Agora is a series of two-day-long educational events aimed at educating severely visually impaired users on how to utilize ICT to compensate for their impairment. The Agora’s goal is to enhance the digital literacy of visually impaired individuals and thus to enable them to make full use of the possibilities of compensating their impairment offered to them by the currently available ICT.
Since we can not currently meet in person, we moved to the online world and prepared the online edition of Agora for this spring.
Online plenary session
Online plenary session will take place on Thursday, May 28 from 10 am to 12 pm (CEST).
What can you look forward to?
- Michal Jungmann, GALOP, s.r.o.: Screen reading in 2020
- Petr Dušek: 3D printing in LablindZone
- Kristýna Savaryová, Jan Šimík, BlindShell: What’s New at BlindShell
- Roman Martinovič, Corvus: Corvus – The persistent marathoner
- Tomáš Hrdinka, Spektra, v.d.n.: Portable magnifier camera Compact 10 HD Speech
- Adam Fendrych, Rohlik.cz, Roman Kabelka, Master Internet: How and why we were making Rohlik.cz accessible
- Gabriela Drastichová,the Czech Radio Endowment fund: Světluška – Financial aid for individuals and organizations
Michal Jungmann, GALOP, s.r.o.: Screen reading in 2020
What does the term “screen reader” mean in the current age? How did its importance change over the past 30 years? A short overview of the gradual change in one of the most crucial assistive technologies, demonstrated with practical examples of Jaws features such as Research it, enhanced Convenient OCR and Picture Smart in its most up-to-date 2020 version.
Petr Dušek: 3D printing in LablindZone
In LablindZone, we currently focus on 3D printing for the needs of the visually impaired. What have we accomplished so far? What is waiting for us? What joys and sorrows are we dealing with? (Our non-profit activities are supported by Světluška – The Czech Radio endowment Fund, Teiresias – The Support Centre for Students with Special Needs at Masaryk University.
Kristýna Savaryová, BlindShell: What’s New at BlindShell
BlindShell is a Czech company that develops mobile phones for blind and visually impaired senior citizens. A new mobile phone BlindShell Classic LITE, the simplest mobile phone for the blind, will be presented at the Agora conference, together with the innovations in the most successful mobile phone BlindShell Classic.
Roman Martinovič, Corvus: Corvus – a persistent marathoner
One of the reasons might be Peter’s (Corvus main developer passion for running for dozens of miles, often till the very last breath. But surely it is especially because of the fact that in the Corvus team, we connect great determination with the values of responsibility and the feeling of a job well done. That’s why the Corvus app set which makes smartphones accessible to the blind and visually impaired has been unstoppably speeding through the world of Android for 7 years already. Despite the strength of its opponents which take the form of not just new OS releases but also various vendors, brands and UI overlays, Corvus is still the leader in the field.
Thanks to the fact that even the delicious Kit Kat 4.4 was not strong enough to allure Corvus (and to slow it down), we can use the advantages of the newest versions of Android (incl. Android 10) and present innovations which will please blind and visually impaired smartphone users and help them with their needs, no matter how varied they are.
For the first time ever, we will present a revolutionary system of macros that will make work with the screen reader incredibly more efficient in repetitive situations.
However, Corvus also presents its own navigation solution for the blind which makes use of augmented reality. And there is more – we will present an implementation of the well-known and outstanding Cash Reader bill recognizer integrated directly into the Corvus UI, a perfect newly enhanced calendar and an advanced audiobook and music player. We are also going to introduce a lad and an adult to you – Matej and Matejko, two new audio book players. Whereas the lad is happily living in the world already, the adult is just yet to be born. We will give Agora participants more details about them and we reserve some space for more surprises. However, we will get to them only once we set off for the final sprint along our marathon track together with Corvus, with the finish line beyond the horizon.
Tomáš Hrdinka, Spektra, v.d.n.: a magnifying camera Compact 10 HD Speech
We would like to present a completely new portable electronic magnifier which provides a great view on quite a large display while remaining portable. Thanks to screen mirroring technology, it can be connected to a computer or a modern TV as well.
Adam Fendrych, Rohlik.cz, Roman Kabelka, Master Internet: How and why we were making Rohlik.cz accessible
Buying groceries was until recently a very unpleasant activity to many people, some could not do it on their own. Online supermarkets help to balance the differences among people and everybody has a chance to do their shopping in just a couple of clicks, no matter what their specific needs are. It sounds great, but in the real world, this is sometimes prevented by unnecessary technical obstacles. They are not there on purpose, it’s just that nobody in the company knows of them. That’s why we started the collaboration between disabled users and Rohlik. Thanks to their feedback, we were able to discover and remove a couple of the wooden logs along the way. We would like to share with you what we learned in the process. Among other things you will get to know:
- why we started with this in the first place,
- what issues we found,
- what to look out for,
- what the users themselves say about this.
Gabriela Drastichová The Czech Radio Endowment Fund: Světluška – financial aid for individuals and organizations
Světluška, which is the Czech Radio Endowment Fund, has been supporting the severely visually impaired with financial contributions for eighteen years. The needs of the severely visually impaired are changing, as well as the offerings of services and equipment that help the visually impaired to achieve greater independence and a higher quality of life. Světluška reacts to this by expanding its support to individuals and organizations in the entire Czech Republic. Concurrently, though, it stops contributing to those services and equipment that have been taken over by the government or that are in low demand. We will mainly focus on introducing programs to support students and people who are getting ready to enter the labor market and programs to support competent usage of assistive technologies and compensation aids.
Feedback from participants
The past editions of Agora received very positive feedback from participants and workshop leaders. Let us share with you at least three testimonials written by our foreign guests.
Tanja Stevns, Lars Christensen, RoboBraille.org
It was absolutely great. We really enjoyed it. It is probably the best ICT conference aimed at end-users we have ever been at and with the most enthusiastic crowd. Thank you for inviting us.
Jan Bloem, International Sales Manager, Freedom Scientific/ Vispero
I attended for the first time the Agora conference in 2018 and was very honored to be a keynote speaker in the morning where I was able to address the complete group of conference members. The conference was well attended and the feedback of the audience was very enthusiastic! The participants are mostly all users of assistive technology and are eager to know the latest news and developments. The translation was very well organized and had a high quality. I could also follow the discussions in the local language very well.
The workshops were in the afternoon and the next day and well organized. The participants could all work hands-on and again, they were all very eager to learn.
Many thanks for the good organization and hope to attend the next time again!
Jaume Cunill, Tech4Freedom
For Tech4Freedom team, 2018 was our first participation in Agora. We participate in many events worldwide, like the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, CSUN in San Diego, United States, Sight City in Frankfurt among others.
In all of them, we find excellent opportunities for business and also to know new and interesting people, what we love to see happen. But Agora impressed me with the strong and constant approach towards users. I noticed that they worked very hard to provide visitors the best solutions from the Czech Republic and abroad.
And the point I loved, is that Agora team by focusing on persons created a paradox which worth to be spread. The companies of course represented by persons, we felt participating in a wonderful and successful event, finding enthusiastic people attending the workshops, who were providing amazing ideas to improve our products, and enthusiastic examples on how they will use them when they have them.
Agora achieves by focusing on persons, that companies reach results beyond imagination. This one should be the model to follow by all companies worldwide.
I share the same convictions with Radek Pavlicek and all Agora team. Persons go first. All the rest is a consequence of a well-done work. Bravo Agora!!!
Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2020
Agora is for the sixth time part of the Global Accessibility Awareness Day – an awareness day focusing on digital access and inclusion for the more than one billion people with disabilities and impairments.
Some facts about Agora
The idea behind
The extraordinary expansion of ICT – along with the efforts to make it more accessible – has led to severely visually impaired users nowadays having access to an overwhelming amount of aids and services based on ICT.
Such solutions are relatively easily available to them these days, and they can thus utilize them to compensate for their severe visual impairment. However, people with visual impairment don’t always know how to use them efficiently or how to make use of all the possibilities offered to them, or they might not have a good overview of the recent offerings and the available options.
Unfortunately, severely visually impaired people don’t have the same possibilities and opportunities of ICT education or accessing the news as their able-bodied counterparts. Commonly used procedures (such as publishing standard product videos or photos on the web) don’t work in this case, as a visually impaired user can’t gain the information they need from that because of their need for suitable adjustments considering their visual impairment.
Why do we organize Agora
As an event where interested users could learn about news in ICT for the visually impaired in practice was missing here, we decided in May 2015 to run the first session of Agora. To roughly 30 participants, we offered the possibility to enroll in up to 3 of 5 workshops aimed at ICT news during a single day. Since we received very positive feedback, we kept organizing it all the way to its current two-day-long form when it’s being visited by at least 150 participants, to whom we offer not just workshops but also a plenary and exhibition part.
The program of Agora includes
- the plenary session where participants are introduced to the news in the field via short frontal lectures;
- exhibition part where they can explore the products and services from many assistive technology vendors;
- hands-on workshops where they learn to control and use the chosen solutions efficiently from experienced tutors.
Focus on accessibility
Emphasis is also put towards creating an accessible environment that respects the needs of the visually impaired as much as possible. The environment where Agora takes place, as well as the way of sharing information, is adjusted to the needs of severely visually impaired participants as much as possible.
Thus, Agora offers to interested severely visually impaired individuals ICT education aimed at the visually impaired and an opportunity to explore news in the field or try them in practice.
Focus on inovations
The innovation of Agora lies primarily in aiming at the severely visually impaired audience and creating an environment that’s accessible to them.
Whereas the participation of a disabled person is still something more or less exceptional at other events for now, and making the event accessible therefore means especially individual adjustments according to the needs of the specific participant, Agora offers a safe and accessible environment to dozens of people with different kinds of visual impairments, in the spirit of the universal design principles.
In this environment, they can, without having to overcome obstacles in the physical or digital world, gain an education in a field they are interested in, exchange their experience with other participants and enhance their digital literacy.
Agora is innovative at several levels.
- Physically and digitally accessible environment for participants with various kinds of visual impairments.
- Emphasis on practice. Participants have the possibility to learn about the technologies and services in practice, which is virtually the only way of introducing e.g. a new Braille display model to them, especially to totally blind participants.
- Regularity. Agora takes place twice a year, and thus enables its participants to continuously keep improving their digital competence.
- Lecturers from abroad. Agora is an opportunity to introduce good practices from other countries to interested parties from the Czech Republic.
- Social dimension. Participating at Agora is an opportunity to meet other participants and exchange experiences.
Focus on people with visual impairment
Agora is a suitable opportunity to introduce the topic of ICT utilization by the visually impaired even to the public. They can thus learn, in an objective and tabloid-free way, about how ICT can compensate for severe visual impairment and improve the quality of life for its users.
The project doesn’t burden visually impaired people with the role of passive recipients of the service either but rather engages them actively. Thus, visually impaired people can be found not only among the participants but also in the organizational team, among lecturers, exhibitors, or workshop tutors.
Photos from Autumn Agora 2019 on Flickr