SOFTWARE

Over the last couple of years, there has been a movement to create software programs that will aid elderly users in using computers and surfing the internet. Of the various software approaches out there, the most wide-spread is the use of a screen reader. Screen readers are intended to be used by people with low to zero visual abilities, and this software does exactly what its title implies. A screen reader is a piece of software that turns all text on a computer screen into audio format. These types of software programs have been around for awhile, and serve primarily those users who have severe vision loss and will not be able to take advantage of other possible solutions.

There are other, newer approaches that are just beginning to come into play. Greger et al (2002) argues in favor of a senior-friendly browser that is designed for various levels of visual and cognitive impairments.

proposed senior friendly web browser
This web browser would have a tool bar at the top which would allow users to easily adjust various visual settings, an audio aide, a large-text banner area where all information could be displayed, and a finally a section where the web page would be displayed as it would have been displayed in Internet Explorer or Firefox. In addition, a Voice Help function could be included to give step by step instructions to help novice users learn how to navigate through the web.

A third approach is a piece of software that would allow for many of the same functional abilities of the dedicated senior-friendly browser to be applied to mainstream browsers such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla/Firefox. Hanson (2004) has proposed a solution called Web Adaption Technology that would enable users to change font and size setting as well as spacing issues and text/background colors and contrast. It should be noted, however, that this technological solution assumes that users are cognitively able to learn and remember how to complete new and unfamiliar tasks since this focuses more on visual impairments than cognitive impairments.