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ENABLING DIGITAL FIRST: A CASE STUDY OF SIGHT-IMPAIRED USERS IN WALES / Yan Wu, Stephen Lindsay, Leighton Evans, Martin Porcheron, Leigh Clark, Rhys Jones
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The aim of this research is to provide a detailed examination of visually impaired community’s access to and usage of digital technology, focusing on the effectiveness of training in reducing digital skill gaps and current challenges associated with accessibility of devices, software and application...
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The aim of this research is to provide a detailed examination of visually impaired community’s access to and usage of digital technology, focusing on the effectiveness of training in reducing digital skill gaps and current challenges associated with accessibility of devices, software and applications. In partnership with RNIB, we run three focus groups between 14–22 May 2018 as part of a research project based at Swansea University, funded by the Challenging Human Environments and Research Impact for a Sustainable and Healthy Digital Economy Centre (CHERISH-DE). By conducting empirical research with sight-impaired users, we aim to provide a first-hand account of the user experience to inform digital inclusivity policy. Specifically, we will firstly assess support networks provided to sight-impaired users - in particular, local support group and Welsh Government funded projects including digital communities in this report. In addition, we will investigate barriers faced by sight impaired users to the full use of accessible features across devices, software and applications. Finally, through experimental interactions with Amazon Alexa and Google Duplex, we aim to develop consumer-led recommendations to improve inclusive technology.Our research reveals the importance of digital trainings in disseminating knowledge, implementing changes, triggering bottom-up approach of peer learning and self-learning. For the future, support towards setting up devices and training on online security and data protection are crucial in involving and protecting vulnerable users. In a highly competitive market, the tech industry and service industry tend to focus on the most active and affluent users. While sensory impaired users are overlooked in this market-driven and technology-oriented approach, accessibility features are often treated as add-ons to ‘fix’ any potential problems if needs must, resulting in incompatibility in operating systems, web browsers, mobile devices, and platforms. Based on the analysis of our focus group data, we put forward recommendations on four key topics: web/app accessibility; better integration and standardisation; more user participation in technology development; and continuous support and training towards the sight impaired community. In additional to recommending better standardisation through adherence to, development and refinement of appropriate design guidelines and best practice, we also encourage a bottom-up approach for web and app accessibility guidelines. Involving users into the process of technology design and development would assure the technology capacity is tailored around the need of the user. Ultimately, inclusive design is to improve the quality of life for everyone, whatever their ability.
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