Web Access For Visually Disabled

IBMAll is set for the Technology and Software giant, IBM to launch a multimedia web browser for visually impaired. Using this web browser, they can access web video and audio. This software for visually impaired, codenamed the Accessibility Browser or A-Browser is created by Dr. Chieko Asakawa, who has been blind since age 14 and is a senior researcher at IBM’s research laboratory in Tokyo. Blind and partially-sighted people will get the unbelievable control over multimedia application using a keyboard to control media player software.
There is a 10-key numeric keypad interface which assists blind and visually impaired users to interact with their computer systems and navigate the Internet. This technology will simply read text loudly for poor sight people, which allows them to customize the web content’s color and size. This tool, written in Java, is compatible with Windows Media Player and Flash, and it works as a stand-alone application. There is a unified shortcut key operation which a user has to know in order to run video and animation. It also provides sound effects for hyperlinks and has the ability to speak text in 12 languages like Brazilian, Portuguese, and Spanish etc. According to the IBM, the software uses ViaVoice OutLoud US English text-to-speech technology and Netscape Navigator to speak Web-based information in a clear and easy to understand format.
Dr. Chieko Asakawa said, “I have been facing difficulties where I could not access Web content easily. I recently conducted a survey and found that most of the tested Websites with multimedia content were not accessible. Based on this result and my personal experience, I fear that if we don’t take any action, it will broaden the digital gap between the sighted and the blind. I felt that there should be ways to help narrow the gap concerning multimedia content’s accessibility.”
For blind people, the browser can slow down and speed up the videos. It can also accommodate an additional audio description or narration track which makes multimedia programmes more comprehensible to blind people. The sound of various sources can be adjusted using the volume controls. It also provides an alternative text-based interface to the content based on manually created XML metadata. After creating the metadata manually, you will find the site usability significantly improved.
Some of the other useful functions included are fast-forward, bookmarks, and integrated emails. More importantly, it can work with screen reading software in a much effective way. The elements like font-size, contrast between foreground and background, and inappropriate color combination are checked for visually impaired users.
Jim Chao, emerging technology strategist at IBM, said, “This console simulates a low-vision mode and it also simulates a blind mode so it will take a look at your HTML and in this console list all the problems with your Web page.”
“We’re beginning to look at accessibility as a very important business area. This is not just from a social responsibility standpoint, but with ageing baby-boomers we think that such technology could really benefit the population in general because all of us will be on this ageing journey,” said Frances West, director of IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility Centre.

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