1999 Conference Proceedings

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Voice Browsing in the Mainstream: Lessons from the Non-Visual Web

Markku Hakkinen and Ray Ingram
The Productivity Works, Inc.
7 Belmont Circle
Trenton, New Jersey 08618


Since the first demonstrations of non-visual web access at CSUN in 1996, the concept of voice browsing has taken hold and several products are now commercially available that offer persons with visual and print disabilities to access the world wide web with the same ease offered to users of visual browsers. The advantages of voice browsing to those with situational disabilities (eyes-busy/hands-busy) and for those without access to a PC, has not gone unnoticed.

Using the design experience gained from pwWebSpeak, Digital Talking Books, and from work on multimedia accessibility, the authors have extended the non-visual web access model to allow anyone to utilize a standard touch-tone telephone to access web content. pwTelephone is based on the pioneering design of pwWebSpeak, (Hakkinen, 1996; Hakkinen & DeWitt, 1997) and utilizes HTML accessibility features, audio style sheets, and extensive user customization to make web content accessible by phone.

The opening of the web to a wider audience through the telephone raises many issues, from universal design to international standards. Web content authors, telecommunications companies, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) must all work together to ensure that the web remains universally accessible, irrespective of access method.

This presentation will provide a demonstration of telephone web access and discuss the latest developments in voice browsing.


Hakkinen, M. T. (1996). "pwWebSpeak: A non-visual Web Browser." Web Accessibility Workshop, WWW5, Paris.

Hakkinen, M.T., and De Witt, John (1997). "An Accessible Web Browser: The Application of First Order Design Principles in pwWebSpeak", CSUN 97,Los Angeles.

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