As 2020 draws to a close, I would like to thank you for the incredible work, efforts and shared realizations of this year. Together, we helped bridge policy and practice online, through website accessibility, audits and tools research. We carefully accompanied collective UX, fostered data comparison at EU and international level. We launched surveys for parents and children while designing the best access opportunities for both.
Although this year was hectic at times, I am thankful for continuous exchanges on the social aspects of artificial intelligence as I am in turns learner and trainer on autonomous tools used in education and in the social realm. I hope you have a restful break and send you my warmest wishes for the New Year.
Holiday time and looking for accessible events? This article is structured from global to practical. You will find checklists at the end. But before let’s talk about the inclusive design of events, what you need to plan around the event and how accessibility is still thought in terms of location and buildings and managed per city or regio but slowly moving to other sectors through awards, certifications, resources and best practices.
Inclusive Design dimensions
Ideally, all projects and events could follow the concepts of inclusive design dimensions created by Jutta Treviranus- Director Inclusive Design Research Centre -Canada. I just slightly adapted for events organization:
-people- Recognize we are all different and understand diversity and the fact that people can change in the course of life events. This is particularly invaluable for children who are still in development.
Make the process /organization more inclusive. Include/ involve all types of users in the co-creation of your project from plan to outcomes and feedback.
Use System thinking if you prepare an accessible event. You might want to be in contact with schools, tech solutions (assistive technology), families with disabled children…
Around the event
Given the fact that the disability community has suffered a lot from COVID19, it is important not to forget all rights and include accessibility initiatives in the cultural field when possible. Providing accessibility for a child at a temporary event but then having that same child unable to learn because of the lack of inclusive schools is really not the way to go. More and more museums collaborate with schools and have a CSR/ social dimension. Education and learning opportunities are everywhere a temporary event can have a ripple effect on classrooms through online materials, collaborations…
Don’t forget secure and timely transportation and registration (including forms) are basic accessibility features of an event. The whole loop of contacts (online & offline) during the events can be made accessible.
With a whole industry of events partly going digital, there is an opportunity to include more users with their online needs and skills.
Accessibility awards are often organized by country, city or region , comparing best practices in tourism. Rewarding, for instance, an ‘accessible forest path in Breda, built by persons with disabilities to improve access to the forest for all.’ Other accessible places are mentioned in the Eurocenter report: https://www.euro.centre.org/news/detail/3761
Other types of awards are starting to emerge events sector as the events sector covers a very wide range of fields: culture, education, tech, business/ finance, tourism, sports, environment, cooking… “The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced last week that it will create a new set of “representation and inclusion standards” for potential Oscar nominees. Starting next year, movies will have to meet certain criteria if they want to be eligible for Hollywood’s most prestigious prize.” Captioning & audio-description will probably be on the list.
As my blog is also meant to keep it practical for families, here are some guides and check-lists for the organization of events (I have kept it short, for more info or help with your accessible events use the contact form of this site, thank you):
In Covid times, organizations insist on participation and try to reach many respondents through surveys. Those initiatives coming from the academic world, NGO’s are a real necessity. As I completely support those initiatives, I wanted to highlight positive signs in what has been done so far for children and parents with two examples and also give some tips for more accessibility.
My first example is the worldwide survey for children under Covid (Covid under 19): I find it a great initiative and am very supportive when children are asked their views from a child rights perspective and with the purpose to gain better information about their experiences in a respectful way with a very professional and multidisciplinary approach. The survey was translated in many languages and an accessibility effort was made through a facilitator’s guide and by contacting organizations who could help children fill in the survey with the help of an assisting adult.
I understand how difficult it is to think about everything when designing a survey. But a survey is part of the participative tool kit to get return from citizens and as events, documents, … It should be accessible for all.
So for children, it shouldn’t be different. The council of Europe (children) has issued a participation assessment tool clearly stating participation should be inclusive in its requirements. With a very relevant question we should ask at the very beginning of a project: “Are there any measures in place to facilitate access for more marginalized or excluded children?” Accessibility is often seen as a compensation measure, at the end of the process, whereas all professionals working in the field are asking for society to adopt principles of universal design. It should also be done online, and probably therefore the Accessibility act has selected most of its scope to bridge the digital gap.
In times of crisis, surveys have sometimes been less accessible than the ones designed before that period.
Accessibility is about Easy read, using visuals when reinforcing context, structuring, contrasting colors, reducing the number of manipulations and clicks, cognitive strategies of your respondents. This requires a know- how and the respect of international guidelines and best practices.
These past few weeks, we have all been through a lot of roller coaster information.
In order to preserve my family and take our time to structure our thoughts and accept the situation, we went on a little homeschooling experience on time and rhythms.
I was inspired by backbone research by @alhadeffjones, who has been working on temporalities and adult education for years now in the US and in Switzerland and at the beginning of the quarantine, tried to align work and homeschooling. I also often heard that children react differently (compared to adults) because of their time perception. So I am quite convinced we need to understand their perception and needs. The following video is with Edouard Gentaz, after hearing children’s word he explains that small children will have difficulty understanding long-term measures, for instance: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fPWyNlfMSkM
How did two weeks of homeschooling on time help us and what resources and advice can I share with you now?
– No need to practice every day. Try whenever you feel like reflecting, take your time.
– Children love time-questions when they are in control and can be the owners of reflections. They are not part of the race, forget about competition, completion, they are the organizers. As a parent you guide, you can prepare or not. Trust your competences. Don’t be focused on ‘knowledge only’.
– All themes are included, and as such inclusion is possible. All children have their strengths. We need everyone on this boat. And as this is at the center of my work, I am adding some resources here to help parents (see below) In my work as a consultant, I also help designing pro forma tools but when possible I try to share what exists.
– We did not really mind the goal, the idea was to think about time, be respectful to one another. We stretched out multidisciplinary but without noticing:-) And we developed transversal competences.
I am convinced all the important questions are asked by children. And also confident that if they ask questions we will find answers somewhere.
As my husband says: ‘have a master plan and then improvise 🙂
I hope you have fun trying some of these, homeschooling, or any other time.
Day 1: Emotions We discussed emotional changes related to timely organization and day rhythm changes. It is all right to stick to a plan but children are wise and they understand that this plan is just there to keep us from thinking. Times are frightening and we better talk about it.
So on the first day, we concluded some needed to slow down to adapt to the new reality: ‘mama, je suis résilent.’ (mama, I am resil(i)ent LENT=slow)
Day 2: Nature around us My children not being in contact with their peers, tend to focus a lot on nature, particularly on animals. So spontaneously our discussions went that way. Animal rhythms are different from ours, sometimes similar as well. They have different abilities and adaptation night & day skills: bedtime rituals of our parrots, cleaning time for the rabbit. Our children noticed how much they actually communicate and need a lot of time for self-care. On a pie, those two skills actually might get a quarter they said:-)
Day 3: The invisible
We continued on animals: What do animals do while we are sleeping? There are things that we don’t see. Timings when we are not awake. The invisible tasks? Are we sure it exists?
So I am checking for easy philosopher’s concepts on visible invisible and how we perceive the world with the things we see, and with what we imagine when we don’t see. This all because we have different rhythms:-)
Day 4: Saving energy
How animals are energy efficient. Just waiting, limiting movement, slowing down. Lizards, sharks, … We came across some sayings-the race is not always to the swift:-) http://read.gov/aesop/025.html
Day 6: Searches in the past We chose a book on mythologies and started with Egypt Quest in times and rhythms. Some draw, others read. We looked for symbols of time in the house. We had to guess the animal -symbol of our city of birth:-) recognizing time influences everything. Some topics are in everything we do and cannot be forgotten when we create something.
Day 7: other’s experiences, empathy, learning Thanks @careleavernetwork you offer great resilience material on your website! We used it in our session today! Mama presented artwork from the European care leavers’ network. We were interested in the puzzle. Pieces that come together with time. https://www.careleavernetwork.eu/museum/
Day 8: Uncertainty Driven by questions like: when are we going back to school? We discussed: What is uncertainty? What is certainty What does it do to us? How do we react? Should I tell them certainty is a belief?… Well, they found out actually:-) Children understand the concept of probabilities at a very young age and this is how they can also reflect on AI principles and ethics.
Day 9: Collecting a Playlist Songs including time concepts in our 4 languages: tijd, Zeit, temps. I also explained many newspapers were titled DieZeit, Letemps ….
Day 10: In Europe Comparing school re-openings in Europe We compared validated dates and latest deadlines. We wished a safe school opening for our friends in Denmark! We tried to understand how governments make decisions at child level.
Day 11 interpretation/ perspective
Using a stopwatch and trying to define if we could be accurate and acknowledge delays between our interpretations of time and ‘real-time’. And also the fact that we can also have an understanding of ‘interpretation lags’:-) When timing activity and accessing time for little ones, show them the clock the first time and then let them guess the time for the same activity, then another one.
Day 12 biases: how does our mind react to time?
We focused on time-related Cognitive biases: the phenomenon of immediacy- & the Zeigarnik effect. We thought about situations in which we were experiencing those time- related phenomena. How time interruptions and delays can actually be our allies. Immediacy Effect (also called “Hyperbolic Discounting” or “Present Focus Bias”) is the brain’s built-in mechanism that makes people prefer an instant reward over attaining something of potentially more value in the future https://tactics.convertize.com/definitions/immediacy-effect The Zeigarnik effect: it was found that interruption during a task that requires focus can, in fact, improve, rather than heed, a person’s ability to remember it afterward. https://www.psychologistworld.com/memory/zeigarnik-effect-interruptions-memory
For Accessibility: start with: ‘now you will learn something most adults don’t know’. Imagine you are a little bee going into your head. You start working and get stopped. Little bee does not stop. It works for you inside your brain and will remind you when all is calm around. This can help soothing transitions out of screens. Don’t worry your brain will remind you when it is calm and you are allowed to, but for now, you can stop:-)
For Accessibility, I recommend: contrast colors and stories to help visualization.
Day 15 reflect Always a day to reflect back and forward what worked or not we used Eurochild’s child participation toolbox interesting to analyze children’s participation in today’s context. we flagged: Family council & co-productions 🙂 https://t.co/DUg10ZShAb?amp=1 p.160
A few months ago, I was at the Accessibility Europe conference by ITU (www.itu.int ).
I heard about design thinking, accessibility standards around the world and I met many experts who are finding ways to implement accessible technologies and ease people’s lives.
I care about accessibility because I have seen families struggling with its absence. Also, because I have seen students stressed by tasks they were intellectually able to perform but couldn’t; since following complex instructions were eating up their energy and mood. Finally, because I know we have tools to solve accessibility problems at all levels and we should use them.
Accessibility is a broad concept to me:
-Not having access to health care in a direct way, having to be referred to by social services to simply go to a child psychotherapist and losing time before treatment, as it happens in some countries, is an accessibility problem.
-Not being able to understand an administrative file, contract or website or helpline instructions because the text is too long, impregnated with legal jargon or when the device is too difficult to manipulate, is an accessibility problem.
-Not being able to watch a movie, not having access to a translator in your sign language, is an accessibility problem.
As a children’s rights specialist, I care a lot about the impact of such legislation on our youngest population and on the most vulnerable ones.
Accessibility is a very broad concept and the accessibility act can have a huge impact on the lives of children and their families in many ways.
In German, the concept of accessibility translates into Barrierefreiheit (obstacle-free)
It refers to a more philosophical concept of ‘liberty’ where other languages are (for once) very pragmatically focused on access, referring to the entry point, not the consequences.
In Europe, we can use all diverse country strengths and perspectives. Accessibility as an entry point (access) and its positive consequences (freedom).
I dedicate part of my consultancy work looking for best practices and trying to help organizations with the implementation. Here are some of the free resources & tools I use in my practice as a consultant and with children peer reviewers (the idea is to have something on one page or very flexible in use!):
This weekend I planned a visit at the Kunst Historisches Museum (KHM) in Vienna. We are lucky to have a renowned international exhibition in our city with works of art from all over the world. The preparation lasted 6 years and It is called a ‘once in a lifetime’ visit. And indeed it was.
Therefore, I wanted my children to see it.
I designed a little family guide Children & Parents parts running parallel throughout the visit.
The children part is an ‘investigation game’ and the parents part provides answers and background information for a multilevel visit. So, you can adapt to your needs. The guide is multilingual: English, French, German and of course Dutch.
You can contact me if you would like to use these booklets during your visit at the museum (these guides are designed to accompany your family visit). If you share materials, please mention copyrighting KHM for paintings, exhibition and A Little Lining Comes for Concept, guide & design.
Feedback is of course welcome😊
As an accessibility consultant, I can also provide adapted materials for children with specific needs.
Last week, I was at an AI Access event in Vienna. The European Disability Forum organized the event with the following aim: “ensuring new technological trends improve the lives of persons with disabilities”.
As an accessibility fosterer & consultant, I am eager to learn about the latest developments, even more so when an event bridges the theme with UNCRPD principles.
Acknowledging the potential of assistive technologies, the conference was a good reminder for us to involve al kind of (disabled) persons at all stages.
I was reminded that the European Commission appointed an Austrian expert in the field of disability to join the High-Level Group on Artificial Intelligence (Klaus Hoeckner –Hilfsgemeinschaft). A very positive sign to make sure recommendations will be inclusive for that matter.
I also learned that Satya Nadella (Microsoft’s CEO) has a son with special needs and on universal Children’s day, I hope we will be able to help spread the message that we all need to benefit from new technological developments but also be empowered to discover new potentials. We should encourage and enable children to send feedback on the latest developments.
Children with disabilities should not be left behind.
On Friday, I made a small comment for those children or youth I was happy and thankful to teach, learn with and from😊
My dyslexic students who were eager to read quickly and were so happy to discuss ‘great writers on the road’ when they found out text to speech could empower them when needed. I am sure young people have a lot of feedback and questions about AI and its ‘superpowers’. They are usually aware of their rights but not systematically. Parents and teachers have a huge mission there, but we should all feel “AI –accessibility –children concerned citizens”. And they should not be left behind. Especially not when they are in care of the State and their guardians are not parents but a set of professionals who care but do not have the time or training to help them with new technologies when they could benefit from it. The question of mental disability was raised many times. How can we involve them? There are so many ways! But start with children😊
I hope we will all be strong enough to be ‘inspired’ by children when creating, testing, improving new technologies AND ALSO open the floor for them to co-create our universal design and standards.
Have you ever received a transgenerational gift? I could mention the hula hoop my children received from their grandmother. The one I did use at some point. And there you go, children start questioning :
“Where did you use it? Did you play with friends? Who invented it? What was it made of before plastic?”
When I tell about those intergenerational- friends or family fragments, most people recall, not only their own childhood but they often feel grounded to earth. Some listeners told me, they even reimagine themselves bare feet for a moment….:-)
Did you know transgenerational gifts are also part of circular economy?
What is important about them? In this article, I will concentrate on the fact that they disclose a story or more.
Circular economy is regenerative, built as to retain a maximum of value from products, parts and materials and it allows for reuse and recycling. As it is a real ‘model’ with its complexity, we often forget parts when trying to define it. Circular economy is sometimes ‘shortened’ as recycling and reusing. But there is more to it. 1
One dimension that is often overlooked is the human capital. I have chosen storytelling to introduce the concept because stories often show human value. Stories help link human experience and happiness factors. .I could have chosen many stories related to our environment/nature. I will only concentrate on those relevant to well-being or happiness.
There are some stories we already know: 1. the drop in the ocean, the story that makes you feel part of a whole, 2. the do it yourself (DIY) stories in which you re-own the whole manufacturing process,3. empowerment stories are also very powerful and culturally diverse. In Building Research and Information, Janda and Topouzi have identified success stories but also caring and resilience stories to understand strategies used in times of climate change or when difficult living conditions or adverse experiences.
These stories are all important for change and transformation of economic models but we need to keep both macro and micro levels in mind. Storytelling helps structuring, defining, putting words on human experiences. Stories are not only local stories , they can be transnational. In an era of post truth, we should find ways to identify, classify and study those at several levels.
In Energy Research & Social Science (an academic article for once😊) “Using stories, narratives, and storytelling in energy and climate change research” 2, the Authors argue that “Stories provide different material than other traditional forms of data used in energy and climate change research. They are obviously different than more quantitative, (..) generalisable forms of data, than interviews, participant-observation, and other social scientific forms of data collection normally do. They are immediately oriented to relationships, in particular between people and things, the present and the past, actions and consequences, etc. And they often have emotional, psychological, symbolic, and cultural content (…). So, stories invite a different intellectual and emotional framework, (…).
The authors point out stories can serve as data or bring different perspectives but also as tools for collaboration and learning but even as evidence and should therefore be categorized better.
For instance, I hope stories about universal design in environment, architecture, smart cities education etc will have a clear transversal mention so we can trace these!
The latest global happiness report (2018) not only states that monitoring well-being will require that all governmental policies are designed and tested on happiness outcomes, but it also insists on taking all human actors into account. “It will now become important to consider not just the happiness of the recipients of government service but also the impact of the services on the happiness of those designing and delivering them, and those living in the surrounding communities. The various chapters in this volume provide many examples showing that the social context—how highly people think of each other and cooperate with one another—is vitally important to how highly they rate their lives.” I am convinced these intersubjective evaluations can include children stories as well. We should also analyse happiness in terms of engagement. Companies, public bodies social networks measure long-term engagement as a well-being factor (ex. Net recommender scores) but when I do a storytelling training I also refer to other topics usually from the psychological field like attachment, a concept that also helps ground (prerequisite) and define happiness.
Because hula hoop questions made my day, happily fulfilled my story purpose, I will answer these:
“Where did you use it? Mostly in a garden but we did build houses with it as well
Did you play with friends? sure
Who invented it? I had to look it up😊4
What was it made of before plastic?” check the above reference 4😊
What I learnt is that hula hoop is not only a dance but a kind of storytelling as well… Where dancers really react to words and not only to music…
Some topics have not been developed for the sake of clarity and length.Like empowerment stories through cultures, attachment theory and its transversal consequences, these can be studied in trainings or events.