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Web-4-All Technology Helping South Shore Residents with Special Needs Get On-line

BRIDGEWATER, Nova Scotia, April 4, 2003 — Senator Jane Cordy, on behalf of Industry Minister Allan Rock, today announced the launch of a pilot project that provides better access to the Internet for persons with disabilities or low literacy levels. The technology, called Web-4-All, allows users to automatically configure a computer to meet their individual needs.

"This technology will enable more residents of the South Shore area to benefit from public Internet access sites," said Senator Cordy. "In particular, people who might otherwise not have access to computer technology can now benefit from opportunities for innovative learning, skills development, access to government services and business creation."

"The demand for assistive technologies such as Web-4-All is continually growing," said Minister Rock. "For some Canadians, public Internet access is their only way of getting online. Industry Canada's Web-4-All pilot program is another important step in helping people and communities use information technology to improve their quality of life."

Developed by the University of Toronto's Assistive Technology Resource Centre, Web-4-All's "smart card" technology enables computers to adjust to individual user needs, such as having type faces enlarged or text read aloud. This technology makes Community Access Program sites more accessible to those requiring non-standard computer technology.

The Senator unveiled the Web-4-All technology during an international best practices conference on devices and services for people with disabilities and those who help them. The conference was co-hosted by the South Shore region's Assistive Technology Centre, one of four local Community Access Program sites participating in the Web-4-All pilot program. The Centre is a leader in providing technology-related support to people with disabilities. (A list of the four Community Access Program sites follows.)

"The Web-4-All program has great potential for improving the lives of many people with disabilities," said Barbara Welsford, Coordinator of the Assistive Technology Centre. "During the short time Web-4-All has been in the South Shore area, there has been a strong interest in this exciting new technology. It is a significant step toward bridging the digital divide in Internet access for people with disabilities."

Industry Canada's Web-4-All pilot program is being funded through the Government On-Line initiative. In addition to providing the Web-4-All technology, Industry Canada contributed more than $40 000 to the Assistive Technology Centre of Bridgewater to hire four young persons with disabilities or low literacy levels to install the systems and train users.

Industry Canada plans to distribute a total of 1000 Web-4-All systems to public Internet access sites in selected communities across Canada. Bell Canada and the Royal Bank together donated 26 000 smart cards for use in storing user preferences, and Hitachi Canada contributed 1000 card readers for the pilot projects. An evaluation of all components of the pilot program is due by March 2004.

Such leading-edge assistive technologies as Web-4-All contribute to Canada's social, economic and cultural well-being by helping more Canadians develop skills and be more innovative. They also support the Government On-Line Initiative, aimed at making government services easily accessible to all.

For more information, please contact:

Selena Beattie
Office of Allan Rock
Minister of Industry
(613) 995-9001

Ashley Frank
Assistive Technology Centre
(902) 543-4664 or (902) 543-4702

Media Relations
Industry Canada
(613) 943-2502

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