The Government is spending pound;1.9 million pounds on assistive technology to ensure that its UKonline drop-in centres throughout England can be used by people with special needs. These centres are part of the Government's strategy to bridge the "digital divide" and provide ICT and internet access for most communities near to their workplaces and homes.
The Government aims to have a network of some 6,000 centres in England (there are about 800 so far), and it hopes to have all government services online by 2005.
Work is well under way to make the centres more accessible and many have already been equipped. The company involved is one already known for its expertise in the schools market, Inclusive Technology, based in Oldham.
Inclusive has already distributed 800 special-needs kits, each worth pound;2,000, to 535 centres and has been training staff how to use the equipment, the accessibility options in Windows and in disability awareness.
The aim is to make UKonline centres accessible to people with as wide a range of disabilities as possible.
The support packs sent to the centres include specialist input devices like Big Keys and Intelli-Keys keyboards, specialist rollerball and switches (alternatives to the mouse), software that has already proven successful including Clicker, a word processor with special-needs support. There's also Penfriend, an on-screen word predictor, Supernova to magnify text or to provide speech output for the visually impaired, and a Vari-X adjustable trolley, which gives physical access to wheelchair and standing frame users.