Learning from Internet Requirements
of People with Communication Needs
Colette Nicolle1, Zaheer Osman1, Katharine Black2, and Andrew Lysley2
1Ergonomics and Safety Research Institute (ESRI), Loughborough University,
Holywell Building, Holywell Way,
Loughborough, Leics. LE11 3UZ, United Kingdom
2ACE Centre Advisory Trust, 92 Windmill Road, Headington,
Oxford OX3 7DR, United Kingdom
Abstract. A supportive Web browser, developed by the EU WWAAC project, aims to make the Internet easier to use by people with complex communication needs who use graphic symbol-based augmentative and alternative communication aids. Further user consultations with older users, people with aphasia and dyslexia have demonstrated that the ability to personalise Internet software (for example, through the provision of simple summaries of content and the ability to configure the interface to suit individual needs) can potentially provide more accessible and usable interfaces for other user groups.
The goal of the EU WWAAC project (World Wide Augmentative and Alternative Communication) is to make the electronic highway more accessible and usable for people who have complex communication difficulties and who use graphic symbol-based augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) aids (http://www.wwaac.org). Despite advances in commercially available assistive technologies, people using AAC have commented on continuing difficulty and frustration in physical access to technology and subsequent reliance on non-disabled partners (Murphy, et al., 1996; Clarke et al., 2002). Therefore, one of the key objectives and evaluation criteria of the WWAAC project is to enable a higher degree of independent access for people with communication difficulties.
A number of research and development activities have been taking place since the project began in January 2001, including the development of an adapted Web browser email package, and supportive writing software, all tailored to the needs of people who use graphic-symbol based AAC. These developments have been informed and refined through an iterative design and evaluation process, beginning with a survey of the requirements of end-users and their facilitators, followed by simulator studies, and alpha and beta evaluations with AAC users.
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