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Its a first for The Childrens Society

The Children’s Society image

The Children's Society has secured lottery funding for a ground breaking project for young children with both learning and physical disabilities. Many of these children communicate in both reading and writing using Symbol, a pictorial method of interpreting the English language.

Solutions Squared were selected to design and develop a website which would allow children to read about current affairs and local reviews entirely in Symbol. The Children's Society also wanted to be able to update the website and add new symbol stories and articles and receive comments and thoughts from the children visiting the website.

You can see the final result at www.askability.org.uk

In order to develop a content management system which would automatically convert words into symbol, Solutions Squared have partnered with Widgit Software who have been developing Symbol software applications for over 23 years.

This project is the first of its kind to be developed and both Solutions Squared and Widgit Software are committed to creating a benchmark for the future of accessible websites. The Children's Society website, aptly named Askability is due to be launched in November 2006. More news on the development of the project will be posted over the next 6 months.

Brief

To create a website which communicated current affairs and local information to children with physical and learning difficulties using Symbol language. The website would need to be colourful and interactive but also easy for children to use, with simple navigation and menu system. The website would be written entirely in Symbol which is a pictorial language to help children understand the written word. The website also needed to contain a content management system which would enable the Children's Society to enter stories, have the system automatically convert them to symbol and display them on the website.

Solution

Website Design
The website design was created using colours from The Children's Society branding focusing on the lighter colour of lilac. This was then incorporated into a circular design. It was important to create a design which would visually attract children but also incorporate the functional constraints of the website. Only five menu items were selected in order to keep the menu system simple and these would be converted to flash movies to add movement and sound. This would help children recognise when they had clicked on a menu item to go to a new page.

Freedom Content Management System
Working in partnership with Widgit Software, who create and supply symbols, Solutions Squared has developed a content management system which is the first of its kind. The system converts the written sentence into symbol by accessing the symbol web service provided by Widgit. The symbols are pulled from a database and presented to the user to view. Many words in the English language have several meanings, (such as where or wear) and so it is important to ensure the context is right for each word. The system uses a natural language processing to aid this but Freedom also allows the user to manually change a symbol if necessary. Once the user is satisfied with the symbol conversion, it can be uploaded live to the internet. This kind of system is the first of its kind and is a huge step forward for children with learning disabilities to be able to access and understand information on a website.

Please visit www.askability.org.uk

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