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ProVisu overview

The ProVisu directory is a unique and innovative guide to trustworthy information on the promotion and the prevention of eye diseases for all citizens. The accessibility service allows an access to the Web equally, and independently of the development of a site, the technology or the platform used. The implementation of the accessibility in ProVisu responds globally to the accessibility barrier on the Internet, not only at the level of a given site. Through these simple solutions ProVisu demonstrates that respecting elementary rules and using appropriate web technology such as the bookmarklet, then the Internet could be an integration and autonomy vector and become a space of freedom for all of us.

Why ProVisu?

Along with trustworthiness, accessibility and usability are two of the most important topics related to the publishing of online medical and health information. Indeed, the design and the way of providing health and medical information on the Internet to citizens should be adapted to the needs of all citizens: people suffering from reading disabilities, visual disabilities, dyslexics, people with intellectual handicaps, with neurological and physical impairment, elderly, and patients amongst others. Paradoxically, this group of people use the medical Internet more and more in order to preserve their wellness, to look for new treatments, to find suitable advices, to choose their doctor or hospital.
Accessibility can be declined in the following aspects:

  • Readability: typeface, size, colour and background
  • Speech-enabled web sites
  • Multilingualism
  • Readability: complexity of the page layout
  • Health literacy: complexity of the content

The Health On the Net foundation [1] is an innovative approach to helping people combat disease and live healthy lives by offering practical guidance to certified medical information and support on the Internet. Pioneering the multilingual access to trustworthy medical and health information with HONselect and MedHunt services - available in more than 5 languages-, the Foundation pursues its contribution of accessible information to all citizens with ProVisu [2, 3, 4]. The ProVisu project has the goal to raise awareness with the citizen and health professionals about the increasing number of citizen at risk for age-related eye diseases and the need for early detection and rehabilitation services; to provide an one stop information service to and inform the community and the general practitioner about all eye diseases, available treatments, and associations; and to be accessible to blind or visual impaired person.

WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) is a programme of the World Wide Web Consortium to develop technology, guidelines, and tools to increase Web accessibility for people with disabilities [5]. Despite of initiatives such as the one from the NIH with a checklist to assess the accessibility of Web site, only few Web sites abides by Web accessibility specifications [6, 7]. According to the survey HON conducted with the European ENABLED project 36% of the 269 survey respondents say they make special efforts to produce accessible Web sites or applications [8]. They cite a wide variety of reasons, all pointing to the need for higher prioritisation of accessible Web and application design. And 58% of survey respondents were not aware of the WAI guidelines. This survey confirmed that a large number of websites are not fully accessible, mainly because website developers, designers and managers are not aware of accessibility issues or lack the proper knowledge or training to fully use the available tools. The survey results also highlight the responsibility of software manufacturers, who could do more to provide tools to produce accessible Web content. Indeed the implementation of the WAI guidelines is not straightforward and requires specific training. So in the daily use, the application of these guidelines in the development of a Web site is rare.


As a result of these findings different approaches have been implemented in the ProVisu project:  a) the seamless speech-enabled service and the navigation with the keyboard, b) the reading comfort and c) the adaptation of external websites to a sight-enhanced style via a specialised bookmarklet.

  1. the seamless speech-enabled service and the navigation with the keyboard,

One of the aspects of accessibility is speech-enabled web sites. The progress and the quality of text to speech synthesis technology (TTS) and synthetic voices with a near-to-human quality voice allow integrating this service not only for the target population, dyslexic and visually impaired persons but also for the entire Internet community. Furthermore, this service is affordable both at the integration into a web site as at the price levels, and available in many languages.  In  ProVisu we enriched the navigation within the site with text to speech features and adapted short cuts. 

  1. the reading comfort

4 text sizes and 4 colours of the text and backgrounds are proposed to the citizen in order to adapt the display of the ProVisu site as much as possible according to his/her vision (Fig. 1). 

  1. the adaptation of external websites to a sight-enhanced style via a specialised bookmarklet

A bookmarklet is a tiny program (a JavaScript application) contained in a bookmark. This feature is platform independent and does not required to download nor install software to use it. For ProVisu we developed a bookmarklet dedicated to the reading comfort allowing the citizen to access any web site with his/her reading preferences. This service has been integrated into the trustworthy search facility in order to adapt web site links resulting of the search. This allows to preserve, on trustworthy external websites, the sight-enhanced style chosen in ProVisu (i.e the font colour, size and background, with the removal of images, Fig. 4 and 5).

The ProVisu’s site content is devoted to the promotion and the prevention of eye diseases and blindness by providing comprehensive and trustworthy information on a large coverage of eye diseases and anatomic structure (325 eye-related terms). In order to provide such service we analysed what is available on the Web and what type of information the citizen is looking for. A directory and a search facility have been created from objective, trustworthy, and accurate health information collected on only Web sites respecting elementary ethical and quality standards such as the HON’s Code of Conduct and the European Quality Criteria for Health related Websites [9, 10, 11].
Web sites has been automatically skimmed and retrieved from the Web by the HON’s specialised robot, MARVIN [12] armed with a eye diseases dictionary. Then, information has been gathered and aggregated via HON’s dynamic content production tool.
The eye diseases directory categorised according to a sub-group of the MeSH [13] offers information structured in the following groups: Generality/Definition, Prevention, Symptoms, Treatment, Statistics, Illustrations and Information for the specialist (Fig. 2 and 3). 

Provisu Presentation

Universal access of the Web from utopia to reality: experience with the ProVisu project (SSIM Days 2006, Bale)


  1. Health On the Net foundation
  2. HONselect :
  3. WRAPIN :
  4. ProVisu:
  5. WAI :
  6. The National Health Institute check list for webmasters
  7. Bambang Parmanto, Zeng X, Parmanto B, “Web Content Accessibility of Consumer Health Information Web Sites for People with Disabilities: A Cross Sectional Evaluation”, J Med Internet Res 2004;6(2):e19. URL:
  8. Analysis of the ENABLED Web Developer Survey
  9. C Boyer, A Geissbuhler, “A decade devoted to improving online health information quality.”, Stud Health Technol Inform, 2005 - IOS Press
  10. HON’s Code of Conduct:
  11. European Quality Criteria for Health related Websites
  12. MARVIN:
  13. National Library of Medicine. Medical subject headings.

screenshot provisu
Fig. 1: the ProVisu project available in French and English.

screenshot provisuFig. 2: screenshot of the eye diseases directory, here the Glaucoma information structured in the following groups: Generality/Definition, Prevention, Symptoms, Treatment, Statistics, Illustrations.

screenshot provisu
Fig. 3: screenshot of the French version of the Glaucoma information.

screenshot provisu
Fig. 4: external Web site adapted to the reading comfort

screenshot provisu
Fig. 5: original web site page

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