NEXES Exercise on Accessibility

On May 19th 2016, during the NEXES Workshop on Accessibility, the NEXES RIA began its Campaign of Demonstrations, hosting its first Exercise, dedicated to the Accessibility in emergency services in general and the Accessibility features in NEXES, in particular.

The presence of a large audience of members of the deaf and hard-of-hearing community presented an excellent opportunity to engage directly with members of the deaf community and to secure valuable feedback on their experience dealing with emergency services and on the enhancements considered by NEXES.

Organised by EUD, the exercise took the form of a ‘walkthrough’ of an emergency response scenario involving a terrorist attack on a mass transit system (NEXES Reference Scenario 3), delivered in sign-language by representatives from EUD and OMN, with designated intervals for facilitated group discussion. The method used for the table top exercise presented no logistical constraints to the scale of the scenario. Being large-scale and complex, this scenario also gave the opportunity to explore the widest possible range of NEXES functionality and end-user requirements. The following images helped to set the ambiance for the exercise.

The NEXES Exercise on Accessibility counted with 38 participants from across Europe, each presenting deafness or hard-of-hearing impairment. The statistics on the participants show:

Discussion topics focused therefore on currently available communications options and any associated impediments to communication, as well as the proposed alternatives considered by NEXES, and their advantages and/or limitations. Topics were not overly proscriptive however, and free and creative discussion was encouraged, and enthusiastically engaged in. The exercise scenarios were written from a variety of perspectives (e.g. victim, bystander, concerned citizen), which provided a fruitful means of encouraging participants to think about the topics in the context of the broadest possible range of situations.

Organised by EUD, the exercise took the form of a ‘walkthrough’ of an emergency response scenario involving a terrorist attack on a mass transit system (NEXES Reference Scenario 3), delivered in sign-language by representatives from EUD and OMN, with designated intervals for facilitated group discussion. The method used for the table top exercise presented no logistical constraints to the scale of the scenario. Being large-scale and complex, this scenario also gave the opportunity to explore the widest possible range of NEXES functionality and end-user requirements. The following images helped to set the ambiance for the exercise.

Participants’ feedback to the NEXES Exercise on Accessibility, and in consideration of the proposed NEXES capabilities, brought about considerations that may not be readily apparent to non-deaf individuals. For example, the fact that deaf people rely on visual communication, regardless of whether they have sign language as their first language or whether they primarily lip-read. The feedback on ensuring a highly visual intuitive user interface to the NEXES App is also relevant to communicate with tourists and early migrants who cannot speak the native language. It also highlighted that accessibility is not simply a matter of developing solutions targeted at specific user groups, but rather needs the promotion of universal accessibility by employing technologies and processes which facilitate access for the greatest range of users.

Participants also emphasised the need for the NEXES App to provide accurate information sent by emergency services, the ability to verify the information’s provenance and its update capability, as well as made relevant suggestions for simple NEXES App functions, such as the utility of a ‘one touch’ system, accessible when a device’s screen is locked, the value of tutorials on emergency preparedness and first aid, the relevance of clear mapping highlighting areas of danger/safety and the opportunity to include a signal/beacon to alert the deaf of the emergency services’ presence. In addition, concerning the deaf community, participants reinforced that the challenges of communicating with emergency services persist after initial contact, throughout subsequent interactions with First Responders, since it is obvious the lack of training among emergency services personnel on how to communicate with the deaf population.

All the findings and conclusions retrieved from the NEXES exercise participants’ feedback are an integrated part of the overall NEXES user requirements and are being duly considered in the development of the NEXES App for citizens.

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