Opens Up for Learning Disabled
by Geoff Adams-Spink, BBC News Online, January 11, 2004
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that will make websites accessible to people with learning
difficulties will go on sale later this year.
The system, called Communicate Webwise, automatically turns
information on pages into symbols or plain text.
The developer, Widgit Software, says it can process most web
pages, except those containing complicated java or flash
Webwise uses Widgit's own Rebus symbol system, but can be made
to work with other similar systems.
First developed in the 1960s in the USA, Rebus symbols is a
support system for language development for people who have
moderate or severe learning difficulties.
Widgit, which has developed the system for computer software,
says the complexity of many sites can be off-putting to people
with learning disabilities.
This complexity is stripped out by Webwise because it presents
information as either symbols, plain text in any font size, or
Links are all given the same distinctive colour to help with
"It's aimed at people who would otherwise not be able to access
the internet because they can't understand the text," says
education consultant Chris Hopkins, who works closely with
"Because the organisation of the page that they're looking at is
so complicated, they [often] can't find what they want."
Webwise helps people with learning difficulties in two ways.
Non-readers can access information using only symbols, while for
those with some text knowledge, the symbols act as a reminder
for the words that are not immediately recognised.
Teachers and others supporting people with learning disabilities
will be able to surf the web in the usual way, and then display
the desired page in text or symbols with the option of removing
The software is on show in London at the Special Needs Fringe,
an exhibition of assistive technology for use in education.
It is expected to cost around £70 when it hits the shelves.
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