Don't disable people
How to make accessibility software available
Nick Brown (email@example.com)
12th March 2014. JISC Digital Festival. 15:00
• UK’s largest specialist residential college
for people with a visual impairment
• 100’s of students on campus
• Specialist facilities, equipment
• Advice, guidance, training and
support for mainstream
universities and colleges
• “Moodle” cloud project in association with
Herefordshire College of Technology (HCT)
• HCT built a new Moodle system, hosted in the cloud
• RNC built an accessibility layer, giving access to Moodle
to anyone with a PC, even if they didn’t have a copy of
Examples of Enabling Software
Screen Readers and Magnifiers
Tools for reading and
learning disabilitiesSpecialist Hardware Drivers
On Screen Keyboards
• “Mary” was a student at RNC. When her course ended, she went to
university to get a degree.
• The university told her that she could only use a few machines because of
the enabling software she needed.
• As a result she wasn’t able to choose machines she wanted to use,
couldn’t sit with her friends, was unable to switch machines if hers had
technical issues and sometimes couldn’t access software that others had
• We think that everyone should be able to use every computer. In today’s
world, surely we should make an effort to ensure that all of our equipment
is accessible to everyone.
Picture posed by actor
So Why Isn’t It (1)?
• Try loading several pieces of enabling software onto the same machine and you’ll
become quite familiar with the screen above (or the new Windows 8 equivalent).
• Even when it seems to work, odd things can happen.
So Why Isn’t It (2)?
can be hard to
install and usually
technician to visit
• How many PCs do you have in your institution?
• Can you justify a technician visit to each one to install software
that may never be used?
• Some enabling software takes ages to install (sometimes half an
hour or more)
So Why Isn’t It (3)?
can be VERY
for a single JAWS
Pro licence with 2
years support is
• If you were to install JAWS on 1000 PC’s using “per seat” licences – well, do the
OK, What’s the Solution?
• Some software has a “portable mode” where
it will run straight from a USB stick
• Not all software offers this
• You often need admin rights at some point
• Have you disabled your USB ports for
Run from Network?
• Other software may have a “network mode”,
running directly from the server
• Again, not all software offers this
• You often still need admin rights at some
• A “stub” program may still need to be
OK, What’s OUR Solution?
• Tools exist that allow users to run software on machines that it has never been
• Called “Software Virtualisation”, it allows the IT team to install the software on one
machine. Clever software looks at how the install was done and then makes a copy of
this which can be used on other computers
• The software is never installed on the other machines, it’s loaded from the
virtualisation server only when and if it’s needed
So, How Does that Fix the Problem?
1. The software isn’t installed, so it
can’t clash with other software
2. You only need to install each
product once – no need to visit
3. Although you will need to
negotiate with each supplier, you
will generally only need a licence
for each user (either concurrent
Our Chosen Technology
• Enabling software tends to be quite complex, needing multiple
drivers that often integrate deeply with the operating system
• Many of the virtualisation products are incapable of doing
this, so care must be taken when evaluating
• As we are providing enabling technology, the portal for users to
access this technology must be accessible
• It will save you time later if you choose a vendor that supports
and encourages sharing of the virtualisation “recipe” for an
app, or will provide ready-made apps for you to download
Enabling software is
JAWS (and other screen
reading software) does
things at a deep level within
the operating system.
• Getting JAWS to work took time (quite a lot of it, actually!)
• We had to get help from the manufacturers in the USA
• We cannot get around the need for a reboot before the first run
of JAWS (and some other enabling software)
• This work is now done and we are happy to share the “recipe”
with you. Armed with this, you will be able to virtualise JAWS in
around an hour.
• Integration with our own SharePoint site
• Windows shortcuts
• Automatic virtualisation on login
• Non-Windows technologies