Virtual Cafe Scientifique, University of Southampton

Virtual Cafe Scientifique

Our Research

Archived site - this website is out of date and kept online for reference only.

An updated ECS Virtual Café Scientifique is currently under development, as part of the EPSRC POLMAT project.

Over a decade of our internationally-leading accessibility related research has had worldwide economic, public policy, service and societal impacts and led to development of many important accessibility tools/technologies enhancing and influencing learning innovations supporting disabled students in higher education including:  

  • contributing to the British Standard 8878 on Web Accessibility which has had great impact on the accessibility of websites in the UK as well as disability discrimination.


  • changing school’s practices and government policies of funding electronic books for blind and dyslexic pupils in schools and enabled disabled children to gain independent and more timely access to books through accessible technologies through the Accessible Resources Project


  • developing Speech Recognition applications to support deaf and disabled people in collaboration with IBM and the Liberated Learning International consortium (including MIT, Stanford, Purdue & Australian National University and Nuance) and the first:

    • automatically punctuated lecturer’s speech recognised transcribed speech (as unlike dictation punctuation is not spoken when lecturing) by measuring the length of pauses between words

    • editing of transcripts in real time from multiple speakers and delivering it over networks in individual’s preferred formats

    • speech recognition system providing real time captioning of multiple speakers at meetings and seminars. The demonstration of the original research system at is still widely used to show what is feasible to inspire and influence further funded research and development.


  • the development of Synote (

    • the first system that allowed users to easily create synchronised annotations of recordings and speech recognition transcripts to support the learning of disabled students (i.e. deaf students who couldn’t understand speech, dyslexic students who couldn’t take notes)

    • the first integration of video clips with captions and comments that can be indexed and searched

    • gained the EUNIS elearning award 2009 and THE Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year 2011

    • was used for the net4voice EU Lifelong learning project ( which implemented and evaluated the system in schools, colleges and universities in the UK, Italy and Germany and influenced learning and teaching worldwide through founder membership of international liberated learning consortium and technology developments of its company members IBM & Nuance

    • improved the coding and analysis of recordings of research interviews

    • helped develop the first application providing accessibility information about transport.

    • supported the work of the Liberated Learning Consortium ( and the first reported use of automatic speech recognition supporting universal access through text synchronised with speech which led to the Consortium growing and including Nuance and IBM and influenced the design and development of speech recognition systems for education.


  • the award winning LeXD is project which:

    • gained the IMS Global Learning Learning Impact Leadership Award 2009

    • was the first research study into how disabled students in higher education use elearning and the strategies they develop to overcome problems

    • supports students and teaching and support staff in higher education worldwide enhancing the attainment of disabled students through knowing what strategies work for e-learning.

    • provides for researchers and educators the first understanding of how disabled learners in higher education make agile decisions about their use of technologies for learning.

    • has detailed research findings available through an accessible website which includes recordings of the student research participants explaining their elearning strategies and receives 500 visits/month worldwide and is updated with research about students’ fresh strategies for new technologies.


  • Web2Access which reports research into the criteria for evaluating the accessibility of web sites, web applications, software, e-books and mobile devices and accessible document formats and supports students and teaching and support staff worldwide knowing how accessible websites are for disabled students to use for e-learning.


  • ATbar providing cross browser assistive technology support tools in English and Arabic enhancing inclusion though access to the web worldwide and sustained support of charities in the UK (Fix the Web) and Qatar (MADA).


  • Realise ( supporting assistive technology companies/organisations to develop open source assistive technologies. and obtained further funding from Devices for Dignity/ National Institute for Health Research