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March 11, 2003

Web-4-all Technology Helping St. John's Area Residents with Special Needs Get Online

From: Industry Canada, Canada - 11 Mar 2003

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland and Labrador, March 11, 2003 -- Senator Joan Cook, on behalf of Industry Minister Allan Rock, today announced the launch of a pilot project that is making assistive technology available to people with disabilities or literacy challenges, as well as seniors and new Canadians, so they can make better use of 14 local Community Access Program (CAP) sites where the public can use the Internet.

"Making Web-4-All technology available at local public Internet access sites helps residents of the greater St. John's area," said Senator Cook. "In particular, people who might otherwise not have access to computer technology can now benefit from opportunities for innovative learning, skills development, access to government services and business creation."

"The demand for assistive technologies such as Web-4-All is continually growing," said Minister Rock. "For some Canadians, public Internet access is their only way of getting online. Industry Canada's Web-4-All pilot program is another important step in helping people and communities use information technology to improve their quality of life."

Developed by the University of Toronto's Assistive Technology Resource Centre, Web-4-All uses "smart card" technology to help users automatically configure public access computers to meet their individual needs, such as having type faces enlarged or text read aloud. This innovative technology makes CAP sites more accessible to those requiring non-standard computer technology.

Mary Reid, Executive Director of the St. John's Independent Living Resource Centre, also welcomed this new service.

"For the people in the St. John's area, the introduction of Web-4-All will enable computer access with the swipe of a card," said Ms. Reid. "Barriers that have prevented disabled people and people with literacy challenges from using public Internet sites will be reduced, and we will move another step closer to equal access. Web-4-All, an exciting and innovative project of Industry Canada, will ultimately decrease what is known as the digital divide."

Industry Canada's Web-4-All pilot program is being funded through the Government On-Line initiative. In addition to providing the Web-4-All technology, Industry Canada contributed more than $40 000 to the St. John's Independent Living Resource Centre to help start up this new service, including the hiring of six young people with disabilities or literacy challenges to install the systems and train users.

To date, Industry Canada has distributed about 130 Web-4-All systems to public Internet access sites across Canada. Bell Canada and the Royal Bank of Canada together donated 26 000 smart cards for storing user preferences, and Hitachi Canada contributed 1000 card readers for the pilot projects. An evaluation of all components of the pilot is due by March 2004.

Such leading-edge assistive technologies as Web-4-All contribute to Canada's social, economic and cultural well-being by helping more Canadians develop skills and be more innovative. They also support the Government On-Line initiative, aimed at making government services easily accessible to all.

Background information on the pilot program and a list of the 14 local public Internet access sites offering Web-4-All technology are attached. For more information on the pilot program, please visit the program's Web site at

For more information, please contact:

Selena Beattie
Office of Allan Rock
Minister of Industry
(613) 995-9001

Media Relations
Industry Canada
(613) 943-2502



What is Web-4-All? Web-4-All is an innovative technology that enables people with disabilities and literacy challenges, as well as seniors and people unfamiliar with computers, to use the Internet on public access computers. With Web-4-All hardware and software:

* people who are blind or partially sighted and people who do not read well can have type faces magnified or text read aloud;
* people who have limited dexterity - finding it difficult to work with a standard keyboard or mouse - can use tools, settings and displays that are easier to manipulate; and
* people who are not familiar with the Internet can have Web sites displayed in a clear and consistent way, according to their preferences.

How does it work? All Web-4-All users are given a "smart card" similar in size to a debit or credit card, which contains their individual preferences, such as having text read aloud or type faces magnified. Every time they log onto a public access computer, the users simply insert their card into a reader and the computer adjusts to their preferences. Web-4-All is the first technology of its kind capable of automatically loading individual user preferences.

Where can people use Web-4-All? Currently, Web-4-All is being pilot tested at public Internet access sites in selected communities across Canada. These sites provide people with affordable access to the Internet in places such as community centres, schools, disability and literacy resource centres, drop-in centres and seniors' facilities.

A list of public Internet access sites offering Web-4-All technology is available on the Web at

How was Web-4-All developed? Industry Canada supported the University of Toronto's Assistive Technology Resource Centre to develop the technology. Bell Canada, Hitachi Canada and the Royal Bank of Canada donated "smart card" technology used in the pilot projects across Canada.

Where can I find out more? For more information on the pilot program, please visit the program's Web site at

© 2003 Industry Canada