I have attended Empower 2018 – Assistive Technology Conference hosted by Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi from 25th to 27th October, 2018. Here is a recap of the conference.
Empower 2018 has been kicked off by Prof. Balakrishnan of IIT Delhi. In his address, he has welcomed all the participants, speakers, partners, sponsors and volunteers.
Then, Dr. TV Raman of Google Research has delivered his keynote where he talked about eyes-free communication access, revolution of technology over the years and what it could be in the days to come. It’s amazing to to know Dr. Raman is an alumni of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1984.
Next there was a panel of speakers talking about accessible CAPTCHA solutions, inclusive interfaces. There was also talk about 6 by 6 app by BarrierBreak. In one of the talks, National Institute of Speech and Hearing has talked about how they leverage on technologies to communicate. One of the example is they leverage on WhatsApp web to communicate with people who are hard of hearing. Other method they do is use Google docs to communicate using text while a meeting is happening. One person will type live and someone else keep editing the same.
Exhibition was awesome. It’s great to see a lot of products from IIT Madras including affordable note takers, Tactile printers etc., Saksham’s experience zone is just amazing where they showcased MI’s 32″ Television that is fully accessible, folder chess board, audio games, talking BP meter, and much more!
Here are photos from the Empower 2018
Overall, it has been a great conference and I look forward to attending more of such events. I would also like to see it happening in different parts of the country.
Most of us uses Google applications such as Google docs, Google sheets, Google slides and they are far more easier to work and collaborate with others using the cloud.
So far, if we want to create a new document, new sheet or new slide deck; we need to open respective application and choose “new”.
With the recent service by Google, there is a much easier way to do it. Just type something like doc.new, document.new, sheets.new, slides.new and you will get it loaded. Of course, if you are not already logged into any Google services, it may prompt you to sign-in.
It was followed by talks by four of the inmates who have just completed Mobility Training at The NAB Karnataka. They have explained their experience using white cane and how they are able to move with more independence. All of them have mentioned white cane remains important tool along with other aids and appliances.
Then Ajeesh, Ram and Raghu of IBM Accessibility Team have shared their experiences as to how mobility plays a key role in work environment. They urged inmates to gain self-confidence and build aptitude to acceptany challenge.
They have also talked about key skills that one needs to build a successful career. I have got an opportunity to address the gathering during which I have acknowledged efforts put in by Raghu’s mother who have made sure Raghu lives with independence. She takes him to all pilgrim places and explain everything in detail. We really need such motivational parents.
Then inmates who have completed their mobility training were awarded with a certificate and a white cane.
11th October, 2018 was fabulous day for Bangalore. Intuit hosted their 6th Annual Accessibility Summit in their Bangalore office.
Summit has began with energiser by Prarthana, Co-founder of GiftAbled. Then summit was kicked off Ted Drake, Sanket and Somnath (leadership of Intuit) India.
First talk is by Bala from Google (ex-Intuit) talked about Next billion users where he talked how “voice” become more popular as an input method. He has also explained how much important the accessibility for Google’s new billion project.
Soon after a short break, I have delivered by Inclusive Design 24 talk on Building Accessible Websites with WordPress. I have started my talk with a brief introduction to myself, a little about WordPress, reasons as to why I would prefer to use wordpress as a platform, problem statement from accessibility prospective, talked about how one should choose themes from WordPress, my favorite plug-ins and finally some thoughts an author should consider while building websites with WordPress. In case you have missed mine and/or any other Inclusive Design24 talks, head over to Inclusive Design 24’s YouTube Channel and you will be able to listen to all of the talks.
Then we left for lunch break! Food was tasty and awesome conversation with Prarthana… Oh, yes I had desert twice!! (Blame Prarthana, if it’s against rules :-))
After having great lunch, again Prarthana did another energizer to make sure all of the participants are awake and that started first afternoon session with a panel discussion on “Accessible Life Style in Tech environment” moderated by Prateek Kaul, Co-founder of GiftAbled. During this panel, Aleena from Intuit did a demo of and Android keyboard they have created and intend to open source at some point. This keyboard can be used will have a single button interface. Other panelists Hatim from Cisco and Madhumitha from Coco cola shared their experiences in their diversity and inclusion journey. Final panelist Rajarajeswari, Founder of Arteius spoke about technologies they are building in the health care sector.
Then Sunil Jain, Founder Trustee and Chief Enabler of Astha spoke about importance and accessibility in sports. He has discussed about challenges faced while entering in the area of sports. He has rightly pointed out how children of today are not getting opportunity to play sport thus unable to develop power of thinking. He urges irrespective child having disability or not, everyone should be given an opportunity to play.
Next panel is about Accessibility achievements, challenges and opportunities; again moderated by Prateek. In this panel, Basavaraju, Commissioner, Persons with Disabilities, Government of Karnataka spoke about what accessibility means to him and what role his department should play for inclusion. Other panelists are Apoorv Kulkarni, Accessibility Lead at Ola, Siddhant Shah, Founder of Access for All and Krishna Kumar, Programme Manager (Accessibility & Technology) of GiftAbled. Each of them spoke about efforts put in by each of them to ensure inclusion both for their internal employees and customers.
In the final session, Krish Srikant, VP of Customer Strategy, Prakat Solutions spoke about Autism at work: Exploring new opportunities for employment & services. He has talked about work that Prakat is doing in this area in Denver.
Whole summit was anchored by Chandrasekhar, Talent Acquisition team member of Intuit. Fabulous inclusion T-shirts and goodies were distributed. Those goodies are crafted by people with disabilities and promoted by GiftAbled.
Then we all have left for Bangalore Accessibility Awareness Dinner hosted by Intuit. It’s great to see a lot of new people this time. A fantastic networking and of course great food!
All photo credits in this post goes to Prarthana and Ted!
Tomorrow (11th October, 2018) at 11:30am (Indian Standard Time – GMT+5:30), I’ll be speaking at Inclusive Design 24 and the topic is “Building Accessible Websites using WordPress”. While we are currently discussing about accessibility issue with new editor of wordpress, platform is still better from accessibility prospective and I’m sure accessibility issues for the editor would go away soon.
Here is how you can join my talk:
If you are in attending Intuit Accessibility Summit in Bangalore, you will join this talk in person.
It’s great to learn September 23rd is observed as International Sign Language Day. (Thanks to Akhil Paul of Sense International India for tweeting about it).
International Day of Sign Language is observed every year on 23rd September along with the International Week of the Deaf. The choice of 23rd September as a date is same as the date when World Federation of the Deaf was established in 1951.
While sign language is the communication language for people with hearing impairment, everyone takes benefit of it indirectly. In fact, communication of every human being starts with sign language. Let’s notice how a two year child communicates of his / her needs; while some children at the age group start to speak, but many just gets started to speak and they do a lot of signals to communicate. For instance, they show a thumb towards their mouth when they needs water. They show their fingers towards credal or bed, when they want to sleep etc.,
Even when people grow up, use of hand gestures to communicate is quite common. Often people show their fingers to a direction to indicate a location (though that’s not the right way to communicate). But that help sometimes. Even if we do not know to communicate in sign-language, since we do a lot of signs in our routine life, it enable us to communicate with people who are hard of hearing.
Through this day, let’s raise awareness about sign-language and its importance. It’s great to see Braille and sign-languages are being introduced as subjects by CBSE for children with disabilities.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (India) is a game changer and aim to eliminate barriers in the lives of people with disabilities. Here is what the act has improve accessibility of physical infrastructure.
Mandatory observance of accessibility norms 44. (1) No establishment shall be granted permission to build any structure if the building plan does not adhere to the rules formulated by the Central Government under section 40.
(2) No establishment shall be issued a certificate of completion or allowed to take occupation of a building unless it has adhered to the rules formulated by the Central Government.
Time limit for making existing infrastructure and premises accessible and action for that purpose 45. (1) All existing public buildings shall be made accessible in accordance with the rules formulated by the Central Government within a period not exceeding five years from the date of notification of such rules:
Provided that the Central Government may grant extension of time to the States on a case to case basis for adherence to this provision depending on their state of preparedness and other related parameters.
(2) The appropriate Government and the local authorities shall formulate and publish an action plan based on prioritisation, for providing accessibility in all their buildings and spaces providing essential services such as all primary health centres, civil hospitals, schools, railway stations and bus stops. Here is the relevant section from RPD Rules, 2017:
CHAPTER VI: ACCESSIBILITY 15. Rules for Accessibility. — (1) Every establishment shall comply with the following standards relating to physical environment, transport and information and communication technology, namely:–
(a) standard for public buildings as specified in the Harmonised Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for Persons With Disabilities and Elderly Persons as issued by the Government of India, Ministry of Urban Development in March, 2016;
Thanks to Amiyo Biswas for extracting this specific information on Access India. Let’s spread the word and work towards implementation of RPD Act.
In next few weeks, there are a series of interesting accessibility events are happening in Bangalore, India. These are some interesting events that not only brings platform to gain/share knowledge but also make a lot of friends.
This is a by invitation only event taking place on 21st September, 2018 at Informatica. While discussions are focused on design related topics, there is also one quick talk by me titled “Accessibility practice at Enterprise product companies”. Visit Design@Business website for details.
Bangalore Accessibility and Inclusive Design meet-up for September 2018
As part of initiatives to raise awareness about accessibility Prakat Solutions organizes Bangalore Accessibility and Inclusive Design meet-up once in two months. This month event is hosted in partnership with PayPal India on 27th September, 2018. Agenda for this months event is:
Welcome Address by Guru Bhat, General Manager, PayPal India
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act: What’s in for corporate? – Srinivasu Chakravarthula, Lead Accessibility, Informatica
HTML 5 API, AI and People with disabilities – Nawaz Khan, Accessibility Evangelist, PayPal
The Paciello Group hosts fabulous accessibility talks for 24 hours on 11th October, 2018. I’ll be speaking about “Building Accessible Websites using WordPress” at 11:30 AM (Indian Standard Time). I will be speaking from Intuit Bangalore office as it falls under same day of Intuit Annual Accessibility Summit. View Schedule of #ID24.
Intuit Annual Accessibility Summit
Intuit hosts accessibility summit with exiting series of activities followed by a dinner at their office in Bangalore. This event will happen on 11th October, 2018. Stay tuned for more details.
With increase in touch devices, method of pointer gestures have become quite common. It has also become popular when users can use diverse range of gestures.
Let’s take an example of a news app; by use of pinch, user can zoom in and zoom out the text. However, when user does not have ability to pinch, there should be alternate method of achieving the same functionality. Perhaps by using Zoom-in and Zoom-out buttons or with an option in app settings.
That said, this success criterion does not to apply to functionality provided for the operating systems – such as swiping down to bring notification menu or functionality provided in assistive technologies; such as talk back (screen reader on Android) has its own gestures for ease of use.
Another exception is where path based gesture is a mandatory such as drawing a signature.
How to test?
Identify if a functionality requires use of path based gesture such as swiping, dragging or drawing. One of the examples would be “Place an order” element on Amazon app where user requires to swipe from left to right to complete the order. Another example would be zoom-in or zoom-out on maps.
This is another innovation in the assistive technology space from India. 6by6 By BarrierBreak has 3 amazing features to assist people with low vision and vision impairment. Here is a review of it’s 3 features and how they could help users.
Currency Identifier: In the recent past, In India, Reserve Bank of India has released several new currency notes and all of them are inaccessible to people with blindness. Almost all of them has same sizes and difficult to find difference. Currency identification feature comes handy in dealing with money. All that use needs to do is open 6by6 app, Tap on currency detector; this will open an in-app camera, place currency note about 4 – 5 inches away and tap anywhere on the app; this will read aloud currency. Though several lakhs of currency notes are trained to the app, it’s better to scan more than a few times to ensure accuracy. My tests show accuracy of about 85%.
Magnifier: Being a person with low-vision, this is my most favourite feature. I have personally used this feature for reading menu in a restaurant, name of conference rooms at my work, signages at a bus station, labels in a retail store. One of the fabulous feature of this magnifier is that using freeze option, user can freeze a specific area of text and read at user’s comfort level. User can choose his/her desired magnification level using the slider.
Light Detector: Imagine user is a person with vision impairment and checked into a hotel. How would he or she would know if lights in the room are turned-on. Light detector will assist by providing if lights are on, if there is dimmed light or bright light etc.,
To begin with, these are great set of features and am sure, innovation at BarrierBreak continuous and more tools get added in days to come. Congratulations team and best of luck!