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October 1999

Enhancing internet access

By Rob Seiler,
Manager, Sarsfield Solutions.

The EIA project originated in East Gippsland, Victoria, as a small scale, local effort to introduce the Internet to elderly and homebound people in remote, regional locations. It has now progressed to an Internet training access system for people with special needs available from Sarsfield Solutions (Ref 1).

The initial project was designed by East Gippsland Arts and Recreation Access Group and simply allowed groups or individuals to try the Internet for themselves. A number of issues were revealed. Firstly there was a clear interest in the topic, but secondly, physical and cognitive disability as well as unfamiliarity with computers made it difficult for people to confidently continue with conventional browsers and mouse pointer.

A subsequent project, funded by the Department of Communications and the Arts, attempted to address these issues by incorporating a touch screen and simplified Web browser which avoided many of the cognitive barriers to easy use of the Web. In addition the project team developed an introductory "Awareness and Assessment Protocol" (AAP) intended to provide clinical support to clients with more severe limitations, and an integrated tutorial to introduce the user to the required processes.

A number of clinical trials and individual observations have shown that the EIA system can be a very useful and effective way of introducing the Internet to people unable to use conventional systems. In some cases the user may gain the required confidence, understanding and skills to go on and use a conventional system, or may prefer to remain with the EIA browser because it is physically and cognitively easier to use.

Peter using a rubber tipped pointing stick and EIA browser to access the WWW.

Picture: Peter using a rubber tipped pointing stick
and EIA browser to access the WWW.

Peter has cerebral palsy and is unable to use a mouse. He also is unable to sufficiently control his hand movements to use the touch screen directly. He is however, effectively able to use a rubber tipped pointing stick and now regularly uses the EIA system for Internet access. He attends as a participant in a SkillsNet project at the Noweyung Centre in Bairnsdale. That project is specifically orientated towards Internet training and access for people with disabilities. The EIA system is an integral part of that training approach.

Elsewhere the EIA system has been installed in public libraries in Yarram and Maffra, and has been assessed (Ref 4) for use in libraries as a simple introductory system for older users as well as people with disability attending public libraries. The AAP is also being considered as a screening tool for clinicians investigating the needs of clients with acquired brain injury.

  1. Enhancing Internet Access
  2. Online Services for People with Disabilities in Australian Public Libraries

For further information contact ELR Software Pty Ltd

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