Enhancing Internet access for people with disabilities
A.M. Guyb and K.N. Woodwardb
aEast Vic Professional Therapies,
69 Goold St, Bairnsdale, VIC 3875, Australia
bEast Gippsland Arts and Recreation Access Group Inc.,
PO Box 209, Bairnsdale, VIC 3875, Australia
The EIA project was funded by the "Online Public Access Initiative", a federal
initiative of the Australian Department of Communications and the Arts. The
project was designed to establish a systematic method to introduce the Web to
clients who have physical disability, are housebound, elderly, or are
A system was developed which uses a touchscreen and "kiosk type" Web-browser
to assist in overcoming various physical or cognitive hurdles. It provides an
objective tool, the "Awareness and Assessment Protocol" (AAP), which takes the
client through graded steps allowing professional documentation of various
abilities fine motor, linguistic, cognitive, and perceptual
while at the
same time slowly introducing concepts such clicking on buttons, hypertext and
Web navigation. An "Enhanced Web Station" (EWS) provides an interactive
tutorial which extends the awareness component, and then allows the client to
access and browse the Web from a familiar base.
The poster presentation will interactively document the system, and results of
the clinical trials using the actual touchscreen interface developed for this
Disability; Touchscreen; WWW; Browser; Assessment
This project was developed under the Department of Communication and the
Arts, Online Public Access
Initiative (http://www.dca.gov.au/opai.html) after a pilot project
demonstrated that the Web could offer considerable benefits for people
isolated by geography or disability. Some common difficulties encountered by
this population include:
- hardware in particular the co-ordination required to use a
- software the normal Web-browser screen is cluttered with unfamiliar
- navigation concepts, such as "home page", "scrolling", and "back";
- an individual's specific disability including physical and perceptual or
A method was developed to provide:
The guiding principles were that:
- A systematic tool to assess whether a client's visual, cognitive, physical
and language skills were sufficient to use the Web.
- Simultaneous introduction of the required Web concepts for people who are
unfamiliar with computing.
- The tool should be computer based and resemble the Web since traditional
diagnostic clinical assessments may have less relevance to the skills needed.
- A touchscreen should be used since it is easy to understand and use for
people unfamiliar with computers.
- Clients should not be overwhelmed or experience failure in their attempts.
Hence, the tool should use simple, uncluttered design and slowly move toward
more typical Web screens.
- Both awareness and assessment activities should be included so that
clients would have a better understanding of Web concepts and also be able to
judge for themselves their level of skill.
- The process should produce a well documented, objective assessment which
may facilitate decisions for support agencies which are considering the
provision of funds or training.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Hardware and software
The design principle of a Web like tool was achieved with a PC and touchscreen
monitor using a standard Web-browser running in kiosk type configuration.
2.2. The Awareness and Assessment Protocol (AAP)
This is a clinical, predictive tool designed to offer an introductory
experience, and also to assess the client's disability and its likely impact
on Web use. It includes appropriate client background documentation, and 12
computer based activities which assess visual, touch accuracy and reading
skills. The client's performance on each of the assessed activities is scored
by the computer and displayed at the end of each activity. Scoring includes
time taken, total correct, and items missed. Additional comments relating to
observed behaviour are also recorded by the assessing clinician
2.3. The Enhanced Web Station (EWS)
This is a similarly configured computer, touchscreen and Web Browser with an
interactive tutorial which extends the AAP awareness, and a Web connection. It
was located in an accessible community location where clients had the
opportunity to independently use the Web. The sessions were monitored by the
clinicians and used to evaluate the success of the AAP in predicting
successful Web use.
2.4. The EIA Web site
An EIA Web Site
(http://www.gippsnet.com.au/eiad) was established to support the AAP/EWS
materials with specialized links to clinical and social sources for the
clients and project staff.
A range of normal AAP responses from 13 people without disabilities was
obtained. The responses of a further 4 known clients with disabilities was
correlated with the clinical knowledge of their computer skills to assist fine
tuning of the AAP. Six new clients with a range of type and severity of
disability were then selected and the AAP administered. Relevant background
information about educational background, previous computer experience
interest in the Internet was also obtained. These clients were subsequently
moved on to the EWS where they received one session of individualized Web
tutoring. Then followed two monitored sessions of independent Web browsing,
the success being correlated with the predictions made by the AAP
3.1. Components of the AAP
control scripting, displayed via the touchscreen Browser interface. For each
assessment activity a standard set of on-screen instructions and a practice
task is available.
- Welcome screen: used to orientate and position the client.
- Touchscreen warmup: familiarizes the client with the touchscreen
and provides a chance to introduce modifications, such as finger splints, if
- Visual field: assesses visual field. The client names symbols (or
points to matching symbols if non-verbal) as they appear randomly on the
- Touch accuracy: assesses the client's accuracy when touching
on-screen symbols of decreasing size.
- Visual discrimination/figure ground activities: assesses a range of
visual perceptual skills. The client is required to discriminate subtle
differences between symbols, and identify symbols within two types of
- Visual memory: assesses the ability to remember icons and
symbols. The client is required to recall symbols with increasing levels of
time delay and distractions.
- Touch/click practice: an awareness activity which uses "thumbnail"
pictures to introduce the client to the concept of hot spots and rudimentary
- Reading single words: identifies if reading and comprehending
single words is a problem. The client touches the word that matches the
- Reading sentences: the client is instructed to select from
increasingly complex sentences the one that matches a picture. Each choice
appears "hot" underlined and coloured as in a hypertext link.
- Reading paragraphs: includes 3 series of hypertext like menus. The
client reads a question which is at the top of the screen and selects the
best matched menu item.
- Text links: an awareness activity to introduce more of the concepts
of hypertext and Web navigation.
- Reading hypertext: assesses the comprehension of longer passages
and the ability to make abstract inferences from information presented in
different hypertext formats.
3.2. Components of the EWS
The EWS was implemented via the same interface as the AAP and contains a
series of interactive hypertext tutorial or practice screens, as well as a
final hypertext link to the EIA Web site.
- Getting started: used to explain the tutorial method
- What is the Internet? a brief overview of the Internet and the
World Wide Web.
- The home page: illustrates the home page concept and the Browser
- The back button: moves forward or back through 3 linked screens
with the Browser back button.
- Pages and scrolling: illustrates how to use pages longer or wider
than the screen using the simple browser scroll buttons.
- Hypertext links: uses 3 local "sites" with increasingly complex
- Frames: two sets of framed pages illustrate the reasons for use of
frames, and the responses in different parts of the screen.
- On-screen forms: an on-screen "popup" keyboard allows practice form
filling of different field types.
- Link to the Web: a link to a permanent Web site provides a
distinctive and consistent entry to the Web.
3.3. Clinical observations for two representative clients
One client is quadriplegic with normal cognitive skills but severe physical
impairment. Her AAP results showed high accuracy scores, and time to complete
each activity was only delayed in the Touch Accuracy activity which requires
mostly physical dexterity. It would be predicted that she would be easily
capable of using the Web, but her slower responses could result in a higher
On the other hand, a second client had accuracy scores and times outside the
normal range for most activities. She has cerebral palsy and moderate to
severe hearing impairment but has functional oral language. She uses a
computer with no specialized adaptations, but does complain of continuing
difficulties with her computer. She had no difficulty touching the screen for
the AAP activities, but her slow times and significant inaccuracies
highlighted visual, cognitive and language impairments. This suggests that she
may easily become "lost" when using the Web.
The AAP appears to allow discrimination of the physical, visual and cognitive
functions needed to allow a person to successfully utilize the Web. Combined
with the EWS touchscreen and Web-browser, clients experience rapid Web
browsing success and enjoyment. The results of the completed clinical
investigation will be available in the poster presentation.