Team FYS: disabled professionals and students

Disabled Professionals / Students and Modern Interaction Tools: an exciting, valuable and innovative Norwegian project!

Story by: Magnar Kvalvik - 14.03.2019

MediaLT will establish a user network for disabled people working with modern collaboration tools, where they can help each other, at the same time contributing to the universal design of vital software at work and at college.

Technology has changed working life a great deal in recent years. One of the most important changes are new collaboration tools, both for simultaneous production, and various new communication solutions. Tools from Microsoft, especially Office 365, are widely used in Norway. From the start these tools have been basically universally designed. It is nevertheless worrying to see how they have led to the exclusion of many disabled people from working environments. This project is an attempt to find out why, and will use active user participation to establish a permanent user collaboration among students, professionals and job seekers with disabilities.

All interested parties are welcome to participate, and confidentiality will be taken seriously. At the start of the project the network will consider how professionals, suppliers of assistive technology and others should participate. The main goal is to establish an arena where people with disabilities through shared experiences can help each other. It will be a forum for discussing work and study related issues, reporting accessibility errors, suggesting improvements to Microsoft software, and so on. Mobile apps for Android and iOS are also an important part of the project as well as PC and Mac software.

Statped (National Service for Education Special Needs), Microsoft Norway, NAV (Norwegian Welfare and Labour Organisation) and Uloba (Norwegian Independent Living) will participate in the project group in addition to MediaLT.

MediaLT conducted a small investigation relating to universal design of Office 365 for Statped in September 2018. In short, the conclusions were as follows:

  1. There are often several user interfaces, desktop, app, web for the same functionality.
  2. Software / apps are basically universally designed, but there are accessibility challenges in all major applications. Some tools, for example OneNote much used at Statped, are very demanding, perhaps excessively so with screen readers.
  3. Users experienced the collaboration solutions as very challenging and difficult to use.

We do not know of previous in-depth studies of how users of assistive technolgy experience these tools at work or college. In Team FYS new knowledge of key universal design issues, and the challenges preventing disabled people from obtaining or retaining work, will help to put in place measures to alleviate these challenges. We look forward to promoting good contact between the network and Microsoft's development environments and hope that this collaboration will lead to even better software for everyone.

If you would like more information about the project or would like to participate in the user network, please contact the project manager:

Morten Tollefsen, 908 99 305

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