On Thursday 8th September 2022 Alex Barker from AbilityNet visited Leeds to share his insights on how digital tools and resources can support accessibility for people with disabilities.
As someone who uses assistive technology in his daily life Alex can relate to people who face challenges when it comes to using digital equipment. He has over twenty years of experience working with AbilityNet and is passionate about how digital tools can enhance the lives of people with disabilities. Alex shared his own experiences of how assistive technologies have enabled him to study and to flourish in his career.
“This will be so useful for our members.”Staff member, People Matters
Assistive Technology Training
Alex explained that assistive technologies do not have to be expensive or complicated to use. He showcased some amazing apps which can be downloaded for free and described some accessibility features that are embedded within most digital devices. He explained how relatively cheap and simple hardware like a rollerball mouse or a compact keyboard can make a huge difference to a person with a disability.
Some of Alex’s top accessible resources and tips
- Be My Eyes is a free app which connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call.
- Clarospeak is a free reading and writing app with high-quality text-to-speech function. It can be incredibly helpful for people with low literacy skills.
- Filter Keys is a Microsoft Accessibility option that you can use to control the keyboard’s Repeat rate and ignore repeated keys. Apple has its own version called Slow Keys. This can be incredibly helpful for people who find it hard to hold down multiple keys.
- My Computer, My Way guides offer step-by-step instructions on how to adapt your phone, computer, or tablet to meet an individual’s needs. You can search for a specific need (e.g. making text larger) or filter the guides based on your symptoms (e.g. hand tremor) or condition (e.g. dyslexia).
- Virtual Assistants like Siri and Google Assistant allow people to send a text message, set reminders, and even control home appliances using only their voice. These functions can allow people with disabilities to perform simple daily tasks without support.
“This information could be life-changing.”Staff at the HALO Project, Hamara
Autism and Learning Disabilities Digital Inclusion Network
100% Digital Leeds made the opportunity available to members of the Autism and Learning Disabilities Digital Inclusion Network (ALaDDIN) and, as a result, staff at People Matters, Pyramid of Arts, and Hamara’s HALO Project were able to benefit from Alex’s wealth of knowledge.
ALaDDIN is a network where organisations working in Leeds to support people with learning disabilities and autism meet to share best practice, identify solutions to common barriers, and discuss opportunities to strengthen digital inclusion infrastructure, such as funding and partnership working. The network meets once a month and is supported by a consultation group of people with learning disabilities who inform the discussions.
If you are interested in finding out more about the opportunities available through ALaDDIN please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alex was also interviewed by members of the Employment Project Grant team at Pyramid. This is a team of people with learning disabilities who are working on a film to show employers how they can make their workplaces more inclusive. Alex explained how AbilityNet can work with employers to make adaptations which can help disabled people to thrive in the workplace.
AbilityNet is a pioneering and well-established UK charity that believes the power of digital technology should be available to everyone, regardless of ability or age. The organisation offers free tech support and information for disabled and older people and their website contains a wealth of accessible fact sheets, webinars, and how-to guides. AbilityNet has a team of helpful volunteers citywide who can visit people in their own homes to advise and support them to set up and use the digital tools required to meet their individual needs.
If you are interested in speaking to AbilityNet about the support on offer to people with disabilities, you can contact them at email@example.com.