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Probation

Circular

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY UPDATE REFERENCE NO:


PURPOSE 81/2005
The purpose of this circular is to provide information to probation areas about
developments which address the needs of disabled users of NPS IT systems, provide ISSUE DATE:
guidance regarding accessibility issues, and lay the foundations for future support of 4 November 2005
Assistive Technology (AT) users.
IMPLEMENTATION DATE:
ACTION Immediate
Chief Officers are asked to bring this circular to the attention of all staff. Each
probation area should: EXPIRY DATE:
• Nominate a single point of contact to deal with AT issues. September 2010 or until replaced
• Review existing local applications, websites and templates to ensure that
reasonable adjustments are made to enable all users to access them. TO:
• Improve awareness of relevant staff in relation to IT support and training for AT Chairs of Probation Boards
users. Chief Officers of Probation
• Facilitate access to the AT Knowledge Base and attendance at the national AT
Secretaries of Probation Boards
User Group and other similar local support groups for AT users.
• Note the work on an assessment process to help identify and support AT users
CC:
and be ready to use the assessment guidelines locally when they are published
Board Treasurers
on the AT Knowledge Base in the near future.
• Ensure that all managers with potential or actual responsibility for AT Users are Regional Managers
trained in an understanding of AT issues and are able to facilitate and monitor the
provision of AT as required. AUTHORISED BY:
Roger McGarva, Head of Regions
SUMMARY & Performance
In the NPS there are in the region of four to five hundred disabled staff. NPD is
making a concerted effort to ensure that the needs of disabled people in the ATTACHED:
workplace are being fully addressed. There is a corporate responsibility for the N/A
accessibility of NPS IT systems both at national and local levels. Probation ICT are
responsible for ensuring that the applications they support are AT compliant and they
are working with application providers to ensure that accessibility issues are
addressed. Probation areas are responsible for locally produced applications. This
includes any templates that are stand-alone or that interface with corporate
applications through word processing interfaces.

RELEVANT PREVIOUS PROBATION CIRCULARS


None

CONTACT FOR ENQUIRIES


Annette McGranaghan, Probation ICT Business Representative
Tel: 020 7217 8963. Email annette.mcgranaghan2@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
Trevor Roberts, Probation ICT AT Advisor
Tel: 07899922543 Email trevor.roberts@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

National Probation Directorate


Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London, SW1P 2AW
BACKGROUND

Recent changes in legislation have mandated that all IT systems should be accessible to all users. This means that, as
far as possible, disabled users should not be disadvantaged when it comes to accessing IT systems. Whether the
disability is a visual impairment, a mobility difficulty, RSI or dyslexia, everyone is expected to be able to access the full
functionality of all new systems. This means that all new applications should be designed and developed to comply with
assistive technology requirements.

The new legislation has given greater impetus to the promotion of inclusive design, especially in government
departments. The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) has highlighted the disadvantage that some people may experience
due to their disabilities. It has also drawn attention to the limitations of some of the existing IT applications in use across
the NPS.

POLICY ON ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY


A revised policy on Assistive Technology is currently under development. It is planned to provide the basis for a robust
and enduring policy that addresses all the IT requirements for disabled users.

APPLICATIONS, TEMPLATES and WEBSITES

Under the terms of the DDA all applications and templates should be AT compliant, i.e. they should be accessible to AT
users. If this is not possible for any reason, appropriate “reasonable adjustments” should be made to assist users in
accessing them.

Probation ICT are responsible for ensuring that the applications they support: e-OASys, IAPS, CRAMS, Delius and ICMS
are AT compliant. Wherever possible, these applications are modified to make them accessible. Similarly, they are
working with providers of external applications that NPS Users are required to access (Xhibit, Libra and VISOR) to ensure
that accessibility issues are addressed

IAPS, Delius and ICMS are already AT-compliant. Considerable improvements for accessibility have been introduced into
e-OASys, and future releases will incorporate these enhancements to ensure continuing accessibility.

The development of NOMIS is following inclusive design principals, which means that accessibility is being built in as the
application is developed. Early testing has provided encouraging results.

As a result of negotiations with NAPO and Unison, Probation ICT undertook development work on the CRAMS contact
log to make it accessible to AT users. The CRAMS AT Contact Log provides an interface to the CRAMS Contact log
using the Delius application and the application is currently being piloted by AT Users in West Yorkshire and
Nottinghamshire.

Note that NPS areas are responsible for locally produced applications (victim databases, court trackers, non NPD
supported case management systems etc), websites and templates. This includes any templates that interface with
corporate applications such as word processing interfaces.

To ensure that NPD and NPS staff produce accessible documents and templates in future, and to enable an assessment
of existing material and modification to make it AT compliant where required, Probation ICT has undertaken to produce
guidance for both the Probation Directorate and areas.

Preliminary guidance will be issued shortly, with more substantive guidance to follow. It will be shared with system
suppliers, Probation ICT and other criminal justice agencies that provide IT systems that NPD and NPS users are
required to access directly or via interfaces on their own systems (e.g. Xhibit and the Xhibit portal)

TRAINING & SUPPORT

Probation ICT recently ran a training program for Area IT staff so they could learn more about the assistive technology
that is currently in use in the National Probation Service. The training was delivered on a regional basis by Probation
ICT’s AT Software suppliers, and provided local IT support staff with an awareness of the range of AT products in use
throughout NPS, the range and scope of issues associated with users, the technology and the accessibility of NPS
applications and environments.

PC81/2005 – Assistive Technology Update 2


This training is a significant step towards establishing a new support structure for AT users and has provided IT staff with
some basic tools and strategies to help make the provision of local first line support for AT a practical reality. Further
advanced training is planned for the near future.

Probation ICT is also funding training for AT users of e-OASys using the applications Dragon and Jaws. A similar
approach to training is planned for all Corporate Applications (including NOMIS) and to facilitate this a National Training
Strategy for AT users is being prepared.

AT KNOWLEDGE BASE

The AT Knowledge Base contains much useful information on accessibility. It includes product descriptions, policy details,
minutes of the Assistive Technology User Group Meetings, the AT Issues Log, an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
section, a discussion area and information on procedures such as arranging assessments by Access to Work, and a
News section.

The AT Knowledge Base has been developed in Lotus Notes and is currently undergoing user acceptance testing.
Following completion of testing it will be made available to areas. More details of its content and how to access it will be
distributed to all areas via a STEPS Briefing Note.

DEFINITION OF AN AT USER

The AT Knowledge Base will contain a formal definition, but strictly speaking, “anyone that needs specialist hardware
and/or software to use an IT system” is an AT user.

AT hardware includes such things as Braille readers and embossers, adapted keyboards e.g. split keyboards, high
contrast characters, large keys, customised devices (e.g. joystick, mouse, switches, stylus and tablet), screen magnifier
hardware and appropriate audio devices (e.g. noise cancelling headsets) and any other accessories e.g. key guards.

AT software includes: accessibility options in Windows e.g. Sticky Keys; magnification options; the ability to change the
monitor refresh rate for people with epilepsy or certain eye conditions; voice recognition software (e.g. Dragon Naturally
Speaking); screen-reader software - speech output or speech synthesizer software - (e.g. Jaws); magnification software
(e.g. Zoom Text); predictive software,; keyboard emulation e.g. with a scanning interface,; software for people with
dyslexia (e.g. Text Help ‘Read and Write Gold’ and Inspiration) and accessible templates (for Word and Excel)

IDENTIFYING AT USERS - FORMS OF ASSESSMENT AND GUIDELINES

It is vital that areas have an effective and objective assessment process in place to ensure that adjustments are put in
place for users with disability. These adjustments should address the individuals’ IT access requirements and the impact
on the work they are expected to do. Line managers should consult with local human resource colleagues if they are
concerned that an individual has access requirements which may adversely affect their ability to use a computer
effectively.

An accessibility assessment determines what combination of software, user interface and IT hardware will enable the
user to operate the system successfully. Recommendations may include specification of chairs to meet specific access
requirements, phones or lighting for the user. The assessment may identify that the user requires specialist hardware or
software to use a computer.

Where AT equipment or software is recommended, the local IT Unit should advise on availability, compatibility with NPS
applications and identify training needs. Some impairments may qualify employees for funding from the Job Centre Plus
Access to Work scheme and the employee will be requested to liaise directly with them if appropriate.

To support local HR and line management guidelines on a suggested assessment process will be published on the AT
Knowledge Base.

PC81/2005 – Assistive Technology Update 3


AT USER GROUP

The national AT User Group is well-established and combines consultative and advisory functions. It focuses on the
needs of users of assistive technology in the NPS and includes representatives from HMPS, NAPO and Unison. The next
meeting is on 12th December 2005 in Stoke on Trent and areas should encourage and enable staff to attend this meeting
and other similar local support groups. AT users who are able to attend should notify Trevor Roberts, Probation ICT AT
Advisor (Email trevor.roberts@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk) who is also the chair of the national AT User Group. They should
also advise him of any specific access requirements.

It is planned to develop a regional structure to provide peer support to AT users and further details will be made available
in due course. To support this initiative, areas are required to identify a single point of contact to act as a local co-
ordinator for Assistive Technology issues. The names of these individuals should be sent to Trevor Roberts.

PC81/2005 – Assistive Technology Update 4