After a ‘interesting’ journey we have arrived just in time for lunch, looking forward to a productive and interesting afternoon and have eyed up a few stalls to look at later with some possible useful information. After lunch with have a plenary on Digital champions followed by a few workshops ,i am particularly interested in the accessibility workshop which i hope will cover some of my areas of interest including use of hardware, alternative methods of access and use, and problem of those ‘not wanting’ to use the tech or are afraid to use it.
Ability.net quiz just after lunch was an interesting diversion that was not expected, it gave me some more knowledge of the general aspects of computer and web use, especially some of the statistics, like 10% of sites being of no use to those with disabilities.
The afternoon plenary was not quite what i had hoped for, though to be honest i wasn’t sure what to expect, it was pretty much who i am and little inspiration especially concerning BBC learning Andrew Tomlinson, with regards the using Raspberry Pis and getting people on-line for the Olympics. I am pretty sure the BBC at the beginning said they would be running programs using the pi for teaching programming and other uses in education, the impression i got was this not gonna happen at least not in an way that would hit a large audience, which is a great shame, especially since they did do it with the BBC micro many years ago, and that was a success. Slight side note and a bugbear of mine, he was wrong on the origin of the BBC micro, it was created by Acorn Computers as the Acorn Proton, and was a contender and eventually winner of a competition the BBC ran to get a computer that could be used by the masses to learn on, other contenders where Sinclair Spectrum and i believe the Oric Atmos as well, and not as he said designed by the BBC, the only change from the Proton was a new colour scheme (the protons was nicer though). So i hope they change they mind and stick to there original statement.
The afternoon workshops were interesting, i stayed with the three sessions run my ability.net. The first concerned the ways windows can be configured to make accessibility easier, most i was familiar with already but a refresh never hurts. The same techniques can in most cases be made in mac os and linux btw. The second session concerned the use of smartphones for those who are blind, which was fascinating and very insightful, and was very impressed by how easy it was to use, in fact it was probably easier to use his way without being able to use the screen with. The demonstration used a apple iphone, using gestures, text to speech and some speech control, and using apps and the camera to help for tasks such as checking the value of money, most of these also work on a iTouch, and some on other smartphones. He also demonstrated siri (though it didn’t actually work probably), but mentioned also Evi (which i have used unsuccessfully which works on iphone and android) and Edwin for android which i have not tried yet. The third and final session was by TechDis which provide advice on technologies for inclusion and accessibility. They mainly covered and demonstrated the use of two text to speech voices, which are a significant improvement on existing ones, although you can still hear its artificial, they were a lot better than previous ones i have heard, there are at the minute free to use but only for educational establishments and some other groups. Other tools they mentioned where Toolbox which is a collection of resources to aid accessibility, which i believe is free for all to use, and the use of Kinect to allow people to communicate and interact using the makaton sign language. Finally three new tools there are developing navitext, myDocStore and PSLT, they website is http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk.
Overall the day was interesting, even if we had a late start, i learnt a few new things to try out and explore, met some new people and reacquainted with others. Did not get to see any Pi’s are hear much reference but am convinced it will make a big impact on accessibility in the future. It was a long day for me but would happily go to the next one, and see what progress has been made and news of any other ideas.