as ensure implementation for newer accessibility solutions as they become available.


Clayton Lewis, Ph.D.

National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research

Lewis began by quoting his late mother: “The Internet is a corner I will not turn.” How can an intelligent, capable, older person be convinced to take advantage of the technological opportunities that are available? he asked.

Drawing on an example offered by Gregg Vanderheiden at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Lewis showed a picture of a typical computer screen. If described as an image of windows, Lewis’s mother would say, “There are no windows there.” If told to click on a scrollbar, she would say, “What’s a scrollbar?” As an example of a technology suited to his mother, Lewis showed a computer screen developed by Vanderheiden’s group, in which e-mails appear as conventional paper envelopes with printed pages inside. He also showed an animation in which a mail truck comes onto a screen and picks up an e-mail icon so that a computer user knows that an e-mail has been sent. Finally, Lewis showed a photograph of binders containing printouts of some 2,500 messages that his mother had sent and received by e-mail using programs designed to overcome the complexity of electronic communications, developed by CaringFamily LLC. Even people who do not want to turn the Internet corner can take advantage of technology if provided with answers to their problems, he said.

Cloud-Based Accessibility Technology

The Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure initiative,2 supported by NIDRR and led by Gregg Vanderheiden, has been working to improve the user experience for computer users with disabilities by allowing those individuals to store their needs and preferences online and then autopersonalizing online content and services on the basis of those stored settings. For example, someone could store a need for larger font sizes. Every time that person used a digital device, those preferences would be reflected in the experience. Such a system would help not just people with disabilities but everyone who uses digital devices.

NIDRR also sponsors other accessibility initiatives, mostly through


2For more information on the Global Public Inclusive Infrastructure initiative, see http://

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement