Monday, March 26, 2007

IBM tool 'reads' Web video for blind

A new technology for helping blind read Web pages ...

"IBM has made a tool for Web browsers that will help the blind and visually impaired access streaming multimedia on the Web.

The tool, which works with Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Mozilla's Firefox Web browser, is designed to handle any file that is embedded in a Web site, including Adobe Flash or Windows Media files.

"Just because someone is blind, it doesn't mean they shouldn't be enjoying YouTube or MySpace or anything else like that," said Frances West, director of the Worldwide Accessibility Center for IBM.

The prevalence of audio on the Web seems like it would be an ideal addition for those with visual impairments, but it's not. Screen readers and talking Web browsers were designed mainly for translating text to voice and have yet to adjust functions to fully support multimedia, according to West.

When streaming audio or video requires users to click a Play button using their mouse, there is usually no keystroke alternative, and the controls are randomly placed on the screen, West said. If they can't press Play, they can't experience the multimedia.

In cases where the audio or video streams automatically once a page loads, the Web page's audio often interferes with a user's audio aids.

The multimedia browsing accessibility tool from IBM's Tokyo Research Laboratory will provide predefined shortcut keys to control multimedia on any given Web site. In addition to functions like Play and Rewind, users can control the volume and replay speed.

The tool will also read metadata, if the video creator includes it, that plays a screen narrative to describe what's going on in a given video. The function offers the same control as movies for the visually impaired. A person can select to listen to the original audio only or turn on the screen narration, according to West."    (Continued via ZDNet)    [Usability Resources]

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