An AAC enabled internet: from user requirements to guidelines
online resourceposted on 08.03.2006, 14:31 by Colette Nicolle, Katharine Black, Andrew Lysley, David Poulson, Doeko Hekstra
Ensuring that WWW pages are accessible and usable for people with complex communication needs provides a particular challenge for WWW page designers. Despite advances in commercially available assistive technologies, people using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) comment on continuing difficulty and frustration in physical access to technology and subsequent reliance on non-disabled partners (Clarke et al., 2001 and 2002). The EU WWAAC (World Wide Augmentative and Alternative Communication) project, which began in January 2001, has been engaged in a number of research and development activities in order to overcome some of these problems, including the: • Development of Internet applications, including an adapted Web browser, tailored to the needs of people who use AAC • Contribution to the development of Web accessibility guidelines • Development of a communication infrastructure and protocol to support symbol-based communication on the Web, based upon open-sourced concept coding • Development of a Dreamweaver extension to enable Web developers to symbol embellish their Web pages via the on-line concept coding database. This paper will concentrate on the first 2 activities to demonstrate how the design, development and evaluation of an adapted Web browser with people who use AAC will lead to more accessible and usable software. This work is also contributing to the development of WWW accessibility guidelines, which will feed into the work of the World Wide Web Consortium–Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C–WAI). It is important, however, to consider these activities in light of the concept coding stream of the work, which is briefly described below. Concept coding will facilitate the sharing of symbol-based content between different symbol users using different symbol language systems. It will also enable symbols to be converted into text and vice versa. This might mean, for example, that a person who uses AAC could open an Internet bank account by completing an on-line form using their own symbol system. The vision of concept coding is that instead of images and symbols having to be transferred from one computer to another, it is possible to share a unique code designating the meaning of the symbol needing to be transferred. In addition to efficiency in handling images used for communication purposes, this concept would also allow personalised or idiosyncratic symbols specific to one person to be used by them in Internet-based communication. An open source concept coding, in combination with more accessible and usable software, is the driving force behind the WWAAC project.