The University of Southampton

Testing the accessibility of Web 2.0

Published: 27 October 2009

ECS researchers have begun a trial of browser and USB (Universal Serial Bus) pen drive applications to assist with the accessibility of Web 2.0 services.

Dr Mike Wald and E.A. Draffan in the Learning Societies Lab within the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) are leading a project funded by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) TechDis which looks at how well people with disabilities can access web services such as blogs and wikis and social networking sites. The team includes Seb Skuse, Russell Newman and Chris Phethean who have all studied at ECS.

The team have built an accessibility tool kit which will enable users to test the accessibility of web 2.0 services. The accessible pen drive offers freely available assistive technologies that can be used to help with this evaluation.

The tools have been developed as a result of the award-winning LexDis project which identified some of the strategies learners used to enhance their e-learning experience.

Web2Access, part of the toolkit, provides an online checking system for any interactive web-based services such as Facebook.

'We developed it because nowadays users contribute, as well as read, information and so you cannot just click on a button to see if websites are accessible and easy to use,’ said E.A.

According to Dr Wald, it is the first time that there has been a systematic way to evaluate and provide the results of accessibility testing of web services.

A key feature of the tool kit is ‘Study Bar’, which works with all browsers and reads text aloud, spell checks, and offers a dictionary, text enlargement, colour and font changes. Study Bar can be used with web services like blogs and Twitter, which has not been possible before without specialist-installed assistive technologies.

Students at the University of Southampton were introduced to the toolkit last week shortly before testing began. The beta testing will be carried out for four weeks, after which the tools will be passed to JISC TechDis so that they can be distributed further.

For further information contact Joyce Lewis; tel. +44(0)23 8059 5453

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