Access and Inclusion through Technology

Access Technology - Today and Tomorrow

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Access Collective Podcasts

Access Collective Podcast - November 2010

So at last we finally launch another Podcast from the world famous AC Crew - thats Access Collective, not air conditioning !

This months podcast is likely to be remembered for many reasons, most of all because it was quite long, but also for its great content

This month we have

Craig Mill And Carol Walker explaining all about the new RSC initiative, Create and Convert

On 1st October of this year, a powerful piece of legislation came into force: the Equality Act 2010. In a drive to advance equality of opportunity for all, schools, colleges and universities now face some important new obligations.

Finally there is a round up of some of the latest news in teh world of accessibility - all of which can be found also on the Access collective website

The Creative Commons music this month is by Leslie Hunt, its called "I only care about you when your gone" and we dedicated it to our friends at Becta Special Needs team and other access NGO's who face the closure of their services as a result of government budget cuts

Its distributed by the great as always

One of these obligations concerns how information is made available to learners: the Act says that it must be accessible. So, for example, if a learner has a sight impairment, or dyslexia, the school, college or university MUST face up to its duty to make reasonable adjustments, and to provide that information in a format that the learner will find accessible.

Create&Convert is a free tool that has been designed specifically to help institutions or organisations comply with the Act in the way that they publish information.

It is easy to understand the legal consequences for institutions that do not comply with the Act, but for the learner it’s the social consequences that really matter.

The aim of Create&Convert is to help organisations to help their learners to truly realise their potential.

What does Create&Convert do?

So what does Create&Convert do? Well, it brings together in one neat package a range of open source programs that can quickly and capably translate electronic documents into an accessible alternative format, such as audio or a talking book. All of the tools are the outputs of the Digital Accessible Information System (DAISY) Consortium, and are therefore completely free to use and distribute.

Create&Convert will work with any new or existing document that is in editable form, such as the common Microsoft Word. In a nutshell, Create&Convert is a legislation-compliant, budget-friendly tool that can transform exclusion into participation for the learner.

How much does it cost ?

Create&Convert is devised by the JISC Regional Support Centre Scotland North & East, and consists of open source tools specially selected for education. There is no charge for using Create&Convert.

Just use it, give it, share it – all for free.

How do I get Create&Convert?

There are two versions of Create&Convert - Microsoft Word 2003/2007 version and OpenWriter. Although both versions work portably from a USB pendrive it is recommended that the OpenWriter version is run from the USB only. The Word 2003/2007 version can also be run from the desktop.

Download create and convert from

Our second piece features and interview with Felip Miralles begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting of Barcelona Digital. Barcelona Digital co-ordinate the BrainAble project funded by the European commission. Felip tells us all about the organisation and the background and progress of the Brainable, BCI research team. The Brainable website ( says

BrainAble will produce a commercial product and a set of technologies intended to assist people with physical disabilities regardless of cause. The technology has the potential to assist those with other individual needs ranging from speech disorders to Motor Neurone Disease or locked-in patients.

BrainAble brings innovation in human machine interfaces for the disabled, who cannot manipulate a standards interface such as a keyboard and mouse. It represents two innovative and capital purposes to overcome barriers as a result of disability: First, the management of accessible networks of interoperable devices which will improve dramatically the quality of life experienced by people with a disability within their living environment; and access to computer-based social networks for social inclusion. There is significant opportunity for the exploitation of the outcomes of BrainAble by European companies which target biomedical and assistive equipment markets and accessible Smart Home automation markets that can leverage their position to become prominent and relevant in the global market.

The project has set itself a series of objectives that include

Objectives of the project

1. To conduct a truly user-centric design of a platform which improves the quality of life of people with motor disabilities and investigate its effectiveness to compensate deficit after the rehabilitation process, increase autonomy in daily life activities, decrease barriers and increase participation favouring social inclusion and quality of life.

2. To create a specifically designed HCI, which integrates BNCI with other specific sensor technologies.

3. To create a user-centric virtual environment for home and urban automation control, social networking and training.

4. To create Ambient Intelligent (AmI) and ubiquitous computing services for accessible device integration.

5. To create self-expression tools and social networking services.

The progress has been good as Felip explains, with a prototype ready for user acceptance testing in early 2011

The third feature looks further at accessible gaming by looking more at the work of special effect, ablegamer and the The segment was recorded at the eurogamer expo 2010 and features a variety of features around the work of all of the organisations. Its great to hear of so much progress being made in mainstreaming accessible gaming.

Access Collective Podcast 6 - September 2010

This months podcast is feature packed and here are all of the notes and links you might need to follow up on any aspect

Steve Lee

Have you ever thought about how you will manage if the developers of your much relied on  accessibility software tool decide that they will no longer develop or support it? Does that seem really unlikely? To be sure many developers have their users interests firmly in mind. But businesses realities can bite hard and  a company may have to refocus or make tough decisions. A software project can find funding dries up after initial success. A developer of freeware software may find new priorities for spending their time.

What then? What will you do?

For a while there may be no real problem. You have the software, and can carry on using it or continue providing it to those you support. But what if a critical bug is found on one user's configuration?  What if you need to get the answer to a question. What if you can't get a licence code to install it on a new machine? What if you upgrade your operating system and the program fails to work? These are all problems that can and do occur. If you are lucky there will be a clear migration path to an alternative tool, including a way to transfer any data you have created.

What you really need is to know that the tool you use is sustainable and so can live on and still be usable in the future, even if the developers decide to pull out.

OSS Watch, the UK academic open source advisory service, describe open development of open source software as a proven means of reaching such sustainability. This is something that successful open source project have been doing for years and accessibility users are in a position to benefit from the added security provided by projects that operate in this way. In fact OSS Watch have just published an article about using a maturity model to evaluate how sustainable an open source project is and it's definitely worth a read.

But what is open development? In a nutshell performing open development means software and related materials are developed by a community in ways that allow anyone to not only use and modify them, but also to readily understand the history and decision making that has gone on. Thus if any member of the community pulls out, others can continue keeping the project moving forward.

A very recent example of how practicing open development can allow an accessibility project to survive the withdrawal of funding, is the JISC TechDis Toolbar. The toolbar gives access to various web accessibility tools and runs in most browsers. TechDis paid Southampton University to develop the initial version for their website, and agreed that it would be an open source project run by Southampton who wanted sustainability and to encourage collaboration and innovation. OSS Watch guided Southampton in best practice and so even when TechDis recently decide they no longer wanted to support further development, the project can continue, following the trajectory set by Southampton and other contributors who want to share the value it provides.

Interestingly openness also allows users to themselves become more directly engaged, and allows other parties to build new tools and otherwise base business ventures on the software. At this stage you may be wondering how you can make money if you openly share the code? We'll in fact it can be done, and is, in many different ways. In fact businesses and corporations are currently getting very excited about Open Innovation, which is a way to gain business advantage through sharing and collaboration. Open development is open innovation in software and I'm pleased to be involved in a fledgling  project that will explore open innovation for accessibility. I'll will be sure to talk about in detail once it is ready for launch.

In the meantime you might like to think about the sustainability of the tools you use or develop.

Craig Mill

Craig talks us through MyStudyBar, a tool which helps overcome problems that students commonly experience with studying, reading and writing. The tool consists of a set of portable open source and freeware applications, assembled into one convenient package. Easy to install, simple to use, handy and effective,  MyStudyBar  provides comprehensive learning support at the desktop, where it is needed. And if this is not already attractive enough, a further eye-catching feature of MyStudyBar is that it is completely FREE to download and free to use.

MyStudyBar has been produced by the same team at RSC Scotland North & East which created the award-winning AccessApps software suite. Although MyStudyBar is designed to support learners with literacy-related difficulties such as dyslexia, the toolbar can offer potential benefits to all learners.

MyStudyBar puts a whole range of individual and essential tools at your fingertips. Together, these have been designed to support the complete study cycle from research, planning and structuring to getting across a written or spoken message. MyStudyBar  has 6 sections; each has a drop down menu offering personal choice, flexibility and independent learning, particularly for those learners who require additional strategies to support their learning. With over 15 apps to choose from, MyStudyBar is the perfect study aid.

You can find MyStudyBar at

Oli Lewis

Oli explores software for much younger children from the Tux range – his particular favourites are

Tux Paint

Tux Paint is a free, award-winning  drawing program for children ages 3 to 12 (for example, key stages 1 and 2). It combines an easy-to-use interface, fun sound effects, and an encouraging cartoon mascot who guides children as they use the program.

Kids are presented with a blank canvas and a variety of drawing tools to help them be creative.

Tux Typing

Tux the penguin is hungry, and loves to eat fish. But Tux can only catch the fish if you type the right letters in time! Can you help Tux?

Tux, of Math Command,

AKA TuxMath, lets kids hone their arithmetic skills while they defend penguins from incoming comets, or offers them a chance to explore the asteroid belt with only their factoring abilities to bring them through safely!

All three programs can be found at

Neil Milikin

Neil also has three things to talk about this month.

He starts by telling us all about the livescribe pen, a new way of taking notes reducing the time you spend thinking things down, the new version of the pen is called the echo with some new features coming soon.

Haptimap is an EU funded project which aims to reduce the amount of time you spend looking at the screen to navigate. Some versions run on mobile phones and are already available

Windows 7 Phones Neil hopes that we will see new accessibility features in windows 7 phones and we will see more news in coming weeks


And Finally

David Banes rounds up some of the summer news and updates us on the Access Collective website.

This includes

XWave - Mind Interface for iPhone 

xWave is a brainwave interface that works on the iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad. It’s actually a relatively small device that fits right onto your cranium, much like a pair of over-the-ear headphones, which will subsequently read your brainwaves.

Dolphin Inclusive Consortium releases over 100 free electronic titles of school textbooks

The Accessible Resources Project in the UK has made available over 100 of the most commonly used school textbooks in an accessible electronic format for students aged 11 -14 who struggle to read the written word in print because of visual impairment or dyslexia.

Schools and local authorities should check the list of books that can be ordered through RNIB before producing textbooks themselves for the 2010/11 school year.

 And a look at robots

Household Robots: Toshiba's Apripoco & Tokyo U.'s IRT Lab

ApriPoco Controls Your Home with Voice Commands.

Teaching Robot Helps Children to use a Wheelchair


Finally we look at some new features being added to the access collective website at  These include

The Training section is growing, we’ve embedded a series of videos mostly from YouTube for specific pieces of software, these include stuff from Claro and Crick amongst others, if you know of other useful resources let us know and we will add them asap

We’ve added a new section called presentations, these are embedded from Slideshare and we are orgainsing and collating them into themes, so far we’ve just done AAC but expect to see more soon.

We’ve also added a new section called "ask an access question". The idea is that visitors can ask a question of our collective brains related to access issues we will post the reply to the visitor and onto the site itself.

Music from by Falsa Monea

Incidental music by Matthew Banes

Access Collective Podcast - July 2010

Welcome to the latest access collective podcast, full of the tastiest bits of Assistive Technology And Accessibility, non fattening and good for your heart. Trust us on this.

This Months podcast includes

Mike Williams from Expert AT services updates us on the Home Access Initiative and pupils with SEN. Mike explains the process and the opportunity that Home Access offers users in the UK

Steve Lee brings us further thoughts on the world of Open source and Accessible Technology. In particular this month he talks about the creation of the webiste that brings together users and developers to develop new open source applications in Accessible Technologies

Barrie Ellis and Dark from continue their forays into the world of audiogames for the blind. These games are being used around the world and is a great source of games both free and commercial

David Banes of davebanesaccess introduces us to the updated website that is maintained personally and on behlaf of teh collective, including free training materials, AT newsletter and AT of the week - all of these can be found at

Finally we round of the podcast with a summary of the best items from the Access technology today and Tomorrow newsletter. Details of all the news items can be found on the Access Collective website newsletter archive at the same address as above

For thos that make it all the way through the Podcast - there is a free piece of music to brighten your day, Julandrew shares “crazy as” available under creative commons licence from

Until next month


Access Collective Podcast

Special Edition 2

Welcome to another special edition of the Access Collective Podcast

Once again we are delighted to host another insight into the world of AudioGames courtesy of Dark from and Barrie Ellis of

This special edition covers a further round up of audiogames if you wnat to know more  go to and where you will find a host of links to games to try for yourself

An editted versions of Darks musings will be part of the next collective podcast for those interested


Access Collective Podcast 4

Welcome to the latest Access Collective Podcast

Its been a busy month and we have four contributors chomping at the bit and anything else anyone is stupid enough to put near their mouths. On with the stuff !

First up this edition is Steve Lee who explores the business model that allows for the development of Open source software, going beyond the traditional model of charging to download and use the software. Steve makes the clear point that open source is not the same as “free to users” but instead is about a collaborative model of development.

We welcome any future contributions to this debate

Our second contributor is developer Chris Stringfellow who creates free access utilities. In his first, maiden contribution he talks about his programme “Sonar” and how this worked to help keep a visually impaired woman in work.

Sonar is available at fxc software

Our third contributor this month is Neil Millikin who talks about a new product he has come across, “Look Tell” this works on Windows Smart Phone and recognises not only text but also objects and landmarks. Its a useful guide to assist you around your home or local community. It includes an element of service from real people as well as technology.

Look Tell is available in the US as a beta presently and well keep you informed of release elsewhere.

Fourth and final is Barrie Ellis. Barrie offers a précised version of the special edition podcast we released recently on audiogames. Special thanks to Dark from who introduces us to the world of complex highly interactive audiogames. for more details

Our new members of the collective are ready to be introduced - welcome to Craig Mill, Mike Williams and Steve E

We finish with a great song –Thanks to Josh Woodward for effortless from his Album Not Quite Connected which seemed apt. Available for free download at

Until Next time we sign off

Access Collective Podcast 3 - Special Edition

This is a special edition podcast with an in depth look at AudioGames from Barrie Ellis.

The main podcast is by Dark of and credit also has to go to

There is a a little bonus bit of music on the end, which is the earliest ever recording of a computer singing (1961).

Access Collective Podcast 2

Welcome to the Access Collective podcast episode 2

This month we bring you again a range of features drawn from all aspects of access technologies for people with a disability

This months podcast features

David Banes - general nonsense and looking back at 10 years with AbilityNet

Barrie Ellis - Computer games for the visually impaired and blind (part 2)

Steve Lee - Open source alternatives to the iPad

Neil Millikin - Access technologies for mobile phones and portable devices

Donal Rice - Web accessibility and creating accessible online videos

We play out with the great "No I wont let you go" by Mercury in Summer from  and published under creative commons

This podcast is published under creative commons to enjoy and share

All the best

Da Collective

Access Collective Podcast 1 - April 2010

This is the first podcast by the access collective.

As we explain in the edition we are a group of middle aged men who should know better. But in a final attempt to recapture our lost youth, we've come together to share our thoughts, ideas and observations from the world of Access technology.

Our focus is on how people with a disability use technology to reduce barriers in daily life. We will also explore issues around Universal Design and web accessibility offering a broad view linking together all aspects of accessibility for all.

In this first edition you will meet

David Banes - editor and general chat - mostly responsible for bad jokes and sarcasm

Barrie Ellis - Accessible Gaming

Steve Lee - Opensource Accessibility and

Neil Millikin - Mobile and Portable technologies

Other members of the collective - who you will meet in future editions are :-

Donal Rice - Web accessibility and new initiatives

John Liddle - Access and Inclusion in education

In the spirit of the collective we welcome new members - drop us a line if youd like to join this roving band. Although that sounds like we are folk singers - that can never be good.

In this first edition you will find Barrie Ellis discussing computer gaming for the blind, Barrie talks about a range of free and commercial products that are available for people with a visual impairment, including handhelp games released in Japan. If you wnat to know more about the games, and even find the links to free games visit Barries website

Steve Lee reports on the activity around Linux accessibility and the Gnome Desktop from CSUN 2010. Steve tells us more about what is available and what is in development including the latest news on the Orca screen reader for Linux. If you wnat to know more you will find more information on the OSSwatch website

Neil Millikin introduces us to some of the ways in which disabled people are using Mobile and Portable devices to reduce barriers in their daily life and live more indpendently. Neil brings the insght from his own experience of Dyslexia and introduces the use of mobile phones as note takers, way finders and memory aids

Finally David Banes rounds up this first edition with a review of some of the access technology news of the last month. Access features on the new Apple iPad, research into full screen refreshable Braille Displays and a new web based screen reader for the blind are introduced alongside a plug for a great very low cost iPhone App Eye Glass which turns your Iphone into a portable hand held magnifier for people with low vision

To round the show off we offer a free slice of entertainment, very little to do with access - and everything to do with the spirit of the podcast Enjoy Links :-

Gaming -


OSSWatch -

Mobile Phones -

News -

Eye Glasses

Apple Ipad

Full Screen Braille Display

New screen reader

Willie Walker Interview