Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Web Access for Blind and Visually Impaired

Source:  "Addressing challenges in web accessibility for the blind and visually impaired" Authors:  Angela Guercio, Charles Haiber, Kathleen Stirbens, Joseph Williams
From: International Journal of Distyance Education Technology 9.4 (Oct-Dec 2011) pg.1

This article highlights an assistive device called WAVES (web accessibility for visually impaired extraction system)

As if it isn't difficult enough for the blind and visually impaired to interact in a visual world, we now put major emphasis on the web when it comes to research and distance learning.  There are many systems and devices such as braille and screen readers to assist the visually impaired, but even the most advanced screen reading devices get confused by the framing and multidimensional layouts of web pages. 

Sighted individuals use more visual clues than they realize.  They can skim text, see pictures, notice bold or colored text, and easily find other clues to quickly guide them through web pages.  Information is easily accessible.  This is not the case for the visually impaired.  They must process each word of text with  a screen reader to get the basic idea of a single page.  This can be very time consuming and frustrating

This is where the WAVES system can help.  It restructures web pages by processing the visual clues that sighted users see (such as bold lettering or colors) , and ordering them by importance.  It then creates linked paths or "elements of interest" that branch into deeper levels of information.  This system allows for visually impaired people to navigate web pages with the assistance of their screen readers, in a similar way as sighted individuals navigate a graphic user interface with their mouse or keyboard.

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