Cloud-based solution opens internet to special needs users

Researchers are working on a cloud-based infrastructure that makes the internet more accessible for users with special needs, aiming to develop new apps based on their feedback.

Prosperity4All, an EU-backed project, is built around ‘e-Inclusion’ and hopes to bring more users online, whether to shop, apply for a job or call for assistance. The behind-the-screen infrastructure allows users to access assistive technology and services.

Matthias Peissner, of Germany’s Fraunhofer research institute and project coordinator, said: “By Prosperity4All, we mean that the different stakeholders who offer accessible technologies also benefit from the setting-up of this technical and social infrastructure.”

The cloud allows users to ‘save’ their pre-selected personal preferences such as screen colours, text size and font choice. This way, they have access to any compatible device, anywhere, whilst retaining their preferred settings. Text-to-speech converters enabling visually impaired people to listen to information published in written form, at a speed and in a language and voice they choose, is another tool that can also be carried in the key.

Three interconnected platforms streamline the process: the unified listing, a searchable online catalogue providing special needs users with several assistive products; the developer space, bringing software and product developers together through a portal, giving them access to a large number of resources, from common application programming interfaces (APIs) to guidance on component standards, as well as opportunities for crowdsourcing; and the open marketplace, a commercial platform where solutions can be offered internationally.

The project hopes to create a market for assistive technologies by exploring mechanisms for users to feed back to developers, telling them what works best and what is missing, so that they can encourage companies to come up with new ideas to improve their experience. It also plans to set up ‘Assistance on Demand’ services where vulnerable people can use their devices to call for help from relatives or carers should they fall or get lost.

“You could say the project is the European contribution to the wider global initiative to ensure that in some form or other the whole world population has direct access to technology, devices, services and the Internet,” said Matthias.

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