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August 2022

Good morning <<First Name>>,

I hope everyone has been keeping warm through the chilly weather this month! 

A quick update on our training offering. We are running our Accessibility for InDesign one day course in October, so please get in touch if you are interested.

This month's article is written by Ryan Armer, from our Website Analyst team.

See you next issue!

Karl McCabe

Visual Reading Assistance with iOS

12th of August, by Ryan Armer (Usability Analyst)

Hello readers, my name is Ryan and I was born with a rare genetic eye disease. Amongst other things, this causes issues with reading small print. With assistive technology and accessibility functions, it has become possible for me to work in a way that I could have never done only a few decades ago. I’m now at the end of completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, criminology, and justice. In this newsletter, I’m going to share some of the technology and functionalities I have become accustomed to using in my daily work.

I use my iPad for most tasks these days, so I will focus on iOS apps. For daily reading, I use the iPad’s Speak Screen function. With Speak Screen, you swipe down with two fingers, and it will read aloud the text on screen. With speech controls turned on, a tab will appear, providing you with controls such as play, stop, forward, backwards, and speech speed. I prefer this over the Voice Over function, as you can perform other tasks while reading, or lock the iPad and keep listening. Anyone familiar with Voice Over will know that when you attempt to perform any other tasks, or lock the screen, the reading will stop. This can be very frustrating. Click here for more information on the Speak Screen function.

Occasionally I need to read a document that has been scanned from print form, and I would always need someone to read this to me. However, I’ve found an app that can either scan or import a document and read it. Click here for more information on the OneStep Reader.

Another great function I use in the Safari browser is the Show Reader view, which works on many web pages. This function can be activated by tapping the two As at far left of the address bar and pressing Show Reader. Once activated, it removes all unnecessary text (such as ads), and you can adjust the text size to suit your preferences. For pages that you regularly use, you can turn Show Reader on permanently, which is handy. Click here for more information on Safari Reader view. 

This is just a short introduction regarding some of the iOS functions which I have become dependent on for reading in my daily life. I hope that this information can be helpful to you. Thank you for reading and take care.

Colour Contrast For Text

A quick tip to ensure your text meets WCAG colour contrast requirements, if you are not super familiar with the guidelines. 

Make sure your text has a colour contrast ratio with the background of at least:

This will ensure your text passes all of the requirements around colour contrast. Don't forget, this includes images of text!

From the VP

Amanda Mace (Vice President)

Every step in the accessibility journey is an important one. That “line in sand” moment, someone asking “Is this accessible?”, calling in the experts like us, researching resources like those on the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiatives’ website or our 16 Steps for testing accessibility, joining a local Accessibility meet-up group (check out Perth’s Accessibility Meet-up Group). Each of these steps bring us closer to a more inclusive digital world.

This month I encourage you to take the next step, whatever that may be. We’re only an email or phone call away to support you through in your digital accessibility journey.

A quick training update: We are currently seeking expressions of interest for our ‘Accessibility for InDesign’ course. it provides guidance in creating InDesign files with accessibility in mind from the very start. A source file that is accessible will make for a better, more accessible final PDF. As always, our courses include hands-on practice and group discussions to help reinforce the content learnt in the theory sections. If you are interested in signing up for this course or would like more information, please get in touch with us.

Need something more advanced? What about having us in to run a customised session for you and your staff? From InDesign and Adobe Acrobat Pro training to accessibility for mobiles and social media, whatever your training needs in digital accessibility, we have you covered!

Icon of a cup of tea The autism advantage - why businesses are hiring autistic people

This excerpt is from an article originally published on The Sydney Morning Herald website by Jewel Topsfield. Original article can be found here (opens in new window).

When Chris Varney was in Year 2 he presented his teacher with an incredibly detailed visual chart of the royal families of Europe from the 14th to the 19th century.

“I just felt I had found a new way of seeing the last millennium. No wonder we have so many revolutions and conflict, these families were way too connected, small community, completely out of touch,” he quips during his TED talk Autism: How my unstoppable mother proved the experts wrong.

Chris Varney believes there is a need for a positive rethink of autism.Credit: Jason South
His teacher said: “Oh goodness, Chris, doesn’t this chart look interesting. But darling, our assignment is on winter.” Seven-year-old Varney thought: “I’ve just done a PhD on the whole last millennium. And you want me to draw clouds and rain?”

Today Varney believes it is these skills that often come with autism – thinking outside the box, intense focus, dogged persistence and attention to detail – that have helped him throughout his career.

He studied law (“I only thrived at the end when I followed my own learning style and recreated my law exam notes into Harry Potter spells and Lord of the Rings lands”), was the 2009 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations and worked for 11 years at World Vision, managing a team of six.

Then, at the age of 26, he established the largest autistic-led organisation in the country.
Now in its ninth year, the I CAN Network, which mentors autistic young people, employs 99 people Australia-wide, 74 of whom are proudly autistic.

Varney believes there is a need for a positive rethink of autism, a neurological developmental disability that affects how a person thinks, feels, interacts with others, and experiences their environment.

It is estimated that 1 in 70 people are on the autism spectrum, with some autistic people also having other conditions, such as intellectual disability, epilepsy, gastro-intestinal issues, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, sleep problems and speech challenges.

Autism is known as a spectrum disorder because every autistic person is different, with unique strengths and challenges.

Varney says many autistic people experienced education as a system that focused on these challenges, which can include social difficulties and anxiety.

He is pleased this is changing, with recent reforms embracing autistic students’ strengths.
But the unemployment rate of autistic people remains disturbingly high. ABS data from 2018 shows 34.1 per cent of autistic people are unemployed – three times higher than that of people with any type of disability and almost eight times that of those without a disability.

“A lot of the time people hear that someone’s autistic and they assume incompetence,” says Varney, who was this week appointed the chair of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council.

“But we have unique strengths, specifically hyper focus, great creativity, and we can think outside the box, which is a great asset in workplaces.”
In Israel, the defence force has a specialist intelligence unit made up exclusively of autistic soldiers, whose skills are deployed in analysing, interpreting and understanding satellite images and maps.

Locally, organisations that actively recruit autistic talent include software giant SAP, Westpac, IBM, ANZ, the Australian Tax Office, Telstra, NAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Chris Pedron is a junior data analyst at Australian Spatial Analytics, a social enterprise that says on its website “neurodiversity is our advantage – our team is simply faster and more precise at data processing”.

He was hired after an informal chat. (Australian Spatial Analytics also often provides interview questions 48 hours in advance.)

Pedron says the traditional recruitment process can work against autistic people because there are a lot of unwritten social cues, such as body language, which he doesn’t always pick up on.

“If I’m going in and I’m acting a bit physically standoffish, I’ve got my arms crossed or something, it’s not that I’m not wanting to be there, it’s just that new social interaction is something that causes anxiety.”

Pedron also finds eye contact uncomfortable and has had to train himself over the years to concentrate on a point on someone’s face.

Australian Spatial Analytics addresses a skills shortage by delivering a range of data services that were traditionally outsourced offshore.

Projects include digital farm maps for the grazing industry, technical documentation for large infrastructure and map creation for land administration.

Pedron has always found it easy to map things out in his head. “A lot of the work done here at ASA is geospatial so having autistic people with a very visual mindset is very much an advantage for this particular job.”

Pedron listens to music on headphones in the office, which helps him concentrate, and stops him from being distracted. He says the simpler and clearer the instructions, the easier it is for him to understand. “The less I have to read between the lines to understand what is required of me the better.”

Australian Spatial Analytics is one of three jobs-focused social enterprises launched by Queensland charity White Box Enterprises.
It has grown from three to 80 employees in 18 months and – thanks to philanthropist Naomi Milgrom, who has provided office space in Cremorne – has this year expanded to Melbourne, enabling Australian Spatial Analytics to create 50 roles for Victorians by the end of the year.

Chief executive Geoff Smith hopes they are at the front of a wave of employers recognising that hiring autistic people can make good business sense.

“Rather than focus on the deficits of the person, focus on the strengths. A quarter of National Disability Insurance Scheme plans name autism as the primary disability, so society has no choice – there’s going to be such a huge number of people who are young and looking for jobs who are autistic. There is a skills shortage as it is, so you need to look at neurodiverse talent.”

In 2017, IBM launched a campaign to hire more neurodiverse (a term that covers a range of conditions including autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, and dyslexia) candidates.

The initiative was in part inspired by software and data quality engineering services firm Ultranauts, who boasted at an event “they ate IBM’s lunch at testing by using an all-autistic staff”.

The following year Belinda Sheehan, a senior managing consultant at IBM, was tasked with rolling out a pilot at its client innovation centre in Ballarat.

“IBM is very big on inclusivity,” says Sheehan.

“And if we don’t have diversity of thought, we won’t have innovation. So those two things go hand in hand.”

Eight things workplaces can do for autistic employees
  • Recruit differently. Send applicants interview questions in advance or use work trials and practical assessments
  • Offer flexible hours
  • Provide noise cancelling headphones and quiet spaces
  • Give clear and direct instructions and feedback 
  • Have mentors or a buddy system
  • Don’t make assumptions about autistic people
  • Provide managers with autism training
  • Partner with autism employment experts

Chris Varney believes there is a need for a positive rethink of autism. Credit: Jason South

Upcoming Events

Perth Web Accessibility & Inclusive Design Meetups
Monthly event
Forklore, West Perth
Read more about the Accessibility Meetup group

M-Enabling Summit
October 24th - 26th
Washington DC
Read more about this event on the event website (opens in new window)

Wordpress Accessibility Day
November 2nd - 3rd
Virtual attendance
Get more information on the event website (opens in new window)

Accessing Higher Ground
November 14th - 18th
Denver, Colarado
Get more information on the event website (opens in new window)
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