Barriers to the Creation and Use of an Accessible Web Portal for People with Learning Disabilities

Peter Williams


This paper describes a research project which developed a Web Portal around ‘transition’ (the move from school to ‘adult’ life) for people with Learning Disabilities (LD), their families and ‘supporters’ (a general term used in this paper to signify formal or informal carers, tutors and family). Unusually, the people with LD themselves created much of the information used in the Portal development. The paper concentrates specifically on the phase of the research in which supporters, and those with LD themselves were trained in the creation of information and its uploading onto an accessible template. It discusses, in particular, the barriers to successful exploitation of the Internet, and information technology in general, that present themselves for this cohort of users.

First, a framework to examine barriers from within existing literature is discussed. A detailed look is then given at those emerging during this phase of the project. Despite obvious enthusiasm and goodwill towards the project, a patchwork of barriers inhibiting its execution was elicited, including extrinsic (‘first-order’) barriers such as technical and logistical problems and difficulties related to obtaining informed consent, and intrinsic (‘second-order’) barriers such as non-inclusive practices; activities that are too socially or intellectually challenging. The paper concludes by suggesting possible solutions, centring on the extent and content of training offered to people with LD and their supporters.

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