The Click Away Pound survey is officially launched

By Rick Williams

“Here’s a question: does the Equality Act place obligations on business about making their websites accessible and usable for disabled people? Well… err…yes.

OK, so the second question: why is it so many websites aren’t readily accessible or usable for disabled people? I don’t know the answer but it puzzles me.

I’m a blind guy and use a screen reader – you know, that bit of software that reads out what’s on the screen with a voice like Micky Mouse on helium. I would say I was quite an experienced user but it amazes me the number of websites that I find hard to use or can’t use at all! This is so frequent now I got to the point of not even noticing. I just tried one and if it didn’t work I tried another wherever possible. Last year I started keeping stats just for my own curiosity. When doing a search for something new, especially if I wanted to buy something, it was surprising to find that I would typically look at three or four sites before I found one I could use easily.

Business Disability Forum. Marketing photos

Do I contact the sites I can’t access and take up the issues? Actually, I’ve given up. I have done it but… well they usually don’t understand or even reply.

On the other hand if I find a site I can use then I use it as much as possible; often even if I know I might be able to get things cheaper elsewhere. For example, I find it easier to have my supermarket shopping delivered and the best site I found to use is Ocado, so I use it. I know some things would be cheaper elsewhere but, well, the accessibility of the site and the app make it so easy why would I bother to look elsewhere when my experience tells me I’m likely to find problems.

The other thing that I find odd is that my company has been running Business Disability Forum’s e-check service since 2008. In that time 70% of the sites we’ve reviewed were given a ‘red’ assessment – in other words ‘significant potential commercial, PR or legal risk’. Even more surprising is the low number of organisations who have got such assessments who’ve done anything about it!

So, putting this together: there is a law but it isn’t that successful and many businesses don’t seem to think this is an issue. OK, so what we need to do is find out what this costs businesses and maybe the bottom line will persuade them that website accessibility and usability is important as a business issue.

Working with Business Disability Forum and supported by the RNIB and Enterprise Rent-a-Car we’ve just launched the Click-Away Pound survey, which aims to find out what disabled people’s experiences are when shopping online, what they do about problematic sites and the potential costs to business of not thinking about the issue.

If you have a disability give it a go – only takes 10 minutes and will help improve the Internet experience for disabled people.”

For more information and to take the survey visit:

Rick Williams
Managing Director
Freeney Williams Ltd

Technical SwapShop goes up in the world!

By Dean Haynes

Generously hosted by Technology Taskforce member BT at the iconic BT Tower in Central London, our Technical SwapShop was held on 4 November and attended by nearly 100 delegates.

With speakers and exhibitors from both Taskforce members and assistive technology companies, attendees got the chance to get personal perspectives on the use of Assistive Technology (AT), as well as find out about the range of products available, before having lunch at the top of the tower!

The view of London from the top of BT TowerAbove: The view of London from the top of BT Tower

Proceedings got underway with delegates given the chance to learn about different AT products from over a dozen exhibitors, including ReciteMe, Matchware, Hassell Inclusion, Ai Media, Nuance and iansyst.

Things then moved into BT’s auditorium where our chair for the day, BDF associate Rick Williams, introduced representatives from our hosts BT. Bertrand Mazieres gave us a brief introduction to BT, before Dan Ballin explained the importance of accessibility to BT as an organisation.

Next, EY Associate Partner John Levell spoke about his firm’s dyslexia network, why it was set up and how it adds value to their organisation. He also took time to describe his own personal experiences in the workplace coping with dyslexia, which struck a chord with many in the audience.

Alastair Campbell of Texthelp was then given the chance to demonstrate Texthelp’s Read&Write software, which has been designed to offer support to individuals who may experience literacy difficulties due to dyslexia, low literacy skills or English as a second language through the use of a computer.

Audio Notetaker was the focus from our next speaker, Adam Pearce of Sonocent. Audio Notetaker allows employees and clients to combine text, audio and slides into one cohesive package to foster barrier-free communication in the workplace.

Adam Pearce of Sonocent delivering presentation on Audio Notetaker

Above: Adam Pearce of Sonocent delivers presentation and demonstration of Audio Notetaker

Microlink’s Tim Scannell, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Account Manager, talked about how his disability affects him and demonstrated assistive technology that can assist individuals like himself that are profoundly deaf.

Following Tim, Paul Smyth, Head of IT Accessibility at Barclays, then took to the stage to talk about how his own visual impairment affects his working life, what accommodations he has in place and what can be done to help as individuals and organisations.

Last on the formal agenda was Steve Bennett from Dolphin, who provided us with a demonstration of their SuperNova software that assists those with visual impairments.

After a brief interlude from BDF’s Chief of Staff Paul Day, Kiki MacDonald from Euan’s Guide closed out the day’s presentations.

Euan’s Guide, which has been dubbed “TripAdvisor for the disabled”, was devised by Edinburgh-born Euan MacDonald, who has Motor Neurone Disease, the website and accompanying apps aggregate reviews of public venues across the UK for their accessibility.

Delegates browse exhibitor stalls

Above: Delegates browse the various exhibitor stores

With all presentations done, delegates and exhibitors all made their way up to the top of the BT Tower to network over lunch and enjoy the views across London!

You can catch up with the day’s proceedings and see photos from the day by following the #TTSwapShop hashtag on Twitter.

Twitter: @TechTaskforce

Opinion piece: London beyond sight: The city via audio description

By Zaynab Garba

Art Beyond Sight is a project that started in New York in 2006 which has recently come to London. It is a compilation of detailed audio descriptions and commentary of well known landmarks around the city, delivered by well known locals.

Last year 40 audio files were released to the public featuring commentaries of different landmarks around the capital delivered by some famous and infamous Londoners. Steven Berkoff speaking about The Shard and Sir Derek Jacobi on the Old Vic are just part of a wonderful line up of correspondents. Though my personal favourite has to be Alastair Stewart delivering his take on the Cenotaph. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Alastair speak of his personal affiliations and views on what the monument represents, as well as his knowledge of it’s esthetic intricacies and mathematic proportions. Working with professional describers to deliver each piece, the narrator is able to talk about aspects of Lutyen’s monument that a seeing person may miss, like the fact that the Portland stone from which it is built mirrors that of the buildings around it and that it’s outer sides are designed at an angle which means they would meet 1000 feet in the air if they kept on rising.

Well known voices, enigmatic delivery and interesting content all serve in making this project truly beyond sight. The project makes London’s visual culture accessible to all, including those with visual impairments. You can view London Beyond Site through the link below.

Stat of the day: Access to Work statistics – October 2013

By Angela Matthews

DWP released their Access to Work statistics yesterday. I’ve done a brief comparison with the stats that were released in July. BLUE shows figures for all of 2012/13 (i.e. the full financial year), and RED shows figures for 2013/14 so far (i.e. April 2013 – June 2013).

 Nothing particularly startling at this stage. Hearing, sight and “other” remain the top three conditions that support is provided for (which is the same as we saw in the July stats release).

Access to Work

I will be watching for the conditions where there is less of a gap between the red and the blue in a column – for example, if epilepsy was supported on 1,110 occasions for the whole of the previous financial year and in the first three months of this year the figure is already at 880, it could indicate an increase that leads to further questions about the potential changing representations of epilepsy in the workplace. Absolutely no evidence for that yet – just one data geek’s musings over her mid-morning chocolate fix.

Elsewhere in the stats release, the top three types of support provided remain as support workers, travel to work, and aids/equipment (also the same as in the July stats release).

I’m not sure how the chart comes out for various software types, but give me a shout if you want me to send it in Word document format. I’ve also attached the statistics release itself so that you can see the figures in a regular table chart (albeit with no pretty colours).