[AI] research on blind soft ware

firoz firojjee at gmail.com
Sat Sep 15 02:48:31 EDT 2007

The Towerlight, MD, USA
Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Research focuses on software programs for the visually impaired

By Daniel Gross

Towson professor helps blind

A Towson University professor's research is changing the way blind people 
use the Internet. Jonathan Lazar, professor and director of computer and 
sciences, has been conducting research with the National Federation of the 
Blind to change Web design.

In Lazar's research, 100 blind or visually impaired Internet users 
volunteered to document all of the frustrations they encountered while using 
the World
Wide Web.

This is one of the largest studies of blind computer users ever undertaken, 
according to Lazar.

"Most studies have only five to seven volunteers," he said.

Lazar found that the volunteers had many frustrating concerns.

"Most of the problems found for blind users were technically easy to solve," 
Lazar said. "Will it take a lot of time? Yes. But technically it is easy."

There are a number of software programs for blind people to use the Internet 
such as Jaws and Window-Eyes.

"These programs use audio technology and are known as screen readers," said 
Lazar. "They are strictly using audio."

These programs help users navigate Web sites by reading through all the 
material on the site. For example, when browsing through a Web site, while 
a screen reader program on the computer, the program will read off whatever 
information is in the heading of the site and then list each of the 
links to the user.

"Essentially it reads any text and backend code," said Lazar.

Lazar said that one of the problems with the Internet use among the blind 
stems from Web developer's faulty designs. He said that Web developer's 
out descriptions for each link that screen readers would normally speak

"Some pages are misleading, while others don't work at all," Lazar said.

The study found that the Web developers for many sites do not label links in 
a way that screen reader programs can easily communicate to a blind person.

Lazar said this is an easy fix to correct for those Web sites, but it does 
take time. For example, when tabbing to different links and boxes on a Web 
a computer user might highlight an image on the site, but instead of 
describing what the image is, it might say, "click here" when selected.

"This just doesn't do you any good," Lazar said.

He said it is all a matter of spreading awareness to the Web developers. 
Lazar, the NFB, and numerous other organizations are working toward training 

"We need the Web masters to spread the word," Lazar said.

Lazar said he hopes his conclusion of his research is working and that Web 
developers will see the need for better design and coding in Web sites.

"Not all are convinced that accessibility is important," Lazar said. "The 
key is informing people."


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