Friday, August 14, 2009 - 11:48

The Eden Project website has become more accessible after introducing a system allowing visitors to view symbols to illustrate words on the site.

Eden is committed to inclusion, equality of access and experience in outdoor spaces and providing a welcoming and engaging environment for people with learning disabilities, people with low levels of literacy and overseas visitors.

As part of this commitment for the last eight years it has been an active partner in the development of accessible information using Widgit symbols.

Developed over the last 20 years, Widgit Symbols are used across the world. Clean, concise and suitable for all ages they have been carefully designed to illustrate a single concept without adding unnecessary information.

There are more than 7,000 images covering a vocabulary in excess of 40,000 words. This vocabulary is continually being extended and gives councils access to a wide range of topics.

Widgit symbols have been widely used on signage, exhibits and educational information throughout the Eden Project. They provide visual prompts to illustrate the meaning of individual words.

For example, Widgit ‘Discover Eden’ packs have been designed in association with the Sensory Trust (a national charity making outdoor environments accessible to all people) as guides to exhibit areas at the Eden Project. A unique coffee exhibit tells the story of how coffee is produced using only symbols engraved into the edge of a wooden coffee boat.

Now the symbols are also being used on the Eden Project’s website to make information accessible to people who may have a poor understanding of the English language. Widgit’s new ‘Point’ plug-in means website users can simply point with their mouse to a word they find difficult - and a symbol will appear to help them read it.

Jo Elworthy, director of interpretation at the Eden Project, says: “Positive feedback shows how excited Eden visitors feel when they find the same symbols here as the ones they use in their centre or school. Several people have actually visited after hearing that Widgit symbols are being used.

“The Point plug-in goes one step further in helping ensure inclusion and enhances the understanding of information on our website for people who may find some words difficult without symbol support.”

Lynsey Robinson, inclusive designer at the Sensory Trust, says: “We have worked alongside Eden since the early days to provide more accessible and rewarding experiences for all visitors to the Eden Project itself. The Eden Project website reflects the high standards of accessibility that exist on the Eden Project site as a whole.

“When a visitor arrives at a Point enabled website and enables the function they don’t notice any immediate difference as the technology sits passively on the site – that is until they hover their mouse over a specific word. When they hover their mouse over a word, a box with the symbols for that word pops up. This helps with understanding the context and meaning of words. The pop up feature also means that the support is not intrusive or invasive, which is often what puts users off assistive technologies.”

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