Welcome to the October newsletter from TAVIP, and I hope you have all been able to enjoy the recent balmy weather.
We are now definitely in the Autumn conference season. Alongside the party conferences which are often in the headlines, there has also been the excellent Visionary Conference in Birmingham, the TAVIP TechABreak Conference is taking place in a few weeks time, and that will be followed by Tech Share Pro later in November.
TechABreak is fully booked, with 45 of us meeting in Harrogate for the weekend. I’m sure it will be a great opportunity for people to hear about some of the latest developments in assistive technology as well as an opportunity to meet up with old friends and new. I look forward to seeing some of you there.
For those not able to attend TechABreak, we have various online activities planned over the next few months and as always we welcome suggestions from members for future Masterclass and Tech Chat sessions.
As many of you will know I am standing down as Chair at the AGM so this may be the last newsletter introduced by myself. While I am taking a step back from being a Chair and trustee I intend to continue to be an active TAVIP member so I may well continue to see you online or at future events.
I have really enjoyed seeing TAVIP develop over the last few years and wish it every success for the future.
Chair of TAVIP.
TechABreak and TAVIP Annual General Meeting 2023
The TechABreak Conference and TAVIP Annual General Meeting are taking place at The Old Swan Hotel in the lovely town of Harrogate from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th November.
There is a full programme of talks, an exhibition and the Gala Dinner to look forward to, and it promises to be a really interesting and enjoyable weekend. For those who aren’t attending we will share highlights and any product news from the weekend in the next newsletter.
The Annual General Meeting will be taking place as an in-person event on the Sunday morning. In addition to the normal business we will be proposing a Special Resolution to update our Articles of Association to allow us to hold future AGMs as remote or hybrid meetings. We were allowed to do this during COVID but we are required to update our constitution to allow us to hold AGMs online in future, and we way well do that for 2024 to allow greater participation.
Masterclass exploring the use of Zoom
The next Masterclass will be on Wednesday 25th October at 7.30pm.
As Zoom is used so often for video conferencing, one of our members Sandra Gayer is going to look at features such as entering and leaving a room, the differences between standard Zoom meetings and webinars, basic keystrokes including mute and raise hand, the differences between using Zoom on a computer or on a smartphone, and if time allows, some of the basics of hosting a Zoom meeting.
Chat functionality will also be explored as well as how to share your screen. The session will begin with a description of these features leaving plenty of time for questions, answers and opportunities to try everything.
The masterclass will be hosted by Jeff Bashton, who will send out the web and phone links nearer the time.
Do join us to find out more about Zoom, or to share your own experience with other members.
TechShare Pro 2023
The Techshare Pro event is run by AbilityNet and which “provides the chance to connect with people from all sectors who believe in a digital world accessible to all.”
TechShare Pro features speakers and contributions from a huge range of experts from sectors including business, disability, accessibility, Higher Education and government.
Key themes for 2023 include AI and accessibility, the business advantage of accessibility, media representation of disability, accessibility and procurement, and inclusive communications.
Here is a link to TechShare Pro 2023. There is a charge of £20 to attend this two day online conference.
Special Member Offer on the We Walk App
I’m sure that some of you will have heard of the WeWalk Smart Cane, or may even have tried it at Sight Village or another event. In case you haven’t, the WeWalk Smart Cane can detect above ground obstacles by using a front-mounted sensor, warning the user with haptic feedback. The smart handle pairs with the accessible WeWALK smartphone app using Bluetooth to access connected mobility services, including navigation, exploration, and public transport. These features can be controlled from the smart cane’s inbuilt touchpad, allowing the user to place their phone in their pocket for single-handed navigation and added safety. In addition, the smart handle has a speaker and microphone to provide audio feedback.
The WeWalk App can be paired up with the Smart Cane or it can be used standalone for mobility solutions like navigation, transportation and exploration. With the WeWALK app, you can get step-by-step navigation to where you want to go and discover the locations around you in an accessible manner. You can view the public transportation stops near you and learn the times of the public transportation lines passing through the stop. When you get on the public vehicle, when approaching the stop where you will get off, WeWALK notifies you by sending notifications to not miss the stop. Location discovery mode can be turned on to use the Explore feature. When this switch is turned on, WeWALK starts to announce the locations in the environment while walking on the road. Therefore, visually impaired and low vision users can enjoy accessible exploration without missing the locations in their surroundings.
The team at WeWalk are pleased to offer six months of free premium access to the WeWalk App for all TAVIP members. Simply download the WeWalk App from your Apple or Google app store, sign up using your preferred email address and then send your name and email address to email@example.com. We will then forward your name and email address onto WeWalk for them to arrange premium access. The team at WeWalk are keen to get your feedback and suggestions for future developments of the app.
Member Biography – Tony Stockman
I first developed my interest in Computing when my School, New College Worcester, introduced an AO-level qualification in the mid ‘70s.
I went on to study Computing at the University of Bradford, along with several other visually impaired students around at that time, a number of whom went on to have significant involvement with TAVIP, or BCAB as it was at that time. These included Claire Wheeler, Phil Rigby, Steve Plumpton and Kevin Russell. The course involved a year out, which I spent at Rolls Royce in Bristol. I learned so much during that year thanks to two very generous colleagues who took the time out to teach me Fortran and Assembler programming. I realized that education could exist in the workplace as well as University, something that was reinforced during my time at ICI. I was incredibly lucky with the support my family and the RNIB reading service provided, reading technical material on to tape during my degree and subsequent PhD, also at the University of Bradford. My PhD involved looking at the interaction between breathing, heart rate and blood flow signals, during which I learned a lot about physiology and signal analysis.
I went on to spend four years as a Business Systems Analyst at ICI in North Manchester, before moving into teaching at what was then Staffordshire polytechnic. The job at ICI was rather less interesting and much more commercially constrained than Rolls Royce, and I felt naturally drawn back towards the more technical and freer atmosphere of university life. Since then I have taught at 3 universities, Staffordshire, Middlesex and Queen Mary University of London, this last for over 20 years. My main teaching areas are Database Systems, Human-Computer Interaction and Systems Analysis, with increasing work in Machine Learning and AI.
When applying for jobs and attending interviews, I have always found honesty the best policy about the fact I cannot see and how I am able to do the job in question. I have always found students refreshingly positive about my disability, in general accepting that I was there because I could do the job and could be trusted to do so. Occasionally I get questions about how I handle diagrams, one of the topics I teach is database design and diagrams are used routinely for doing this. I simply explain I have the help of a sighted reader to deal with those. I have also often found however that talking with students about such diagrams, or other work they produce, and getting them to try to explain them, enables they themselves to realise the problems or mistakes they have made. I have successfully supervised 14 PhD students, and thoroughly enjoyed research whenever I have had sufficient time from my teaching to do so.
I am married to Sharon, whom many of you will have met at TAVIP. We have five grown up children, and 7 grandchildren, with one more currently on the way. My main hobbies are playing the guitar, cricket and football.
Wired Magazine article – “ AI Could Change How Blind People See the World”
We know that a number of members are already experimenting with some of the new AI tools which are available, including the Be My AI beta version.
We thought you might be interested in this article by Wired Magazine from July which explores some of advantages and some of the pitfalls of the latest AI tools for people who are blind or partially sighted:
Here is an audio version:
Making the most of TAVIP services
For the newer members amongst us, do get in contact if you would like to know more about TAVIP’s services including:
- our email Discussion List
- our Scholarship Fund which provides matched funding up to £500 for accredited training around technology or career development
- our friendly Tech Chat sessions which takes place on zoom on the first Thursday of every month between 7:30-9:00pm.
- our Masterclass sessions
- Our Technology for Work Training Course which offers members up to 5 hours of free one-to-one training to help them gain the IT skills needed in the work place
- our Training Directory of people that can provide paid-for training
Just a quick reminder that we are looking for new trustees to join the board, and volunteers to help with aspects of running TAVIP such as helping with our social media presence. Do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you could volunteer for a few hours a month.
So that’s all for this newsletter. Do send in articles and topics you would like to see covered in future editions.
I look forward to seeing some of you at TechaBreak in a few weeks, and others of you online.
With best wishes,