· 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.
· 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.”
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
· 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.
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.
· 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.