It’s truly amazing, the wealth of information we all have at our fingertips — that is, of course, unless your fingertips are how you have to access that information. An innovative new tablet that uses magnetically configurable bumps may prove to be a powerful tool for translating information like maps and other imagery to a modality more easily accessed by the visually impaired.The tablet, unnamed as yet, has evolved and improved over the past few years as part of Europe’s BlindPAD project, which aims to create a cheap, portable alternative to touchscreen devices. READ MORE: BlindPAD’s tablet makes visual information tactile for the vision-impaired | TechCrunch
It was an idea brewing in the mind of CJSW station manager Myke Atkinson for a long time: a library to explore the varied Calgary music scene.
So the station approached the Calgary Public Library and, with the help of a $30,000 grant from the Calgary Foundation, built the Calgary Local Music Library. The mobile unit will travel to eight libraries over eight months and will house 200 CDs of notable local music, digital picture frames displaying historical Calgary music photos and posters, and a listening station, so people can sample before they borrow. READ MORE: Calgary Public Library and Local Radio Station Work Together to Launch Local Music Collection | LJ INFOdocket
In the French city of Grenoble, there are unusual vending machines that don’t dispense soda or snacks — they print out short stories that look like paper receipts instead. These machines were built by a publishing company called Short Édition, which placed eight of them in public locations (such as the city hall and libraries) as part of a pilot project. Each dispenser has 1-minute, 3-minute and 5-minute buttons, so readers can choose how long their stories are, all of which were written by members of the Short Édition community. SOURCE: Short story vending machine promises old-school distractions | Engadget
At some point this year, a child somewhere in the developing world became the ten millionth beneficiary of Room to Read, a non-profit organisation created 15 years ago after a high-flying Microsoft executive quit his job to help children in Nepal. The charity, which works to eradicate child illiteracy and gender inequality in education, builds libraries and stocks them with books. It’s no surprise that its founder, John Wood, invokes the spirit of the 19th Century library-building steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie. In a sense, Room to Read has outstripped its spiritual mentor, building 17,500 libraries to Carnegie’s 2,500. READ MORE: Library builder’s monument of books | BBC News
Facebook is working with the United Nations to enable refugees from the Syrian civil war to access the Internet so they can more easily communicate while seeking resettlement. In a speech to the UN on Saturday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Internet connections in refugee camps will help refugees get better support from the aid community and maintain links to family and loved ones. Access to the Web is key to increasing quality of life, Zuckerberg added, saying it not only helps people communicate but can also help lift them from poverty. READ MORE: Facebook partners with UN to bring Internet access to refugee camps | CNET
“Food deserts” refer to low-income areas where convenience stores are often the only viable food source and fresh produce is a rarity. But nutritious foods aren’t the only thing kids need to thrive and grow. Many of these undernourished kids also live in so-called “book deserts”—areas without easy access to libraries and reading material to nurture their imaginations and development (just think of the 12-year-old boy in Utah who asked his mailman for junk mail to read because he couldn’t get to a library). To combat these problems, creative-thinking librarians and literacy supporters are using inventive solutions to expand access to books and promote a love of reading. READ MORE: Librarians on Bikes Are Delivering Books and WiFi to Kids in “Book Deserts” | GOOD
According to the World Health Organization, more than 1 billion people worldwide have a disability. To Astrid Weber and Jen Devins, Google’s resident accessibility experts, that stat should be stamped on the back of every designer’s hand, because it means that one out of every seven people on the planet is potentially left behind by thoughtless design decisions. At this year’s Google I/O conference in San Francisco, I sat down with the two UX experts and asked them what designers could do to make their apps more accessible. The key, they told me, was using your imagination and having a little more empathy. Here are six ways designers can reach that extra billion.
The world is tough place to navigate in a wheelchair. But finding ramps and elevators can be easier thanks to this handy map app that anyone can edit.
It’s called Wheelmap, and it tells you the accessibility status of public places all over the world. It’s free and grades locations in a traffic light-style, red-yellow-green scale of wheelchair accessibility. Developed by German nonprofit SOZIALHELDEN e.V., it’s now celebrating five years since launch. Since 2010, users have added nearly half a million entries across the globe.
“Accessible” means you can enter the place without steps, and that all rooms inside a building can be entered without steps, as well. “Limited accessibility” refers to entrances with a max of one step no higher than seven centimeters, and that the “most important rooms” can be entered without steps.
Wheelmap launched back in 2010, and since then, has become available in 22 languages. It’s available for both iOS and Android users.
I completed a web design for usability course during my MLIS program. For one of the sessions, guest lecturers with disabilities demonstrated how they accessed the Internet and provided insight into the challenges they experience with this activity. An eye-opening learning experience which I’m grateful to have had, which has provided me with greater understanding of the issues the disabled confront accessing the web and how designers can improve web content, layout and features to aid access. I highly recommend reviewing W3C Schools Accessibility Guidelines for more information on removing barriers to web information and communication. The article below discusses another challenge for the disabled when using tech: iterative updates.
WHEN THE AMERICANS with Disabilities Act was passed 25 years ago, it was intended to usher in a new age of accessibility. It promised recourse from discrimination in employment, transportation and communication—in other words, greater access to the physical world. Since then, the world has evolved in radical ways—physical boundaries have come down as our lives have transitioned by varying degrees to online spaces. It is almost impossible to imagine our daily routines without the use of personal technology. For people with disabilities like myself, technology has opened new doors in ways the historic legislation never could have conceived.
As a person with autism and apraxia—a condition that leads me to have great difficulty with planning and organizing everything from moving my mouth when I speak to the steps needed to wash my hands—I rely upon personal technology for many things. A device that translates my typed words into a voice is my link to the world. And the rise of social media and online classrooms has expanded my networks and ability to participate in activities once closed to me.
But often these are positive outcomes of technology made for the masses rather than benefits baked into the design. And as technology is iterated, I can already see ways in which it has and will continue to create new barriers unless its creators consider a more universal approach.
On a trip to India, entrepreneur Matt Dalio noticed something about the country’s emerging middle class: While many families owned TVs, few could also afford to have a computer. He had an epiphany. Why not make TV screens double as the monitor for a low-cost, but fully-functioning PC?
For the next three years, he worked with a team to develop Endless, a $169 computer designed for the burgeoning middle class in the developing world. It’s loaded with around 150 apps—from health and farming to Wikipedia—that can work offline, so if someone has a spotty Wi-Fi connection, they can keep working.