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May 2020

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Good morning <<First Name>>,

From all of us at Web Key IT, we hope you are keeping safe during these difficult times. In Western Australia, we are doing wonderfully with decreasing our numbers for those infected with COVID and have had many days with zero cases over the past few weeks- we are hoping this will soon be over, as I am sure everyone is.

We hope to bring you a little normality today by bringing you our regular monthly e-newsletter, that you can read from wherever you are- in isolation, at work, working from home, or just having some time off. Today you'll be hearing from one of our very talented Usability Analysts, Cameron Toomey.

- Emma Murray

Assistive Technologies for the Workplace

14th May 2020 by Cameron Toomey
Whether you have been living with a disability for many years or recovering from a recent accident, there will come a time when you will need to assess your current working environment and seek advice on how to best optimise it. A functional assessment with an occupational therapist is a great way to start the process and to maximise your working potential, however your needs may change rapidly as technologies evolve and develop.  Over the past 25 years of working as a C5 quadriplegic, I have come to realise that technology often moves faster than its requirement.  As I just get comfortable working where I’m at, I stumble across new technologies that will enrich my working environment.   As I go about making change, the clock keeps ticking, I slowly adapt and before I know it, I’m back in a comfortable place needing to update my technology. 

 In recent years I have found cloud technology (the delivery of computing services including servers, storage, databases etc over the internet) to be a game changer. When confined to a wheelchair, simple daily tasks can seem overwhelming and the thought of adopting new technologies and processes can cause a feeling of anxiety. I have tried to simplify my technology use across both my personal and working life. For business I use the Microsoft platform and utilise the power of the cloud to access information and connect applications across platforms and devices. Having structure on the cloud platforms enables me to enjoy a smooth-running digital environment and provides peace of mind knowing that everything is in the right place and easily accessible.  

I have tried to simplify my technology use across both my personal and working life.‍

There are five necessary pieces of equipment that support my working environment, living with limited hand function and mobility challenges. 

1.     Mobile phone with stylus - I currently use a Samsung Note 10 and find the voice control and stylus is a great combination for me to be functional and mobile.

2.     Microsoft Surface book – This laptop-come-tablet has great agility and can be used in many forms. I can find myself sitting up in bed having access to a powerful computer in the form of a tablet.  This enables me to continue working on complex applications or performing the most simple tasks working within productivity apps and searching the web. 
Cam in wheelchair with hat, outside on his laptop smiling

‍3.     Dragon Voice Recognition - Voice recognition has come a long way over the past decade. Dragon has always been the leader in this space and continues to provide a product that is floorless in execution.  A little time is required to train yourself and understand the technology but once you’re up to speed it is a great piece of technology for your toolbox.  I’m currently dictating this blog using voice control.

‍4.     Plantronics 5200 Ear Piece - I only started using a Bluetooth ear piece three years ago and it has changed my life. Living with low function, no balance and difficulty reaching for a phone, I now put on an ear piece in the morning when I get dressed and I take it off when I’m ready for dinner. I have trialled a variety of different brands and the Plantronics 5200 is by far the most effective.  The noise cancelling technology enables me to drive in my car, with the ramp rattling around in the back and people think I am sitting on my couch.

‍5.     Microsoft Surface Studio - This is not a must have yet I have found this computer fantastic to use in my office.The Surface Studio is a 28”touch screen PC with the ability to lay almost flat on the desk or any position ranging from 90° to 15°. This enables me to use Dragon Voice when dictating directly in Outlook, Gmail and any office productivity applications and use a pen to write directly on to the screen when marking up documents or getting thoughts out of my head. 

stock image of someone using a surface studio with a stylus
There are many changes you can make to your working environment and assistive technology can remove barriers for you to become more independent. It’s important to break down your barriers in your mind as much as it’s important to break down and recognise your barriers physically. Living with disability has its challenges at the best of times and any opportunity to remove a barrier to gain independence is a great step. 

We are fortunate to be living in a time when the Government has recognised people with disability need considerable support to enable them to live a somewhat normal life. This support comes in many forms - there is the physical daily living support that enables people like myself to get ready for the day and assistive technologies that allow me to continue my involvement in work and family environments.  Job Access is a government funding body that supports people with disability within the workplace offering equipment and modifications to remove barriers of independence. Learning how to use technology is almost as important as the implementation. It takes many hours to train voice recognition mission software and there needs to be a real commitment to know how to best adapt your technology before maximising your potential.

The online learning available to us today is greater than ever and being able to use communication platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams enables us to share screens and interact effectively. There have been incredible steps made towards accessing technologies that will help many people with disabilities live a more fruitful and full life.

From the Director 

I thought the time spent working remotely might seem to drag a bit, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  People have adapted very quickly to working from home and are accommodating the changed working environment.  As things slowly come back to a more normal situation, we need to think of some of the things we have learned.  For me, it is remembering to keep in contact with people in a different way.  I have been phoning more people, rather than my normal flurry of emails.  I have realised how much I enjoy actually seeing and hearing the person, rather than just reading texts and emails.  I hope that I remember that going forward. 
At Web Key IT, we have tried to introduce a couple of different ideas.  Many people have told us how much they enjoyed our face-to-face training sessions, so we have worked hard to produce an online course that will commence on June 8th.  Emma has put the details in this newsletter if you’re interested.  It will be as personal as possible, with a live lecture/discussion time at 9 am each day and then a short assignment based on that material with extension activities for those who want to take it a bit further. Assignments will be marked and certificates awarded for completion.
I recorded a short video on the importance of digital accessibility in times like these.  I also recorded my first fully digital keynote presentation for the W4A Conference.  Both of these are available from our website and YouTube channel.  If you have time, please check out our videos and let us know what you think.  If you have an idea for a video tutorial on something specific to accessibility, please tell us and we will see what we can do. If you are interested in a Learn@Lunchtime event, let us know and we will see if we can do that through video if possible, or book it in for when your employees return to the office.
If you are working from home, now is a great time to do some personal training, capitalising on that saved commuting time. Let us know if we can help. 

Kind Regards,

We’re inspired by a recent Facebook post by Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky of Los Angeles:  “Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place. Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern. Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another must become a thought as to how we might help that other, should the need arise.

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Online Training Course

Web Key IT is offering a one-week online training course in Digital Accessibility.  The course features interactive live lectures by digital accessibility experts and includes additional short assignments leading to the awarding of a Certificate of Completion. Find out more here!

White Paper Release for GAAD

Yesterday (May 21st ) was Global Accessibility Awareness Day. On that day we released our white paper, “Digital Accessibility: Perceptions, Expectations and Reality”.  The white paper is available free of charge from this link.  This paper is the result of research conducted last year with both organisations and individuals in Australia and internationally.  Organisations were surveyed to ask their perceptions of the importance of digital accessibility and the accessibility standards of their websites and other digital material.  Individuals, both with and without disability, were asked about their chief issues with websites, applications etc., and what they felt of the current state of digital accessibility.  The results of these surveys were then compiled and Web Key IT has produced this white paper showing the reality both in Australia and internationally.  The research is unique in that it surveyed both groups at the same point of time, producing some very interesting results. Web Key IT would like to thank all who participated in the research and invite everyone to download the paper free of charge. We look forward to hearing your feedback!

Flinstones or Jetsons?

Vivienne Conway's Keynote from the W4A Conference for 2020 "A return to community: Flintstones or Jetsons?" is now available online on the ACM Digital Library website, available here.

Upcoming Events  Calendar icon


UXR Conference
3rd-5th June 2020
Toronto, Canada
COVID-19 response here
More information here

Web Key 5-Day Live Webinar
8th June 2020
Course Outline & Registration here

Perth Web Accessibility & Inclusive Design Meetup
16th June 2020
Online- details here
Read more about the Accessibility Meetup group

UX Australia
25th-26th August 2020
Melbourne, Australia
More information here
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