Etisalat launches accessibility tool to make internet browsing easier for autistic people

The web extension will feature neutral colours, simplified fonts and layouts

Adam Altanani, 10, Team Data Demons, BSAK. Courtesy Special Olympics UAE

Telecom provider Etisalat and the Ministry of Community Development in the UAE launched a web extension on Wednesday that will make internet browsing easier for autistic people.

Etisalat teamed up with Belgian IT company Bliss to design the web extension.

The new tool will be available on Etisalat’s website and the Google Extensions page.

Once activated, a standard web page will appear as an autistic-friendly one.

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A common phenomenon that autistic people can experience is sensory overload, where the brain receives more information than it can handle

Websites will have simpler settings such as neutral colours, simplified fonts, menus and layouts.

There will be fewer images, advertisement blockers and carousel freezing to avoid overstimulation of the senses.

According to the World Health Organisation's estimates, one in 160 children has an autism spectrum disorder, a developmental disorder.

This estimate represents an average figure, and can vary substantially across studies.

Some well-controlled studies have, however, reported figures that are substantially higher. The prevalence of ASD in many low- and middle-income countries is so far unknown, according to WHO.

People with autism are often sensitive to their environment. They have unusually delicate sensory systems, which means that their senses can be easily overloaded.

Dr Shereen Sharaan, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology affiliated with The University of Edinburgh and Emirates Autism Centre, said: "Autism affects how you perceive and interact with the world, and there are differences in how an autistic person's brain receives, processes, manages, and translates information into behaviour.

“A common phenomenon that autistic people can experience is sensory overload, where the brain receives more information than it can handle.

“This can result in confusion, anxiety, meltdowns, and/or even physical pain in autistic people.

“Unfortunately, sensory overload can be an all-too-common experience for autistic people, especially when spending time online, which is something most people need to do on a daily basis for work, education, leisure, and communication.”

April 2 is observed as World Autism Awareness Day to highlight the need to help improve the quality of life of those diagnosed with the disorder.

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