that, “although the over 65s are savvier about energy efficiency grants and loft insulation that their younger counterparts, they do not use technology or switch brands often – meaning that they could be spending far more money than they need on basic utilities.

Over a third have not checked if they are on the best rate for their utility bills in the past year. Fewer than a third of current account holders over 65 use internet banking, while under a quarter bank by phone. Despite falling cheque usage, older people still rely on their chequebooks to send payments, and few use direct debits to clear regular debts, even though this can help them to avoid fees and penalties. “

Belated summer round up: stories and issues relating to older and disabled people

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on November 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm

1.      Whitehall

·     Jeremy Moore has been appointed as the new Director of Independent Living and the Office for Disability Issues (ODI). Jeremy’s remit will encompass all disability issues, including employment, rights, benefits and ODI, reflecting a more joined-up approach across Government.

See: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2011/jul-2011/dwp084-11.shtml   

2.        Smartphones

·     Cross Research claim Apple’s Siri voice-recognition technology, which is available on its new iPhone 4S, could prove a landmark in consumer technology. Analyst Shannon Cross said: “We believe the use of natural language and potentially the ability to distinguish between voices could one day change the way we interact with electronic devices and provide a substantial technology advantage to Apple. Quite simply, we have not seen a demonstration of comparable AI in any other consumer system.”

More: http://allthingsd.com/20111010/siri-game-changer-not-gimmick/?reflink=ATD_mktw_quotes

·     A new iPhone app enables wheelchair users to access the Internet through their wheelchair controls. Dynamic Control’s iPortal is designed to allow powerchair users to surf the internet, make phone calls, access social networking sites, play music, send text messages and emails, take photos, read ebooks and also use the speech assistance functions, all without needing to touch the device. There is more about the iPortal here: http://www.dynamiccontrols.com/iportal/ and a report by Medtech Business is here: http://www.medtechbusiness.com/news/2011/09/From-wheelchair-to-Web 


·     NHS Bristol is rolling out a new telehealth service for patients with long-term conditions. The primary care trust has signed a £1.4 million contract with technology company Safe Patient Systems, which will see 600 patients with either chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure issued with smartphones loaded with a health application.

See the report by E-Health Inside: http://www.ehi.co.uk/news/EHI/7034/nhs-bristol-uses-phones-for-telehealth


·     Trials have been successfully run of a prototype open source live document translation system that allows users to transfer files between devices while simultaneously converting them into more accessible formats including audio versions and larger text sizes. ‘MyDocStore’ uses cloud computing to allow people to convert files easily, including to mobile devices such as smartphones.

See: http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/news/detail/2011/SBRI_result


3.        Health

·      A non-emergency telephone number for NHS services is to launch across England. The 111 number, which has been tested in four areas, will be available nationally by April 2013.The service will replace NHS Direct, which the government announced it was scrapping last year and will give health advice and information about services such as out-of-hours GPs, walk-in centres, emergency dentists and pharmacies.

More at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15138597?dm_i=4X7,K44V,3EI9TZ,1MVOH,1. 


·      In an article in the Daily Telegraph, the medical director of the NHS says that patients will routinely be able to consult with doctors over the internet from their own homes within ‘a year rather than a decade’, and that telehealth services will be useful for those who need to see a specialist about a chronic condition such as diabetes, or people with visible conditions like skin complaints.

Read the article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8623517/Doctors-to-see-patients-by-video-link.html?dm_i=4X7,GY6S,3EI9TZ,1DSRY,1

4.        Disability


·      The Employers’ Forum on Disability has launched the new Disability Standard, an online management and benchmark tool which enables business to measure and improve on performance for disabled customers, clients or service users, employees and stakeholders. EFD has piloted the new standard with 19 organisations from across the private and public sector. The evaluation process will run until June 2012, with the Disability Standard Awards taking place in late 2012.

More details at: http://www.thiis.co.uk/news-snippets/new-disability-standard-sept11.aspx and  via : http://www.efd.org.uk/


·      The first ‘Try before you buy’ centre has opened at Disability Action’s Headquarters in Belfast. The centre will showcase products, specifically designed for people with disabilities, and is part of a network of more than 200 centres across the UK offering people of all age groups the chance to try out products designed to suit their own individual requirements. It is a partnership between the charity and BT. Visitors will benefit from the expertise of professionals and volunteers who work in the centre and in return BT gathers feedback on what works well and what doesn’t.

More: www.btplc.com/inclusion/TrybeforeYouBuy .



5.        Subtitles

·      People who are deaf or hard of hearing complain that going to watch a film can be an unsatisfactory experience, with subtitled films on at unsociable times and often suffering from technical problems. A BBC News item (NB: it’s video) about the development of special glasses which allow the wearer to see subtitles directly in front of their eyes is here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-14654339 

6.        Video Relay

·           BT is piloting BSL access via video relay for its own Deaf customers who prefer to communicate with them in British Sign Language.  BT will start the pilot in November, subject to internal testing, and it will run for 6 months in order to demonstrate that the service works for our customers.  The facility will link to the SignVideo telephone interpreting service.

7.        Digital Inclusion

·     The Guardian reported on an initiative which sees schoolchildren being recruited in care homes to make sure that older people are not left behind in the digital age.



·     They also provided a list of “The 10 best apps for Older People”: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2011/sep/21/apps-for-older-people


·     Organisations from across the voluntary, private and public sectors have formed the Age Action Alliance, with the aim of working which will work together to improve the lives of older people and help transform communities into a better place to grow older. It will tackle several issues relevant to older people, including public health and active lifestyles, safe warm homes, improving the lives of excluded groups, combating loneliness and isolation, working on age-friendly neighbourhoods, promoting digital inclusion and new attitudes to ageing. 

Visit: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2011/sep-2011/dwp113-11.shtml


8.        Web Accessibility

·     The RNIB is set to conduct its largest ever manual website accessibility testing exercise later this year, when it will check all 433 UK local authority sites against a specially-devised set of criteria.


The project will form the charity’s latest contribution to the annual ‘Better Connected’ review of UK council websites conducted by the public sector Society of IT Management (Socitm).


In previous years RNIB has run initial automated accessibility tests on all the sites, only carrying out more detailed manual assessment on those passing a certain threshold. This year, however, it will carry out manual checks on all sites based on attempts to perform three practical tasks on each such as paying council tax or renewing a library book online. A few other random top level pages will also be checked.


‘Better Connected’ reviews are carried out in November and December, with all results including accessibility test results due to be published at the end of February 2012.


·     The WebAIM site (Web Accessibility in Mind) has a wide range of articles on web accessibility, including user reviews of assistive technology products and tips for ways to improve website navigation for people with both cognitive and physical disabilities. The resources are maintained by the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University: http://webaim.org/about


·     Betagov Standard: The forthcoming ‘beta’ version of the new digital platform for UK government services – due to launch in January 2012 – is to be one of the first major websites to be designed in compliance with the British Standard BS8878 Web Accessibility Code of Practice, the project’s accessibility consultant Léonie Watson has revealed. The site’s developers will be documenting all accessibility-related decisions taken throughout the lifecycle of the beta site, as well as carrying out extensive user testing and consulting with various disability organisations, Watson told E- Access Bulletin’s sister publication E-Government Bulletin.


9.        Other

·     The Royal National Institute of Blind People has launched a campaign to get Britain’s banks to enable their cash machines to talk and has published a report on this issue.

More details here: http://www.rnib.org.uk/getinvolved/campaign/yourmoney/cashmachine/Pages/cash-machine-campaign.aspx

July 11: Stories and issues relating to older and disabled people which have caught my eye in the last month.

In Monthly round up: Older People and Disability issues on July 12, 2011 at 2:58 pm

1.         Apps

  • A series of smartphone apps to let disabled people contact shops, petrol stations and other locations to let them know their access needs before they arrive is being developed by Sunderland-based social enterprise DisabledAccess4All ( http://www.access4allapps.com ).

The ‘Customer Assist’ app will let users request assistance both en route and after arrival. When the user arrives, the shop, service or petrol station will have received information about the assistance he or she requires so they can have an attendant ready to help.

The app will also offer directions to accessible services, and a separate ‘Parking Space Finder’ app is being developed to work with local authorities to offer people directions to the nearest blue badge parking spaces. The parking app is due to go live for testing in October, with Westminster and Sunderland councils signed up to take part.

2.         Social Media

  • The Telegraph reported that super-injunction leaks on Twitter have driven over-50s to the site; noting: “Twitter’s UK audience jumped by a third in May 2011 following the super-injunction leaks about Ryan Giggs, which drove a huge number of female pensioners to the site, according to new data.”

Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/8600542/Super-injunction-leaks-drive-over-50s-to-Twitter.html


3.         Tablets

  • Jakob Nielsen has written a report on iPad usability. It’s the second such report from Nielsen Norman Group and it features in-depth analysis about how people are using iPads.

The iPad report, co-authored by Raluca Budiu and Jakob Nielsen, is a hefty 129 pages and available for free download. The report tested 26 iPad apps and six websites. The testers in this study were required to have at least two months experience using iPads.

There has been “good uptake of several of our recommendations from last year,” claims the report – such as apps implementing back buttons, broader use of search, homepages and direct access to articles by touching headlines on the front page.

The report reiterates a common understanding about the iPad, that it’s mostly for media consumption. Email is “the only slight exception to the rule.” Specifically, the Nielsen participants reported using their iPads for games, checking email and social network sites, watching movies and videos, and reading news.

The study tested a few tasks that were performed both on the Web (meaning via a Web browser on the iPad) and using an application. The report concludes that “our participants were always successful on the Web [but] a third of the corresponding tasks that involved apps ended in failure.” The report gives two reasons for this:

  1. The apps contained less content than the websites.
  2. The app design was confusing or the app made the user work more.

There’s also some useful analysis of how iPad usage differs from the computer. E.g.:

“From our testing of news and magazine apps, it turns out that most users read just a few articles per session, and spend most of their time scanning headlines and summaries for something of interest. That’s why it’s important to support the browsing activity better by giving it extra space, especially if there are a lot of news stories to go through.”


4.         Digital Switchover

  • Digital UK have published their annual report for the year to 31 March 2011.

Last year, 2.5 million homes across the UK went through switchover, with nearly 11 million homes due to complete switchover in 2011. DUK noted: “This would not have been possible without the support of our partners, including the many charities and community groups which provided practical help and advice.”  Read more about their work and watch a video here.

5.         Disability

  • The Guardian asked “Why can so few programmes document disability without grotesque fascination or patronising sentimentality?” in this article:



“Last week, Born to be Different – Channel 4’s long-running biopic chronicling the lives of six disabled children – drew to a close having achieved television’s trickiest feat: documenting disability without grotesque fascination or patronising sentimentality. In a disaster-laden genre, it’s a success few others can claim.

When depicting disability, mainstream broadcasters give us the good but they give us the bad and the ugly – and in the case of Bodyshock or Extraordinary People, do so while calling them exactly that. The modern day freak show, these ratings hits mix deformity, disability and obesity into a one-size-fits-all hatchet job of ignorance. Products of the school of literal titles, new specials such as It’s Not Easy Being a Wolf Boy, The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, and The Girls with Too Much Skin, emerge yearly. The damage, though, is actually diminished by the total lack of subtlety, their almost impressively brazen lack of attempt to be doing anything remotely worthy.”


  • Channel 4 has launched a search for talented disabled production staff. Paid placements of up to 12 months, are being offered in sport, drama, factual and factual entertainment programming.  Applications closed on Monday 6 June 2011.

Visit the Channel 4 website for more information:


6.         Assistive Technology

  • The Alzheimer’s Society has published a position paper on assistive technology for people with dementia, based on a literature review and a seminar of stakeholders. The paper provides an introduction to AT (low-tech and high-tech), discusses how AT can enable better care and help carers, considers how people with dementia in the UK could have better access to AT, looks at future developments and government policies in this area, and makes recommendations to address the practical and ethical issues raised. The report is here.
  • The AT Dementia website brings together information about assistive technology and other products that can help support the independence and leisure opportunities of people with dementia. The website is here
  • A free booklet, ‘Getting Equipped to Tackle Forgetfulness’, is available to download from FAST via this link
  • The ‘AT guide’, a self-help guide to how technology can help you to live well with dementia published by the Disabled Living Foundation, is here.
  • The Thomas Pocklington Trust has published a paper on telebefriending schemes for people with sight loss which is available here


7.         Social Care

  • The Law Commission has published proposals for the ‘most far-reaching reforms of adult social care law seen for over 60 years’. A single statute would replace current legislation, so that service users and carers would be clear about their rights and councils would be clear about their responsibilities.

The new statute would establish that the ‘overarching purpose of adult social care is to promote or contribute to the well-being of the individual’ based on the ‘individual’s views, wishes and feelings’. Other recommendations include: giving carers new legal rights to services; placing duties on councils and the NHS to work together; building a single, streamlined assessment and eligibility framework; and placing Safeguarding Adult Boards on a statutory footing. 

  • According to Age UK, 800,000 people who currently need care receive no formal support from either the state or private sector agencies. The charity’s report is here.
  • Spending on long-term care in OECD countries is set to double, even triple, by 2050, driven by ageing populations. Governments need to make their long-term care policies more affordable and provide better support for family careers and professionals, according to a report from the international economic organisation, which is here.
  • A BBC survey of 76% of councils in England research suggests a North-South divide in spending on adult social care. Spending will fall by an estimated 4.7% to £3.4 billion in the North in 2011/12 and rise by 2.7% to £3.33 billion in the South. More here.

8.         Older People

  • UK Older People’s Day is on 1 October. The theme for 2011 is staying active in later life. More information, including resources to support local events are available via this link

9.         Third Sector

  • The government has published the ‘Giving White Paper’ to encourage charitable giving and volunteering. Commitments include:
  1. a £30 million fund to improve the effectiveness of infrastructure organisations that support front line organisations;
  2. £700,000 to support Philanthropy UK connecting wealthy people with charities that need their support;
  3. trial charity promotions on the public service website Directgov.
  • The banks have also agreed to enable giving through all their cash machines in 2012. The white paper is here.


  • 2011 is RNID’s centenary year. On their 100th birthday on 9th June, RNID changed their name to Action on Hearing Loss to better reflect what they do and the hearing check is an important element of their activity.  Around 4 million people who experience hearing loss could benefit from hearing aids but it takes, on average, 10 years for someone to do something about their hearing loss.  
  • The Media Trust have announced a recent package of funding which will enable the Community Channel to continue to broadcast for another couple of years at least, and will enable them to re-launch Community Newswire, the charity news distribution service run in partnership with the Press Association.

The funding will also enable us to support a network of community-led news hubs and citizen journalists across the UK, supported by our media industry mentors, and Media Trust’s wider package of training and online advice, mentors and story-telling.