Stanley M Debono

Apr 192017
 

Students and lecturers from University during visit to FITAAmong the ICT Accessibility awareness activities organised by FITA, information sessions are among the most regular and effective initiatives.  Sessions are held at least monthly and address different needs and objectives depending on the specific audiences.

On 18th April, students following the course titled ‘Including Students with Visual Impairment’ from the Department for Inclusion and Access to Learning, within the University of Malta, participated in one such information session, at the ADVICE lab within FITA.

Disability studies emerged as a growing area of academic research and professional education  across  much  of  the  Western  world  in  the  1970s  and  has  continued  to expand into the 21st century. The International Year of Disabled People in 1981 raised disability  as  a  human  rights  issue  in  the  global  public  discourse.  The  rise  of  the contemporary disability movement in the latter decades of the 20th century, and the vocal demand for relevant curricula by disabled people and their allies, lent weight to the legitimacy of the new discipline.

The  growing  presence  of  disabled  people  in  society,  in  particular  their  presence  in the community following centuries of institutionalisation, has further contributed to an  awareness  of  the  responsibilities  of  educational  institutions  to  disabled  citizens. At  the  same  time,  the  limitations  of  medical  and  individual  pathology  models  of disability,  in  both  explaining  the  situation  of  disabled  people  and  enabling  their full  citizenship,  have  resulted  in  the  flowering  of  new  explanatory  paradigms such as the social model.

This approach professes that disability is induced by inflexible policies and structures that enforce stereotypes, whereby if you do not conform, you are ostracised and prevented from functioning as part of society.  Ensuring accessibility therefore reduces or removes the disability (as opposed to the impairment).  Apart from this background, FITA also delivered an overview of the Maltese disability sector, and the different disability NGOs of blind persons.  Mr. Joe Cauchi, President of ADVICE demonstrated the use of the Humanware Connect 12 Android tablet, as well as the C-Pen, which reads out typed text for people with Dyslexia and other reading difficulties.

Mr Joseph Cauchi giving demonstration to studentsDisability  studies  has impacted  on  the  research  agendas  of  many  other disciplines.  Starting with the social sciences and the humanities, disability studies has also  been  increasingly  taken  on  board  by  the  applied  sciences  such  as  architecture, design,  engineering  and,  more  recently,  medicine  and  pure  science.   In more practical terms, through the demos delivered by FITA, the students could appreciate the benefits and limitations of technology when used to circumvent accessibility related difficulties.  For example, although screen reading software is very useful when used to access the text shown on websites, it was pointed out that not all online Maltese newspapers are accessible.  Mr. Stanley Debono, FITA CEO, pointed out that while the Equal Opportunities Act (EOA) safeguards the rights of disabled persons against discrimination , it is disabled persons themselves and NGOs who must file complaints and seek to enforce this law, with the help provided by the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disability.

The course being followed by the students, seeks to provide a detailed insight into the world of persons with visual impairment and will cover issues dealing with the definition of blindness, its implications for development, its effects on the family, schooling, work and community life. It specifically deals with the inclusion of students with visual impairment in ordinary schools backed by a transdisciplinary team which is the core for community based instruction.  Mr. Joseph Stafrace and Mr. Michael Debattista, who are tutors with a vision impairment, praised ADVICE and FITA for providing them with the possibility of trying out and comparing different assistive technology products.  Students could try technology first hand, learn about speech synthesis and OCR as well as appreciate how a product can prove beneficial to different individuals, depending on the way it is used or how it is combined with other products as part of a solution.

For more information please contact FITA at info@fitamalta.eu

Technical Sources: Australian Journal of Human Rights, 2009.  What’s so ‘critical’ about critical disability studies? by Helen Meekosha and Russell Shuttleworth

 

Apr 132017
 

The first public draft of an update to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) has been released, with an increased focus on mobile content, users with low vision, and users with cognitive and learning disabilities.

The current guidelines – WCAG 2.0 – are seen by many as a benchmark for web accessibility. WCAG 2.0 is widely used by authorities and organisations seeking to review websites, and to make and keep them accessible for users with disabilities. For example, the Society of IT Management (Socitm) uses WCAG 2.0 to test the accessibility of UK council websites in its annual Better Connected review.

The public working draft of the update, WCAG 2.1, seeks to build on the existing guidelines, adding in new recommendations for those creating and designing web content.

WCAG 2.1 is being developed by the Accessibility Guidelines Working Group (AGWG), a sub-group of the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). WAI is part of the much larger World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an international voluntary standards community founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

Judy Brewer, Director of the Web Accessibility Initiative at W3C, told e-Access Bulletin about some of the new measures to be included in WCAG 2.1. This includes an extension of requirements for mobile device access.

Speaking about other new measures, Brewer said: “Research, tools and awareness in the areas of accessibility for people with cognitive and learning disabilities, and for people with low vision, have been increasing in recent years, and we are updating WCAG 2.1 to reflect this.”

The next steps are for AGWG to review and respond to public feedback, and make changes for new versions of the WCAG 2.1 draft. The draft will continue to be reviewed and evolve throughout 2017, with further testing in early 2018. “The goal is to finalise [the draft WCAG 2.1] as a W3C recommendation (a web standard) by mid-2018,” Brewer said.

A longer-term ‘3.0’ update to WCAG is also being worked on by AGWG’s ‘Silver Task Force’, Brewer told e-Access Bulletin. She said: “The [Task Force] are initially focusing on improvements in terms of usability of the guidelines themselves, but may also look at expanding the scope to encompass technologies that are converging on the web, such as digital publishing or the Internet of Things. The goal is to produce a very flexible set of guidelines that can adapt even better to evolving technology and user needs.”

Speaking about W3C’s aim for organisations to begin implementing the WCAG 2.1 draft – and upcoming final version – Brewer called on all Internet users to help get the message out.  As FITA often reiterates, “There are many things that users can help with, starting with demanding that websites and APPs follow accessibility guidelines and are accessible to all.”

 

Public feedback on the draft officially closed on March 31 2017, but Brewer said that comments received after that will still be useful.

Feedback on the draft can be emailed to the following address: public-agwg-comments@w3.org .

Read more about WCAG 2.1 at the W3C website: http://eab.li/5p .

Source E-Access Bulletin: Impaired users and mobile access prioritised in new web accessibility guidelines.

Apr 112017
 

EU Survey logoMCST and The European Commission have asked us to disseminate the following “Youth and Young Scientists Survey”:

https://ec.europa.eu/eusurvey/runner/YouthYoungScientistConsultation2017

which will be used as part of the on-going H2020 mid-term evaluation and consultation process. This survey has been designed to understand how young people and early-stage researchers perceive certain issues and your responses will inform conversations between the European Commission and groups that represent young people and early-stage researchers.

Your input is considered to be of value for the European Commission and for this reason we urge you to participate and disseminate it with your research community using any and all channels available to you. Your responses will inform conversations between the European Commission and groups that represent young people and early-stage researchers.

Please participate today in this 10-20 minute questionnaire so as not to miss this valuable opportunity to give feedback. The survey has two parts. The first part asks about you as a respondent, the second part asks general questions about the European Union and asks concrete questions regarding your perspective on the European Union activities in research, innovation and technology issues.

This consultation will close week ending 21st April 2017.

For further details please contact denise.bartolo@gov.mt

Apr 042017
 
Group photo. From left to right, Ely Fly, Ketty Zecchin, Zara Benn, Maria Mercieca, Stanley Debono and Lilibeth Cachia

Group photo in front of San Gwann Co-Cathedral in Valletta. From left to right, Elena Fly, Ketty Zecchin, Zara Benn, Maria Mercieca, Stanley Debono and Lilibeth Cachia

FITA has recently concluded a work experience that resulted from the collaboration agreement with For-Action (for-action.org)

Ms Ketty Zecchin, an Italian lady from Piazzale sul Brenta, has been working at FITA between February and March 2017 on the compilation of accessibility data regarding popular touristic resorts across the Maltese Islands.  Ms Zecchin relied on online research and the use of multiple information sources, including mobile APPs in order to plan her visits and compile the reports.  Coincidentally she had visited Dwejra just in time before the collapse of the Azure Window.  Her experiences will be published in both the Italian and English language, in the form of an e-book and on her website.

Ms Zecchin is a very hard working and enthusiastic individual.  She runs her own web design business and also assists local NGOs back in Italy with their ICT needs.  She is supported by her personal assistant and leads a very active and productive life.   During her visit to Malta she was also accompanied by her two pet dogs Cleopatra and Mia of which she is very fond.

Upon her return, she started working with her colleagues on the organisation of an accessibility event titled CreAttivaMente Abili which is set to be held on 14th May 2017.  The event will showcase sport, culture and entertainment activities.  It will also be used to formally launch the 1st project of the Regione Veneto.  This led to 12 disabled persons being able to participate in a two month work experience in Malta.

creativamenteabili 2017CONI (Comitato olimpico nazionale italiano),  Cip (Comitato italiano paralimpico) and Fids (Federazione italiana danza sportiva) are collaborating on this event.  This activity are also Comune di Piazzola sul Brenta (host) and the Provincia di Padova and Regione Veneto.  Actively involved are the Pro loco Città di Piazzola sul Brenta where Ms Zecchin works.

FITA plans to combine the information garnered from Ms Zecchin’s work with other data provided by organisations working with the tourism sector so as to map the location of accessible services across the Maltese Islands.

More information about the deliverables of this initiative and FITA’s accessible services directory will be circulated over the coming weeks.

If you wish to learn more, you can email FITA at info@fitamalta.eu

Mar 292017
 
FITA visits The Palace in Sliema

Customers with a visual impairment joined FITA in trying out the new menu and sampling the food

Talk of Town Café, found at The Palace, Sliema, have created a Braille version of their menu to make their services accessible to customers with a visual impairment.

The menus was launched at Talk of Town Café in partnership with FITA (Foundation for Information Technology Accessibility) Malta, who with their expertise and equipment, helped to design and emboss the menu.

The management at the hotel wants to ensure that everyone has a great dining experience at The Palace, and be able to fully enjoy the delicious food offered at Talk of Town Café. This outlet combines fashionable dining, exquisite food, and an array of fine wines and cocktails to create a vibrant and distinctive experience to be enjoyed by all guests.

“This initiative aims to provide comfort and independence to clients with visual impairments.  The menu features food and beverage items and prices in a large font and in Braille.  Regular ink print, with larger letter sizes, was also printed on the menu, which can be more easily read by people with low vision.” said James Galea, Operations Manager at The Palace and The Victoria Hotel.

Reading Braille

Reading the Braille and Large print menu at The Palace, Sliema

Stanley Debono, FITA CEO, had words of praise for this ingenuity, adding that “Talk of Town Café has managed to impress our vision-impaired community with its active interest in the introduction of a Braille version of their menu. Thanks to the assistance of the staff at this outlet, people with visual impairment can feel at home.”

Mr Joseph Cauchi from local NGO, ADVICE said that although he doesn’t know how to read Braille, “the way this menu is designed makes it easy for any person, including those with low vision, to read and understand it. Like everyone else, we appreciate the fact that places like Talk of Town Café are clearly showing respect and accessibility to clients, including the vision-impaired community.

No doubt that this accessible and inclusive menu will make the experience more pleasurable for us.”

“At The Palace and all other hotels within the AX Hotels group, we strive to go beyond what is required, push boundaries, think out of the box and be leaders in the industry, in order to provide a comfortable and memorable stay for our guests.” said Kevin Callus, Hotel Manager at The Palace and The Victoria Hotel.

Press Release reproduced with permission from The Palace Hotel, Sliema

Related resources

 

Mar 152017
 

web design sketchAn update to WCAG 2.0 is in the works and the new version, WCAG 2.1, is expected to be published mid-2018. The development of WCAG 2.1 will focus on existing gaps in WCAG 2.0, particularly issues related to touch interfaces, small screen sizes, and issues impacting users with low vision and cognitive disabilities.

HTML5, script and WAI-ARIA are powerful tools that can create sensational interfaces. They are also packed with accessibility enhancing technologies. Nevertheless, or perhaps because of it, there are plenty of examples on how modern technologies becomes an accessibility barrier despite developers moving in with a great deal of enthusiasm.  Creative use of illustration, icons, and other images can make web content more engaging and dynamic. How can you ensure these graphics convey consistent meaning to a diverse audience? Using principles from comics and universal design, can be among the possible solutions.  Today’s developers and designers continue to explore challenges and techniques for effectively incorporating images in a way that resonates with audiences across varying cultural contexts, languages, and abilities.

Learn more by visiting https://www.w3.org/blog/2016/10/wcag-2-1-under-exploration/ or following the upcoming Funka Accessibility Days event at http://www.funka.com/en/we-offer/funka-accessibility-days/program/

Mar 142017
 

Mr. Michael Micallef at FITAL-istorja tal-FITA skond is-Sur Michael Micallef
— ħaddiem tal-MITA li jaħdem fi ħdan il-Fondazzjoni għall-Aċċessibilita’ Fl-Informatika (FITA)

Kien fil-bidu ta’ l-1998 li jiena kont ħriġt bl-idea li b’xi mod nipprovdu taħriġ għall-nies għomja u neqsin mid-dawl.  Illum ftit forsi jiftakru li l-ewwel sessjonijiet ta’ taħriġ kienu saru fil-bini tas-CRPD Santa Venera.  Ftit żmien wara akkwistajna uffiċċju fil-bini ta’ Gattard House, li oriġinarjament kien il-ħsieb li tintuża bħala wirja permanenti żgħirha ta’ l-informazzjoni u teknoloġija.

Għall bidu, kont immexxi waħdi dan is-servizz, sakemm eventwalment ġiet imwaqqfa l- Fondazzjoni għall-Aċċessibilita’ Fl-Informatika (FITA), bil-kollaborazzjoni bejn il-CRPD u l-MITA, Dik il-ħabta Chairman tas-CRPD kien is-Sur Joe Camilleri.  Minn żmien għall-żmien kien ikolli laqgħat mas-Sur Camilleri biex naraw kif jista’ jitjieb is-servizz.  Waħda mill-ewwel ħtiġijiet li jiena ħassejt li kien hemm bżonn kienet li l-FITA jkollha Kap Eżekuttiv li jista’ jmexxi l-fondazzjoni ‘l quddiem.

Minn din il-ħatra ‘l hemm, kien hemm impatt kbir għaliex, mhux biss is-servizzi tal-FITA komplew jitjiebu imma komplew jikbru. Infatti maż-żmien bdejna noħolqu servizzi ta’ kollaborazzjoni ma diversi aġenziji oħra fosthom l-MCAST, l-ETC, l-Education u entitajiet oħra.

Servizzi

Tul dawn is-snin fil-FITA żviluppajna diversi servizzi ġodda li qabel ma kienux jeżistu.  Dawn jinkludu l-evalwazzjoni tal-websites biex naraw il-livell ta’ aċċessibilita.  Ħloqna ukoll programm fejn min ried li jkollu il-website ċertifikata bħala aċċessibbli, stajna ngħinuh jagħmel dan bl-iktar mod faċli u bl-inqas spejjeż possibbli.

Servizz ieħor ta’ importanza li tagħti l-FITA, imma li sfortunatament ma tantx jidher huwa servizz ta’ support tekniku lill-dawk l-għomja li jkunu jridu xi assistenza biex jissettjaw xi ħaga fil-kompjuters tagħhom u forsi ma’ jkollhomx l-għarfien li jagħmlu dan waħedhom. Dan is-servizz ta’ support mhux biss intlaqa tajjeb ħafna, izda għadu fost l-aktar apprezzati.

Il-FITA kumplimentari mas-servizz li għadni kemm semmejt, għandna ukolll servizzi ta’ konsulenza mhux biss għall-persuni b’diżabilita imma wkoll għall-dawk li jħaddmu u li forsi jesperjenzaw xi diffikulta fuq ix-xogħol għax jinzerta li jkollhom xi ħaddiem li sfortunatament jispiċċa b’diżabilita u huma jkunu jixtiequ li mhux biss jibqgħu iħaddmuh magħhom lill-dak il-ħaddiem, imma jtejbulu il-livell tal-kontribut tiegħu fuq il-post tax-xogħol.

Taħriġ

Kienu numru sostanzjali ta’ studenti li bbenefikaw mit-taħriġ fl-informatika li tajthom.  Għandi pjacir ngħid li ħafna minnhom wara li spiċċaw mill-kors komplew itejbu il-ħiliet tagħhom b’mod individwali.

Illum għandi 53 sena.  Tajjeb ngħid li meta bdejt jiena fl-informatika l-affarijiet kienu ħafna iżjed iebsin, dan għaliex l-ewwelnett it-teknoloġija tal-kompjuters jitkellmu kienet għadha fil-bidu tagħha u l-irħas sistemi kienu dawk robotiċċi u barra minn hekk f’Malta ma’ kien għad m’hawn ħadd li kellu esperjenza ta’ kif sistemi ta’ kompjuters jitkellmu setgħu jintużaw, jiġu programmati, u iktar iktar xi kwalita ta’ xogħolijiet ġodda setgħu jinħolqu jekk wieħed  jitgħallem juża din it-teknoloġija.

Għandna diversi persuni għomja u neqsin mid-dawl li bis-saħħa tal-kompjuters jitkellmu, għandhom impjieg stabbli u produttiv. Biex insemmi ftit mid-diversita’ ta’ xogħolijiet li nħolqu, dawn jinkludu avukati, skrivani, xogħol ta’ riċerka, w xogħol ta’ konverżjoni ta’ dokumenti stampati għal dokumenti elettroniċi.

Teknoloġija

It-teknoloġija ta’ l-informatika ma fihiex limitu. Fil-futur nixtieq nara xogħlijiet ġodda bħal per eżempju ‘Stock Broking’. Nagħlaq billi ngħid li f’ħajti t-teknologija ta’ l-informatika kellhom impatt kbir, mhux biss għax għandi impjieg, imma ukoll għax permezz ta’ dan l-impieg għamilt differenza f’ħajjiet nies oħra.  Barra minn hekk, it-teknoloġija tagħtni lura parti sostanzjali mill-indipendenza, li kienet itteħditli meta jiena kont tlift id-dawl ta’ għajnejja fl-eta’ ta’ 23 sena.

Jekk tixtiequ titgħalmu aktar dwar kif il-FITA w kif ngħinu intrapriżi w persuni b’diżabilita’ biex titkattar l-aċċessibilita’ għal kulħadd, tistgħu issibuna fuq 25992343 jew info@fitamalta.eu

Inselmilkom.

 

Related Resources

15 Years of service, projects and innovation

Mar 022017
 
FITA ICT Information Session - 2nd March 2017

FITA ICT Information Session – 2nd March 2017

Further to the ongoing success achieved through collaboration with ADVICE and NannietMalta, we are pleased to confirm two future information sessions.

These will be held at FITA, Gattard House, National Road Blata l-Bajda.  If you wish to attend please reserve your seat by calling FITA on 25992048 or email us at info@fitamalta.eu.

Information Sessions

  1. Use of money, banking and shopping over the Internet
    — Thursday 6th April 9:30am to 12:00 am
  2. Facebook and other online social networks
    — Thursday 4th May 9:30am to 12:00am

ICT Training Courses

Calls for FITA ICT course applications carried out in collaboration with the Directorate for Lifelong Learning (DLL) are now open. These courses start in October 2017 and end in May/June 2018. Sessions of two hours are held on a weekly basis, for an average 32 hours in total.  These are evening courses, and possible classroom locations are in Kirkop, Mriehel and Msida, depending on demand and student preferences.

You can fill in the online form here, or contact FITA with your ICT training requirements.  Planned courses are as follows:

  1. ICT for Beginners
  2. ECDL Basic
  3. ECDL Advanced 6 (Ms Powerpoint)
  4. Blogging
  5. Podcasting
  6. Social Networks

With the support of DLL, FITA is striving to make its courses as inclusive as possible.  A step in this direction, is the inclusion of non-disabled persons from varying age groups within these classes.  Based on past experience, we believe that as long as students retain a similar level of ICT knowledge, this will provide for the sharing of different backgrounds and experiences within a healthy learning environment.    For further information you may contact FITA on 25992048 or email us at info@fitamalta.eu.

Feb 222017
 

Dear FITA mailing list subscribers,

Merlin Publishers have created a professionally produced set of audiobooks of a wide range of original children’s literature in Maltese.

These audio books include popular classics such as Fra Mudest as well as more contemporary novels such as Irvin Vella Investigatur Virtwali.

These audio books are professionally recorded by well-known actors – Ray Calleja, Rachel Portelli, Roderick Vassallo, Daniela Carabott Pawley, Ruth Borg, Chris Galea, Ruth Borg, Antonella Mifsud – under the artistic direction of Josette Ciappara.

These new audiobooks will allow Maltese speaking children with visual impairments, to join their sighted peers in experiencing the joys of reading books in Maltese.

The audio books are available in mp3 format and are readable on any mp3 player device, including computers and tablets.

Thanks to funding by the Premju tal-President għall-Kreattività, the audio books are  free of charge to anyone who has a vision impairment or print disability.

Eligible individuals, can contact Merlin Publishers – quoting the NGO which will have referred you, in this case FITA – on info@merlinpublishers.com or on telephone number 21246472.
Following necessary verification, Merlin  Publishers will send you free copies of the audiobooks.

List of books being made available as audiobooks:

  1. Mingu
    Author: Clare Azzopardi
    Read by: Ruth Borġ
    Age: 6+
  2. Imeldina
    Author: Sandra Hili Vassallo
    Read by: Ruth Borġ
    Age: 3+
  3. Jake Cassar isalva ir-Renju tar-Re Pankrazju IV
    Author: Clare Azzopardi
    Read by: Ray Calleja
    Age: 8+
  4. Jake Cassar Ir-Re Pankrazju jagħlaq mitt sena
    Author: Clare Azzopardi
    Read by: Ray Calleja
    Age: 8+
  5. Ħadd ma jista’ jidħak jew jiekol pastizzi tal-piżelli
    Author: Trevor Żahra
    Read by: Josette Ciappara
    Age: 9+
  6. Ħadd ma jista’ jkanata jew idoqq strumenti tal-banda
    Author: Trevor Żahra
    Read by: Josette Ciappara
    Age: 9+
  7. Kif Jaħsibhom Mastru Gerfex
    Author: Carmel Cauchi
    Read by: Chris Galea
    Age: 8+
  8. Fra Mudest
    Author: Charles Casha
    Read by: Antonella Mifsud
    Age: 8+
  9. Il-Ħrejjef Kollha ta’ Wied Peprina
    Author: Trevor Żahra
    Read by: Rachel Portelli
    Age: 8+
  10. Irivin Vella Investigatur Virtwali: il-Każ Manduca
    Author: John Bonello
    Read by: Roderick Vassallo
    Age: 10+
  11. Il-Każ (kważi) kollu tal-Aħwa de Molizz
    Author: Clare Azzopardi
    Read by: Daniela Carabott Pawley
    Age: 10+
  12. Arloġġ u Tila
    Author: Roberta Bajada
    Read by: Josette Ciappara
    Age: 10+

 

Related Resources

Feb 072017
 

Demo of FITAPhone software The Foundation for IT Accessibility (FITA) annually channels ICT project requests to relevant educational entities or associations.  Projects are added to this list whenever it identifies a gap between the abilities of persons with disability and what they wish to achieve.  The PC telephony project proposal was first circulated back in 2013.  Our primary target audience were University and MCAST students.

In the days of dial-up Internet, modems with voice support capabilities were popular, and one could easily and cheaply enable a person who could not use a standard phone set, but still had access to a computer, to communicate using the phone, via their PC.  A modem or modem card would cost you anywhere from Lm7 to Lm35 (approx EUR16 to EUR90).

With the introduction of ADSL, cable based Internet and other alternatives, this hardware became harder to find, and most software no longer supports it.  If you ask for a modem at a computer shop, salespeople immediately point you to broadband Internet technology products since the old technology is not familiar to them.

The majority of solutions that FITA came across, refer to PC-Telephone solutions, that use broadband connectivity to establish connections.  Among these are many valid solutions, most of which are available as smartphone APPs, but they still rely on the Internet and not more straight forward FITAPhone certificate presentation to Mr Pelligraphone calls.

The ICT solution we sought through this project, enables users to make and receive standard phone calls by using their computer instead of a telephone hand set, which they may not be able to operate effectively.  After much searching, we eventually confirmed that one can still source this technology from local telecom product suppliers (not the providers of telecom services).  However, since PC based telephony products are no longer in high demand, prices have gone up steeply.

FITA invested in such solutions in order to address the accessibility needs of its employees, because of operational constraints and service continuation requirements. Up till now current solutions were not sufficiently accessible, nor were these financially affordable to the average person.  Moreover even fewer was within the reach of many households before FITA and MCAST came up with an alternative accessible solution, geared for home use but adaptable to different situations.

Thanks to the support of MCAST and Mr. Jader Pelligra, who started work on the project back in 2014, we can now propose a product which empowers persons with mobility difficulties.  By using their Ms Windows based computer to handle voice based communication and doing away with inaccessible telephone hand sets, they can now fulfill many clerical job requirements.

FITAPhone Way2Call deviceMr. Pelligra who at the time was a student at the MCAST ICT Institute, started exploring different hardware solutions and developed the user interface software from scratch.  The project experienced delays mainly because the first batch of foreign sourced hardware proved to be defective and had to be returned for replacement.  With the new hardware, the project went smoothly and more functionality could be added on to the software.

The hardware we are using is branded Way2Call and costs around EUR200.  Since FITA owns the source code, work on this project will continue, as we experiment with alternative hardware platforms so as to provide FITA clients with a range of options.  Mr Pelligra who has now joined the MCAST University College, has donated the source code of the software to FITA and continues to support the project.  FITA ran successful accessibility assessments on  the software and included it among the ICT Pool solutions hosted at MITA in Gattard House.

An important area of FITA’s work is research.  Through our information sessions, we strive to explain the latest developments and research findings in the field of ICT accessibility, including those reported through our website and Facebook page. FITA believe that technicians and engineers, should not limit the scope of their reading just to technical papers in their own research area.  Electronic journals such as ‘Nature Photonics‘ seem to agree when stating that “Discussing direct practical implementation of their knowledge and expertise with potential ends users, is a way to keep in touch with the needs of the industry and society.  This is because innovation is often inspired by ‘cross-fertilization’ as a result of hearing about new ideas, technologies and techniques from other fields.”

Accessibility testing of FITAPhone softwareAmong the other queries often made to FITA, is that for accessible mobile phone technology,  or talking phones  with simplified large print and/or large button phone sets.  These are particularly useful for persons with vision or literacy difficulties.  FITA publishes a list of such devices, on its website at www.fitamalta.eu.  The direct link to the downloads section is http://www.fitamalta.eu/resources/downloads/

For more information about FITA and this project, you may contact FITA on info@fitamalta.eu or on (356) 25992048.

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