See the web in a new way

17th March 2006 at 00:00
Gerald Haigh explores a visually-friendly download that makes the internet more inclusive for people with reading difficulties

Textic Toolbar is a powerful tool for making websites easier to read for the significant number of people who, although able to see, have problems with reading - those with dyslexia, for example. It's an important development because not being able to surf the internet isn't just a matter of not being able to book the cheapest Easyjet seats. Increasingly, it means being seriously cut off - losing out in business or being left behind as a learner.

Thankfully, there's more awareness of this now, but even so, it's not always realised that it's not just people with visual or physical difficulties who have trouble finding and reading web pages. Those with dyslexia, for example, can find that the problems they already have with pages of text are compounded when the words are distributed around a web page, in a range of fonts and colours, against a variety of backgrounds.

Add in the distractions of animation and scrolling and the need to find appropriate buttons and links, and it's likely that even users with mild, usually manageable, problems may be excluded.

The user needs a way to gain control over what's on the screen - changing background colours, font colours and size. The technology for doing this exists, and is available on many websites already. What Textic has done, though, is add a toolbar, with drop-down menus, which makes it easy to change settings - font, font size, page design, font colour - and saves preferences and applies them to any Textic-enabled website that you might visit in future.

The best way to see Textic is to visit the Textic website. The toolbar is built into it. Playing with the various settings, makes it clear, as the company claims, that as well as dyslexics, anyone whose eyes become tired after hours at the screen or who has some problems with colour vision, or simply wants to personalise the screen, will find it useful.

The ideal use for Textic is as a feature built into websites from the start. It can also be added to existing ones, and versions of it can be downloaded by individuals and used with the sites they visit.

* www.textic.com

The Personal Textic Toolbar for Microsoft Internet Explorer is available in a free version for a 30-day trial period. The full version costs Pounds 24.95.

An equivalent application is available for Microsoft Word and Word Email

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