Want to keep learning?

This content is taken from the University of Southampton & MOOCAP's online course, Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society. Join the course to learn more.

Typical desktop, laptop and portable applications

We use the applications on our desktop, laptop and mobile technologies for many different tasks that are central to our lives. Whether at work, school or using these technologies for everyday living, we send emails, create documents, browse the web, video-call our family and friends, use social media, buy online and so much more.

Access to information on the Web

You might use a web browser to access the news and weather forecast every morning, or to look for answers on Wikipedia about a question that arose from a recent discussion with a friend. You might search for specific information on a particular product you’d like to buy, like Carole (who is blind). You may also browse the web when you prepare a report for school, university or work.


Online computing has changed the way the world communicates in ways we could never have imagined.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, have allowed us to post messages, to share information, be part of online communities, to instantly send out news updates, find out what celebrities are thinking and so much more.

Before social media, e-mail was the great by-product of networked computers. We use email to send messages and documents to each other for work and study. We share the latest news with our families and friends and issue invitations to meetings and social gatherings. We receive emails as confirmation of tickets booked online and for delivery times of online purchases. In the day in the life of Tom (who has a speech impairment and mobility difficulties) we see him using email to lobby on behalf of his Augmentative and Alternative Communication user’s group.

Many people across parts of the world use online technologies to make video calls, using Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom etc. These tools also enable accessible telemeetings where we can share documents and pictures. It is a great way for people to stay in touch. For example Monika (who is elderly) can see her baby grandson on the screen.

Online services

The Internet has become a core part of our lives, especially in the provision of online services. Online shopping, home banking and Government services are all done online. Holidays, flights and accommodation can be booked online, along with etickets for our favourite shows and events. A reservation at an exclusive restaurant is just a click away!

Lars (who is deaf) accesses films of interest online. He also uses the internet to check the quality of subtitles that accompany the films. Carole can access the details of her bills, which was difficult in the past.


While the Internet is rightly lauded as one of the greatest social innovations of recent times, electronic documents must surely be considered one of the other great contributions of desktop computing.

We use word processing for documents, producing reports, writing essays at college like Anna (who has dyslexia), publishing academic papers, designing invitations for birthday parties, finishing our unwritten novels and possibly even adding new chapters to our life stories!

Word processing software allows us to structure our documents, lay them out professionally and insert pictures, tables, charts and shapes to deliver high-quality material. But just pause for a moment and think of the consequences if we make them inaccessible in some way and prevent some people from reading them.

Computers and their portable relations are central to our modern lives. They help us communicate, to work, to study, to shop, for entertainment, for information and so much more.

Imagine how your life would be if you had difficulty accessing your computer (desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone). Think of all the ways in which you use digital technologies.

Which is the single most important one? What would be the impact on you if you were not able to access it?

© This text is a derivative of a work created by Dublin Institute of Technology and Université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis, and licensed under CC-BY BY 4.0 International Licence adapted and used by the University of Southampton. Erasmus + MOOCs for Accessibility Partnership.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Digital Accessibility: Enabling Participation in the Information Society

University of Southampton