As part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA) and the National Commission Disabled Persons (KNPD), FITA holds an annual ICT Accessibility Award competition with the aim of promoting awareness and know how about accessibility amongst present and future ICT developers.
You Can’t Lose
By entering one or several projects into an accessible design/development competition, there is no direction to go but up. Putting forth your work and having people see it, read it, and experience it can help you as a student and professional in several ways. As a student, you gain insight into how projects are judged and what is deemed great accessible design, and as a professional you send your work to judges who are experts in their field. You also get to meet these judges and other business professionals that attend the competition event; yet another conduit to showcase your work, and yourself.
Make Your Work Better
Like a workshop or group review where peers, professors, and / or professionals listen to you describe and articulate your work and then provide you with constructive feedback on ICT accessibility, a competition provides a chance for you to showcase and obtain criticism and interpret your work’s worth. Knowing ahead of time that you are submitting to a competition also creates in you a sense of awareness that others – most notably, judges – are going to review your work. It makes you internally motivated to design a project that reflects your most advanced skills because you want it to impress and have people comment on it positively. By ensuring you product is accessible to all, you not only expand your potential market but you also gain a competitive advantage, empowering more and more customers through your product.
Keeping yourself organized and managing your schedule are skills all designers/developers benefit from, and if you schedule appropriate time to submit to competitions it helps you prioritize and work more efficiently. Competitions have specific parameters and submission requirements you must tailor your submittal to, so making sure you know exactly what you need to submit as a competition deliverable(s) is important (especially when negotiating time between school and work responsibilities). Often, competitions ask for a combination of design prototypes and plans, as well as succinct and clear written documentation describing your project.
You Become Involved
Competitions do a great job of involving and engaging their participants. Whether it’s through e-mail, social media, or door drops, competition participants gain access to a design network where they can keep tabs on competition deadlines, see who is judging, implement end user feedback, find where and when the competition winners are announced, and of course (the fun stuff) what they receive for winning. In addition, competitions relay other entrants’ work, winning or otherwise (with approval), which gives participants a great idea of “how ICT accessibility is implemented in business” and what you can expand upon in your own projects.
You Gain Affirmation, or Reaffirmation
You may have entered several design competitions or just one. Wherever you placed, you must have always learnt more about what works and what does not. Winning gives an affirming feeling that my universal design skills were, in a sense, acceptable – that the work I did was given a stamp of approval that said, “Yes, this is good accessible design.” As creative people, we consistently put work “out there” that (hopefully) reflects our best abilities and intentions. When your idea or concept, registers positively with judges and you’re listed as a finalist, your career wayfinding becomes clear and the project you devoted so much time to is given its time in the sun. It’s an affirming, or reaffirming, feeling that your accessible design was effective for society and added value.
What need I do?
The competition which is open to multiple categories, including students attending MCAST and University of Malta, aims to reward participants for producing accessible ICT solutions. Accessible ICT helps eliminate the difficulties which disabled persons must face on a regular basis. These difficulties include access to information and online services, brought about because some current technology implementations fail to apply design-for-all concepts.
Participants are to choose from a number of project proposals, including website design and selected software development projects. Some of the past selection lists identified by FITA and partnering disability organisations, include the following:
- Means of identifying EURO currency notes and coins using mobile phone cameras based around Symbian and i-phone Mobile phones
- Ability to send free SMS messages without requiring users to actually log into Go PLC, Vodafone, Melita and other online portals.
- Maltese/English and English/Maltese dictionary using PC and mobile phones
- A way for blind users to login into online forums and make it easier to navigate, read and reply to forum based messages using desktop computers or alternative platforms.
- A means of simplifying English and Maltese language based sentences into easy read format.
FITA provides free support on ICT Accessibility to the competition participants, assisting them in developing an accessible product or service that adequately matches the requirements of users, including disabled persons.
2012 – Daisy Book Creator
DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) is a technical standard for digital audio books, periodicals and computerized text. The DAISY Consortium develops, maintains and promotes open international DAISY Standards.DAISY digital format assists people who, for various reasons, have challenges using regular printed media. DAISY digital talking books offer the benefits of regular audiobooks, but they are superior because DAISY includes navigation.
DAISY Makes Reading Easier (YouTube Video) transcriptDAISY is designed to be a complete audio substitute for print material and is specifically designed for use by people with “print disabilities,” including blindness, impaired vision, and dyslexia. Based on MP3 and XML, the format has advanced features in addition to those of a traditional audio book. DAISY multimedia can be a book, magazine, newspaper, journal, computerized text or a synchronized presentation of text and audio. It provides up to six embedded “navigation levels” for content, including embedded objects such as images, graphics, and MathML. Users can search, place bookmarks, precisely navigate line by line, and regulate the speaking speed without distortion. DAISY also provides aurally accessible tables, references and additional information. As a result, DAISY allows visually impaired listeners to navigate something as complex as an encyclopedia or textbook, which is otherwise much harder to accomplish using conventional audio recordings.