Friday, April 07, 2006.
California State University at Long Beach (CSULB) has selected WebAdapt2Me software from IBM to help its students and faculty gain easier access to the Web.
The installation of the software at the Long Beach campus is part of the new IBM Global Services consulting specialty in accessibility. IBM consultants are helping the university improve access to Web sites and Web applications for members of the university community who have disabilities, as well as those who need help accessing the Internet because of age-related vision or motor difficulties.
IBM WebAdapt2Me software allows individuals to view the Web in a way that's most productive for them. For example, people with low vision can change the size of the type and the colors and contrast of the page for easier viewing. People with learning disabilities can reduce the visual clutter of the page by, for example, reducing several columns to one, so they can follow the text more easily. People without full mobility can set up their system so the mouse and keyboard are easier to use. And people with learning disabilities can ask WebAdapt2Me to read the text on the screen aloud, using IBM ViaVoice technology.
"I love the innovation behind WebAdapt2Me," said Professor Wayne Dick, chair of the computer engineering and computer sciences department and director of the campus WebAdapt2Me project. "When it comes to disabilities, one size does not fit all." People with disabilities can have a wide range of challenges, he explained, from vision problems to motor impairments to learning disabilities. WebAdapt2Me helps users overcome these challenges, and, because they can set up the software to meet their personal preferences for viewing the Web, it also benefits a diverse spectrum of people, regardless of their abilities.
Born with low vision but who now uses WebAdapt2Me on a hand-held computer to read college textbooks that, by California law, are made available on the Internet, the CSLUB professor said he hopes to make WebAdapt2Me available to all campus faculty, students, and staff who have disabilities, as well the university's sizeable population of older students and faculty.
IBM consultants are working with campus IT staff at several other universities to provide accessible information to students and faculty who are living with disabilities. Some of those universities include: Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada; Tokyo Metropolitan University and Nagano University in Japan; and Bologna University in Italy. In addition, IBM is running a pilot program at Wake Forest University where students are testing speech-enabled Web applications on hand-held devices like phones and iPods.
"With IBM's long-standing interest in advancing higher education," said Frances West, director, IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center, "it is a natural fit for us to work with institutions of higher learning to transform the way education is delivered to all students."
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