Part 1: Special Thematic Sessions

2019 Technology and Disability  
The cognitive accessibility of digital resources is still a major research topic and is insufficiently covered by existing solutions and current accessibility guidelines. People with cognitive limitations can only use digital resources to a limited extent or not at all because they do not understand the available information or cannot orient themselves sufficiently on complex websites. The project Easy Reading tries to solve these problems by creating an environment that allows to adapt the
more » ... ssibility of websites to the individual support needs of the users. The software framework developed within the scope of the project provides tools for adapting the layout and structure of web pages, for enriching the content of web pages with symbols, images and videos, or for translating web content into a different language level (e.g. plain language or simplified language). In this way, users with cognitive limitations as well as users who have difficulties understanding the original content due to their age, technical experience or migration background can work with the original sources and access all information and services resources. The Easy Reading framework is planned as a cloud based, open source and freely available support infrastructure. In this way, the framework supports the integration and use of state-of-the-art and future research and development. It combines tools for individual user-centric annotation, customization, translation and personalization. In this Special Topic Session the motivation, the project objectives and the current project results will be presented and discussed. Further contributions from similar research projects are also welcome. Background: The paper reports the first results of a two years ongoing research and development project called "GAP REDUCE" aimed at promoting the possibility of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (primarily adult and high-functioning) of walking autonomously and safely across the city. The purpose is the design and development of a Web App able to support ASD people to plan, easily and in advance, an urban itinerary towards possible daily destinations. The project is part of a wider research that investigates the specific topic of the relationship between people with autism and the city with the aim of designing an integrated system of urban mobility policies, projects and tools for supporting the real opportunity for them to "use" the city every day. Some considerations motivated the research: the growing incidence of ASD, the almost exclusive focus of existing studies and applications concerning people with autism (mainly children) and space on the design of dedicated, separated, closed and private spaces, and the need of guarantee even during adulthood the actual opportunity to exercise the level of autonomy achieved during educational and therapeutic paths. Method: The first part of the research dealt primarily on two distinct aspects: one regarding a cognitive framework of autism directed to identify the urban spatial elements that can facilitate or hinder the possibility of ASD people of walking together with the communicative and educational tools to deal with problematic behaviors; the second concerns the design and development of a digital tool, i.e. a Web App, that implements the requirements, assumptions and outputs achieved in the first phase. The App automatically generates routes using spatial elements as waypoints and evaluates these routes suggesting the most suitable path for ASD users. The App is also equipped with a graphic Part 1: Special Thematic Sessions user interface which permits to show visual instructions on how to overcome situations considered critical (e.g. encountering crowded places, crossing high volume traffic intersections). A neighborhood in the city of Sassari (Italy) was selected as pilot study area. Key results: According to the methodological assumptions, during the phases of data collection and first calibration of the algorithm two needs became apparent and influenced the following steps: the necessity to classify the urban spatial elements into two categories: positive and negative Points Of Interest acting as spatial facilitators or obstacles respectively and the need to characterise each POI through a set of attributes to be considered in the evaluation of the most suitable path. Thus three different types of elements have been identified: a) POIs are the spatial features collected and mapped with GIS; b) waypoints corresponding to the positive POIs that are part of the calculated route; c) critical points corresponding to the negative POIs along the route. The preferable route will be identified initially on the basis of waypoints number and path length, then an evaluation procedure will consider the quality of POIs along the route. By mean of marker functionality the app will provide a graphical representation of the POIs through texts and images that support the user especially in critical circumstances. Conclusion: Starting from these first results, a mapping phase will be carried out in the pilot study area with the aim of identifying the spatial elements corresponding to the waypoints and critical points and, in a more advanced stage of the project, a test phase will be carried out with a group of users with high functioning autism. The functional structure of GAP REDUCE makes it a flexible tool with possible further developments also with respect to the spatial needs of other groups of inhabitants (elderly, people with dementia, people with other sensory disabilities). Beside promoting the autonomy of movement in the city it can also support urban planning processes towards the development of more inclusive and accessible environments for everyone.
doi:10.3233/tad-190004 fatcat:hfrwmlupvvc4hhs5eor7qnyd4i