Thin clients and assistive technology

Many disabled are struggling with technology for thin clients. MediaLT and several other partners are now collaborating to document the extent of the problem, set up a test environment and conduct user tests to find out how well prepared assistive technology is for thin client environments.

Story by: Morten Tollefsen - 11.06.2010


The project is supported by: The Norwegian Directorate of Health and IT Funk.


"The number of disabled who are in employment fell by 22,000 from spring 2008 to spring 2009. At the same time 70 000 disabled - one in four of those today who are without a job - say that they want to enter the workplace. A Labour Force survey also shows that a total of 44 000 of all employees with a disability do not have a workplace which is well enough adapted. " [1]. Among the severely visually impaired only one in three is in paid employment and nearly 50 per cent receive disability pension. Good training in the use of hardware and software helps [3], but there are clearly also technical challenges that must be addressed An important challenge is the use of so-called "thin clients" [4]. Use of thin clients in NAV and Oslo municipality has caused visually impaired to lose their job  or need assistance for work they could previously manage without help. Somewhat simplified thin client implies software that runs on a server and a client device that serves as a terminal. This type of technology also creates problems with other computer assistive technology.

Many severely visually impaired rely on a screen reader and / or screen magnifiers to use standard hardware. This type of support does not exist for all thin client devices [2]. Screen readers and screen magnifiers can be used with a PC, but the software will not be able to interpret the graphic image that is sent from the server. To achieve this there must be special configurations on the server and there is minimal knowledge about the risk and functionality of such systems. Other assistive devices that communicate directly with the software (eg. speech recognition) will not work in thin client environments. This is the type of problem we want to investigate in the Thin Client project. A guide will be produced for setting up assistive devices and thin clients, and we will set up a test environment where IT managers can try out the technology.

Goals and milestones

The project's main objectives are:

To identify the extent of the problem with thin clients for the disabled, and propose and implement measures to improve the situation.

The main objective is divided into the following milestones:

1.Set up project web pages.

2.Investigate the extent of the problems with thin clients.

 3.Identify technical problems with existing assistive technology.

4.Set up a test environment.

5.Write a guide with advice on setting up assistive technology.

Project Partners

There is great Interest in the Thin project! We would like contact with even more people who can contribute to the project. The partners now are: MediaLT, Sikte, The Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, Huseby Centre, The Norwegian Welfare and Labour Administration, Oslo University College, Microsoft / Abelia and ICT-Norway.

More information

Please contact us if you want more information or if you want to tell us something, or contribute to the project!

Read about the Thin project.


1. Anne M. Gøystdal, NTB
Fewer disabled people in work (Web, 03/25/2009)

2, Accessibility and Terminal Server technology (Web, 03/25/2009)

3. Magne Lunde
Twice as many visually impaired people in work (Web, 04/06/2009)

 4. Kristin Skeide Fuglerud and Ivar Solheim Visually impaired ICT barriers
Norwegian Computing Center 2008, ISBN-13: 978-82-539-0526-6

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