Archived Press Releases

Web-4-All Technology Helping St. John's Area Residents with Special Needs Get Online

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland and Labrador, March 11, 2003 — Senator Joan Cook, on behalf of Industry Minister Allan Rock, today announced the launch of a pilot project that is making assistive technology available to people with disabilities or literacy challenges, as well as seniors and new Canadians, so they can make better use of 14 local Community Access Program (CAP) sites where the public can use the Internet.

"Making Web-4-All technology available at local public Internet access sites helps residents of the greater St. John's area," said Senator Cook. "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 uses "smart card" technology to help users automatically configure public access computers to meet their individual needs, such as having type faces enlarged or text read aloud. This innovative technology makes CAP sites more accessible to those requiring non-standard computer technology.

Mary Reid, Executive Director of the St. John's Independent Living Resource Centre, also welcomed this new service. "For the people in the St. John's area, the introduction of Web-4-All will enable computer access with the swipe of a card," said Ms. Reid. "Barriers that have prevented disabled people and people with literacy challenges from using public Internet sites will be reduced, and we will move another step closer to equal access. Web-4-All, an exciting and innovative project of Industry Canada, will ultimately decrease what is known as the digital divide."

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 St. John's Independent Living Resource Centre to help start up this new service, including the hiring of six young people with disabilities or literacy challenges to install the systems and train users.

To date, Industry Canada has distributed about 130 Web-4-All systems to public Internet access sites across Canada. Bell Canada and the Royal Bank of Canada together donated 26 000 smart cards for storing user preferences, and Hitachi Canada contributed 1000 card readers for the pilot projects. An evaluation of all components of the pilot 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

Media Relations
Industry Canada
(613) 943-2502

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