NOIDA, INDIA: A school for persons with disabilities has launched a picture-based application for the speech impaired and also an e-commerce portal that sells products made by children with speech disabilities.
The mobile app, Vaakya, is helpful for persons with speech disabilities, those affected by autism, cerebral palsy.
The authorities of Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan, which came out with the application, said the app is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tool and can also be used for rehabilitation of children with disabilities.
The app creates a combination of custom images and phrases, which can be related to an individual user in order help them effectively communicate.
The application does not rely on internet connectivity and utilises the phone’s own memory. It will be available on Google Playstore free of cost from February 16.
The school has also integrated an e-commerce portal with its website — www.mbcnschool.org — which allows customers to buy products made by children with disabilities of the school under the vocational training program, Swayam.
The handmade products include wedding gifts, packaging items, office stationery, paper bags and other gift products which will be available online for purchase.
Product details such as price, size and other specifications have been mentioned along with customers’ reviews.
The prospective buyers can log on to the school’s website and buy the products using the simple user interface, the school authorities said.
Speaking about the initiative, Vandana Sharma, director, Mata Bhagwanti Chadha Niketan, said, “MBCN has been working towards empowering children with disabilities for 18 years now. With Vaakya, our mission is to give the specially abled a tool to communicate efficiently and make them independent and self-reliant.”
She said the vocational training programme Swayam provides a sense of self-worth and economic independence. “The students get a stipend for the hours they spend on their skill as an encouragement for their hard work and give them a sense of economic independence.
Source: Hindustan Times
PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: The head of the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU) is calling for strong collaboration among stakeholders to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) to empower persons with disabilities, citing that “it requires the involvement of Governments, Persons with disabilities and the Organisations that serve them, ICT Service Providers, Network Operators, Regulators and the support of corporate citizens, with whom the CTU is prepared to facilitate.”
Ms. Lewis was speaking at the demonstration of the features of the Caribbean Video Assistance Service (CVAS), which enables people who are deaf not onlytocall each other and communicate directly, but also to speak with agents (trained sign language interpreters) who relay conversations between them and hearing parties.
The proposed CVAS is a collaboration between the CTU and VTC Secure that uses a technological platform to facilitate communication, without expensive equipment, via an individual’s smart phone, computer or wireless device from virtually anywhere. VTCSecure is a global company that provides secure On-‐Demand, Video, Voice & Text Call Center Services.
Using a Personal Universal Communicator (PUC) app, the demonstrations featured following five scenarios:
Deaf to Deaf ‐ a person who are deaf uses his smartphone equipped with internet access and the PUC app to sign with another person with hearing disability.
Deaf to hearing/hearing to Deaf via an interpreter – People with hearing disabilities uses his smart phone with internet access and the PUC app to communicate with an agent, who connects them toa hearing third party using a normal landline phone. Conversely, the hearing person can call the agent and speak to people with hearing disability.
Video assistance service for people who are blind – a person with vision disability uses his smart phone to contact an agent for assistance in identifying, for example, his medication and finding his way in a building, in particular in an emergency situation.
Hearing to Deaf without interpreter – Both hearing and Deaf parties use smart phones with internet access and the PUC app.The hearing party speaks and the voice is converted to text in real time. The Deaf person responds in text. A hard of hearing person responds with voice.
Trevor Prevatt, CTU Consultant, provided some of the next steps, which included an estimated breakdown of the costs involved in operating the service and which will eventually be extended to other Caribbean territories, stating that “We need to enlist secure financial support for the Service from a number of stakeholders, in particular corporate citizens.” He emphasized that secure funding is needed to ensure the sustainability of the service.
The demonstration gathered a cross-‐section of representatives, including persons with disabilities and DPO’s, social development and ICT sectors, as well as members of the diplomatic corps. Two persons with disabilities, one Blind and the other Deaf, testified to the usefulness and importance of the Service in enhancing the quality of their daily lives.
TEHRAN, IRAN: Recommendations of a two-day expert meeting with representatives from the Ministry of Education, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Organization, the State Welfare Organization, UNECSO, and academia and NGOs working in the field of disabilities, will be presented to Iranian policy makers to foster greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in the economy and the social milieu.
The meeting on January 24 was a joint initiative of the UNESCO Tehran office and the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO, on the development of a national policy to introduce ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities.
It discussed national policies and plans to employ information and communication technologies (ICT) in empowering the disabled and the need to keep them updated.
“Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have the potential of making significant improvements in the lives of persons with disabilities, allowing them to enhance their social, political and economic integration in communities and society, by enlarging the scope of activities available to them,” said Esther Kuisch Laroche, director of the UNESCO in Tehran.
“Removing barriers to accessing ICT by persons with disabilities is of paramount importance. In today’s world, no one should be excluded from using mobile phones, the Internet, TV, computers, electronic kiosks and their myriad of applications and services, including in education and cultural activities or for e-government or e-health services, to cite just a few examples.
Being excluded from these ICT-enabled applications implies being shut out not only from the information society, but also from accessing essential public services, as well as from the opportunity to live an independent life,” she said, un.org.ir reported.
Sadollah Nasiri Gheydari, secretary general of the Iranian National Commission of UNESCO, stressed that practical action plans should be implemented to employ ICT technology to enhance social inclusion of the physically challenged.
He referred to the newly developed Nation Plan of Action for the implementation of SDG 4 (Education) and said this could be used as a “very good example.”
Nasrollah Jahangard, head of the ICT Organization, said the field of ICT accessibility for the disabled is new and “we need to use the best global practices and successfully implemented projects as models to develop our own national policies.”
1.5m With Moderate to Severe Disabilities
According to the SWO, about 2% (1.5 million) of the Iranian population, including 400,000 in rural areas, are living with moderate to severe disabilities. Statistics show 8% of Iran’s population comprises seniors, and 40,000 disabled are added every year.
With rates of disability increasing, rehabilitation and social inclusion have become an integral part of healthcare and other services.
The high number of traffic accidents, aging population and the increase in chronic health conditions, as well as the nation’s proneness to natural disasters are factors contributing to a growing demand for rehabilitation and related services.
“Around 11.5 million in Iran suffer from some form of disability,” Gheydari said.
“Nearly 90% of disabled children across the world are out of school due to lack of access to proper equipment,” and this goes against international conventions. Irmgarda Kasinskaite-Buddeberg, program specialist at the Communication and Information Sector in UNESCO headquarters, introduced UNESCO’s model policy on inclusive ICTs in education for persons with disabilities, which was published in 2014, and the guideline on the inclusion of learners with disabilities in open and distance learning.
Among the short-term recommendations made by the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion was the adoption of a Universitywide policy on information and communication technology (ICT) accessibility. A broad-based University committee has met monthly since April 2015 and completed a draft of the policy that has been reviewed by the provost and the senior vice president and chief human resources officer, and faculty and student stakeholders. The policy is now available for review and comment on the University’s technology accessibility website. Once the comment period has closed, feedback will be reviewed and considered. The policy will then be vetted by the University’s Policy Advisory Committee as set forth in the University’s policy process.
Monday, Jan. 23, 10-11:15 a.m., 500 Hall of Languages
Thursday, Feb. 2, 3:30-4:45 PM, 500 Hall of Languages
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 3-4:15 p.m., Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 114 Bird Library
Tuesday, Feb. 28, 9-10:15 a.m., Peter Graham Scholarly Commons, 114 Bird Library
All University faculty, students, and staff are welcome to attend. CART and ASL services will be provided. All attendees are encouraged to become familiar with the policy, available on the University’s technology accessibility website.
About the Information and Communication Technology Accessibility Policy
The policy is designed to ensure that all people can effectively access University content on information and communication technologies (ICT). These comprise equipment, systems, technologies or processes for which the principle function is the creation, manipulation, storage, display, receipt or transmission of electronic data and information as well as technology-based equipment.
The policy states:
Priority areas include:
INDIA: “I don’t eat a full meal for dinner. We don’t have a toilet at home and I can’t see at night to go out in the open to relieve myself if needed. I control myself till around 8 or 9 am when it becomes light enough for me to see at least a foot or two around me. But with my low vision, I am never sure if someone is watching me,” Mumbai-based disability rights and gender justice activist, Nidhi Goyal quotes a young girl from Gujarat as saying, in her 2015 blog post for Azaadi Ki Udaan.
Parliament recently passed the Rights of Persons With Disabilities Bill, 2014. While the new Act covers many more disabilities and issues, is it equipped to address the challenges that a woman with disability faces in her daily life? If toilets didn’t seem like a top-of-the-list challenge for women with disabilities to most people, an Internet post by a woman in wheelchair in India changed that last month. The woman wrote about being forced to wear adult diapers to work because offices didn’t have accessible toilets.
“Absence of accessible toilet is not a microcosmic problem. It is a major worry. It is one of the things that restrict access to public places for women with disabilities,” says Delhi-based academician and gender rights activist Anita Ghai. Ghai admits to not drinking water when she is outside home, so that she doesn’t have the urge to relieve herself. “It is common for women with disabilities to suffer from kidney stones because either they don’t drink enough water or don’t relieve themselves for long hours,” she says.
“I don’t drink water when I am outside the house, so that I don’t need to visit the toilet. It is common for women with disabilities to suffer from kidney stones because either they don’t drink enough water or they don’t relieve themselves for long hours” In the film Q2P, filmmaker Paramita Vohra had addressed the issue of lack of enough public toilets for women. “It is disturbing that the simplest of human needs, to relieve oneself, is often so difficult for women to satisfy,” Vohra had told Hindustan Times in an interview in 2014. The problem is more acute for a woman with disability. “The lack of toilets, and accessible ones at that, is the grassroots example of the disabling environment that the social model of disability describes,” Goyal writes in her blog post.
Bengaluru-based Meenu Bhambhani gives her own example. “On a recent road trip from Jaipur to Ajmer, when we stopped for a loo break, I couldn’t use the toilet because there was not even a basic western-style toilet. This is a problem especially in the smaller towns and in rural India – most toilets are Indian-style.” Where there are accessible toilets, they are often locked. Ghai remembers a recent visit to a multiplex in Delhi. “The mall where the multiplex was located had an accessible toilet, but it was locked. Clearly they were not expecting anyone to use it,” she says.
If it can be accessed, it is often so dirty that one wouldn’t want to use it. “When I use the accessible toilet at the airport, I usually peep in once to see whether it is clean. At the accessible toilets, the floors are often left wet, there is no toilet paper or soap. There is never a full-length mirror, though there is always one in the general women’s toilet,” says Bhambhani.
It is the same in the few offices that do have accessible toilets. “The janitor doesn’t bother to clean perhaps because they are not expecting too many people to use it,” says Shivani Gupta, inclusive design consultant. Designs are also often not according to specifications. “The height of the toilet, the basin etc are often not according to globally-agreed upon standards,” she says.
The bigger issue being the absence of accessible toilets, few waste time cribbing about the fact that in India all accessible toilets are unisex. “In the US, both men’s and women’s toilets had one kiosk each for people with disabilities. We do need unisex toilets because sometimes the people with disabilities might need to be assisted and the caregiver may not be of the same gender. But that’s no reason why they can’t also have a stall inside the men’s and women’s toilets also,” says Gupta.
The fear of being not able to relieve themselves, restricts access to public place for many, feel activists. “The government talks of creating inclusive spaces, but there are no ramps on public transport, crossing roads is difficult. And there are no toilets. Just the physical access is so difficult,” says Ghai.
Source: Hindustan Times
BALTIMORE: At the beginning of November 2016, we had the pleasure of joining 75 other accessibility technologists and leaders from government, academia, industry, and private consulting firms. We descended on the National Federation for the Blind Headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland for three days to discuss trends in testing of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for accessibility at the 1st Annual ICT Accessibility Testing Symposium.
The conference started with two workshops. The first workshop provided an overview of the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Tester program. Based on the Interagency Trusted Tester Program, DHS hopes to develop the accessibility skills across the IT community through a repeatable set of accessibility evaluation activities and the adoption of unified testing procedures and a common set of test tools. So far, more than 600 professionals have participated in the Trusted Tester Program.
Jon Gunderson from the University of Illinois delivered the second workshop on Open Source Tools for Evaluating and Inspecting Web Accessibility. He demonstrated how these tools can be used to make the web more accessible. One tool was the Functional Accessibility Evaluator (FAE). FAE scans web pages for accessibility issues defined by the Open Ajax Accessibility rulesets and meeting the requirements of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and HTML.
Judy Brewer, Director of the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative, kicked off day two with a keynote address. Judy stressed that “the accelerator to move accessibility forward is testing.” Following Judy’s keynote address, I joined four other members of the WCAG Accessibility Conformance Testing task force to talk about our efforts to deliver a W3C recommendation, an open standard that defines a framework for testing for accessibility and producing a consistent set of validation results.
The conference continued with a presentation from Alistair Garrison, SSB Bart Group, who discussed the importance of following well-established testing best practices when testing for accessibility. He talked about how a test should be like “a card in a deck of cards and not a card in a house of cards.” Tests should be able to stand on their own.
Gian Wild, Accessibility Oz, discussed her accessibility testing of social media sites and stressed how important social media is to persons with disabilities. Social media provides us with personal communication, ordering of goods and services, entertainment, education, and employment. At times, social media can be life-saving by allowing folks to communicate emergencies, crowd-sourcing diagnoses, or keeping up to date with the impending weather.
But with this importance comes great pressure to ensure that how we interpret web accessibility requirements is standard, consistently interpreted by all parties, and open.
In 2016, IBM Accessibility released two open source projects on developerWorks Open, AccProbe, an Eclipse-based accessibility inspection tool that supports the impending U.S. Section 508 standards refresh, and Va11yS, a set of validated accessibility samples that provides developers and testers with working examples that demonstrate how to implement accessibility for web and mobile applications.
With open source, IBM wants to ensure that accessible technology is not only easier to use but is more available to designers and developers. This allows us to alleviate any roadblocks during the agile development process, especially with those who are less familiar with accessibility.
By Maureen Kraft
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Regional Office for Africa in partnership with the East Africa Community (EAC) has developed a Draft Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Accessibility Policy for the East Africa Community Countries.
The policy was adopted at a workshop held in Nairobi, Kenya from 6-7 October 2016, where 40 participants from five EAC countries also recommended the use of Universal Services and Access Funds as a source of funding.
The meeting also recommended the development of a five-year monitoring and evaluation mechanism. For more information, visit https://goo.gl/yBZCbO
UK: A severe lack of understanding and research into the needs of people with learning disabilities and epilepsy is placing them at risk say experts from the University of Hertfordshire.
There are currently more than 1 million people with learning disabilities in England. This group are also more likely to have additional physical and mental health problems, such as epilepsy. Figures show around 1 in 5 people with a learning disability will also have epilepsy, making it the most common neurological condition for people in that demographic.
Dr Silvana Mengoni, from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Health Services and Clinical Research, said: ‘Given the lack of research in this area, improvements in education, communication and collaboration between people with epilepsy and learning disabilities, their carers and their clinical teams is urgently needed.’
In the general population people with epilepsy are encouraged to self-manage their condition, carrying out activities such as taking medication on-time, getting enough exercise and seeking help when needed. For them, it is a major and successful part of them staying as healthy and independent as possible. But for those that also have a learning disability, this level of self-management isn’t always expected by clinicians or carers and therefore the additional support they need isn’t always available.
For example, research shows that whilst just 30 per cent of people in the general population with epilepsy have seizures when taking medication, this jumps massively to 70 per cent for those with a learning disability, highlighting the need for additional support.
Dr Mengoni added: ‘For people with both learning disabilities and epilepsy, seizures can be severe, frequent and difficult to control with medication. As a result, epilepsy can have a significant negative impact on their day-to-day lives, and can result in increased hospital admittances, health and social care costs and mortality.’
A recent study by Dr Mengoni and colleagues suggests one way to aid these patients is to use a simple picture book to help themselves better understand epilepsy and the importance of self-managing the condition, as well as improving communication with carers.
The Wordless Intervention for Epilepsy in Learning Disabilities (WIELD) study provided participants with a booklet called ‘Getting on with Epilepsy’. Participants used the book with a trained researcher and a carer present before being asked to use it at least twice more over 20 weeks in their day-to-day lives.
The study found the booklet was received positively from the participants suggesting that there is a need for more tailored education and self-management information which is currently not being met by current practice.
Dr Mengoni said: ‘There is an important need to improve communication between healthcare professionals and people with learning disabilities regarding decision-making about epilepsy management. Therefore, this booklet has the potential to provide people with learning disabilities with the skills and confidence to better manage their own epilepsy, empower them and generally improve their quality of life.’
The ITU will conduct an eLearning training that provides participants with knowledge, understanding and skills required to support ICT accessibility for persons with disabilities in their public procurement of information and communication technology (ICT) products and services in November.
The training will also provide participants with an understanding of relevant international standards for accessible ICT.
For more information, visit https://academy.itu.int/index.php?lang=en
First-ever ICT courses for people with autism will be organized in Armenia, Vice President and Deputy CEO of Technology & Science Dynamics (TSD) Levon Galstyan told reporters on September 23.
The TSD and the charity organization New Technology Education Fund have teamed up with the Autism National Fund to implement the project Technologies without Borders which helps persons diagnosed with autism discover new professional opportunities.
According to Galstyan, the project will ensure market competitiveness of the participants and further help them in the recruitment process particularly in Armenia’s ICT organizations.
“Persons with disabilities have always been in the spotlight of our activity, some of them currently work in our organization. This project targets people above 15,” Galstayn said.
TSD Founding Director Vahan Shakaryan expressed hope that the initiative will encourage Armenia-based IT and other companies to organize trainings for people with disabilities, also providing them with jobs afterwards.