2003 Conference Proceedings

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VIRTUAL MULTIMEDIA LIBRARY ACCESSIBLE TO BLIND PEOPLE

Presenter
Piotr Brzoza
Silesian University Of Technology
Computer Science Department
Akademicka 16
44=100 Gliwice, Poland
Fax: 011-48-32-2372733
Email: piotrbr@polsl.gliwice.pl

Visually impaired people have limited access to printed media: books, magazines, newspapers etc. Only a small percentage of printed books and magazines are published in the form accessible for this group of readers. These are Braille books and talking books recorded on cassettes. High preparation and publication costs of Braille and talking books are the main reasons of why there is so little of them. Visually impaired readers can borrow accessible books and magazines from specialized libraries for the blind.

Computers with the assistive software like: screen magnifier, screen reader, or talking web browser enable blind users unlimited access to information. Increasingly more public libraries offer online access to their catalogs over the Internet. This new access form allows handicapped readers to search for books, magazines, browse information about found publications and order them. Success of interaction between the reader and library depends on the accessibility of the library service over WWW. Blind users borrow printed books and input them to their computers using scanners and optical character recognition software. Book scanning is a time consuming process. Documents scanned with OCR software contain errors and require corrections. Handicapped readers scan the same books many times because they do not know that they are already available in digital format. Currently most printed materials are created on the computer in digital format. Documents created in this way are accessible to handicapped computer users or can be easily prepared in the format accessible to them. Increasing amount of libraries for the blind are offering electronic books and magazines in html, ASCII, pdf, doc formats and digital talking books in DAISY format.

During the presentation session we will present a system, which manages the virtual library of multimedia publications. The system is a result of a research project conducted by Silesian University Of Technology together with the Academic Library and Laski School for the Blind in Poland. The design of the system allows cataloging and collecting of multimedia publications like e-books, e-magazines, digital talking books, digital music and movies. Assures secure Internet access to the library resources by registered users and provides management of reader's orders and the recording of the ordered publications on CDROM disks. The presented library system is running in Linux environment on Pentium multiprocessor servers. The system is managed with the web user interface and standard Internet web browsers. The library is easily accessible to visually impaired people. The user web interface was designed with the special attention to requirements of blind and low vision internet users and allows for direct access to information on internet pages, easy navigation and adjustment of font size, color and contrast as specified by the individual user. WWW library service was build according to the W3C-WAI web content accessibility guidelines. Accessibility of the library pages was tested with the software for visually impaired users. Zoomtext, Jaws and Window-Eyes were used during testing.

Presented library system offers the following services:
All Internet users can search the library catalog and browse detailed search results with information about found publications. This allows potential readers to get acquainted with offered publications and the user interface of the library system. All other services are available only to registered users. This guarantees secure and controlled access to offered publications. Users of the system are authorized during login with securely passed user identifier and password. Handicapped readers using standard web browsers and assistive software can search publications in the catalog by title and author. Advanced search form allows specifying additional search conditions like: publication category, preferred format, language, publisher and key words. The system also offers searching for publications in selected categories and new publications entered into the system. Found publications are presented as a list. This allows handicapped readers to easily browse search results. After the publication title link is clicked on, the page with the detailed information about the publication is presented to the user. Readers can download publications to their local computer disk, browse publications online, add publications to the cart and browse its contents as in Internet shops. Publications collected in the cart can be ordered on the CD ROM disks. This allows for the alternative way of delivering digital talking books to readers who do not have fast Internet access. Readers can also browse history of borrowed publications and suggest new publications for the library. The library system offers its users context sensitive help available in the navigation bar. The font size and color used on the library pages can be adjusted on a per user basis according to the information stored in the personal user profile.

The system offers following services to library personnel.
Librarians browse and modify the list of new publications proposed by readers. Chose publications to be prepared in accessible format and input them into the library server system. The system manages and allows publications to be prepared by many librarians. Computer workstation, which prepares publications, is equipped with scanner, OCR software, CDRW DVD recorder, software used to create multimedia publications in different formats and assistive software to enable the use of the workstation by handicapped users. The workstation enables preparation of accessible publications from data files obtained from publishers, scanning and edition of printed materials and accessibility testing of prepared publication for visually impaired people. The librarian compresses the prepared publication with the zip program. Next using the web browser he or she enters the catalog data and publication file into the library server. After the data is verified, the publication is available to readers. The library system enables efficient management of publications, reader accounts, orders, and generation of statistical library usage reports. Shippers look up the list of orders entered by readers and chose subsequent orders for delivery. After the order is chosen the system automatically generates ISO IMAGE files with CD ROM images containing ordered publications. In the next step CD ROM images are transferred and recorded on the CD ROM disks. Finally the package is assembled and shipped to the reader. The system enables full control of the ordering process, which also includes unsatisfactory orders.

Presented library system is currently installed in Laski School for the Blind in Poland. 300 pupils and 500 other registered readers in Poland are using it. Currently the library offers around 2000 publications in the polish language. More information about presented system can be found at this web address http://rose.ii.ps.edu.pl/library.html 


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