Stanley M Debono

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+
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.

Related Resources

 

 

Jan 212017
 

VR headsetBack in the 1990s, virtual reality was on the lips of everyone as multiple companies tried and failed to make it happen. The most notable device back then was the Nintendo Virtual Boy, though it failed miserably, and was discontinued a year after going on sale.

When it comes to augmented reality, we’re looking at something that has found more success in the consumer space when compared to virtual reality. We’ve seen several applications with AR, along with video game and hardware devices such as the Google Glass. It is not always virtual reality vs. augmented reality– they do not always operate independently of one another, and in fact are often blended together to generate an even more immersing experience. For example, haptic feedback-which is the vibration and sensation added to interaction with graphics-is considered an augmentation. However, it is commonly used within a virtual reality setting in order to make the experience more lifelike though touch.

What is Augmented Reality ?

Augmented reality is the blending of virtual reality and real life, as developers can create images within applications that blend in with contents in the real world. With AR, users are able to interact with virtual contents in the real world, and are able to distinguish between the two.

AR technology is quickly coming into the mainstream. It is used to display score overlays on telecasted sports games and pop out 3D emails, photos or text messages on mobile devices. Leaders of the tech industry are also using AR to do amazing and revolutionary things with holograms and motion activated commands.

What is Virtual Reality ?

Virtual reality is all about the creation of a virtual world that users can interact with. This virtual world should be designed in such a way that users would find it difficult to tell the difference from what is real and what is not. Furthermore, VR is usually achieved by the wearing of a VR helmet or goggles similar to the Oculus Rift. VR up till now, is mainly used in two different ways:

  1. To create and enhance an imaginary reality for gaming, entertainment, and play (Such as video and computer games, or 3D movies, head mounted display).
  2. To enhance training for real life environments by creating a simulation of reality where people can practice beforehand (Such as flight simulators for pilots).

Virtual reality is possible through a coding language known as VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) which can be used to create a series of images, and specify what types of interactions are possible for them.

Differences and similarities

Both virtual reality and augmented reality are similar in the goal of immersing the user, though both systems to this in different ways. With AR, users continue to be in touch with the real world while interacting with virtual objects around them. With VR, the user is isolated from the real world while immersed in a world that is completely fabricated.

How can these technologies help persons with disability?

According to a March 2016  report from Digi-Capital, investment in augmented reality and VR reached $1.1 billion in the first two months of this year.

A billion-dollar industry is taking off, and we are excited that it has the potential to transform the lives of disabled people. But whatever the promise of this amazing tech, the industry has to move quickly to understand the needs and abilities of a full range of people and make sure it can offer a great experience for every possible user.

For the 285 million people in the world who are blind or have sight loss, there’s a lot to consider in a virtual reality that relies heavily on eyesight. We would, of course, hope to see screen readers and voice tools like Siri incorporated into VR products as the standard. It’s also increasingly common to see screen interfaces that allow users to adjust the text size and contrast for different vision abilities, and we’d like to see this translated to VR.

It might prove a little more tricky, but attention to detail is vital if VR is going to be something that everyone can use.

We’re excited at the prospect of this technology helping people with certain eye conditions see things again — by defining objects with greater contrast and clarity. Or if someone is blind and visual information can be represented in other ways, then this is a powerful method to allow the person to be aware of their surroundings and make informed decisions on navigation and interaction.

There have been some big breakthroughs. For example, Bonny, the woman in the video below, was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease 10 years ago and hadn’t been able to see any faces for eight years. The disease causes a reduction in your central, or detailed, vision. The video shows her using an Android app called Near Sighted VR Augmented Aid, which works with a phone camera and displays the front image to the phone screen in stereoscopic.

Although sight loss might be the biggest inclusivity issue for developers to think about, it isn’t the only one.

For the 360 million people in the world with hearing loss, VR developers should be looking to sync up/provide real-time captions without delays, as well as offer alternatives to sound effects, such as vibration/haptic feedback — both of which would be beneficial for all users. The integration of recently invented SignAloud gloves would also be useful in VR to enable people who use sign language to communicate within the experience.

While a lot of the focus of VR is sensory, there are a number of considerations for those with physical disability rather than a sensory loss. Users in a wheelchair, for example, might enjoy VR as a way to “move” more easily around places their wheelchair can’t go, enabling them to climb mountains, or skateboard perhaps.

However, for those parts of a VR experience that do require a physical movement and which aren’t possible for some people, developers need to find ways through. We would suggest this include such measures as enabling a user to send signals or “move” using an eye tracker.

We love the fact that VR is already being used in some cases to help aid muscle memory recovery for things like stroke, too. Synthesized environments help people simulate walking and other movements. The video below shows a prototype of the Teslasuit — a wireless outfit that uses electro muscular stimulation and combines it with VR to make a more engaging experience.

But inclusivity can be a lot more than basic accessibility. We think VR is a ripe opportunity to think outside conventions and make a world that is more user-friendly for all. At the moment, for example with the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, the head height (and controller location) of the user is automatically tracked, placing the camera level of the user at something closely approximating their natural head height, whether in a wheelchair or otherwise.

What if there was a way to adjust the head height so that people in wheelchairs could choose to have a higher point of vision than they do in everyday life, enabling them to see and reach more clearly within the VR world, and have more access to their VR surroundings?

It’s an exciting new world that is still in its infancy — very few of the big players are even mentioning inclusivity. But like any area of digital accessibility, there is a huge opportunity in getting this right, and we’re confident that the next few years will see serious investment from companies looking to capitalize on the inclusive potential and really use this technology for social good.

Sources:
Jan 202017
 

AISquared issued an urgent notification informing clients of forthcoming startup failures in ZoomText 10.1 and their other products.  It is important you act before 26th January 2017.

Problem

The digital certificate used to certify newer ZoomText and Window-Eyes software products has been compromised. As a result, our certificate will be revoked on or around January 26th, which will result in startup failures for the following Ai Squared products.  When attempting to start the following Ai Squared software products, the product will fail to launch and display a Windows error message: “A referral was returned from the server”

  • ZoomText Magnifier v10.1                     Build numbers 10.10.8 through 10.11.6
  • ZoomText Magnifier/Reader v10.1        Build numbers 10.10.8 through 10.11.6
  • ZoomText Fusion v10.1                          Build numbers 10.11.1 through 10.11.5
  • ZoomText Keyboard v4                          Build numbers 4.0.0 and 4.1.0
  • Window-Eyes v9.5                                 Build numbers 9.5.1 and 9.5.3

When attempting to start the following Ai Squared software products, the product may launch even though the certificate has been revoked. Anti-virus utilities may detect the invalid certificate and block the software from running.

  • ZoomText ImageReader v1.2                             Build numbers 1.2.16106
  • ZoomText Voices (language packs) v1.0           Build numbers 1.0.1.4693
  • Vocalizer Expressive v1.3 (for Windows Eyes)   Build numbers 1.3.0.13329

Note: Inspection of the certificate will show that the certificate is invalid. Inspection and validation of certificates is a process performed by some organizations.

Solution (software updates)

For each of the affected products, software updates incorporating a new digital signature will be released and available for download prior to January 26th. We will send updated information as it becomes available. You can check https://www.aisquared.com/certificatefix for updated information.

Software Product  –  Update version
  • ZoomText Magnifier  v10.1      –     10.11.7
  • ZoomText Magnifier/Reader v10.1      –     10.11.7
  • ZoomText Fusion v10.1      –     10.11.7
  • ZoomText Keyboard v4.1      –     4.1.1
  • Window-Eyes v9.5       –     9.5.4
  • ZoomText ImageReader 1.2      –     1.3.0
  • ZoomText Voices v1.0      –      1.0.2
  • Vocalizer Expressive v1.3 (for Windows Eyes)      –     1.3
Warning When Disabling Security Options

Various websites provide steps for disabling Windows security options with the expectation that unsigned software executables will start and run. Disabling these security options will not fix these problems for the ZoomText and Windows Eyes products and may compromise security and protection from malware. Ai Squared strongly recommends against disabling these security options.

Conclusion

We apologize for the inconvenience this issue has caused you, but assure you we are doing everything possible to rectify this matter as soon as possible. To minimize downtime, we encourage you to update your software as soon as possible.

If you have questions or require assistance resolving this problem, contact the Ai Squared support team at (727) 803-8600 option 2 or mailto:support@aisquared.com.

As some of you may have already noticed, we just released English Window-Eyes 9.5.4 this morning (January 18th).  Other languages will soon follow.  It is very important if you are using Window-Eyes 9.5.1 or 9.5.2 or 9.5.3 that you upgrade to 9.5.4 before the digital certificate described above is revoked.   Once the certificate is revoked these copies of Window-Eyes will no longer launch leaving you without speech and/or braille.

Jan 192017
 

FITA - Nanniet Malta Info Session 19 January 2017Today FITA held another in the series of information sessions organised for members of Nanniet Malta.  These sessions cover the use and accessibility of smartphones and tablet devices.  Today’s session targeted generic ICT difficulties.  Planned future sessions will cover specific ICT topics and accessibility features, APPs and skills.

As the internet plays an increasingly central role in connecting persons of all ages to news and information, government services, health resources, and opportunities for social support, the divisions caused by lack of accessibility become much are noteworthy—particularly for the many organizations and individual caregivers who serve the older adult population.

Clients attending FITA consultancy sessions report lack of access to information due to online newspapers being image based-inaccessible PDFs, online store information and adverts lacking meaningful text descriptions or online forms being too complicated to navigate.  For some, magnification is a temporary solution, but as vision deteriorates, text based alternatives become more and more important.

Among the elderly, there exist varying views on the subject.  PEW used to affirm that elderly people will never seek smartphones.  We believe time is proving them wrong.  Back in 2014 some 32% of the 70-74 ages and 12% of the 75+ affirmed, smartphones are pretty useless if you aren’t Tweeting that you’ve just arrived at the bar, don’t want to surf the web just now, can wait for that cute picture of little Angel the dog, already have a GPS on the dashboard, and know full well that most of your email is spam.  And if any hand/finger mobility or vision issues have arrived, getting that smartphone to behave can initially be one of life’s nightmares. While a few companies provide alternatives for seniors, training them on how to use them effectively is a must.

Only a few inquisitive minds have the worthwhile tenacity to go back to ask additional questions about their new phone every single day – and will keep going every time there is an upgrade or a new feature he or she doesn’t understand.  Ultimately, these people still comment that they learn more from targeted group sessions at FITA, than from one off tips at their local phone store.

Boomers have smartphones. When they become seniors they are unlikely to give up their smartphones. As they age and inevitably develop age-related difficulties, like we all do, they will probably  be coaxed or motivated to become smartphone mService users.  In fact, we can benefit more from these technology linked benefits as we age.

Nowadays, most smartphones come with built-in screen readers.  Friends and family often lack the time or knowledge to help persons with disability, learn to make an effective use of these devices.  However, with FITA’s help, having gone through the initial learning curve, users find these gadgets increasingly indispensable.  Many say, they would never go back to not using a tablet or computer.  Being able to access information and services again is a life changer.

 

Jan 022017
 

Working out and eating right are at the top of most people’s New Year’s resolutions. Maybe unknowingly, we must also address the challenges of a healthy media diet. There are screen-time limits to manage, new apps and gadgets to investigate, and bizarre social media trends to make sense of. In a world where all he family is racking up serious screen time, making a commitment to a healthy media environment is critical for family time, learning, relationships, and digital citizenship.

Have a device-free dinner. Piles of research show the benefits of family dinner. But the simple act of leaving your devices off the table — just a few times a week — allows you to role-model good digital habits (and actually talk meaningfully to your family members).

When it comes to media, think quality, not quantity. Instead of counting up every minute you spend watching YouTube, strive for a balance of online and offline activities throughout the week.

Find high-quality movies, TV shows, apps, games, and books so your screen time has some nutritional value. Use media for relationship strengthening. While there are concerns that media isolates us, it can absolutely bring us together — if you take advantage of how it connects you.

Try video-chatting, scrolling through digital photo albums, playing video games, and even sharing music playlists to bond with your parents, kids and friends who may live far away.

Don’t ban; have a plan. Keep an open mind about media and tech, and accept the important — and often beneficial — role these play in lives. Manage them, do not let technology and consumerism manage you.

Create a family media plan to ensure that kids stick to limits. Encourage them to behave positively online and be upstanders. Talk to them about what they watch, play, create, and read.

Have a family movie night and watch TV shows with diverse characters, movies with strong female characters, or movies with incredible role models for boys. Seek out diverse characters. Exposure to a variety of types of people increases tolerance and acceptance and dispels dangerous stereotypes. Being able to get along with all types of people is a skill that helps us whether we are interacting online or in the real world.

Be media-savvy. If 2016 was the year fake news went viral, make 2017 the year your learn how to view all media (not just “news”) critically.
Stop being fooled. Explain how to see through fake news, and teach kids media smarts during breaking news.

Tighten your privacy. Our increasingly connected world puts personal privacy and online data at risk. The ability to share anything at any time can be especially dicey to tweens and teens who may not be able to think through all the ways their posts can be used by others.

Make sure to use strict privacy settings on social media, apps, and other accounts, and make sure not to share any personal information (name, age, address, identification numbers) with people you meet online.

Did we leave anything out? Do you have other ideas to make 2017 more accessible, safe and productive? Message us and let us know. Happy 2017 everyone.

Adapted from an article by Ms Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media

Dec 292016
 

Dear subscriber,

FITA regularly receives requests for assistance from different research groups.  On this occasion we are circulating the request of Ms Christina Debono, who is a 4th year student, reading for a B.A (Hons) in Social Work at the University of Malta.

The title of her thesis is The Inclusion of Persons with Disability within the Workplace: What are the challenges and opportunities presented in the Maltese workplace?.

In  order to be able to carry forward with her research, she is seeking the participation of

  • 10 persons with a mobility impairment who are in employment and
  • 5 employers who have persons with disability among their workforce.

The research study will be based on interviews of approximately 30 to 45 minutes with all the participants. Individual interviews will be held at a place and time that is mutually agreed upon.  All the information provided will be considered as strictly confidential and all data will be kept anonymous.

Should you wish  to participate, you may contact Ms Debono directly by email at christinadebono@hotmail.com or on mobile number 99247856.

The Research Information Sheet may be accessed here.