17 big ways tech helps disabled people achieve their goals #idpd

There are 12 million disabled people in the UK, and an estimated 1.1 billion worldwide. Since 1992 the UN has promoted a day of observance and understanding of disability issue and this year's theme is is 'Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want'. We asked 17 of our followers, supporters and staff about the role of technology can play in achieving current and future life goals.

What is the role of technology in achieving life goals for disabled people?

Prof Stephen Hawking has achieved amazing things in his life thanks to technology

Professor Stephen Hawking

“I was lucky to be born in the computer age, without computers my life would have been miserable and my scientific career impossible. Technology continues to empower people of all abilities and AbilityNet continues to help disabled people in all walks of life.” (2012)

Kate Headley, Director of Consulting, The Clear Company

“As someone who now has limited vision, I can honestly say that technology has been the game changer for me. Although I have no secrets - with large font on phone and computer and I regularly share my texts out loud with fellow passengers. But I am independent at home and at work and just awaiting the driverless car!”

Joanna Wootten: Age, Disability and Inclusion expert at Solutions Included

“Technology has transformed my working life. As a deaf person I can now communicate directly with hearing people using emails, text messages, live messaging, or have conversations with them via Skype or FaceTime.  For larger meetings, the advent of reliable wifi means I can use my mobile phone or tablet to access remote captioning so I don't miss a word."
 

Sarah-Jane Peake, assistive technology trainer, Launchpad Assistive Technology

"Working one-to-one with students, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the wonderful impact technology can make to someone with a disability or specific learning disabilities. The confidence of being able to proof-read an essay using text-to-speech, the independence offered by voice recognition software that finally allows a student to fully express their ideas, or the relief felt by a student who has just discovered mind-mapping strategies that compliment the way they think. Technology is changing people’s lives."
 

Sean Douglas

Sean Douglas, founder of dyslexia podcast The Codpast

"There's masses of tech out there that allows people with disabilities to reach their full potential. Long gone are the days when assistive tech was cumbersome, expensive and specialist, now your smart phone can give you much of the help you need to deal with everyday tasks you may find difficult. "Surprisingly a lot of this assistive functionality is built into your phone's operating system or is available from third parties for free or for a small charge."

Georgina Eversfield Tanner, client of AbilityNet's ITCanHelp volunteering service

I've never had a computer before, but it's opened up a whole new world since my stroke. But I did say one day to Andy, my ITCanHelp volunteer from AbilityNet, 'what idiot put Angry Birds on there. There are so many of them and I'm absolutely hooked! Technology and AbilityNet has helped me tremendously to be in the modern world." See more of Georgina here in our video. 

Gareth Ford WIlliams is Head of Accessibility at BBC Design and Engineering

Gareth Ford Williams, Head of Accessibility, BBC Design and Engineering

“For many disabled people, a simple daily goal is to enjoy the same entertainment options. For video and TV that could mean captioning or audio descriptions, or using the text to speech features in their computer or phone to read out newspapers, magazines or blogs.”

Abbie Osborne, Assessor for AbilityNet

“Education is a vital way for disabled people to achieve their goals. I work with many students who face cognitive impairments such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, which make it difficult for them to organise their thoughts.

"Zotero is one of the most popular free tools I recommend. It takes the pain out of managing references when you’re working on essays and reports and integrates with Microsoft Word to use those references in whichever style you require. It works for Mac and PC, creates an alphabetical list of your sources (bibliography) and can keep track across multiple essays.”

Robin ChristophersonRobin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet

“Technology helps everyone reach their full potential. Like nothing else on this planet, technology can embrace people’s differences and provide choice – choice to suit everyone and empower them to achieve their goals both at work and at play. On this day, please raise the cheer for technology and digital inclusion, wherever in the world you are.”

Morgan Lobb, Director, Diversity Jobs

“Assistive technology makes a real difference, without spellchecker I’d be doomed!”

Nicola Whitehill

Nicola Whitehill - founder of Facebook Group: Raynauds Scleroderma Awareness

“The internet is a lifeline for me. I'm under house arrest with Raynauds, but I still run a global community in my pyjamas!”

Nigel Lewis, CEO of AbilityNet

“Accessible technology can really help disabled people live their lives fuller, let’s all work together to make tech accessible and inclusive on this #idpd and always.”

Sarah Simcoe - chair of SEED Network, Fujitsu UK and Ireland

“Technology plays an important part in building an environment of accessibility and enablement – the use of tools, software and hardware in enabling disabled talent to fulfill their full potential is key to innovation and business growth.”

Hector Minto, Accessibility Evangelist, Microsoft

“There are so many things: Social media and the cloud's ability to connect us all and find people who can relate to our experience. Text communication and short messages are a great leveler. Images and video convey messages much more quickly. Twitter chats, blogs, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups all offer professionals with huge amounts of experience somewhere to share their knowledge. 

"It's all part of the Global Cloud for Good agenda - we need to understand Industrial Revolution 4.0 - the Internet of Things, and automation for example - and our place in it. We need a socially responsible cloud which improves life for everyone and leaves nobody behind.

"Finally I still think eyegaze as a direct control method needs to be tried first for people with physical access issues. The price is changing and the previously held view that it was only for those that had tried everything else is completely out of date but pervasive.”

Bela Gor is a Disability Legal Adviser at Business Disability ForumBela Gor, Disability Legal Adviser, Business Disability Forum

“In twenty years of disability discrimination legislation, the biggest change has been that what was once impossible or unreasonably difficult is now entirely possible - because of technology. Technology means that the way we all live and work has changed immeasurably and 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people have become the ordinary way of life for everyone because of the technology on our desks, in our pockets and in our homes and workplaces.”

Kate Nash OBE, founder of PurpleSpace community of disability employee networks

"At PurpleSpace we are massive advocates of virtual networking and learning. While our members have a wide range of disabilities, the accessibility features built into smartphones, tablets and PCs mean that we can keep in touch and share career development opportunities on an equal level regardless of the different ways that we access technologies."

Ed Holland leads Driven MediaEdward Hollands, founder of Driven Media UK

“I use lots of assistance software to over come my spelling and grammar issues to look more professional as a founder. I don't write anything without Grammarly now. It's like having my own copywriter! Anyone who is dyslexic should definitely get it.”

How can AbilityNet help you make the most of tech?

17 big ways tech is helping disabled people achieve goals: 2016 International Day of Persons with Disabilities #idpd

There are 12 million disabled people in the UK, and an estimated 1.1 billion worldwide. Since 1992 the UN has promoted a day of observance and understanding of disability issue and this year's theme is is 'Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want'. We asked 17 of our followers, supporters and staff about the role of technology can play in achieving current and future life goals.

What is the role of technology in achieving life goals for disabled people?

Prof Stephen Hawking has achieved amazing things in his life thanks to technology

Professor Stephen Hawking

“I was lucky to be born in the computer age, without computers my life would have been miserable and my scientific career impossible. Technology continues to empower people of all abilities and AbilityNet continues to help disabled people in all walks of life.” (2012)

Kate Headley, Director of Consulting, The Clear Company

“As someone who now has limited vision, I can honestly say that technology has been the game changer for me. Although I have no secrets - with large font on phone and computer and I regularly share my texts out loud with fellow passengers. But I am independent at home and at work and just awaiting the driverless car!”

Joanna Wootten: Age, Disability and Inclusion expert at Solutions Included

“Technology has transformed my working life. As a deaf person I can now communicate directly with hearing people using emails, text messages, live messaging, or have conversations with them via Skype or FaceTime.  For larger meetings, the advent of reliable wifi means I can use my mobile phone or tablet to access remote captioning so I don't miss a word."
 

Sarah-Jane Peake, assistive technology trainer, Launchpad Assistive Technology

"Working one-to-one with students, I’ve had the privilege of seeing the wonderful impact technology can make to someone with a disability or specific learning disabilities. The confidence of being able to proof-read an essay using text-to-speech, the independence offered by voice recognition software that finally allows a student to fully express their ideas, or the relief felt by a student who has just discovered mind-mapping strategies that compliment the way they think. Technology is changing people’s lives."
 

Sean Douglas

Sean Douglas, founder of dyslexia podcast The Codpast

"There's masses of tech out there that allows people with disabilities to reach their full potential. Long gone are the days when assistive tech was cumbersome, expensive and specialist, now your smart phone can give you much of the help you need to deal with everyday tasks you may find difficult. "Surprisingly a lot of this assistive functionality is built into your phone's operating system or is available from third parties for free or for a small charge."

Georgina Eversfield Tanner, client of AbilityNet's ITCanHelp volunteering service

I've never had a computer before, but it's opened up a whole new world since my stroke. But I did say one day to Andy, my ITCanHelp volunteer from AbilityNet, 'what idiot put Angry Birds on there. There are so many of them and I'm absolutely hooked! Technology and AbilityNet has helped me tremendously to be in the modern world." See more of Georgina here in our video. 

Gareth Ford WIlliams is Head of Accessibility at BBC Design and Engineering

Gareth Ford Williams, Head of Accessibility, BBC Design and Engineering

“For many disabled people, a simple daily goal is to enjoy the same entertainment options. For video and TV that could mean captioning or audio descriptions, or using the text to speech features in their computer or phone to read out newspapers, magazines or blogs.”

Abbie Osborne, Assessor for AbilityNet

“Education is a vital way for disabled people to achieve their goals. I work with many students who face cognitive impairments such as dyslexia and dyspraxia, which make it difficult for them to organise their thoughts.

"Zotero is one of the most popular free tools I recommend. It takes the pain out of managing references when you’re working on essays and reports and integrates with Microsoft Word to use those references in whichever style you require. It works for Mac and PC, creates an alphabetical list of your sources (bibliography) and can keep track across multiple essays.”

Robin ChristophersonRobin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion, AbilityNet

“Technology helps everyone reach their full potential. Like nothing else on this planet, technology can embrace people’s differences and provide choice – choice to suit everyone and empower them to achieve their goals both at work and at play. On this day, please raise the cheer for technology and digital inclusion, wherever in the world you are.”

Morgan Lobb, Director, Diversity Jobs

“Assistive technology makes a real difference, without spellchecker I’d be doomed!”

Nicola Whitehill

Nicola Whitehill - founder of Facebook Group: Raynauds Scleroderma Awareness

“The internet is a lifeline for me. I'm under house arrest with Raynauds, but I still run a global community in my pyjamas!”

Nigel Lewis, CEO of AbilityNet

“Accessible technology can really help disabled people live their lives fuller, let’s all work together to make tech accessible and inclusive on this #idpd and always.”

Sarah Simcoe - chair of SEED Network, Fujitsu UK and Ireland

“Technology plays an important part in building an environment of accessibility and enablement – the use of tools, software and hardware in enabling disabled talent to fulfill their full potential is key to innovation and business growth.”

Hector Minto, Accessibility Evangelist, Microsoft

“There are so many things: Social media and the cloud's ability to connect us all and find people who can relate to our experience. Text communication and short messages are a great leveler. Images and video convey messages much more quickly. Twitter chats, blogs, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups all offer professionals with huge amounts of experience somewhere to share their knowledge. 

"It's all part of the Global Cloud for Good agenda - we need to understand Industrial Revolution 4.0 - the Internet of Things, and automation for example - and our place in it. We need a socially responsible cloud which improves life for everyone and leaves nobody behind.

"Finally I still think eyegaze as a direct control method needs to be tried first for people with physical access issues. The price is changing and the previously held view that it was only for those that had tried everything else is completely out of date but pervasive.”

Bela Gor is a Disability Legal Adviser at Business Disability ForumBela Gor, Disability Legal Adviser, Business Disability Forum

“In twenty years of disability discrimination legislation, the biggest change has been that what was once impossible or unreasonably difficult is now entirely possible - because of technology. Technology means that the way we all live and work has changed immeasurably and 'reasonable adjustments' for disabled people have become the ordinary way of life for everyone because of the technology on our desks, in our pockets and in our homes and workplaces.”

Kate Nash OBE, founder of PurpleSpace community of disability employee networks

"At PurpleSpace we are massive advocates of virtual networking and learning. While our members have a wide range of disabilities, the accessibility features built into smartphones, tablets and PCs mean that we can keep in touch and share career development opportunities on an equal level regardless of the different ways that we access technologies."

Ed Holland leads Driven MediaEdward Hollands, founder of Driven Media UK

“I use lots of assistance software to over come my spelling and grammar issues to look more professional as a founder. I don't write anything without Grammarly now. It's like having my own copywriter! Anyone who is dyslexic should definitely get it.”

How can AbilityNet help you make the most of tech?

AbilityNet staff gain national volunteer management qualification

AbilityNet staff have completed a national qualification in volunteer management to support their work with a network of over 8,000 volunteers with IT skills. This will help them support the continued growth of the volunteer network, who help meets the IT needs of charities and disabled people. Volunteer Administrator Josie Ray and Advice and Information Officer Alex Barker have both been awarded the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Certification.

“It made sense to study for this qualification as AbilityNet works closely with volunteers” said Alex. "We have a UK-wide team of volunteers who provide home visits for disabled people in the community. They are all CRB/Disclosure checked and can help with all kinds of technical issues, from installing broadband and removing viruses to setting up new software and backups. We also have a network of IT professionals who provide IT support to charities, including web design, databases and troubleshooting and helping to reduce costs and improve services. ”

Volunteering manager Anne Stafford said “It is important to AbilityNet that we deliver high standards & our volunteers are important members of our team. I am pleased that our staff have the opportunity to demonstrate their professionalism in volunteer engagement.”

More information:

Mind the Digital Gap: AbilityNet proposes new digital inclusion strategy

In our increasingly digital self-service economy technology now dominates shopping, entertainment, work and communication, as well as citizenship itself, but age and disability are barring people from full participation. Organisations like AbilityNet, Go ON UK and its disability focused partner, Go ON Gold, are making great strides to close the gap between the computer literate and the technologically disenfranchised, but the gulf is wider than that. 

AbilityNet’s new digital inclusion strategy ‘Mind the Digital Gap’ looks at the obstacles faced by the huge numbers of people who struggle to use digital technologies that are badly designed and just don't meet their needs. AbilityNet believes that we urgently need to recognise the social and economic costs of this digital gap, and identify clear actions to begin closing it.

Mind the Digital Gap logoThe strategy was launched at the House of Commons on 21 November at a reception hosted by Anne McGuire MP, Shadow Minister for Disabled People. It calls for better design practices through implementing user-focused testing at all stages of the design of digital systems (rather than relying on post-hoc accessibility checks).

AbilityNet urges those who commission and build online services, operating systems and digital devices (whether business, government or third sector) to put a user-centred approach at the heart of the design process. The strategy also proposes tax incentives to promote inclusive design, closer partnerships between business and other sectors and a commitment to embed inclusive design at all levels of professional design education.

AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis says it's time to change how we design and deliver inclusive digital systems:

"For too long the debate about accessibility has focused on issues that are specific to disabled people, but testing a website after it has been built, or pursuing legal action to ensure that every website includes alt-tags for people who use a screen reader, just isn't working.

“There is a much more important strategic issue at stake and we need a new approach that goes beyond what we currently think of as ‘Accessibility’. To close that gap, it’s imperative that business, government and the third sector work together."

AbilityNet patron and chair of Go ON UK Martha Lane Fox agrees and believes that in addition to making design practices more inclusive we need to focus equipping people with the skills they need to participate in the digital age:

"Both Go ON UK and AbilityNet are working on building digital skills to enable everyone to benefit as much as possible from available technology."

The full strategy is available for download on the AbilityNet website.

 

Anne McGuire MP and Nigel Lewis of AbilityNet at the launch of AbilityNet's Mind the Digital Gap, House of Commons, November 2012'

Shadow Minister for Disabled People Anne McGuire with AbilityNet CEO Nigel Lewis at the reception at the House of Commons.

See more pictures from the event on Flickr

What the data says: Provide accessibility and inclusion training for your staff

Group of approx 20 people sitting at work table in meeting roomAt the end of 2023 we announced the findings of our global Attitudes to Digital Accessibility survey 2023 and highlighted the results that showed organisations are largely falling into one of two categories: accessibility leaders and accessibility laggards.

Capibility – unstructured skills development

One of the aspects in which the survey discovered organisations are lagging behind is with training provision.

"Our accessibility teams are siloed and not coordinated centrally, with no central support for training" is one of the responses we received in response to the question 'Please describe in your own words the barriers you face in your role when delivering digital accessibility?'

Inconsistent or a lack of accessibility training means digital accessibility best practices are not embedded in the organisation from the ground up.

Wondering where your organisation needs development?

Help build a picture of your current accessibility strengths and weaknesses and identify a roadmap for next steps using AbilityNet's Digital Accessibility Maturity Model - DAMM.

Two women smiling looking at laptop in informal setting. Text reads: Attitudes to Digital Accessibility Survey 2023 results report. A global survey of 350+ Accessibility professionals and their alliesAnd in the past year, it appears organisations have some way to go with providing adequate digital accessibility and inclusion training to their employees.

When asked about skills development, fewer respondents in 2023 agreed with the statement ‘The organisation helps individuals to develop the skills they need to deliver its digital accessibility vision’ - 40% agreed strongly or slightly in 2023 compared to 46% in 2022.

Whilst 40% agreed that ‘The organisation helps individuals to develop the skills they need to deliver its digital accessibility vision’, 33% disagreed, and 20% neither agreed not disagreed and 7% did not know.

This outlines a clear gap in opportunities to boost employees' in-house expertise in digital accessibility and inclusion.

Why provide accessibility training?

    Digital accessibility is not just a moral imperative, it is also a business imperative. Organisations that prioritise accessibility are better positioned to succeed in the marketplace and boost their reputation with customers and other stakeholders.

    If your organisation is an accessibility laggard, it is time to take action. Choose from our variety of training options to fit your needs - from in-house training, online courses, eLearning and more:

    Book training for your team

    Watch our video (transcript available) to find out more about our training options, and learn what our clients including Texthelp say:

    Access the Attitudes to Digital Accessibility report 2023

    Download the survey report [PDF and Word versions available]

    Person standing in foreground of large informal group meeting, with arms folded and smile on faceFree webinar: Building Your Accessibility Capability: In-house Skills vs External Suppliers
    What are your options when you're building and enhancing your organisation's accessibility capability? Join us on Tuesday 19 March 2024, 1pm GMT to find out.

    Further resources:

    Want to learn about accessibility but have a limited budget?

    Pot of coins and a small money noteFor small businesses and charities, lack of staff time, budget and knowledge can make it hard to know where to start with digital accessibility.

    Don't worry, we have developed a training course to help approach accessibility in austerity, aimed at organisations of around 20 staff or fewer, that will teach you how to break barriers, not the bank: learn about achievable accessibility solutions for small organisations with limited resources and budgets.

    When is the course running?

    Join us on Wednesday 20 March 2024 from 13:00 to 14:30 GMT for Accessibility on a Shoestring: Accessibility for smaller organisations, a live session with one of our experienced digital accessibility experts.

    Jess Cahill will outline the key aspects of digital accessibility including procurement, accessible content, usability testing, and finance and management.

    Learn how to make the most impact with limited resources and pick up the basic principles of digital accessibility:

     

    Book for Accessibility on a Shoestring

     

    Can't make it or are you interested in sharing accessibility knowledge with your whole team? If you would like to run this course with more than 8 staff in-house, then speak to our experts.

    About your trainer

    Jess Cahill, with graphic 'Accessibility on a Shoestring': Accessibility for Smaller OrganisationsYour course trainer Jess Cahill is an Accessibility & Usability Consultant with AbilityNet. Her professional background includes web product and project roles, content design and UX research, in both charity and private sectors, including in the disability field. 

    Suitable for all levels of knowledge, in the session you'll learn about what to consider when making procurement decisions and choosing products, creating accessible content on your website, and making social media posts and documents.

    You'll also find out how to test with real users, and how to manage and fund accessibility, as well as learning about free tools and resources available.

    Who will benefit from this training?

    Communications officers, website managers, digital officers and general managers in small organisations with responsibility for websites, social media, documents or internal policy will find the information valuable.

    Get even better value with a 10 for 8 training bundle
    Our 2024 training bundle offers you a great-value way to learn the latest best practices for creating accessible and inclusive products, services, and experiences.

    Training brochure cover Accessibility and Workplace Inclusion Training Course Catalogue 2024 - three women on the cover smiling in a work settingDownload your training brochure

    You can also download a training brochure to browse what other accessibility and inclusion courses are available, and share with your team. 

    What previous attendees say about AbilityNet training courses

    “Another excellent training session from AbilityNet. The training was incredibly informative and has given me a lot of practical knowledge that I now feel confident in applying to my work... The course included so much information and detailed examples, having the recording to refer to will be really useful. I would highly recommend this course for anyone who works with PDF content! [Five stars]” - Louise Rutledge, Digital Comms Officer at Samaritans

    Free webinar: Building Your Accessibility Capability: In-house Skills vs External Suppliers
    What are your options when you're building and enhancing your organisation's accessibility capability? Tuesday 19 March 2024, 1pm GMT

    "As a national charity, it’s vital that we reach as many people as possible. AbilityNet’s training courses are clear, modern, understandable, and supports us in reaching our goal of becoming more accessible. It is obvious that AbilityNet is driven by passion and dedication to accessibility – and that is infectious." - Ellie Lundberg, Women’s Aid

    Find out more about AbilityNet's affordable, high-quality range of online courses, bespoke training, and online learning tools to help you build your skills in accessibility and inclusive design.

    Want to train a large group of staff? 
    Explore AbilityNet's range of live training courses, designed to strengthen your skills in fostering inclusivity and accessibility while also advancing your professional growth.
    We offer group training and eLearning options too. Have a chat with our experts for help with your project.

    Further resources 

    AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people. If you can afford it, please donate to help us support older and disabled people through technology

    3 tips for designing user research for neurodivergent testers

    Imagine conducting user testing that accidentally excludes 1 in 7 people - and what's worse, you don't even know you've done it.

    Sadly this scenario is all too common, especially when it comes to neurodivergent individuals. In the pursuit of inclusivity, it's not just about finding and involving diverse participants in your research process, you also need to make sure your research methods cater to their unique needs.

    As one of AbilityNet's user research experts, I delivered a talk at TechShare Pro 2023 about designing user research for neurodivergent users.

    This is a quick summary of my top three tips - you can get a lot more insight by watching the full session below.

    1. Likert Scales: More Than Just Numbersa questionnaire with several options from disagree to agree and a check box to indicate agreement with the question

    Likert scales, commonly used in research surveys, often pose challenges for neurodivergent individuals.

    Ambiguity surrounds the meaning behind each number, making it difficult for participants to provide accurate responses. To address this, consider labelling the Likert scale with clear descriptors for each number.

    It's also a good idea to include an open-box option for further comments, allowing participants to express their experiences beyond the limitations of predefined choices.

    2. Clear, Unambiguous, and Specific Language

    The language used in research questions might seem clear to researchers, but it can be overly broad and ambiguous for participants.

    The 'Double Empathy Problem' emphasises the miscommunications that arise when neurodivergent individuals interact with non-neurodivergent individuals. To overcome this, ensure questions are framed with clarity, avoiding vague prompts like "Tell me about yourself?" Instead, use precise language to prevent information overload or overwhelming responses.

    3. Tools for Expression: Going Beyond Words

    The condition of alexithymia, prevalent among neurodivergent individuals, makes it challenging to articulate emotions through language.Graphic of a person using a computer with a webpage displaying an 'x', tick and question mark

    Traditional questions like "How are you feeling?" may not yield accurate responses.

    You can overcome this by providing alternative mediums for communication, such as art or descriptions of mental images and physical sensations. Avoid limiting emotional expression to a predefined set of options - and make sure you allow participants the time they need to respond authentically.

    Inclusive user testing for neurodivergent users

    Inclusive user research isn't just about ticking boxes; it's about redefining your approach to gathering data.

    By acknowledging the unique needs of neurodivergent individuals, you can create research practices that truly represent the diversity of experiences.

    As you embark on your next research project, remember to provide context for Likert scales, use clear language, and offer diverse tools for expression. Only then can your research be genuinely inclusive, beneficial, and ultimately, better for your business.

    If you're interested in putting disabled individuals at the heart of your project through User Research, explore AbilityNet’s User Research service. 

    Enquire about our user testing service

    Learn more about user testing 

    Watch the full recording from TechShare Pro below. 

    Martha Lane-Fox our patron takes on the Peaks 

    Martha Lane-Fox in training walking up a hill with a tree in the distanceWe are delighted that our patron Martha Lane-Fox has chosen to support AbilityNet, as one of her four charities to raise money for as she takes on the Three Peaks Challenge later this year.

    Martha, who suffered a stroke and broke 26 bones in a life-changing car crash in 2004, is setting out to conquer the three highest peaks in the UK.

    Twenty years on from her accident she is taking on the physically demanding Three Peaks Challenge, climbing Snowden on April 20th, Scafell Pike on May 5th and Ben Nevis on September 7th. You can find more details on her Martha's Mountain Mayhem external fundraising page. 

    Martha will not be alone on during this mountain marathon as her two seven year old boys will be joining her. Can you support their amazing challenge?

    Donate to Martha's fundraiser

    About Martha's chosen charities

    "I also want to raise a serious amount of money for four charities all of which are linked to my story," says Martha on her fundraising page.

    "Firstly, dayonetrauma.org who help people navigate the recovery from extreme physical trauma. I had advocates in my family and amongst my friends for every step of my 47 operations but many do not and it is overwhelming. They are building an amazing support network of peers, but the need is enormous and they want to expand into every major trauma centre in the UK.

    "Secondly, Iamthecode.org who train girls in refugee camps with computer science and digital skills. If I had not be fortunate enough to be involved in the early days of e-commerce, I would not have had the resources to find the best care both at home and in hospital. These girls may never leave the camps, but at least they have more opportunity to get work through new skills. IATC wants to have trained 1m girls by 2030.

    "Thirdly, AbilityNet who work to help everyone use digital services, particularly people with disabilities.
    I am proud Patron of the above 3 amazing charities."

    Martha is also supporting Horatio's Garden. "This charity helps patients with severe spinal cord injuries enjoy outside visits and beautiful gardens. I broke 28 bones in the crash and had a stroke. Many of these patients broke none at all and yet will never walk or stand. Access to nature is a relief and a tonic."

    "Please help me to help these different charities, all of whom plug vital holes in different systems of care," says Martha.

    Martha's role with AbilityNet

    Martha Lane-Fox texting with her noseIn 2011, Martha Lane Fox (Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho) became our patron. She has also taken part in our Look No Hands campaign, alongside Stephen Fry. The campaign, in 2013, involved texting with one's nose, to show how challenging technology can be to some disabled people. About the campaign, Martha said:

    “Just think about how many texts you’ve already sent today. Have you ever considered how challenging such daily tasks would be if you couldn’t use your hands? This is reality for many disabled people. And that’s why AbilityNet is asking people to... support AbilityNet’s free services for disabled people.”

    Martha also won our Tech4Good Special Award in 2023.

    Older man and woman smiling looking at laptopFree webinar: Digital discovery: your guide to the online world with BT Group and Amazon

    Enjoy a digitally connected life in your guide to becoming tech savvy in your senior years - or at any age. Learn about how digital devices can help, not hinder, your life experiences, including using Amazon Alexa and Echo devices.

    If you work for an organisation that helps older people, the resources we share in the webinar can also be used to help clients you support, so bring along a group!

    Join a FREE webinar on Wednesday 28 February 2024 between 1pm - 2pm GMT.


    Register for the webinar

    How you can support AbilityNet

    As a charity that offers support to disabled and older people and aims to make the digital world accessible to all, we are delighted Martha has chosen to support AbilityNet.

    Our valued network of 450+ volunteers help disabled people and older people across the UK to learn how technology can help them, and make the most out of the digital world.

    Could you become an AbilityNet Tech Volunteer?

    We're always keen to welcome new tech volunteers to AbilityNet's IT Support at Home service. If you're reading this and would like to get involved, please get in contact.

    Become an AbilityNet volunteer

    Find out more about how you can donate to AbilityNet.

    AbilityNet in partnership with BT Group logoAbilityNet's Digital Skills project with BT Group is supporting people 65+ with getting online and using technology, such as:

    - learning how to use email
    - make video calls
    - use online banking and book medical appointments

    Sign up for Free BT Digital Skills sessions for people over 65 in your area. (Available to people in and around London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff.)

    Further resources

    Free disabilities sessions: educate your group about disability and technology via our sessions which we can deliver to your organisation.

    AbilityNet also offers workplace training: choose from a selection of online learning options for you and your team.

    How AbilityNet can Help

    How does WCAG 2.2 support disabled users?

    When navigating the new Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.2 updates, it's important not to just focus on meeting compliance, but to reflect on how it impacts your very real users. To achieve this, combining WCAG 2.2 standards with user testing is key. This way, you can ensure that your website and digital content not only meet the standards, but also genuinely cater to the needs of real users.

    In this blog post, we'll delve into the recent updates in WCAG 2.2 and discuss how these changes can significantly impact the lives of users, focussing on the lived experiences of disabled individuals. 

    What is WCAG?

    WCAG, or the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, serves as a benchmark for making digital content accessible to a diverse audience. With its four principles - perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust - WCAG sets standards that cater to various disabilities and technologies.

    The guidelines have evolved over the years, with the recent release of WCAG 2.2 addressing a new range of new challenges faced by users. 

    Two women sitting at desk looking at laptopNeed training for you or your team about WCAG 2.2?
    Come to our WCAG 2.2 course: The Essential Guide to WCAG 2.2

    Crack the code of WCAG 2.2 for developers, designers and all those who need to meet web accessibility standards.

    To help explain some of the WCAG 2.2 success criterion updates and how it affects disabled users, let’s meet Jordan and Kirsty. 

    Jordan: Physical and cognitive disabilities and WCAG A man smiling at the camera while three people behind are preparing food

    Jordan is a retired headmaster living with Parkinson's disease. Parkinson’s affects movement, causing tremors and affecting attention and executive functioning skills.

    Jordan’s tremors lead to frequent mistakes and miss-clicks using the mouse, so he uses the keyboard to navigate websites. His attention span is affected by Parkinson's, which makes it difficult to spot and correct typing errors and complicating routines. It takes a lot of energy to type for Jordan, and if he uses a lot of energy, the symptoms of his Parkinson's disease will be more pronounced later in the day. He prefers to use a tablet, but there are obstacles such as inaccessible password managers preventing him from logging into a variety of different tools. He will often have to resort to asking family for help which affects his sense of value self-esteem.  

    Kirsty: Neurodiversity and WCAG A woman smiling at the camera, behind her are two computer screens displaying code

    Kirsty is a computer science master's graduate with ADHD and dyslexia.

    Kirsty experiences emotional dysregulation and concentration difficulties. Although she spends a lot of time building assistive technology for people with a broad range of conditions, inaccessible digital content can still result in causing her emotional dysregulation which in turn affects her executive functions including memory and attention.

    So, Kirsty can end up miss-clicking buttons, and become emotionally and cognitively drained, which affects her other activities throughout the day.

    As we explore their experiences, we'll see how WCAG 2.2 guidelines can positively impact their interactions with digital content. 

    WCAG 2.2 Guidelines in Action 

    2.4.11 Focus Not Obscured (Minimum) and 2.4.12 Focus Not Obscured (Enhanced) 

    The Focus Not Obscured success criteria aim to enhance web accessibility for sighted users who rely on keyboard navigation, by ensuring that no interactive component or its focus indicator is partially or fully obscured by other content on the page. Graphic of a keyboard

    Jordan started to use the keyboard a lot more rather than the mouse because of the physical effects of his Parkinson's. Kirsty uses keyboard shortcuts a lot because it helps her to concentrate and focus on a task. 

    So, for users like Jordan and Kirsty who rely on keyboard navigation, having a clear focus is crucial. Guidelines ensuring that focused elements are not obscured by overlays or banners contribute significantly to a smoother user experience.  

    2.4.13 Focus Appearance 

    The Focus Appearance success criterion makes it easier to spot the keyboard focus by using a focus indicator of sufficient size and contrast.

    The width and colour contrast of the focus indicator become vital for users like Kirsty, with a shorter attention span. Ensuring a noticeable focus appearance aid in navigating digital interfaces seamlessly. 

    2.5.7 Dragging Movements and 2.5.8 Target Size (Minimum) Four arrows pointing in different directions

    Considering the physical challenges Jordan faces due to Parkinson's, the Dragging Movements criterion helps as it ensures ana single pointer alternative for functions requiring dragging movements.

    The minimum target size set by the Target Size criterion make it easier to avoid accidentally clicking on the wrong button ensuring a more frustration-free experience. 

    3.3.7 Redundant Entry and 3.3.8 Accessible Authentication (Minimum) 

    The Redundant Entry criterion reduces frustration and physical strain by allowing users to avoid repetitive data input. The Accessible Authentication criterion means individuals are not required to memorise their details, transcribe passwords, or complete other types of cognitive tests to authenticate their identity or similar details.

    Both criteria provide support for those with cognitive impairments or neurodivergence like Kirsty, who may struggle with memory-related tasks. 

    3.2.6 Consistent Help 

    The introduction of the Consistent Help criterion ensure consistent placement of help mechanisms across web pages, benefiting both Jordan and Kirsty, enabling them to find assistance easily and reducing the mental effort required to navigate through various sections. 

    WCAG 2.2’s impact on disabled people 

    Implementing WCAG 2.2 translates into tangible benefits for users like Jordan and Kirsty. Reducing redundant entries and ensuring accessible authentication empower them to use technology more independently.

    Clear focus, larger target sizes, and consistent help placements alleviate frustration, making day-to-day activities less exhausting.

    Each criterion plays a crucial role in addressing specific challenges faced by a wide variety of users. 

    WCAG 2.2 and user testing 

    By implementing these guidelines and conducting user testing, researchers can uncover nuanced experiences and barriers, enriching their findings. This approach provides a more holistic understanding of user interactions, ensuring that accessibility is not just an abstract concept, but a tangible improvement in the lives of your users.A checklist icon with a person sitting at a desk with a clipboard in front of them

    WCAG 2.2 goes beyond a checklist; it has a tangible impact on individuals like Jordan and Kirsty, enhancing their digital experiences.

    By seamlessly integrating accessibility and usability, you can move closer to a gold standard where technology empowers users, fostering confidence and independence. 

    Learn more about user testing 

    Ready to conduct successful inclusive user testing?

    We make sure that you ask the right people the right questions at the right time and make the best use of their feedback. Find out how to get the most from your user research budget.

    Enquire about our user testing service

     

    This blog is a loose transcription of our expert accessibility consultants Ashley Peacock and Claire Poste’s TechShare Pro 2023 Lunch and Learn recording about Humanising WCAG 2.2. Watch the full recording below. 

    Congratulations on 20 years volunteering with AbilityNet!

    Mick Simmons sitting on armchair with desk showing framed certificate alongside himMick Simmons, has been providing valuable free IT support to older people and disabled people of any age in his Reading region for TWENTY YEARS, as part of our free IT Support at Home service (also available online)!

    Asked about his experience as an AbilityNet Tech Volunteer over the past 20 years, Mick said: "Technology over the last 20 years has changed dramatically and has brought new challenges. But there are fun moments and volunteering is always rewarding."

    We want to say a hearty congratulations and thank you to Mick for all his hard work and support for people in his area. What a magnificent achievement.

    Why volunteer with AbilityNet?

    We're always keen to welcome new tech volunteers to AbilityNet's IT Support at Home service. If you're reading this and would like to get involved, please get in contact.

    Some recent comments from clients who have been supported:

    • “Incredible help from someone who really knows what he is doing. Nothing was too much trouble.”
    • “I was really impressed, Alfie was so quick and helped us so much. We can't thank you enough.” 
    • “My tutor was cheerful, encouraging and intuitive, sensing I was extremely nervous and lacking in confidence.” 
    • “Your colleague was polite, knowledgeable, and very patient. She explained several things to me with good humour. I am enormously grateful for this help." 

    Become an AbilityNet volunteer

     

    Illustration showing three people with information bubbles outlining key data. Text reads Who we have helped and how: Individuals. 1,699,021 online, 3,533 people at home, 1,131 people in groups, 2,867 employeesHighlighting AbilityNet's impact 2023

    Key facts from our Impact Report 2023

    Our impact on individuals:

    • 95% Customer satisfaction
    • 81% better able to use technology
    • 77% easier to manage day to day life
    • 59% greater participation in new activities
    • 85% more knowledgeable
    • 85% increased confidence
    • 76% more independent
    • 75% less stressed
    • 70% less isolated

    “I was in a desperate mess with my IT, I found the service very supportive, extremely patient and ongoing tailored to my needs. It is good to know there is help out there.” - Client who received free technology support

    How AbilityNet can help

    AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people, and their carers.

    Pages