The University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is launching a study that will explore how well people with disabilities can access Web services such as blogs, wikis, and social networking sites. The study, led by Mike Wald and E.A. Draffan in ECS’ Learning Societies Lab, is based on an accessibility toolkit that will enable users to test the accessibility of Web 2.0 services. The accessibility tools were developed as a result of the LexDis project, which identified strategies learners can use to enhance their e-learning experience. Part of the toolkit, Web2Access, provides an online checking system for any interactive Web-based service such as Facebook. Another key feature of the accessibility kit is Study Bar, which can work with all browsers and reads text out loud, spell checks, provides a dictionary, and can enlarge or change text fonts and colors to make text more readable. “We developed it because nowadays users contribute as well as read information and so you cannot just click on a button to see if Web sites are accessible and easy to use,” Draffan says. Wald says it is the first time that there has been a systematic way to evaluate and provide the results of accessibility testing of Web services.
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