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Self-voicing browsers

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Thu, 14 Oct 1999 10:27:15 -0400
Message-ID: <01BF162E.E0CB74C0.bbailey@clark.net>
To: "'Web Accessibility Initiative'" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Cc: "'Anne Pemberton'" <apembert@crosslink.net>, "'Jonathan Chetwynd'" <jonathan@signbrowser.free-online.co.uk>
Dear Anne P., Jonathan C, et al.,

A while back there was discussion on this list about how to best make web 
pages accessible to non-readers.  I would be most interested in hearing if 
any the products below have been useful for general purpose web browsing by 
persons with severe cognitive impairments.

I have summarized the screen readers and special purpose browsers that were 
suggested, along with my experience.

Henter Joyce JAWS (Job Access With Speech) for Windows (JfW) is a general 
purpose screen reader which is both reasonably easy to use and powerful. 
 It is very popular (as far as screen readers go) and the authors have gone 
to great length to ensure that current version are fully compatibility with 
Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 and latter.  Since this is a product 
designed for the blind, the speech it generates closely follows the focus 
as indicated by the keyboard.  Using the Windows operating system from the 
keyboard ONLY is non-trivial.  My experience is that mouse-oriented users 
find that the speech does not follow where there eyes are looking, and 
therefore they have limited success with JfW.

AI Squared ZoomText Extra is a screen magnification program, but it can be 
run in 1x mode and does include speech.  It is mouse-oriented, so while it 
is not quite vocal enough for a totally blind person, it can work well for 
people needing speech reinforcement.  My experience is that it is not quite 
easy enough to use for persons with severe cognitive impairments.  In 
particular, to read a whole document one invokes "DocReader" which strips 
away all graphics and does not read the current web page in place nor in 

Productivity Works pwWebSpeak is a special purpose browser designed for the 
blind.  I have used it only a little, but I would think that it is not 
useful for this population because (from what I saw of it) it strips away 
all graphics from a HTML document.

IBM's  Home Page Reader is an add-on for Netscape Navigator that provides 
speech only for that product.  I have not tried it.  Does it leave the 
graphics in place?  Knowing the other products better, this is the one (by 
virtue of elimination) that I have the most optimism for in addressing the 
non-reading web browsing audience.

All of the above products have demonstration versions available for 

Thank you very much for your time.

Bruce Bailey
Received on Thursday, 14 October 1999 10:29:03 UTC

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