CBBC has launched its Accessible Newsreader service, an alternative interface to the Newsround website. It’s been created to help fill the gap in good quality content available on the web for older disabled children or teenagers who use computers operated by switches.
The CBBC team behind the Newsreader worked closely with industry experts and special needs schools to produce a greatly simplified interface, which is capable of being controlled by a single switch.
Computer access for these children is achieved through Switch technology – a small piece of hardware that accepts input from one or more custom devices,such as a large button, motion sensor or even a tube to blow into, and then maps this input to a key on the keyboard.
The Accessible Newsreader caters to other needs too, with features such as full speech synthesis for the menus and stories, and fully configurable fonts and colour schemes. There have already been some interesting findings during CBBC’s testing, in particular with users on the autistic spectrum, who found the site especially usable due to its combination of a simple interface, simultaneous text and audio, and the content having a strong link to the real world.