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Posts Tagged ‘disability’

Full Circle Arts Launches Updated Website

April 24th, 2012 by Steve | No Comments | Filed in Accessibility News

Full Circle Arts logo

Full Circle Arts, a Manchester, England-based organization dedicated to opening channels into the arts for all people regardless of disability, just launched a newly-redesigned web site.

They offer lots of ways for aspiring artists to achieve success, such as: toolkits and resource articles; links to arts organizations; job opportunities; and the ability to create a profile to showcase one’s artistic abilities.

I learned about Full Circle Arts last year, when they reached out to me to write a feature article, to be launched with the new site.

Now that the redesign is in place, my article, The Accessibility of Color on the Web, is now available. Check it (and the rest of their site!) out.

Also, follow Full Circle Arts on Twitter and their Facebook page.


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Video Gamer Overcoming Paralysis

April 20th, 2011 by Steve | No Comments | Filed in Video Games

I think I may have mentioned once or twice that it’s incredibly difficult staying committed to blogging. A couple weeks of being “too busy” between work and home life…followed by a couple more. Next thing you know, it’s been months.

Needless to say, this place has collected some dust.

But anyway…I’m back and hopefully to stay.

I was searching around the Web for interesting news in the world of video game accessibility, and found a fascinating video. It’s of a gamer who broke his neck and, as a result, is paralyzed from the neck down. He has limited usage of his arms and no movement in his fingers. Even so, he has found the means to effectively play video games.

Check it out:

If you head over to Brashant Entertainment – Video Game Experts, you can get a deeper explanation.

Watching this drives home a couple things. First and foremost, it’s absolutely amazing to see how people overcome disabilities. Before I got into this accessibility thing, I wouldn’t have imagined someone with this man’s degree of paralysis playing a shooter video game….and playing it very well!

It’s inspiring, to say the least.

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Tour of IndependenceFirst – part two

January 29th, 2010 by Steve | No Comments | Filed in Accessibility Thoughts

I’ve been spending the past couple weeks sharing insights from attending both “Multiple Facets of Accessible Design” and a tour of IndependenceFirst. Tonight, I’ll wrap it up with one more post about the various things I learned walking around the facility.

Display case of assistive technology devices, photo courtesy of Michael SeidelI was really impressed by the extent to which a place like IndependenceFirst goes in making all aspects of their facilities accessible. Some examples didn’t surprise me, like having bathrooms and shower facilities that are fully usable by those with various disabilities, or a cafeteria with accessible appliances. Others were just things I’d have never thought of.

There is an extensive library of assistive technology devices available for use, some I recognized and others that were completely foreign to me. They were several cases with all manner of these devices — keyboards, telephones, calculators, clocks, measuring cups, to just name a few.

Computer Recycling area at IndependenceFirst, photo courtesy of Michael SeidelIndependenceFirst has a program in which they help people with disabilities get recycled computers. This includes training such as accessing the Internet. We got a glimpse of this Computing Recycling area. There are even local Milwaukee businesses that send volunteers over to get donated computers up and running.

I had never even considered the idea of an accessible copy machine, but we got to see one. Also, in the tour of the Wellness Center, Carol Voss pointed out a wheelchair-accessible weight scale, something that is very rare, even for hospitals.

It’s probably pretty obvious that I came away from visiting IndependenceFirst with a deep appreciation for their services. Four straight blog posts about my experience ought to prove it! After building a rapport with IndependenceFirst through social media, I was glad to finally see the place and meet people like Carol Voss.

Wheelchair scaleI feel I’ve learned a lot in my first year of delving into web accessibility, but I’m coming to realize that there is a huge difference between reading insightful articles and online materials, and actually firsthand watching how disabled people interact with the world around them.

Watching Scott Mayer cruise — and occasionally stumble — through web sites, just trying to do basic tasks like pay bills online, really phased me, in a good way. Even someone who’d like to think of himself as enlightened to web accessibility has a lot to learn!

For me to call myself a true web accessibility expert, I’m going to need more direct contact with disabled web users. You can’t truly understand what they go through by solely checking web sites yourself and running automatic tests.

(Special shout to to friend and colleague Michael Seidel for sharing the photos of the assistive equipment and the computer refurbishing room)

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IndependenceFirst Interview – Part 3 of 3

July 31st, 2009 by Steve | 1 Comment | Filed in Disability Services

IndependenceFirst logoWrapping up my email interview series with IndependenceFirst, the last questions delve into assistive technologies – what IndependenceFirst have to offer as well as experiences that disabled users have using them. We also cover a little bit about their social media presence.


Q: Do you provide usage, renting, etcetera of computer assistive technologies such as screen readers or refreshable Braille?

A: We have open lab times where people who require assistive devices have internet access with our devices in our labs or just develop proficiencies with a computer and the internet, we have a Try-A-Gadget Lab which allows people to investigate Assistive Technology (AT) options for work or home use e.g. environmental controls, telecommunications, voice communications and more…as well as low tech options e.g. adaptive gardening devices, adaptive feeding equipment, memory/communications boards, etc. before they would purchase an item for their own use.

We lend equipment to some people to try in their work or home environments for up to a week if they want to do that as well. We are the only Microsoft Accessibility Resource Center in WI and we have expertise with their products and built in features. We do have adaptive computer inputs, screen readers, voice activated controls and many devices–over 700 in there! We will lend hardware, but not software or computers themselves.

Q: Can you share some of the experiences — both positive and negative — that people using such technologies routinely encounter?

A:
Positive experiences: A man who is quadriplegic received a computer through our Computer Recycling Program, says it’s now his lifeline to go to school online, find info about his disability, coordinate his transportation and trips out to local businesses, keep in touch with friends. That story was featured on Fox 6 News.

A lot of people with disabilities who have received computers through our program have felt like it has opened doors to them that they didn’t feel were possible due to their financial limitations. Positives are also just the doors that AT can open. Technology can be the means of achieving mobility, communication, employment, etc for people who have barriers.

We often hear people saying “I never knew that there was a way that I could do that.” Sometimes the experience is so emotional they cry. It always touches us when that happens, because to us it means that the door opened by technology really means a lot.

Negative experiences: Our Deaf staff and consumers cannot watch videos online nearly 100% of the time. No captioning. No text version of the audio on the videos. Not good. Negative experiences people may encounter include incompatibility issues because computer operating systems evolve before software and hardware adaptations do. Another issue is lack of local resources. AT is a relatively small market, so it is not always possible to comparison shop close to home. One of the biggest issues for technology users is lack of unbiased information. There is a lot of slick marketing out there, and people are often convinced that they need a particular product when something else might be a better fit. There is also a misconception that people who sell products for people with disabilities are all nice people who have their customer’s best interest at heart. Vendors are business people who are trying to make a profit. Some are good, some are pushy, some lie. Good consumer skills are essential when buying AT, but people often assume the vendor is trustworthy because he is helping people with disabilities.

Q: You have been active for some time on Twitter via @Independence1st, and now have almost 700 followers (edit: now past 700!). How has this experience been for you?

A: Twitter is a great way for us to create conversation around access and disability topics, cultivate relationships with potential and current consumers, donors and volunteers; as well as open people’s minds to inclusion around topics of independent living, housing, employment, aging in place and access among other issues. It’s another advocacy, marketing and customer service tool.

It also helps people to get their questions answered in real time and generate a wider network of contacts around the issues (around the world!) and build our brand. If there’s a hot topic, the viral nature of Twitter can really help to raise awareness for us and the issues which ultimately can change the world in a positive way for people with disabilities.


Special thanks, again, to Carol Voss of IndependenceFirst for all of her wonderful answers. I hope those of you reading this have gained as much insight about all the wonderful things that IndependenceFirst do as I have.


More about IndependenceFirst:

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Digital Web Magazine

March 12th, 2009 by Steve | No Comments | Filed in Accessibility News

Digital Web Magazine logo
Digital Web Magazine announced it’s ceasing publication. While the site will remain up as an archive of past articles, it is closing its doors to posting web industry news online.

I post this because it was actually a Digital Web Magazine article that first peaked my interest in web accessibility. Leona Tomlinson’s Understanding Disabilities when Designing a Website came through on a general feed (Design Float, if I recall), and I found it very interesting.

In particular, I was struck by the sheer numbers of people with disabilities. When you focus on percentages, single-digit numbers don’t really seem like they have a lot of magnitude. However, when you see numbers like 10 million with vision impairments or 28 million with hearing limitations — it hits you a little more.

The article then went on to list some basic techniques one can use to ensure better accessibility, from alt tags to proper formatting of forms.

After I read that article, I began searching around for others about web accessibility, and the rest is history. This all being said, I’m sorry to hear that Digital Web Magazine is closing shop.

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