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Archives for November 2010

Access All Areas: disability week on the BBC

Emma Emma | 17:48 UK time, Monday, 29 November 2010

This week, in the run up to the UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December Third, prepare to see an unprecedented amount of disability flavoured stuff on BBC TV, radio and online.

BBC One's Blue Peter will be continuing their appeal to raise money for Whizz-Kidz and BBC Four will broadcast The Diving Bell and the Butterfly on Thursday.

BBC News will be focusing on a different aspect of disabled life each day in a five part series called Access All Areas. Sport, technology and employment will all feature later in the week, but today it's about whether attitudes have changed towards disabled people since the first disability act was passed through government, forty years ago.

Peter White reports on a survey the BBC has undertaken on modern attitudes to disability. He also speaks to Alf Morris, the man who passed that very first act. Alf has his own strongly held views on how far society has come since 1970.

ITV and other channels are also getting involved and there's a comprehensive round-up of the week's programming on the Employers' Forum on Disability website.

Keep an eye on our homepage and news section for further BBC updates.

DaDaFest International 2010: a preview, part 2

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Emma Emma | 15:06 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

One might expect to see art at an arts festival, but lets not forget the interesting debates and discussions also available to drop into and be part of.

We regularly get emails to the Ouch! inbox, from gay disabled people who are frustrated by the lack of resources available to them. DaDaFest is attempting to redress the balance in two exciting ways.

The Powerhouse of Supermen is a one day event which asks the question, "Where, in a gay lifestyle of muscle, hedonism, youth and homogeneity do you fit if you are queer and disabled or queer and old?"

Featuring artist Tanya Raabe and US Krip Hop and poetry performer Leroy Moore, the conference will reflect on the marginalisation of disabled communities in gay culture.

It's all happening in The Bluecoat, on the 20th of November, in conjunction with Homotopia, Liverpool's annual celebration of 'Queer Culture'.

Sticking with the theme of disability and homosexuality, FAT is the multi-media journey of a gay, disabled man, which follows his surreal quest to find a fat man, eat some spaghetti and live happily ever after.

Combining innovative movement and images with bizarre and poignant anecdotes, disabled performer Pete Edwards' play also explores various forms of communication. FAT's only Liverpool performance takes place at The Blue Coat on the 25th of November.

I could sit here all day, listing interesting performances and installations coming up during DaDaFest. Liz Carr, Kiruna Stamell and The Fish Police all feature heavily, plus, comedian Laurence Clark will be premiering his new show, which compares the US's healthcare system to the NHS. But why not get the rest of the highlights from the horse's mouth?

The Ouch! Talk Show for early November features an interview with DaDaFest International's artistic director, Garry Robson. In it, he flags up music performances and workshops by Krip Hop Nation and some DaDaFest funded movies by disabled filmmakers which will be available to view on BBC big screens in city centre locations around the UK.

This Thursday's Culture Show includes a report about DaDaFest, presented by Mat Fraser.

For everything you could ever need to know about DaDaFest International 2010, visit the festival's official website.

See also: DaDaFest International 2010: Part 1

Fix the (inaccessible) web

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 12:24 UK time, Monday, 15 November 2010

Ever found that you can't use a website and have no idea how to report it? Or worse, the feedback facility is as inaccessible as the rest of the site? Well perhaps you should put Fix The Web in your favourites.

Launched this week by Citizen's Online with help from its project partners, Fix The Web is a two-way feedback street. It provides a very simple way of reporting bad website experiences via a short form. Volunteers then pick up these reports and feed them back to the developers of the website.

The idea is that it's less time consuming and frustrating for the disabled people having the problem and that useful and enlightening accessibility information gets fed back to the site owners.

Find out how to report a website

Find out how to become a volunteer

So how bad is the web?

"One of the strong things that came from the experts we consulted is that they didn't really know what were the main things that bother disabled people," says Dr Gail Bradbrook, project manager. "It felt everything was so top down. So the first thing we're trying to do is make it very easy to let disabled people have their say, in less than 60 seconds."

Dr Gail Bradbrook, project manager, Fix The Web

And why should web owners listen to disabled people who get in contact via the site?

"There is a really obvious business case to making the web accessible. Disabled people have a 50 billion spend ... there's potential for legal action to be taken ... and there is a moral case that the internet should be open to everybody."

As well as a web form, you can report bad website experiences via Twitter by using the following two tags together: '#fixtheweb #fail'. A downloadable toolbar is also on its way.

Fix The Web is hoping to have 250,000 reports within the next two years and you can keep a track of how the project is doing by following the count on their website.

DaDaFest International 2010: a preview, part 1

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Emma Emma | 16:21 UK time, Thursday, 11 November 2010

Tomorrow sees the start of DaDaFest International, by far the UK's biggest disability arts festival.

Taking place in high-profile venues all over Liverpool between now and December 3rd, the programme includes everything from fine art to photography, music to performance art, cabaret to stand up comedy and lots more besides. Here are a few things you might want to check out.

'Look' is a collection of art and photography offerings which will be available to view until early December. Like the rest of DaDaFest, this series has a strong international element but doesn't forget its Liverpool roots. The two I've picked out here also have a strong female element:

• Look at Me, at St. George's Hall, features a collection of high fashion inspired, glamorous images of beautiful South African women in alluring and provocative poses. According to the press info, these women are unashamedly disabled, "laid out for the camera to stunning effect". A sound track accompanies the exhibition, where each subject talk's about her life and how it is to be a disabled woman in South Africa.

• Hidden Herstories, an interactive and fully accessible art installation which celebrates the lives of deaf and disabled women in Liverpool. As well as dealing with universal themes, the exhibition covers experiences unique to this group: segregation and separation, the health and social care system, discrimination, deaf community and political activism amongst many others. You can find this also at St. George's Hall.

See also: DaDaFest International 2010: Part 2

5 top access technology podcasts

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 11:12 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Want to get the most out of your technology? Have you been buying software and gadgets you can't even use and wasting your money as a result? Do you want to plug into networks of people who know stuff you want to know?

There are some great podcasts out there which can really help. And if you don't yet know what a podcast is ... it's basically a radio show that you can have delivered to you every time a new episode arrives; read this podcast FAQ to find out more.

The majority of the downloadable radio shows we've found are aimed at the visually impaired end user, possibly because there is an awful lot of stuff you can share in this market as many visual problems can be overcome with technology. Oh and blind people just love to do radio.

Here are five podcasts we've been listening to, that speak with authority, be they presented by home-based geeks or embedded in the assistive technology industry.

1. The Mac-Cessibility Roundtable Podcast - Listen to the Mac pioneers who are feeding back to the rest of the world how they are getting on with Apple's Mac, iPhone and iPad products. These guys are total total total Apple fan boys and girls and link up across the US and UK via Skype to bring you this show.

Apple now have a fully-fledged built-in screenreader called Voiceover, and screen magnification called Zoom. You don't need to buy it, it's just there on your computer, or device, as part of the operating system, and is understandably causing quite a stir in the blind community because it's accessible out of the box.

2. Serotalk - Made by the guys at Assistive Tech company Serotek, this podcast goes through the latest assistive technology headlines and gives demos of products, services and great finds. A really very good round-up, intelligent, to the point and forward thinking. Plus you'll get to know plenty about the politics of it all from people who work in the industry as well as hearing voices of people whose names you may recognise.

3. Blind Cool Tech - If you want to record yourself reviewing a tech product and upload it for others to listen to, you can do it here. At time of writing, there are audio reviews of braille displays, accessible GPS apps for the iPhone, eBook reader browser plug-ins, routers, new synthetic speech voices, high quality recording equipment and quite a lot more. Some of the recordings are a little over-long but heck where else are you gonna get this knowledge from? If you want a demo, usually you'd have to travel miles, but now you can get it from these enthusiasts and early adopters.

4. Tech Access Weekly - I haven't quite worked out who this podcast is aimed at but I think the male and female presenters (whoever they are?) just follow their interests ... and it's pretty wide-ranging as a result. I like it. They have good strong knowledge of assistive technology but they go slightly beyond visual impairment matters and talk about more mainstream tech and web too. Sometimes they cover accessibility for people with other impairments. A good listen.

5. AbilityNet Tech for all podcast - - The only UK podcast on this list. Possibly the least professional in terms of sound quality but strong on content as it pulls on the knowledge of the staff at the not-for-profit organisation who advise and assist on technology for disabled people on a daily basis. There's a particularly interesting interview with Sir Terry Pratchett who recently told the world he is fighting Alzheimer's. In the June episode, the prolific author tells how his ability to write has been affected and that he now uses Dragon Dictate with Talking Point, a more accessible interface for him. They keep promising one podcast per month and we should hold them to it because they've not made a new one since August/September.

If you have any recommendations for top tech access podcasts then tell us about them in the comments below and help us create a longer list.

Course, I should also mention we have our own fortnightly podcast The Ouch! Talk Show which is low on tech but high on chat. Presented by Mat Fraser and Liz Carr. Disability lifestyle chat and much unplanned razor sharp humour.

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