New resources to help community radio better include people with disability

Covers of new guides: one entitled Access for All with a smiling woman in glasses on the cover. The second cover is called Volunteer Stories and shows two radio producers who are blind in the studio.Community radio exists for everyone to have a voice. While there are some really great radio producers with disabilities in the community radio sector,  a real opportunity for voice still exists for many more!

For this reason, the Ability Radio Project’s Kim Stewart produced these guides with RPH Australia, the radio network providing Radio Reading services to the 34% of Australians with print disability. We want to encourage more people with disabilities to participate in community radio, and to help radio stations prepare for new volunteers.

Continue reading “New resources to help community radio better include people with disability”

Reading radio scripts out loud with a screen reader

In my work with the CMTO I’ve been developing techniques to best assist learners in community radio who are using screen readers – ie.  people who are blind or have a vision impairment. Screen readers convert written text into voice, so that a user who is blind can ‘read’ the text, from top to bottom (as long as that text is formatted to be accessible, more about that here). Using a screen reader to read back a pre-written script in real time can be a challenge for some screen reader users, but worth the effort to become confident on-air.

Continue reading “Reading radio scripts out loud with a screen reader”

MEDIA RELEASE: Radio 4EB’s Katharina Loesche wins the CBAA National Features and Documentary Series 2018 with doco about Achilles Brisbane

CBAA press release: Radio 4EB, Brisbane’s Katharina Loesche has taken home the 2018 CBAA Community Radio Award in the National Features and Documentary Seriescategory for her radio documentary ‘The Runners’ Guide’.

In ‘The Runners’ Guide’, Katharina followed a running group of vision-impaired joggers, finding solutions to get exercise in the Brisbane area.

It was produced as part of the 2018 National Features and Documentary Series, an annual showcase of work by new and emerging Australian community radio producers.

It is now available as part of the fifth instalment of the NFDS, an annual showcase of work by new and emerging Australian community radio producers.

With training and mentoring provided by the Community Media Training Organisation (, eight producers based at community stations across the country turned their idea into a new half-hour feature for a national audience over 2018.

Discover all and previous year’s series at

Through these eight new features, individuals tell engaging stories about issues affecting their communities from mining to farming, mediating street drug use, exercising with impaired vision, and migration across generations. Works include:

  • The Runners’ Guide – Katharina Loesche (4EB, Brisbane)
  • Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities – Barry Green (Donnybrook Community Radio, Donnybrook)
  • Hear Our Voices – Aguer Athian (3ZZZ, Melbourne)
  • To Say I Am Home – Mahendra Chitrarasu (Radio Adelaide)
  • Hidden Carers – Meredith Gilmore (Coast FM 963, Gosford)
  • At The Coalface – Nikola Van de Wetering (4ZZZ, Brisbane)
  • The Shooting Gallery – Aoife Cooke (3CR, Melbourne)
  • Finding Voice – Mick Paddon and Humayun Reza (Eastside FM, Sydney)

Free for airplay on Australian community broadcasters, the series can be heard online at, through iTunes and your favourite podcast app or platform.

Produced with the assistance of the Department of Communications and the Arts via the Community Broadcasting Foundation

EVENT: The Runners Guide listening party, Brisbane

“My feature is about Barbara and Jane, both vision impaired, who were lonely and like one of the main characters said “me and my guide dog where getting fatter and fatter”. With the help of a wonderful initiative here in Brisbane, they changed their life around – they started running.”

Please join us for the listening party of:

The Runners’ Guide

– finalist in the National Documentaries and Features Series 2018, Community Radio Awards.

Get to meet Birgit, Barbara and Jane from Achilles Brisbane, producer Katharina (Radio 4EB) and her mentor Kim (Radio 4ZZZ) who are telling a very personal story of how running changed lives, even when there’s more to overcome than your “inner couch potato”…

Drinks & nibbles provided.

Limited seats available, please register.

General Admission $5 (box office).

Where:  at 4EB, 140 Main St, Kangaroo Point, Brisbane.

4:30-6pm Sunday October 21.

Facebook event link:

Katharina Loesche created her very first radio documentary for the National Documentary and Features Series with the Community Media Training Organisation.  She talks about it here (link)

She is a radio producer who convenes 4EB Brisbane’s German Show and provides content for radio for SBS’s Your Language

Link to SBS site:

Need accessible documents? Check out MSWord templates

In recent weeks I’ve been exploring the wonderful (and hitherto mostly unknown to me) world of accessible word documents. In MS Word, using document styles, headings and alternative descriptions (alt-tags) on images makes your document more readable for those using screenreaders, as well as more consistently formatted for everyone else. In addition, formatting for accessibility in word before creating text in websites makes the job of accessible website design simpler.  Accessibility checkers added to Word help you double-check it’s all ok.

I’ve written my entire doctoral thesis using the Vision Australia accessibility add-on for Word you can find at this link:

But did you know there is an even EASIER way?   MS Word templates!  The templates demonstrate how you can have a design that is accessible and useful, as well as visually attractive.

Picture of Sampler cover:  Man with guide dog crossing roadThe Word “Accessible Template Sampler” includes:

  • Flyers
  • Agendas
  • Birthday invitations, cards and posters
  • Labels and business cards (if you want to go that extra mile with your business cards, you can get Braille ones from any of the business listed on the Braille Guide website here: )

You can find a whole range of fully accessible Word templates trialed by people with a disability for use-ability here:

Word is also full of helpful advice on achieving accessible docs here: Link to accessibility advice on MSOffice site where they also have a Microsoft Disability Answer Desk if you have problems.

If you still have trouble, you might like to consider hiring Media Access Australia’s accessible document service here:

MSOffice also make accessible templates for Powerpoint! Find them at this link:

Vision Australia: making docs accessible with the DAT tool

Sometimes screen readers used by vision-impaired people have trouble with digital documents.

Vision Australia’s Access Consultants Pierre Frederiksen and Leona Zumbo have developed a Digital Accessibility Toolbar that you can add to Word to help realise the dream!

“An innovation that revolutionises the ease and speed of creating accessible documents in Microsoft Word, the Document Accessibility Toolbar (DAT) supports individuals and organisations to embrace accessibility as ‘business as usual’ at no cost.”

Download it at this link:

Vision Australia have a full accessibility toolkit here:



Argh! My website is invisible!

So you’ve made a kickass website for your radio show, podcast or station.  It does everything you want it to do.  But did you know that to some of your users your website could be invisible?  To others, your website might be confusing and hard to navigate because of cognitive disability or low literacy?

Infographic: Websites should be perceivable operable understandable and robustThe accessibility of public institutions is required by law, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.  While we are all familiar with the need to have ramps in our buildings, we are less likely to have considered if our web interfaces with the community are accessible.

Challenges to people with a disability in accessing web content can be visual, cognitive, motor skills or hearing-related.

1 in 5 Australians have a disability (ABS 2015).  Of the over 5 million Australians who listen to community radio, around 30% of them have a disability, while 11% of all listeners have a vision impairment or blindness.  In a 2012 survey, as many at 44% of Australians have low literacy, making everyday tasks that require reading and understanding difficult (ABS 2012).

According to a Vision 2020 report (2015) there are 575,000 people who are blind or vision impaired currently living in Australia.  Vision Australia predict that the number of Australians who are blind or have low vision will grow to 564,000 by 2030.

The blind use screen readers to access the digital environment, essentially reading aloud your web content to users, from top to bottom, with software such as NVDA or JAWS.  Screen readers are also used by some people with cognitive or learning disabilities who may find reading challenging, as an additional way to absorb content.

Unfortunately some web content is not compatible with screen readers, so is essentially invisible.

  • Flash animation, already invisible to iphones, is also invisible to screen readers;
  • Images with no “Alt” descriptions are invisible to screen readers;
  • PDFs that are heavy on graphics may be confusing or not easy to read by some screen readers;
  • Screen readers can also read in a variety of languages, so if you set the “lang” attribute incorrectly, it will read the text in the wrong language.  And probably not make much sense either;
  • Links that are not accessible by using the TAB key (hover-over menus and links);
  • Form fields that are not labelled properly;
  • CAPTCHA for preventing spamming of forms is inaccessible as it relies on graphics;
  • Tables for layout are a verbal nightmare for a screen reader;
  • Carousels or slideshows for images:  if they are fast or not stoppable, they can be unreadable even to sighted users, and invisible to users of screen readers;
  • Some widgets in WordPress and other CMS.

All these problems are easily fixed or avoided!

  • The simplest way is to choose a Content Management System that supports accessibility.  Joomla, WordPress and Drupal are generally pretty good according to Media Access Australia;
  • Alternatives exist to CAPTCHA, hover menus and other graphic based issues that are unreadable to screen reader users  eg.  This fix for image carousels;
  • If you can’t part with your graphics heavy version, you can make a basic html low-tech site alongside your fancy site with a front page link for screen reader users;
  • Get your users to test it!  If you have a blind or vision-impaired volunteer, why not seek their advice on what works for them?

For more detail about how a screen reader works with a website see  In fact Webaim here: is your most valuable resource when thinking about how to make your internet presence accessible.

Webaim have developed the WAVE accessibility tool.  Just type in your sites web address and it will tell you what does and doesn’t work (requires knowing some technical terms)

And Authoring Tool Accessibility Guidelines here:(ATAG)

The A11y Project (“A community-driven effort to make web accessibility easier”)  also offers this checklist for web developers that you can check off while editing your code (warning:  jargon and code!)    Also many other useful tools at this site for developers.

If it’s all too much for you, and let’s face it, web dev is highly technical and needs good attention to detail, you can find numerous services offering to help you become accessible for a fee such as Media Access Australia and others.


About the Author:

Kim Stewart is a Doctoral researcher at Queensland University of Technology and community radio producer at 4ZZZ.  She coordinates the Ability Radio Project, getting the voices of PWD onto the airwaves straight from the local community.

Ability Radio Project: