2001 Conference Proceedings

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ACCESSING THE INTERNET WITH SUPERNOVA

Gareth Collins
Dolphin Computer Access, Ltd,
100 South Ellsworth Avenue, 4th Floor,
San Mateo, CA 94401
E-mail: gareth.collins@dolphinusa.com

This paper discusses and demonstrates the Internet-related features and philosophy of Supernova, the powerful reader-magnifier software from Dolphin Computer Access. This session will be of interest to professionals, rehab counselors, educators and individuals with an interest in visual impairment and information technology. This session will also include a practical demonstration of surfing the Internet using Supernova's integrated magnification, speech and Braille features. There will also be time for questions at the end of the session and delegates are encouraged to visit the Dolphin booth in the Marriott Hotel.

Introduction

Without doubt the Internet has the potential to be one of the major breakthrough technologies for visually impaired computer users. For most people who have any sort of serious disability, communication with others and the retrieval and perusal of day to day information, is one of the biggest problems next to actual mobility. Therefore access to the Net, really good access to the Net, is a significant step forward for visually impaired people in general, globally.

In fact, it's estimated that the Internet currently has 382 million users, of which 190 million are English speaking and 192 million are non-English speaking. So the Internet truly does have an all pervasive global reach.

Add to this the fact that 70% of all new business applications are web-based and that close to 1 million on-line stores currently generate over $653 billion of e-commerce each year (and growing) - and you can see that it's increasingly becoming an "on-line" world.

However, using Supernova this "on-line" world needn't be inaccessible to visually impaired computer users.

Supernova philosophy

Baring in mind that ease of use is one of the key elements in the design of Dolphin's range of assistive technology products, we've designed Supernova Internet features with the following two criteria in mind:

1. Context is important

2. Quicker navigation for speedier access

Context is important

When browsing the Internet sighted computer users receive visual clues to help them understand their location on a web page in relation to the surrounding elements. They can also scan tables with their eyes for information about the table's column headers, and they can also see the adjacent cells to understand the cell's relationships to the others in the table.

Unfortunately, blind computer users can't scan the page using their eyes, they navigate web pages sequentially by jumping from link to link. (In the case of AltaVista's web site there are 201 links on the main page). So blind computer users need extra information to help put what they're hearing (or feeling in the case of Braille) into some kind of context, when they're navigating the page sequentially (using the TAB key). The analogy often used to describe this type of problem is that it's like looking at a web page through a soda straw.

However, Supernova helps blind computer users remain oriented on a web page by announcing extra contextual information. This will be demonstrated later at the end of this session. By announcing extra contextual information Supernova should help minimize the blind computer user's chance of becoming disoriented on a web page.

Quicker navigation for speedier access

Supernova also provides a number of ways to navigate a web page, such as:

direct navigation and sequential navigation. By providing a variety of navigation methods Supernova allows blind computer users to access a web page more quickly. As mentioned previously, the main page on the AltaVista web site has 201 links, imagine navigating them sequentially using the TAB key to find the link that you wanted! So navigation as well as orientation is an important issue.

Conclusion

This paper has so far discussed the philosophy behind how Dolphin has attacked the problem of navigating a web site in a productive manner. Now there follows a practical demonstration of using Supernova on the Net.

Company Information

Dolphin Computer Access has been designing software for computer users who are blind or partially sighted since 1986. With proven expertise in screen reading with speech and Braille, screen magnification and products in many languages. Dolphin is constantly developing new technologies.

Dolphin is renowned for well designed, stable and reliable software which can be installed with confidence on home computers, laptops and university or corporate networks. Dolphin's powerful software tools are easy-to-use thanks to intelligent design, and popular with students and professionals the world over.

Dolphin's goal is to enable people with a visual impairment to gain full access to industry standard computer systems. Dolphin's clients enjoy the freedom to use all kinds of software and surf the Internet, without having to resort to specially adapted system configurations. This automatic approach also encourages real integration as Dolphin clients can use the same computer systems as their sighted co-workers, family and friends without worry.


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