2001 Conference Proceedings

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INNOVATIVE WEB ACCESS FOR THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED

Roberto Gonzalez
ALVA Access Group
Oakland, CA
www.aagi.com

outSPOKEN World1 for Windows 2000 employs a document methodology as well as exploiting the nuances of braille and speech in order to provide a more complete interface to a web page in comparison to a window or line-by-line approach of the traditional screen reader. As the visible window boundary is less significant than that of sentence, paragraph and frame boundaries, outSPOKEN World1 cleverly provides an undemanding command interface in which the emphasis is placed on content rather than the physical layout of screen elements. This document approach to web access allows the blind user to focus more on information retrieval instead of being mired with inconsequential characteristics of aesthetics and format.

As an extension to the document tactic, outSPOKEN World1 makes available a dialog which collects and presents a list of all links and controls for an entire web page. In this way, navigating to particular elements on a page can be done more efficiently, especially when seeking information in a complicated web document. One option is to set the order criterion in the list to "Alphabetical". Although no reformatting operation of the page is done, the user is presented with a list which can be easily scanned to locate or verify the existence of a particular link. At a push of a button, the same list can be re-organized to reflect the actual order of elements as it appears from top to bottom on the page. Operations within the dialog are offered to either activate the selected element or bring the focus to the corresponding location on the page so that hyperlinks can be quickly followed or information can be read in context with regards to the selected list item.

Reading and reviewing web content is also document oriented. When a page is loaded into the browser, it is automatically read aloud in speech while the braille display is positioned at the top of the page for the user to begin reading. Commands to read the current, previous and next sentence are readily available from the navigation keypad. Moreover, a complete sentence is presented when reading by sentence even if the information is not explicitly shown on the screen. Entering a frame or table is announced in speech and indicated in braille. Navigation between frames and within a table is simplified with a convenient set of familiar commands.

Identifying hyperlinks is independently handled in speech and braille when navigating with built-in keyboard commands or with navigation methods provided by outSPOKEN World1. A special attribute voice is used in speech while a bracketing system is applied in braille in order to identify links. A similar technique is used to indicate the presence of controls such as buttons, edit boxes and Java elements.

Providing a concise and all-purpose command set as well as medium-specific representation in speech and braille improves the efficiency for the blind web user when accessing web content. outSPOKEN World1 minimizes the complexity of accessing web documents by reducing command set complexity as well as standardizing a navigation review interface.


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