WAACIS Project And Its Benefits
If you are a computer user with disability like one of my friends called Allan, then you should find the Wigram Augmentative and Alternative Communication for Internet Surfers (WAACIS) Project very useful. I personally have seen the great benefits the WAACIS project which focuses on training and helping individuals with physical and communication difficulties access internet services.
What is WAACIS project?
The main reason why I like the WAACIS project is because it aims at helping individuals with digital literacy skills. My friend Allan was able to acquire skills that he needed to succeed and also assist him in understanding the relevance of the internet in his lives.
Generally, the skills that this training offers helps people with disabilities in accessing the ecommerce, connect with their family and friends, help their children complete homework and accessmtheir medical records. And, the best thing is that WAACIS project encourages individuals with disabilities to utilize all the available tools. This way they can succeed in life.
Web accessibility developments
Possibly, you don’t know that the World Wide Web is a more complex medium. And despite the recognition that individuals with physical disabilities can highly benefit from training in internet access and accessible internet services, I have only witnessed a few developments that enhance web accessibility for individuals using graphic based symbols and people with dysphasia.
Alternatively, it appears that there is more concentration on improving accessibility for individuals with sensory impairments. In this article, I will provide you with a summary of the major web accessibility initiatives through the developments of computer technology access and the computer based information access.
Web browsing tools and methods
Standard browsing applications provide enhanced accessibility options:
- For example Internet Explorer Accessibility Options. Lynx is basically a text only browser which people who can use graphic basednbrowsers use. These people include those with visual impairments who may use screen readers. You can use Lynx with Unix, VMS, DOS, and Windows 95/98/NT.
Utilities that support access to the standardized applications;
People with physical disabilities can also use utilities that support access to internet services. I witnessed how useful these utilities were to my friend Allan. The utilities employ scanning methods. These methods include:
1. Swiss Access for Windows (SAW), ACE Center Advisory Trust: This is a keyboard emulator which replaces the keyboard and the mouse with several onscreen selections sets arrangements of words, letters, numbers, symbols and shapes which the user can manually or automatically scan item by item and select using switches.
2. Discover: Switch Don Johnson Special needs: This is a one switch scanning devices that enhances computer access.
3. Multiweb, Deakin University: The specific features of this utility include speech output, scanning for switch access and screen magnification.
4. Hands off, Sensory Software: this utility allows the user to configure picture grids and onscreen symbol when carrying out browsing tasks. They may access it using switch scanning methods.
5. Clicker, Crick Software Ltd: this utility allows you to configure onscreen symbol and picture grids so that you can easily carry out your browsing tasks. You can access it by the switch scanning methods.
Currently, there are many screen reading systems which have been developed for individuals with visual impairment. The aim of these systems is to support user navigation using the standard applications. Some examples of the screen readers include JAWS for Windows, HAL, Lookout, OutSpoken, Simply Talke and WinVision.
I have watched Allan being to use the voice driven navigation which is also available in this project. This navigation provides speech output and voice activation. A good example of these systems is the ConversaWeb. The other voice driven systems are designed more specifically for the telephone based access. They include SpeecHTML, webHearit and TelWeb.
The alternative applications
There are several alternative approaches to web browsing. Furthermore, there is a wider range of adaptive features that I have come across that focuses on supporting needs of individuals with visual impairments. Most of them share common features like simplified keyboard interface and speech output. Examples include:
- BrookesTalk, Oxford Brooks University UK: the package is under development for visually impaired and the blind users. It supports intelligent web browsing. Some features include screen magnification and speech output.
- EIA, Sarsfield Solutions, Australia: this application is designed for individuals with learning difficulties. Some specific features include simplified language and touch screen.
- EMACSPEAK: this is a speech enabled environment for EMACS. Some specific features include simplified keyboard, Speech output and full web browsing capabilities.
- Marco Polo Sonicon: this is a plug in for Netscape Navigator. Some specific features include auditory icons, speech output and simplified keyboard interface.
The pros and cons of WAACIS project
- Digital access: allows full electronic participation within the society. When it comes to technology, you should understand all people have different abilities. The starting point to digital citizenship starts at supporting electronic access.
- Digital literacy: even though schools have managed to make great progress in technological infusion there is a lot remaining to be done.