WebAnywhere Helps Blind Users Read Web Pages

Dennis Faas's picture

Those who make frequent online posts may not consider the small percentage of blind individuals who may be checking out their material. The fact is, modern technology has allowed blind people to "read" the same content as those with accurate vision through the use of on-screen reading software.

The downside to these products is high cost, with many assistive software brands selling for $1,000 or more.  That's the main reason why most libraries and Internet cafes refrain from offering these kinds of services; many blind individuals are also refusing to pay the inflated costs for the service, claiming that they are essentially being punished for their vision loss, and have spoken out against companies who wish to profit from their condition. (Source: seattlepi.com)

Jeffery Bigham, a recent graduate from the University of Washington, has now developed a web-based program that promises to make web surfing more accessible to the blind than ever before.

Best of all, the program is completely free to access and use.

WebAnywhere, unlike other on-screen reading software, does not have to be installed on a laptop or home computer. A blind individual must first manage to get online, which may be a difficult endeavour if the computer is not already set to give verbal instructions.

Once online, the blind individual can use WebAnywhere to read any webpage out loud, assuming that the computer is equipped with speakers or a headphone jack.

What makes WebAnywhere unique is that it has the ability to jump section titles and tab through charts. While it may take awhile before users become proficient in all the tricks the program has to offer, Bigham promises that users will eventually feel comfortable using the service on a regular basis.

WebAnywhere is still in its infancy and will eventually require some tremendous upgrades. For starters, many have stated that the program could offer better search functions and have fewer keystrokes needed for navigation. (Source: canoe.ca)

Still, most agree that the program is a major improvement in terms of web access for the blind, and Bigham welcomes the prospect of changes down the road.

For now, Bigham has his sights set on a different agenda: marketing WebAnywhere as a module that commercial search engines will adopt in the near future.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet