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Technology areas


Edited by Dr. Jonathan Freeman, Managing Director, i2 media research ltd; Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology Goldsmiths, University of London New Cross. Introduction edited by Dr. Mark Magennis, National Council for the Blind of Ireland - NCBI Centre for Inclusive Technologies (CFIT)

Section Summary

The equipment a person uses to listen to radio depends on the transmission medium and so varies from terrestrial radio to satellite radio and other forms. However, the equipment usually involves a mixture of complicated hardware and software, which can be difficult to navigate for a person with disability. The solution is studying the needs of users who face problems and incorporating them to ensure better designed systems. 

The equipment a person uses to listen to radio depends on the transmission medium. For terrestrial radio broadcasts, it may be an integrated radio set or a separate radio tuner attached to an audio system with a remote control. For radio accessed through cable, satellite or terrestrial television, the equipment consists of a television and sometimes a separate receiver in the form of a ‘set-top box'. For internet or mobile radio, it is a PC or handheld device running a software application or accessing a website.

Whatever the type of radio, the listener has to use a mix of hardware (displays, buttons, dials, cables, etc.) and software (menus, schedule guides, pause/rewind/record functions, etc.). This equipment can sometimes be very difficult to use for people with visual or physical disabilities. For example, people with visual impairments often find it difficult or impossible to see the labels on buttons or to read the display. They may require equipment with clearly labelled buttons that can be distinguished by touch. They may need to be able to increase the size, brightness or contrast of displayed text or have it spoken out in a synthetic voice. People who have poor grip or dexterity may need larger well-spaced controls that are easy to locate and operate with minimal strength and movement. They may benefit from having a remote control that can be laid on a flat surface and operated using one hand. People with cognitive impairments need equipment that is easy to unpack and set up and easy to learn and use. For internet or mobile radio, people with disabilities will need the applications or websites to be compatible with the assistive hardware and software they use to operate their PC or mobile device.

Resources available in this section:
This section lists a large number of resources that will be of great practical use to designers and manufacturers of radio equipment and services. These include the findings of research into the needs and experiences of people with disabilities and guidelines for the design of accessible radio equipment.

Ricability & Intetek Milton Keynes: Choosing a DAB Digital Radio (2009)
Evaluation of UK DAB radios with  features helpful to blind and partially sighted people and those with dexterity impairments against Freeman et al cf433.
Keywords: DAB;  Blind and partially sighted people; Dexterity impaired people
Target audiences: Consumers; Radio manufacturers; Regulators

NCAM: Access to Emergency Alerts, WGBH, 2004-08
Summary: Accessible alerting recommendations, proposed information model, disabled consumer research on alert messaging and technologies, emergency management stakeholder survey on access policies and practices, information repository. 
Keywords: Emergency alerts; Public warnings; Disability
Target audiences: Policy makers; Broadcasters; Consumers

Freeman, J., Lessiter, J. and Ferrari, E. (i2 media research for RNIB) Are you Really Listening: The Equipment Needs of Blind and Partially Sighted Consumers for Accessible and Usable Digital Radio (2009)
Qualitative and quantitative research on digital radio equipment for blind and partially sighted consumers and people with dexterity impairments, with a checklist of design recommendations
Keywords: Digital radio; Blind and partially sighted people; User requirements
Target audiences: Manufacturers; Government; Regulators

Douglas, G., Corcoran, C., Pavey, S. (2006, University of Birmingham, Visual Impairment Centre for Teaching and Research, School of Education.): Network 1000 Opinions and Circumstances of Visually Impaired People in Great Britain: Report Based on over 1,000 Interviews.
Summary: The opinions and circumstances of a 1,000 sample of UK blind and partially sighted people and intermediaries on leisure, work, technology and media.
Keywords: Blind and partially sighted people; Leisure; Employment
Target audiences: Government; Regulators; Charities

Consumer Impact Group (UK) - Report to Digital Radio Working Group; DCMS November 2008
User requirements specified by disabled people for access to digital radio and a recommendation for a digital switchover help scheme.
Keywords: Digital Radio, Disability; User Requirements
Target audiences: Regulators; Manufacturers; Disabled People

Ofcom 2008: People with Visual Impairments and Communications Services
Summary: Factors that influence the experiences and attitudes of people with visual impairments to communication Services.
Keywords: Blind and partially sighted people; Communications services; Regulation
Target audiences: Designers; Regulators; Government

Ofcom: The Communications Market 2008
Summary: Research on the radio industry, market trends, listening habits and services available via different analogue and digital platforms.
Keywords: Audience research; Radio; Markets
Target audiences: Radio Industry; Designers; Regulators

Ofcom 2006: Summary of Research on the Ease of Use of Domestic Digital Television Equipment
Research developing a checklist of design considerations for accessible and usable digital television equipment, containing substantial scope of relevance to digital radio equipment design.
Keywords: Accessibility; Usability; Design
Target audiences: Industry; Designers; Regulators