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WIGEM - Ensuring Web Accessibility for People with Learning Disabilities

Knowledge Construction Lab


April 2004 - July 2007


Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts, Baden-Wuerttemberg


The WIGEM project, which deals with ways the internet can be used as an information delivery medium for people with learning disabilities, was funded by the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg between April 2004 and July 2007.

The rationale behind the project was that it is still hard to find advanced training possibilities for people with learning disabilities. While regular advanced trainings are often out of the question, specific offers that consider the needs of learning disabled people are largely missing.

On the other hand, the internet becomes increasingly popular as means for self-directed information search. The broad range of contents represented throughout the web nowadays allows one to find information on nearly all fields of interest. The question, however, remains whether these multiple options are beneficial for learning disabled users or whether the vast amount of information and ways of information retrieval might even be detrimental in causing new barriers for these people.

In recent years, the topic "Internet utilization of people with learning disabilities" has been taken up by researchers as well as practitioners. This work revealed three ways to make the internet usable for learning disabled people:

  • Creating specific (new) websites that are tailored to the needs and demands of people with learning disabilities.
  • Existing websites which enable people with learning disabilities to retrieve information through different ways, e.g., pictures, symbols, audio.
  • Specific browsers which "translate" conventional websites into symbol languages that are established in special needs educational contexts.

All of these solutions share the common feature that they offer different modalities such as visual (text, pictures) or auditory to enable different ways of information retrieval.

The experiments conducted for WIGEM investigated how information presentation by means of different combinations of modalities (visual, auditory) and codalities (text, symbols) influences information retrieval and comprehension of adolescents with learning disabilities. Results revealed that the most beneficial combination appears to be the similar presentation of written text, spoken text, and symbols.

Another study focused on the content suitability of websites for people with learning disabilities. By means of problem-centred interviews and participating observation, fields of interest and utilization strategies of 14 learning disabled users were assessed. Results revealed a remarkable heterogeneity with regard to quantity as well as quality of internet use. Some participants made use of information as well as communication services and were well able to search for information very targeted, while others, for instance, accessed only few websites through always the same few predefined ways.


  • Peter-Rosegger-Schule, Reutlingen
  • Kirnbachschule, Tübngen
  • Lindenschule, Rottenburg
  • Friedrich-Fröbel-Schule, Herrenberg


Prof. Dr. Ulrike Cress Prof. Dr. Ulrike Cress
Tel.: +49 7071 979-209

Project team

Jan Krewinkel