Web Science 2021 conference and workshops

The 13th ACM Web Science 2021 conference to be held on June 21st- June 25th will be hosting 12 interdisciplinary workshops addressing how Web Science research can illuminate key contemporary issues and global challenges.

We really would love it if you would like to submit your ideas and even a paper to our AI and Inclusion workshop or just come and join us virtually during the afternoon we are allotted (yet to be published!).

Accepted workshop papers will be published in the companion collection of the ACM WebSci’21 proceedings.

AI and Inclusion – Overcoming accessibility gaps on the Social Web

We are planning to make this workshop an interesting afternoon of presentations and a debate about how AI can help to achieve the goal of inclusion when thinking about the digital barriers that prevent people enjoying use of the social web.

Online interactivity and conversations should be accessible to all, all the more so during this period of isolation from face to face connections.

Important Dates:

Apr 23, 2021 — Workshop paper submission deadline

May 17, 2021 — Camera-ready deadline for the Proceedings

For more information, please see https://websci21.webscience.org/workshops

AI and Text Simplification

During the recent pandemic many organisations have produced documents that are designed to be easier to read such as the UK Government guidance about ‘National Lockdown: Stay at Home’ and Global Symbols has produced some simple information sheets with symbol versions. This type of support may help those with intellectual disabilities cope with complex content and Inclusion Europe offer guidelines for making text more understandable.
about the vaccine
However, making documents easier to read using text simplification techniques can take time. It is not just the choice of words that needs to be considered (the lexicon) but also the way sentences are written (the syntax) to remove complex grammatical structures.

John Rochford, has been working in this area for a long time with people who have cogntive impairments and has a blog called Clear Helper. He has been exploring the use of machine learning and natural language processing to speed automated text simplification and his new site is called EasyCovid-19 

This March saw John sharing his ideas for EasyText AI with a group of us, discussing how one could achieve improved automated text simplification and add keyword support using symbols to help those with intellectual disabilities cope better with web page content. The challenges include overcoming polysemy (multiple meanings) – words that look the same but may require very different symbols and the degree to which symbols can help rather than confuse. Using different forms of artificial intelligence and training data, allows us to think that it is possible to overcome some issues around ‘disambiguation’ (removing uncertainty of meaning), but ensuring web content personalisation, in terms of symbol choices, is quite a different challenge!
spring sentence

Web Page Accessibility and AI

computer with webpageOver the last year there has been an increasing amount of projects that have been using machine learning and image recognition to solve issues that cause accessibility barriers for web page users. Articles have been written about the subject. But we explored these ideas over a year ago having already added image recognition to check the accuracy of alternative texts on sites when carrying out an accessibility review on Web2Access.

Since that time we have been working on capturing data from online courses to develop training data via an onotology that can provide those working in education with a way of seeing what might cause a problem before the student even arrives on the course. The idea being that authors of the content can be alerted to the difficulties such as a lack of alternative texts or a need to annotate equations etc.

computer with presentationThe same can apply to online lectures provided for students working remotely. Live captioning from the videos are largely provided via automatic speech recognition. Once again a facilitator can be alerted to where errors are appearing in a live session, so that manual corrections can occur at speed and the quality of the output improved to provide not just more accurate captions over time, but also transcripts suitable for annotation. NRemote will provide a system that can be customised and offer students a chance to use teaching and learning materials in multiple formats.

We have also been discussing the use of text simplification that is making use of machine learning. The team behind EasyText AI have been making web pages easier to read and are now looking at the idea of incorporating text to symbol support where a user can choose a symbol set to suit their preference.

three sentences using symbols saying I read your red book today

Web2Access updated with automatic checker and Accessibility Statement generator.

Thanks to a group of MSc computer science students at the University of Southampton and colleagues, we have updated Web2Access to fit with WCAG 2.1 Success Criteria and provided an automatic checking system that produces an Accessibility Statement.  It is a copy of the UK government’s latest template that can be adapted to suit individual needs after a website or service has been reviewed.  Any number of pages can be reviewed when you use the automatic checker and there is a visual appraisal system to double check false positives or negatives, including the words used to describe images as alternative text, overlaps on zoom and orientation issues for mobile technologies.  There is also the original manual checker for use with a screen reader and keyboard only access to add to the automatic checks.

There are some basic instructions on the Web2Access review page and we hope it will help with all the last minute testing that might be going on at the moment!    It can also be used alongside all the other checkers mentioned on LexDis.

ATbar working with MindMeister for mind mapping support.

In playing with the online browser based mind mapping tool MindMeister we have found that not only does ATbar work well when you are editing your maps but also when you embed them into a website as is demonstrated with this blog.

So you maximise the Mindmeister map presented on this page by selecting the window in the map’s bottom toolbar – it opens a new window in the browser and you can launch ATbar to read the text on the mind map branches, add a tint overlay, use the dictionary etc.  The overlays work best with Firefox and Chrome as then you can click through the tint to highlight text for reading with the text to speech etc.   These features do not seem to work with IE at present.

As you can see from the mindmap we are now developing a system to automatically check all the plugins so that we can make maintenance a little easier and have a quick way of checking when things are not working.

Do tell us about any other ideas or findings you have when using the toolbar as we want to make it as useful as possible.

ATbar provides more colour and voices and Azzapt is launched at Bett 2013

ATbar overlay in WordPress







Try the latest version of ATbar with its coloured overlays and choice of male and female voices. When used with Chrome, Safari and Firefox you can even write your blog with the overlay in place as demonstrated in the picture above! Sadly Opera and Internet Explorer do not allow this click through feature.  There is a choice of cream, pink, pale blue and green colours.

Both the Arabic and English versions of the toolbar now have the option to use male and female voices for selected text – if you want to stop the text just refresh the page and reload the toolbar from your bookmark or move to a new page.

The Azzapt app, that was developed over the last two years as part of the MyDocStore project, with Iansyst and Raspberry Software is now working well on iPads and iPhones and has been mentioned as one of the things to see at Bett 2013 by Sally McKeown in her recent blog. As Sally said, it is “a new cloud-based service which makes materials more accessible for people with disabilities when they are out and about. It works on computer, tablet or smartphone”.

More project outcomes coming soon in 2013!

Latest updates to Synote mobile, ATbar and LexDis projects

We continue to work on our projects, updating and trying new ideas!  Here is the latest news about Synote mobile,  LexDis and ATbar.

Synote mobile has built on the work on Synote Researcher and allows users to not only take YouTube video with transcriptions and captions but to also annotate with the use of tags, colour and work on a mobile phone or tablet.  The website has still to offer good search features but if you browse for recordings you will see the changes compared to the original version of Synote. 

Lexdis screen grabLexdis is now running as a WordPress site with students and colleagues adding strategies directly from a link on the website. We really would like more strategies and are excited about the number that are coming related to mobile technologies.


Magnus has ensured that ATbar automatically updates so users no longer have to check for updates, the website has several additions including a wiki for guides and other ATbar related information, a forum for questions and a services section which includes a way of supporting the spell checking feature to improve results.

ATbar desktop toolbarNawar has worked on the desktop toolbar for Arabic users and this is now available for beta testing. It has four functions: an onscreen keyboard, a screen reader, a magnifier and colour overlays. Please become a beta tester and download the desktop toolbar from Github. This toolbar is very much ‘work in progress’! If you want to join the team in testing and wish to know more about this work please visit our project blog.

Virtual Experiments @ Southampton University

There are a collection of Virtual Experiments available thanks to a University of Southampton STEM project and they provide an easy way of interacting with equipment to make changes that show you :

Diode Testing

Measure current and voltage of a diode in various conditions

Transformer Modelling

Perform open circuit, short circuit and load tests on an unknown transformer

Syncronscope and V-Curves

Use the Syncroscope and lamps to syncronise a motor with 3 phase power

Hydrogen Oxygen Explosion

Mix oxygen with Hydrogen and find the pressure at which the explosion occurs

Electronics Introduction

Observational experiment introducing some simple logic switches and a Analogue to Digital converter

Hooks Law

Simple Experiment to measure hooks law with a calibrated newton meter

Cell Growth

Measure the growth rate of cells at various temperatures with the help of timelapse photography

Rate of Reaction

Change the concentrations of thiosulphate and measure the reaction time

Thermal Resistivity

Use the labview program to measure the resistivity of several wet and dry materials

Phasor Simulation

A simulation to help visualise phasor synchronization

Water Flow Simulation

Add Doping and Sampling points along a river to try and map the underground waterflow

Other Virtual Experiments

Previous work:

Virtual Experiments at Reading University

Aspects of the experiments work with NVDA screen reader in Firefox and they are being updated to make them more accessible in the future.  Tabbing order is not as good as it might be for keyboard only users but once again this is very much work in progress.

Going mobile to support STEM subjects

iphone using siri

Thanks to Apple -iPhone 4S - Ask Siri

It is not always easy to make choices about mobile apps and those that offer easy access can be hard to find. The iPhone has much of its accessibility built-in with VoiceOver, Zoom and Siri speech commands on the latest models.

The latest Android phones come with TalkBack, Kickback, and SoundBack  for screen reading and large font displays that need to be enabled under the Accessibility options.  Edwin allows the user to verbally ask a question on the web and have the answer returned as synthesised text to speech. The Code Factory have developed a series of apps including screen reading and magnification for the Android, Windows and Symbian operating systems along with Talks and Zoom from Nuance.

BIG Launcher on the Android can make all screens larger and help with reading small print and home icons so that locating items on the phone can be easier.

CapturaTalk offers users the chance to capture text and have it read back with highlighting as it has built in optical character recognition and the Image to Text on the iPhone works in a similar way but it sends the text to email or EverNote. The latter then synchs with a user’s desktop computer or can be stored in the Cloud.

Screenreader.net have just introduced a ‘Safe and Sound’ app for Android and iPhone that offers users a geo-location service with large buttons which talk when touched and a layout that is easy to use.

If writing notes is difficult it is possible to use Dragon DictationVlingo or INXS Dictation as long as you are online – the text can be saved and sent to other apps such as EverNote, email and Dropbox.

STEM Logo But what about specific apps that might help those studying STEM subjects?  Sadly many of the apps are not totally accessible with the built in screen readers but Super Calculator for the iPhone has been evaluated by AppleVis and it can be used for a wide range of formulae from a library that includes calculations for Physics, Trigonometry and Algebra. “Just select the equation and assign value for it and it will show the result. Super Calculator will calculate a numeric solution for your equation with the values you assign to variables.”

Quick Periodic Table of the Elements for iPhone, has also been evaluated by AppleVis and it “offers rapid access to information on the elements useful for anyone in the sciences and engineering. Four periodic tables summarize a variety of information. Separate screens for all 118 elements provide 22 specific types of data. Access to that data is provided by a searchable list of elements that the user can organize by atomic number, symbol, or name.”

If levels of light or heat need to be measured it is possible to use the Light Detector app which converts the amount to light to rising or falling audio tones. There are also apps that will provide hexadecimal RGB form for the colour captured by the camera such as Catch Color Free for Android or Color Picker for iPhone.

If you are working with maps it is possible to use the Ariadne GPS system on the Android that provides vibrations and audio signals as the fingure is traced over the map to help with the location of items.

Keeping up with the latest accessible apps is hard to achieve so it is best to check with sites such as AppleVis or The Mac-cessibility iPhone blog from Australia or EyesFree for Android.  

iPhone apps help the blind in all kinds of ways’ is another blog on the subject – published on the same day as this blog!


ATbar new version with AItype word prediction and Acapela English and Arabic voices

ATbarATbar has been rewritten to cope with English and Arabic languages thanks to Mada (Qatar Assistive Technology Center). There is a standard Lite version and a build your own version. Plugins can be added to an empty ATbar to offer users a customisable approach to enhanced reading of accessible web pages.

The standard ATbar Lite is a bookmark that can be dragged to the browser toolbar (or added to favorites). It has a set collection of plugins. Fonts can be enlarged, their style changed with increased line spacing to aid readability. There is a spell checker and dictionary. Text to speech for reading selected text uses a female Acapela voice in both languages.

The use of Readability reduces clutter on a web page and word prediction comes thanks to AItype. It works with all plain text edit boxes. The entire look and feel of an accessible web page can be changed to offer high contrast mode with linear text or just colour changes to the text and links. The toolbar colour can be changed. It is possible to reset pages and exit the toolbar at anytime.

When a new web page is loaded the toolbar has to be relaunched.

To customise your own ATbar go to the marketplace and install the required plugins – the toolbar can be saved and used in a similar way to the Lite version.

Please let the ATbar team know about any bugs.