AbilityNet Factsheet - March 2024

Communication Aids

Communication problems affect an estimated 2.2 million people. 

This includes people with aphasia, autism, cerebral palsy, dementia, head trauma, learning difficulties, motor neurone disease (MND), Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and stroke.

People with these conditions may have difficulty speaking or understanding what is being said. This barrier can affect every aspect of daily life.

A large variety of communication aids are available to help people communicate more effectively.

Useful aids include ‘no-tech’ E-Tran frames (a means of using eye-pointing as a way of communicating through pictures, symbols, letters, number and words), and computer-aided communication using dedicated input methods, and dedicated AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) tools. 

This factsheet outlines your options when selecting an electronic aid to make it clearer and quicker to communicate.

AAC (‘augmentative and alternative communication’) aids can be a purpose-built device or a standard computer, tablet or smartphone running specialist software or apps.

Many people combine these high-tech aids with other forms of non-verbal communication, including gestures, facial expression, pictures and signing.

Everyone’s communication support needs are different and selecting the right communication aids for an individual will depend on their particular needs, personal preferences and abilities.

With so many aids to choose from, we emphasise the importance of seeking a comprehensive assessment by a speech and language therapist. This will ensure that all the important factors are considered – including the individual's motor, visual, cognitive, language and communication strengths and weaknesses. The therapist can also make a referral to a specialist communication aid centre if necessary.

Communication is a two-way process and it is very helpful to include family members and carers in an assessment.

Ongoing training and support can also help to ensure the success of the selected aid(s). Additionally, with the cost involved, it makes great sense to have a free trial before committing to the purchase of any expensive communication aid. 

Last updated: March 2024

Communication problems affect an estimated 2.2 million people.  This includes people with aphasia, autism, cerebral palsy, dementia, head trauma, learning difficulties, motor neurone disease (MND), Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and stroke. People with these conditions may have difficulty speaking or understanding what is being said. This barrier can affect every aspect of daily life. A large variety of communication aids are available to help people communicate more effectively. Useful aids include ‘no-tech’ E-Tran frames (a means of using eye-pointing as a way of communicating through pictures, symbols, letters, number and words), and computer-aided communication using dedicated input methods, and dedicated AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) tools.  This factsheet outlines your options when selecting an electronic aid to make it clearer and quicker to communicate. AAC (‘augmentative and alternative communication’) aids can be a purpose-built device or a standard computer, tablet or smartphone running specialist software or apps. Many people combine these high-tech aids with other forms of non-verbal communication, including gestures, facial expression, pictures and signing. Everyone’s communication support needs are different and selecting the right communication aids for an individual will depend on their particular needs, personal preferences and abilities. With so many aids to choose from, we emphasise the importance of seeking a comprehensive assessment by a speech and language therapist. This will ensure that all the important factors are considered – including the individual's motor, visual, cognitive, language and communication strengths and weaknesses. The therapist can also make a referral to a specialist communication aid centre if necessary. Communication is a two-way process and it is very helpful to include family members and carers in an assessment. Ongoing training and support can also help to ensure the success of the selected aid(s). Additionally, with the cost involved, it makes great sense to have a free trial before committing to the purchase of any expensive communication aid. 
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AbilityNet Factsheet - March 2024

How technology can support with symptoms of Long Covid

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), millions of people in the UK are thought to be suffering from Long Covid. These are symptoms of Covid-19 that persist for longer than four weeks. Long Covid symptoms may make it harder to work with technology. However, you can make adjustments that will help, and tech can also make it easier to work despite Long Covid.

Last updated: March 2024

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), millions of people in the UK are thought to be suffering from Long Covid. These are symptoms of Covid-19 that persist for longer than four weeks. Long Covid symptoms may make it harder to work with technology. However, you can make adjustments that will help, and tech can also make it easier to work despite Long Covid.
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How to embrace autism, dyslexia, and neurodivergence in the workplace and higher education

We live in a neurodiverse population, which consists of both neurodivergent and neurotypical individuals. Types of cognitive differences and neurodivergent conditions include Autism, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyspraxia and Tourette Syndrome.

In support of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, we are sharing a range of resources that will educate and help you embrace neurodiversity at work, at home, or in the classroom.

How to support people with neurodiversity in the workplace

By exploring the lived experiences of neurodivergent individuals, understanding neurodiverse differences people experience, and recognising the impact of unintentional barriers, you can better understand how to support neurodivergent individuals in the workplace.

Gain valuable insights from AbilityNet's Accessibility and Usability Consultants Rina Wharton and Ashley Peacock, who shared their lived experiences of neurodiversity at TechShare Pro 2022. Watch the video recording below.

Disability awareness training for your team

Don't Disable Me is AbilityNet's series of training courses that introduce people with a disability who explain their experience of trying to be productive in the workplace. The courses focus on visual, hearing, physical, mental health and neurodiversity barriers.

Contact us about booking in-house training for your team


The AbilityNet Podcast logo. Text displays: The AbilityNet Podcast. Disability. Technology. Inclusion.For additional insights on embracing neurodiversity in the workplace, tune in to an episode of the AbilityNet Podcast where Robin Christopherson talks to Matthew Bellringer. They explore the significance of neurodiversity within the workplace and share strategies for fostering an inclusive culture. Access the full conversation on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can also download a text transcript of the episode.

How tech can help people living with Autism 

Autism "affects how a person communicates with and relates to other people, and how they experience the world around them" (National Autistic Society, June 2020). Technology offers a great deal of support and independence to autistic people. You can find out more in our Autism and Computing Factsheet (also available as an Easy Read download).

Tech tools for Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a neurodivergent learning difference that can affect reading and writing. It affects approximately 10% of the UK population according to the British Dyslexia Association.

From a webinar with the British Dyslexia Association, AbilityNet's Rina Wharton shared her thoughts about different Dyslexia simulators and what might help if you have dyslexia. 

For more resources to help people with dyslexia, visit our dedicated dyslexia and technology resource webpage.

Addressing Autism, Dyslexia, and neurodivergence in education and work

Profile images of Rob Howe, Jennie Dettmer and Teresa LoftusLearn from a webinar we hosted with University of Northampton and the University of Bedfordshire, on how to make accessibility improvements for students and staff with neurodivergent conditions including Autism, Asperger's, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Tourette Syndrome and Synaesthesia.

AbilityNet's Teresa Loftus, discussed the Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) support available for neurodivergent students.She highlighted the issues some disabled people may face in the transition from education to work, including reasonable adjustments that may need to be provided, and how AbilityNet can help employers through its eLearning tools. 

Useful resources for neurodiversity 

  • AbilityNet offers affordable high-quality online training courses to help you build skills in accessibility and inclusive design
  • Our free online tool My Computer My Way is a great way to see how you can adapt a device to make it easier to use. 

Bitesize Basics digital skills videos

AbilityNet, in partnership with BT Group logoWould you, or someone you know, like to know more about how the online world enhance your life? A fresh range of short instructional videos aimed at boosting digital skills among older people will help.

AbilityNet and telecommunications company BT Group are working in partnership to help improve the digital skills of older and digitally excluded people across the UK. 

As part of this project we are sharing simple digital tips in a new range of 'Bitesize Basics' videos, specifically designed to share step by step, straightforward digital advice with people over 65.

Topics covered in the Bitesize Basics videos

  1. Staying Safer Online 
  2. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a Nutshell 
  3. Introduction to the Internet 
  4. How to shop online 
  5. Emergency Contacts 

More videos will be added to the series soon, and you can view them all on the playlist on AbilityNet's YouTube channel.

Learn at your leisure

AbilityNet staff and volunteers have already been sharing their skills across the UK at a series of in-person workshops, but the videos enable the learning to expand beyond the towns covered in the project.

Rob Mclean smiling outside"We understand that not everyone can attend a workshop, so these easy to watch up to 10-minute formats offer a great way to watch and practice digital skills at your pace in the comfort of your own home or with friends in a group," says Rob McLean, Digital Inclusion Programme Officer at AbilityNet.

"Older people often face unique challenges when navigating the digital world, from learning new technologies to understanding internet safety. The short duration of these videos reflect a more relaxed learning pace, making digital education less daunting and more accessible," Rob advises.

Watch the AI in a Nutshell video:

Some of the feedback from older people who have benefited from boosting digital skills:

"At 93 your service was and is of great help to me and my generation. My thanks and keep the good work going"
"I was so impressed with the trainer, who listened and really helped a lot"
"I am happy with the trainer he's very explanatory and calm, willing to teach"
"Fun way of learning essential functions"

 

Access the video transcripts

  1. Download the transcript for Staying Safer Online video [Word]
  2. Download the transcript for AI in a Nutshell video [Word]
  3. Download the transcript for Introduction to the Internet video [Word]
  4. Download the transcript for How to shop online [Word]
  5. Download the transcript for Emergency Contacts video [Word]

Bitesize Basics: How to shop online. Graphic of a hand holding mobile phone and AbilityNet and BT Group logosEach video focuses on key topics, from basic computer use to staying safer online, ensuring that learners receive targeted information without feeling overwhelmed.

This approach empowers fostering independence and confidence in using technology to stay connected, and enables more people to learn how to manage health information, and access essential services.

If you work in an organisation with clients who could benefit from learning about the digital world, please share the videos with them.
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

Factsheets: How to boost your online skills

Blog: 12 scams to be aware of and how to avoid them

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

Workplace training: choose from a selection of online learning options for you and your team.

How AbilityNet can Help

Unlock the power of AI for a more inclusive world: Free Webinar!

robot sitting on a benchDo you or someone you know live with a disability?

Join us for a FREE webinar packed with inspiring stories and practical tools on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing lives for the better!

On Wednesday, 17 April 2024, from 1-2pm BST, we'll be joined by AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion, Robin Christopherson MBE and special guests, including the Headway brain injury association.

Logo for Headway The Brain Injury Association - graphic showing a head with hands around itIn the How can AI help disabled people? webinar, we will:

  • Uncover the secrets of AI: Learn how AI can make everyday tasks easier, from voice-controlled smart homes to cutting-edge prosthetics.
  • Discover game-changing assistive technologies: Explore how AI is breaking down communication barriers and promoting independence.
  • Be empowered by real-life stories: Hear first hand from disabled people about the power of AI to create a more accessible future for all.
  • Gain insider knowledge: Get insights on the future of inclusive AI, with contributions from the Headway brain injury association about how AI is transforming the lives of people with brain injuries. More guests TBC.

This webinar is for you if you're disabled or work with someone who is disabled, or if you're simply curious about how AI can improve lives.

Register now

All those who register for the session will receive the recording after broadcast, so do sign up even if you can't make it on the day.

robin christopherson sitting at deskAbout Robin Christopherson MBE

A leading light in accessibility, Robin will share his personal experience with sight loss and how technology empowers him every day.

Robin's own experience of sight-loss gives him a first-hand experience of the power of digital tech to transform people's lives - and he loves nothing more than showing people how he uses computers, the internet, his phone, Amazon Alexa and many other technologies as part of his daily life.

Bring a friend, relative or client

Offering this free webinar is one of the ways in which we're trying to help bridge the digital divide, so to reach more people you could both sign up for yourself but also bring along a community group to learn together and share the advice.

If you work in an organisation with clients who could benefit from learning about the digital world, please do share this session and encourage them to sign up or show them how the Zoom webinar process works. It's also a great session for organisations who provide digital inclusion support to service users. 

Bring a group to the webinar

 

AbilityNet in partnership with BT Group logoAbilityNet is working with BT Group to support 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

Factsheets: Easy Read versions of free disability and technology factsheets now available

Blog: 12 scams to be aware of and how to avoid them

Workplace training: choose from a selection of online learning options for you and your team.

How AbilityNet can Help

Inspirational women leading the charge in inclusion and accessibility

As we celebrate International Women's Day 2024 with the theme #InspireInclusion, AbilityNet stands firm in its commitment to a digital world that embraces diversity and accessibility for all. 

In this blog, we shine a spotlight on some of the inspiring women who have emerged as leaders in the realm of inclusion and accessibility. 

These remarkable individuals have not only spoken at our annual TechShare Pro conferences and participated in enlightening webinars, but have also collaborated with us as valued partners. A collage of 20 influential women in the accessibility and inclusion realm.

To make it even easier for you to engage with these remarkable women, we've included their LinkedIn profiles. 

Today, and every day, we celebrate their contributions to a more accessible and inclusive digital world. Let the inspiration unfold! 

Women who are leading from the top

It takes strong leadership to drive a diversity and inclusion culture and ensure accessibility is at a company's heart. We celebrate women and the top, helping to drive the D&I agenda. 

A head shot of Caroline CaseyCaroline Casey, co-founder of The Valuable 500 

Change starts at the top, believes Caroline Casey, the founder of The Valuable 500, an organisation she founded to put disability on the business leadership agenda of 500 national and multinational, private sector corporations. 

Dedicated to driving change through business for the 1.3 billion disabled people worldwide, Caroline has established multiple organisations and initiatives over the past two decades, all focused on promoting inclusion in the business landscape for disabled individuals. 

Caroline joined us at TechShare Pro 2021 to talk about the next steps to build a "murmuration" of support with other organisations and groups. Check out our blog on her talk.

 

Profile image of Irene Mbari-Kirika smiling.Irene Mbari-Kirika, Executive Director of inABLE

Irene Mbari-Kirika is the founder and executive director of inABLE, a not-for-profit organisation working in Kenya to bring computer assistive technology to disabled students in Africa.

To date, inABLE has established eight assistive technology computer labs, hired and trained 20 assistive technology computer instructors, and enrolled over 12,000 blind and visually impaired students.

As well as a dynamic, global strategic leader and an executive-level innovator, Irene also shares her insights and experience at accessibility and inclusion events; she spoke at TechShare Pro 2023 on the Accessibility Leaders Panel, reflecting on what the future holds for accessibility.


Profile image of Christina Mallon smiling.Christina Mallon, Principal Director of Inclusive Design of Microsoft 

Christina Mallon is the Principal Director of Inclusive Design at Microsoft. Christina is dedicated to creating technology that empowers marginalised communities.

Christina serves as a board member for Inclusively and Open Style Lab, founded at MIT. Her focus at Microsoft involves integrating responsible AI and accessibility into products, showcasing her commitment to universal inclusivity within the tech industry.

 

Profile image of Amy Low smiling to camera.Amy Low, Chief Operating Officer at AbilityNet

Amy Low is AbilityNet’s Chief Operating Officer. With more than 25 years of experience in leadership and transformation roles, she heads up AbilityNet’s expert accessibility services, workplace, education, and free services teams.

Passionate about leveraging technology to remove barriers, she ensures digital practices meet the needs of all. She works with a wide range of institutions and organisations providing services and support to ensure their digital practices are meeting the needs of the widest audience.    

Beyond her operational role, Amy actively participates in events related to accessibility and higher education. She shares insights on why inclusion is essential for the success of every workplace and advocates for the benefits of building more accessible work environments.

Amy was a speaker at TechShare Pro 2023, discussing the business case for accessibility.

 

Profile image of Carolanne Minashi smiling Carolanne Minashi, Global Head of Inclusion at HSBC 

Carolanne Minashi is a renowned diversity and inclusion expert with a track record of making an impact. Carolanne joined HSBC in April 2021 and passionately drives real change through her work, covering a broad spectrum including disability, mental health, gender, LGBTQ+, race, and ethnicity.

She is a member of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School, and in 2019, she joined the European Advisory Board for Catalyst, an organisation focused on accelerating female progression in the workplace. 

Carolanne spoke at TechShare Pro 2023 on Empowering the C-Suite: Overcoming Fears and Embracing Disability Inclusion.

 

Profile image of Kate Nash smiling to cameraKate Nash OBE, CEO and Creator of PurpleSpace

Kate Nash OBE, is the founding CEO of PurpleSpace, a leadership development network for disability employee resource groups (ERGs). 

Kate introduced 'Networkology,' a unique disability ERG change model that blends the art and science of creating high-performing disability ERGs. This leadership approach equips ERG leaders with the skills to address significant barriers to internal change, known as 'human resisters.' 

In 2023, Kate Nash authored the Confidence Conversation series of guides. These guides aim to assist employees with disabilities in building inner confidence, marking a significant step towards fostering a more inclusive workplace. 


Profile image of Preety Kumar smilingPreety Kumar, CEO, Founder, and Board Member of Deque Systems 

Preety Kumar is the CEO, Founder, and Board Member of Deque Systems, a leading force in the tech industry. As a visionary leader, she also contributed to industry standards through collaboration with the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative. Preety is a nominated member of the Accessibility Forum's Strategic Management Council, where she works to foster information accessibility through cooperative efforts.

Read about our partnership with Deque to hep build a stronger accessibility community across the globe.

Influential women empowering disabled voices

We explore women making sure that digital accessibility stays top of the accessibility agenda.

Profile image of Jenny Lay-Flurrie smilingJenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer at Microsoft

Digital accessibility has “never been more important,"  according to Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer for Microsoft. She shared how and why Microsoft is putting digital accessibility first at TechShare Pro 2020. 

Jenny leads Microsoft's efforts on accessibility and disability inclusion. Driving a sustained ecosystem of accessibility across the tech giant’s products, services, and processes that empower customers and employees 

You can hear Jenny in conversation as part of our Accessibility Insights series.

 

Profile image of Zoe Portlock smilingZoe Portlock, Accessibility Lead at Hargreaves Lansdown 

Zoe Portlock serves as the Accessibility Lead at Hargreaves Lansdown (HL). 

Drawing from her lived experience and professional background, she writes articles and provides consultations on Digital Accessibility. 

Zoe, a passionate advocate for individuals with accessibility needs, is determined to guarantee that everyone enjoys the equal digital experiences they deserve. She actively contributes to our round table events, emphasising the importance of inclusivity in digital spaces. 

Zoe will be joining our upcoming webinar on Building Your Accessibility Capability: In-house Skills vs. External Suppliers on 19 March at 1pm GMT. Register your place for the free webinar

 

Profile image of Sumaira Latif smilingSumaira Latif, Company Accessibility Leader at Procter & Gamble 

“When we design inclusively, we're designing so that everyone is delighted with the same product,” says Sumaria Latif, Procter & Gamble’s Company Accessibility Leader. 

In her 22 years at Procter & Gamble (P&G), Sumaira has worked on some of the most impactful examples of accessible product designs. She is committed to creating a more inclusive world for everyone, both inside and outside of P&G.

 

Profile image of Ashley Peacock smilingAshley Peacock, Senior Accessibility Consultant at AbilityNet 

Ashley Peacock is a Senior Accessibility Consultant at AbilityNet, driving inclusive user research processes and mentoring team members. Her expertise extends to project management, relationship building with partners, and contributing to business strategy alongside the head of sales.

Ashley has revamped training workshops and led efforts to audit and comply with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines standards, showcasing her commitment to digital inclusivity and contributing to AbilityNet's vision of making a digital world accessible to all. 

With a wealth of experience spanning nearly 15 years, Ashley has also been a passionate advocate, speaking on topics such as the lived experience of Neurodiversity. 

Elisabeth Ward, Lead Accessibility Specialist for Scope Elisabeth Ward smiling at the camera

Lead Accessibility Specialist Elisabeth Ward of Scope works in programme development for accessibility, inclusion and workplace culture.  
Elisabeth also delivers talks, speaks on panels and shares her expertise in the media. She offered insights on digital design for a post-pandemic world at TSP 2020.

Community-spirited women

Technology is a great enabler. Here we celebrate women, ensuring that no-one is excluded through lack of access, social inequalities or lack of skills. 

Profile image of Helen Milner smilingHelen Milner OBE, Group CEO at Good Things Foundation

Under Helen Milner's leadership, The Good Things Foundation has published a blueprint for change designed to reduce some of the social inequalities that lead to a lack of access to technology, reinforcing social inequalities and leading to loneliness and social isolation. 

Helen is Chief Executive for GTF and has worked on the internet and communities for 30 years. In June 2015, she was appointed an OBE for digital inclusion services in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.


A picture of AbilityNet's Sarah BrainSarah Brain, Free Services Manager AbilityNet

Sarah Brain looks after AbilityNet’s Free Services, including our 450+ volunteers who support older and disabled people to make the best use of their technology. 

She also looks after our free online services, including our popular factsheets and My Computer My Way tool guide. 

Sarah has been recognised for her inspiring leadership and works alongside our partners such as BT to help improve the digital skills of 4,000 older and digitally excluded people across the UK during 2023.

 

Profile image of Elizabeth Anderson smilingElizabeth Anderson, CEO of the Digital Poverty Alliance 

Chief Executive of the Learning Foundation and its initiative and outward-facing brand, the Digital Poverty Alliance, Elizabeth Anderson, leads work to end digital poverty by 20 

Regularly speaking at industry events and talking to the media to raise awareness, as well as engaging with government and industry leaders around the key issues behind digital poverty.

 

Influencing accessibility standards

Policy is a key lever in terms of driving an accessibility agenda. Several influential women are involved in the policy arena. 

a head shot of Malin RyggMalin Rygg, Head of Digital Authority, Norway

Malin Rygg has been in charge of the department of monitoring at the Norwegian Digitization Directorate since 2013. 

The directorate supervises Norwegian legislation that requires the public and private sectors to comply with international accessibility requirements. 

Malin is a lawyer and a prolific speaker, including policy's role versus the drive towards inclusive design benefits. 

Marlin recently joined us at TechShare Pro 2023, where she discussed How will the European Accessibility Act change the global accessibility landscape.

 

A picture of Susanna LaurinSusanna Laurin, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at Funka and IAAP (International Association of Accessibility Professionals) Representative to the European Union

Susanna Laurin is Chief Research and Innovation Officer of Funka and helps share future digital accessibility standards. 

She has been a thought leader in the field of digitalisation, inclusion, and e-government for more than 20 years, and she is a frequent international lecturer and debater. Susanna is the Chair of the ETSI/CEN/CENELEC Joint Working Group on eAccessibility, responsible for the development and update of EN301549 to reflect presumed conformance of the Web Accessibility Directive and the upcoming European Accessibility Act. 

As well as speaking at TechShare Pro 2023, Susanna contributed to our guide How to include accessibility in your procurement processes

Driving change through community

Women are taking a leading role in bringing like-minded people together to share tips on accessibility and to support others at each stage of their accessibility journey. 

CProfile image of Charlie Turrell smilingharlie Turrell, Engagement Manager at the Ministry of Justice UK 

Charlie Turrell is the Engagement and Champions Lead at the Ministry of Justice UK. In its pursuit of building capability, Charlie has played a pivotal role in establishing our Champions Network. Under her leadership, the Ministry of Justice UK implemented a comprehensive onboarding process, resulting in a thriving network encompassing individuals from various roles across the organisation. 

Charlie is also the co-founder of CAN (Champions of Accessibility Network) which brings together over 550 large digital organisations including Google, Microsoft and all major UK broadcasters and international on-demand service providers, with cultural inclusion programmes including an accessibility champions network.   

Don’t miss Charlie on our webinar on Building accessibility Capability on Tuesday 19 March at 1pm GMT. Register today.

 

Profile image of Shani Dandha smilingDr. Shani Dandha, Inclusion & Accessibility Strategist and Consultant, Presenter, and Actor 

"I don’t just want to see disabled people talking about disability. We need way more incidental representation of disability. And there are different programmers and broadcasters doing this in a different way. Sometimes, you are still made to feel like a bit of a tick box, and we need to move away from that." - Shani at TechShare Pro 2023 as part of the Media Respresentation of Disability panel.

Dr. Shani Dandha is dedicated to empowering women globally. As a thought leader, she guides organisations in creating inclusive spaces. She is a captivating presenter, using her platform to inspire change.  


Profile image of Heather Hepburn smilingHeather Hepburn, Accessibility Lead at Skyscanner 

Heather Hepburn's mission is, "Let's make travel accessible to all and give everyone the same chance to enrich their lives through the joys of travel." 

Heather is a passionate accessibility evangelist who is leading the charge as the driving force behind the accessibility program at Skyscanner. In her role, she is not just introducing accessibility initiatives; she is instilling a cultural shift that integrates accessibility into the very fabric of Skyscanner's identity and operations. 

As a co-founder of the Champions of Accessibility Network (CAN), Heather has helped cultivate an active community of over 1,300 accessibility professionals from businesses worldwide. Through CAN, she facilitates collaboration and knowledge-sharing, further amplifying the impact of accessibility initiatives on a global scale. 

Find out more about Heather and her work when she partnered with AbilityNet to use our Digital Accessibility Maturity Model.

Profile image of Emma Lawton smilingEmma Lawton, Co-Founder, More Human 

Emma Lawton is co-founder of the start-up More Human, a platform designed to help build digital communities. 

She joined our panel at TechShare Pro 2021 that explored disability representation and the power of social media. 

Emma was diagnosed with Parkinson's at 29, which opened her eyes to technology's power as an enabler of human interaction. 

More Human's mission is to bring people together in virtual communities. 

 

Professional services from AbilityNet 

Building tech confidence among KeyRing charity clients

National UK charity KeyRing supports more than 2,000 adults with a wide range of needs. KeyRing was supported via a recent AbilityNet project to distribute 300 Lenovo digital devices to older and disabled people who were disproportionately excluded from the digital world.

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]

    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

    "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. 

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