The Technology for All Conference (Monday 19 March) was put together and hosted by University of the Arts London at their Chelsea campus in Pimlico, right opposite Tate Britain.
The event was brought together and included voices from members of staff from a range of departments as well as key accessibility partners, companies and suppliers.
The event was live captioned by ai media and we could access the captions which were stored online.
I’ve included below the key takeaways which I think we can use to develop our services for students but there were also interesting talks about how we can support staff including the keynote: A BBC case study, by Paul Bepey Head of Access Technology BBC in which Paul talked about the model of provision of assistive software, equipment and other adjustments for BBC staff.
Is Artificial Intelligence taking over?
You’ve probably read loads of articles recently about AI which is a hot topic, so it was interesting that the keynote addressed how AI can be used to empower people with disabilities and how Microsoft are doing just that.
This exciting Keynote Microsoft and inclusion was delivered by Hector Minto, a guru and evangelist for technology. His presentation was about how Microsoft uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) in MS office and their apps and the great benefits this has for everyone in creating more accessible ways to interact with our computers.
I learnt so many new shortcuts and apps:
To start with some good old accessibility shortcuts we all know and love:
Magnify the whole screen: Windows key and + (Windows 10 now has bitmap smoothing to make this a better experience)
Enable Sticky keys: Windows key + Right shift key 5 times (sticky keys can be useful if you are using a keyboard onehanded for whatever reason this be, through a disability, you have a broken arm or you’re holding something in your other hand, which demonstrates how accessibility features benefit everyone).
Turning your computer to greyscale Windows key + CTRL + C. Which can be useful for colour blind or low vision users or Hector mentioned could help with maintaining focus for those with ADD.
The purpose of looking at these shortcuts to accessibility adjustments was to highlight the evolution of accessibility in Microsoft. Sticky keys, for example, has been around for ages. Accessibility improvements and developments need to be iterative and layered (you can’t just get rid of historical settings).
And now some more recent developments, particularly developments in AI or Machine Learning:
Immersive reading providing text-to speech in Word 365 and Onenote.
Live subtitling of your presentations in 365 PowerPoint (if attendees have the translator app – they can then translate the captions into another language). I am keen to experiment with this and see if we can create live captions for presentations. This could be useful for all students.
Voice Assistant (Cortana). Did you know… you can install software using Cortana?
Seeing AI. Short text mode will read a document. Person Mode, whilst fun to play with, has a very useful application, such as identifying people at meetings and reading people’s emotions. You could save your Subject Librarian’s photo and then use the app to identify them at future meetings. I’d be keen to install this on the student ipads.
Office lens for Onenote for capturing information
Swift key symbols to support and enhance communication
Pix camera, the intelligent camera app with AI built in
Soundscape app – which can help people who are blind or low vision navigate their surroundings.
There’s a lot of extremely exciting stuff here that is making peoples’ lives better. However, an interesting comment was raised when Hector spoke about AI in Microsoft products being able to create alt text for images. He mentioned that perhaps some human intervention might be needed here, for example, could the machine distinguish a leopard from an ocelot? Similarly, automated subtitles are not 100% accurate, I picked up a memorable example from a conference recently where the spoken words “a big train fare” became “a big trained bear” in Youtube’s automatic subtitling. And of course, there are some nagging ethical concerns about AI.
Exploring autism: meeting the needs of our autistic students
This was another great talk I took a lot away from, presented by Efisia Tranza Dyslexia Coordinator at UAL. There is considerable diversity within the autistic group. So most importantly we must listen to each unique student voice which challenges stereotypes.
In terms of technology and resources Efisia recommended the following as being used at UAL:
- Autism and Uni online toolkit
- The Brain in Hand app (the company also presented on the day)
- Quiet and private spaces for when people feel crowded
At the lunchtime stalls some useful apps were opened on devices for us to play on: one that I had not seen before was:
Flat Tamato app – a freemium app. The free version gives access to their basic time management tool. Think back to Time Management training and the Pomodoro technique.
This was a fantastic conference and as an Office 365 University, it was also very relevant. I hope to show some of the practical sides of the apps and tools in future training sessions or symposiums.