2000 Conference Proceedings

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Hyper-tools in the office of the Future

Barbara Manipod & Gayl Robison

Sensory Access Foundation


Organization, time-management, and innovation are the office tools of the future.  SAF presents a new concept in daily organization using the concept of document links and HTML.


Organization, time-management, and innovation are the office tools of the future.  Usually the organizational and time-management tools that sighted individuals use is either inappropriate or useless for the functionally blind individual.  With the momentous trend towards electronic documentation and the concept of links in either word processing or HTML, organizational tools for the blind individual are emerging rapidly in the office environment.

The most common manner by which individuals access narrative information is sequential. That is, as in a printed book, the reader must progress from the jacket cover and title to the table of contents and then to the respective part of the book in which they are interested. This process requires that the reader move sequentially through all of the information, from one page to the next, even if in a reasonably rapid fashion. An electronic version of the same book offers the reader the identical interface. Through cursoring, the page-down key, or a find command, the user must progress sequentially through the same information. In the case where the user makes use of a find command, it is critical for the user to type in the search string correctly, and that the search string be unique. Else, the reader may not find the desired information on the first attempt.

Observing the same book or information within the context of document links provides us with a dramatically altered interface, such as HTML. In our example of the book above, the title of the book on the cover would be transferred into a link which would lead directly to a Table of Contents. Each item in the Table of contents would be a link in itself which would then lead directly and immediately to the desired information. Instead of being sequential, this structure can be thought of as "layered".

Imagine a pyramid structure representing our book or information. At the top is a single link that represents the home page or initial data. Then this link leads to a greater series of organized information as a second layer beneath the top of the pyramid. As we move to additional links, we move down through layers of information without reviewing unwanted information. This process is much more efficient and direct, and, has hence spawned the popularity of the Internet and HTML documentation.

The problems, or limitation, of HTML documentation is that it must be reviewed with a browser that does not allow the user to alter or append any information to the HTML documentation. This is of course useful for Internet sites on the web, but is not necessarily desirable for a user on their own personal computer. Fortunately, there is no particular need to use HTML documentation or a web browser to create the same type of layering or organization on one’s own personal computer. Through a simple strategic design of documentation, it is possible for a blind office worker to organize calendars and crucial documents effectively without necessarily using a web browser. Furthermore, all calendar, project, and appointment items can easily be accessed through the use of a single, primary document.

Assuming that a calendar is one of the most crucial items for an employee in the office, we will investigate this as a document link structure. The user would have one master document created in a word processor that was always on the desktop and that contains any variety of links, including Internet links, but that would contain a series of keywords such as "Calendar". These words have been turned into links.

The Calendar link leads to another secondary document that contains 12 words, the names of the months, January through December. Each of these month names would have been in turn transferred into links that lead to their respective documents, and in which the user may add/delete/edit any information. Navigating these documents and links is done in the same fashion as a user would navigate through a web site, but they can also simply use word processing cursoring commands. It is also important to remember that, although this entire structure is based in the user’s word processor, links within these documents can lead to any other document, application, network, mainframe, or Internet site.

SAF will walk the audience through the structure and concepts of organization through this methodology, as well as how to create these documents. A question and answer session will follow the presentation as well.

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