Thursday, 16 May 2019 11:10

VIDEO Interview: Craig Smith talks awesome tech accessibility for Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2019

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Thursday, 16 May, is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and Craig Smith, who works as a school educator in Australia and around the world working with children on the autism spectrum, tells us all about the inspiring inclusive technologies you need to know about – and can even use yourself!

GAAD. It's the acronym for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and if you add .org to its name, you'll get to the official website.

May 16 2019 will mark the eighth Global Accessibility Awareness Day, with the purpose of GAAD being "to get everyone talking, thinking and learning about digital (web, software, mobile, etc.) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities".

Craig not only told us about inspiring inclusive technologies, but also about how technology features that are great for the general public are even more beneficial in the accessibility community - and as you'll see from the video interview embedded below, we had a really great discussion, and Craig's passion and commitment are on full display!

The modern approach to accessibility is referred to as 'designing to the edges’ meaning that when designing something such as a product, an experience or an environment, you want to design it to the edges of human capacity so that it will be optimised for as many people as possible.

It’s a very cool story showing that what is good for you is even better for the accessibility community, with simple examples that I personally discover some people don't know about being the ability to enlarge font sizes, or control much of your smartphone and tablet experience via voice, be it Siri on iOS devices, Google Assistant on Android devices and Alexa on smart speakers.

Craig also discussed how certain devices, gaming and apps can help enhance social skills and he has some great apps that he recommends, with examples being the incredibly impressive Makey Makey platform, the visual timetable tool called Choiceworks from Bee Visual, the use of Minecraft by students to demonstrate understanding of concepts when expressing themselves is a challenge, the accessibility settings that are simply built-in as standard in iOS, iPhones and iPads, and even the new accessibility gallery in the iOS Shortcuts app, among others!

Craig's school primarily uses iPads with its students, and he explains why this is the case, so it's also worth noting here that while Apple runs accessibility focused Today at Apple sessions all year around however that anyone can sign up for and freely attending, during the week of GAAD, Apple runs a greater number of the sessions to celebrate the week - and there's still time to attend these sessions during the rest of this week.

These free sessions are designed to "help you discover the basics of using the assistive technologies that are built into every Mac, iPad, iPhone and more", and you can use this link to find GAAD friendly classes at your nearest Apple Store. 

So, here's my video interview with Craig, with a summary of the questions are below!

I start by welcoming Craig, autism educator and accessibility specialist, and note that technology has changed all our lives, but even more so for those with accessibility challenges. I asked Craig to share the top three biggest changes he has seen in the past couple of decades that have made the most impact, and he does just that!

We then go into more detail about other technological changes that have had enormous impact, before Craig shares a day in the life of his being an autism educator.

Craig shares the devices and apps he and his students use in the school environment, and the ways they are used, which is fascinating to hear.

I asked Craig about the students' interest in helping to further develop accessibility technologies and examples of ways they have already come up with suggestions for app and hardware makers to create even better products and services.

I then finish with my standard set of three questions, asking Craig about how he sees the accessibility technology industry changing, evolving and maturing over the next decade, great advice he has received in life and his final message for iTWire viewers and readers, and to his current and future students, teachers and tech partners.

I also found a website called Autism Pedagogy where Craig has a page listing a stack of projects he's been involved with, and Craig's LinkedIn page is here too with plenty more info. 

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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