1. 100% accessibility of all digital broadcasting platforms by 2020… in Canada
- The Canadian broadcasting regulator, CRTC, has included establishment of the Broadcasting Accessibility Fund among conditions attached to its approval of the takeover of Canada’s largest TV network, CTV, by BCE ( http://www.bce.ca/en/ ), owner of communications company Bell.
BCE will be required to put forward 5.7 million Canadian Dollars to establish the fund, which will work to ensure 100% accessibility of all digital broadcasting platforms by 2020. Its work programme will focus on “innovation that provides platform-neutral solutions to ensure accessibility of all broadcasting content.”
The proposal had initially been put forward by the Access 2020 Coalition an umbrella group led by the non-profit body Media Access Canada.
In its ruling (http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2011/2011-163.htm ) the commission said that at least two-thirds of board members of the fund must be “persons with disabilities, representatives of disability organizations and/or other parties with relevant expertise in developing or implementing accessibility solutions.”
The fund will also be empowered to raise further funding from other sources, such as annual contributions by other broadcasters or broadcasting distributors.
Beverley Milligan, CEO of Media Access Canada, said: “This latest ruling by the CRTC makes them the first regulator in the world to take an alternative approach to ensuring 100% accessible content by 2020. They have empowered us to bring it about and now it is time for us to get down to work.”
2. Assistive Technology
- An ‘ideas marketplace’ for new open source assistive technology projects has been launched by a group of academics and developers with funding from JISC, the technology agency for UK colleges and universities.
The REALISE project ( http://www.realisepotential.org ) is an open, three-stage tool for creating new software technologies to make it easier for people with disabilities to use the internet, computers and mobile devices.
The first stage is an ‘ideas’ area, where anyone can ask for help with a problem or offer a theoretical solution. If there is enough interest in an idea and someone wants to take the lead, it can be moved to the second stage: the ‘incubator’, where a team of developers is assembled. Finally, the best ideas will move to full ‘project’ status, the third stage which will involve funding by non-profits or private companies.
According to the project’s brief, “At any stage commercial companies or researchers can become involved and may lead at the incubator or project stages. In the end companies may make money out of a project but will need to keep to any agreements during the development stages.”
- The government’s ‘Plan for Growth’, which accompanied the Budget, includes a commitment to improve the take up of assisted living technology. The Plan commits the government to help establish a code of practice that sets a framework for services and technology, provides quality assurance to customers, and increases uptake, and to work with the Technology Strategy Board on developing assisted living solutions. Read more: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ukecon_growth_index.htm
3. Apps & Software
- A website dedicated to exploring apps, programs and advice for blind and visually impaired users of Android– Google’s operating system for mobile devices – has been launched by the online assistive technology store AT Guys.
Android Access features a list of accessibility apps by topic; a ‘getting started’ section, with information on choosing an accessible Android phone; and links to accessible Android news, blogs and forums: http://androidaccess.net/
- There is a free open source version of Linux designed for the blind and visually impaired. It is called Vinux, and it is available at: http://www.vinux.org.uk
- Great 7 minute video from AbilityNet’s Robin Christopherson explaining how his smartphone has transformed his ability to communicate and carry out a host of everyday tasks. Robin is blind, but this video shows how technology need not be a barrier to an active working – and personal – life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stZfcy7FV-0&feature=youtube_gdata
4. Use of social media by disabled people to get results
- BT has joined Twitter as BTCare – see www.twitter.com/btcare – and is responding to tweets from other users that mention difficulty in accessing with BT services.
This isn’t specifically a disability service but we have noticed some discussions with disabled consumers via this medium. The nature of this type of social networking site means that the correspondence usually takes place in public and anyone can read it.
- BT has just published a new brochure about nuisance calls.
6. Accessible products
- BT has launched ‘Including You’ (here), a new website offering a range of accessible products and services for those who need extra help with communications.
Designed and developed in conjunction with AbilityNet, the national charity that enables people with disabilities to access technology and the internet, the site is the first to achieve the new AbilityNet accreditation mark. For more details, follow this link.
- FAST has launched a booklet to help friends and family understand how equipment and technology can support the independence and safety of people with the early symptoms of dementia.
‘Getting Equipped to Tackle Forgetfulness’ was developed in partnership with Innovations in Dementia and Trent Dementia Services Development Centre, with funding from the Department of Health’s Reaching Out to Carers programme.
The guide provides information and tips on the equipment available, how to make decisions as a family about equipment and technology options and how and where to get hold of gadgets and other devices. The guide can be downloaded here.
- The Stroke Association has launched a retail outlet to ‘help people in need of disability aids and mobility products find the correct equipment at a competitive price’. Details via this link. To visit Strokeshop go to www.strokeshop.org.uk.
7. Telecare / Telehealth
- According to an update on the WSDAN (Whole System Demonstrator Action Network) website, it is estimated that there are around 1.7 million people using telecare in England.
Local authority expenditure in England in this area during 2009/10 was over £83 million.
The current estimate for telehealth remote monitoring installations is around 6,000, which should increase during 2011. The update is here.
- The Scottish Government and the UK’s Technology Strategy Board have announced that a large-scale telehealthcare demonstration programme involving at least 10,000 older and disabled people will run over four years from April 2012. Details via this link.
- The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is calling for buses and coaches to be forced to offer passengers the same audio-visual information already required in trains.
The ‘Talking Buses’ campaign is urging the government to expand the Public Service Vehicle Accessibility Regulations to require buses and coaches to offer both audible and visual journey information, including next stop and final destination, making them more accessible to blind and visually impaired users: http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/helpus/campaigns/talking-buses/
9. Older People
- Life expectancy has been growing for over half a century and the UK has now reached a point where there are more people over state pension age than children.
In 1950, a man aged 65 could expect on average to live to the age of 76. Today, he can expect to live to 87, and by 2050 to 91.
Today there are 10,000 people aged 100 or over, by 2050 there will be 275,000, and by 2030 people over 50 will comprise almost a third of the workforce and c. half the adult population.
- The Disability Benefits Consortium, a coalition of 41 charities and organisations, is warning that disabled people will be hardest hit by the welfare reforms. The Hardest Hit campaign website is here.
- The Disability Alliance has published the latest edition of the ‘Disability Rights Handbook’ which is available via this link.
- The Department of Health has published tools to help local authorities support people with learning disabilities into work and invest in supported employment, which evidence suggests can save money for social care. More details here.