Libraries, schools, colleges, universities, government offices and internet cafés all provide access to computer workstations. These workstations are used anonymously by many users. Each has their own personal preferences, requirements, or needs. Depending on the technical support available, users presently make do with the workstation as it is, or spend a great deal of time and effort adjusting the workstation to an approximation of their requirements. Many users with disabilities cannot use these workstations, even when they are equipped with hardware and software that make them "accessible", because the technology they need to set it up is not available during the set up procedure.
Web-4-All is the first technology in the world that makes it possible for users to carry with them their user interface preferences (including system preferences, browser preferences and assistive technology preferences) and quickly configure public terminals or learning management applications accordingly. The Web-4-All pilot system automatically configured public access terminals through the use smart cards. Each user's interface preferences document is saved as a compressed XML string on the card. The preferences document is created using a preference wizard program. Once saved to the card, the user can take the card to any public access terminal running Web-4-All software, insert or swipe the card, and cause the system, browser, and assistive technology to be set exactly as they have specified. The user is able to specify the assistive technology they prefer, as well as acceptable alternatives if the preferred technology is not installed on the workstation. If none of the preferred technologies are present, the system will resort to a technology in the same class. When the card is removed, the workstation reverts back to the default configuration and all assistive technologies are shut down to avoid conflict with other users.
Within Web-4-All, preferences are grouped into three main categories: display preferences, control preferences, and content preferences. "Display" describes how the user interface and the content should be rendered, and lists preferences relevant to technologies that offer alternative or enhanced displays such as screen enhancers, screen readers or Braille displays. "Control" specifies how the user interface and content should be controlled and applies to various keyboard, mouse, and alternative input devices and enhancements. "Content" specifies preferred or required content alternatives or augmentations such as captioning and video description. For each class of technology, there is a generic set of preferences that is common across technologies within the class, and a method of specifying technology-specific preference settings that would only apply to a specific product. A user can create different Web-4-All instances for different contexts.
An API has been published by the ATRC to allow assistive technology developers to create Preference Wizard and Configuration Manager plug-ins for their assistive technologies. With a common specification for user preference settings and a tool to implement those specifications on Web-4-All at public workstations, any user should be able to step up to a public workstation and access the assistive technology they are most comfortable with using. The implementation of this common specification will reduce the need for technical support and reduce software conflicts with assistive technologies. Most importantly it will provide a sustainable and realistic method of maintaining accessible public workstations in public institutions and businesses.
We invite all developers of assistive technologies to explore how they might have their assistive technology accessed at public work stations through Web-4-All. A demonstration copy of Web-4-All's Preference Wizard is included on this site for you to view first hand how 3rd. party assistive technologies are referenced by Web-4-All users. Additionally, we encourage you to review the documentation contained on this site, and to contact either Industry Canada or the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, to learn how your assistive technology and Web-4-All can work together. The complete Web-4-All Preference Wizard Programmers manual has been included on this site. To view this manual click the following link:
The IMS Global Learning Consortium, an international consortium that develops open technical specifications to support distributed learning, has released a specification that is of great significance to assistive technology developers. The Accessibility for Learner Information Package (ACCLIP) Specification is a schema and model for describing and recording individual preferences regarding the user interface and the selective retrieval of content for computer mediated learning systems. A large portion of the specification is devoted to preferences that are relevant to assistive technologies. This site includes the following specification, supporting documents and an example implementation.
Accessibility Guidelines (pdf file)
IMS ACCLIP documents (pdf Files)
IMS ACCLIP examples and schemas
1.IMS Global Learning Consortium, http://www.imsproject.org.