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Media: IBM Tool Has An Eye For The Blind

From: david poehlman <poehlman1@comcast.net>
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2004 08:14:09 -0400
Message-ID: <000701c46f1c$3a7dd8f0$6401a8c0@DAVIDPC>
To: "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

You can read more about and download the tool from:
Taken from the web page at:
IBM Tool Has An Eye For The Blind
Jim Wagner
July 15, 2004

IBM's (
emerging technologies site, alphaWorks, now features a Java-based
application that lets developers see how their site looks and sounds to a
person with
low-vision impairment or blindness.

Called aDesigner, the tool was developed in the IBM Tokyo Research Lab to
make Web access easier for the thousands of Internet users around the world
go online to conduct their business, read e-mails and shop online.

According to Steven Booth, manager of the Braille and Technology Center for
the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the developer community as a
has done a good job and made real progress in making their sites accessible
to visually impaired Web surfers -- but there is always room for

"Labeling [text with images] is a big problem, as well as having too many
links per page -- it's too confusing to get through -- or have forms that
labeled so you can't tell what field you're in," he said. "Overall, access
is good right now and it's getting better all the time."

Booth said there are a growing number of people who are entering old age now
who know what computers are and aren't intimidated by the Internet as many
in the previous generation might have been. As those people get online,
they're going to want to access the Internet as they always have.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), five in 10
Americans expect to work well into their 70s and 80s; with the Internet as
as it is these days, these workers will need Internet access and the ability
to see or hear the site they're visiting.

"Increasingly, tech jobs require you to do something on the computer
display, if you don't see stuff quickly and find things, it becomes a
problem," said
Jim Chou, IBM emerging technology strategist. "Anything you can do to
improve that is going to help a lot of people."

The 4.6 MB Java application is easily installed on Windows 2000 and XP, but
isn't supported on any other platform. IBM officials say they are looking
the possibility of supporting other operating systems down the road.

The software tool evaluates Web sites on their font choices and colors (and
the ability to change them upon request), compliance with accessibility
alternate text for images and link navigation.

A five-pane window shows the Web site as it looks for most people. Another
browser pane demonstrates how it looks or will read for blind or low-vision
while the bottom three panes list and map out problems aDesigner had with
the Web site.

The site is then scored (from 1 to 100) for compliance, navigability and
listenability and given an overall letter grade from A to D. Also included
in the
program is a "simulator" showing how a Web site looks to a person with
low-vision impairment. Using the simulator

Two of the three largest Internet portals, Yahoo.com and Msn.com, each got a
"C" grade with the simulator. AOL.com scored an "A." AOL's grade might have
been helped by a case in 2000, in which it settled a
discrimination suit
filed by the NFB on charges it wasn't compatible with screen-reading
software. Other popular sites fell into the "C" grade: RIAA.org - C,
Slashdot.org -
C, Universal.com - C, Microsoft.com - C (internetnews.com also received a
C). Apple's itunes.com site got an A.

Chou said there are several software tools on the market today to help Web
designers improve the code on their Web sites, but have limited
They deal with navigational issues, he said, not compliance or

As of now, there are no plans to commercially release the product, Chou
said. The program was placed on the alphaWorks site to give developers a
to use the application and suggest improvements. If there is enough interest
down the road, the program could get wrapped up in the IBM product line.
Received on Wednesday, 21 July 2004 08:14:02 UTC

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