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AP: New Disabled Web Site Unveiled

From: Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.com>
Date: Fri, 03 Dec 1999 07:08:34 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: webwatch@telelists.com
Cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org, acb-l@telepath.com, vicug-l@maelstrom.stjohns.edu, blindtech@egroups.com, gui-talk@nfbnet.org
Has anyone tried the mouse mentioned in this article?  Personally I am not 
sure I need yet another device to make the web accessible but rather I need 
folks to follow accessible web design practices.  I've had no trouble 
filling out forms and such when accessibility has been used.  Just being 
able to feel there's a box present isn't going to tell me what to enter.

December 2, 1999

New Disabled Web Site Unveiled

NEW YORK -- The publisher of a magazine for the disabled unveiled a new Web 
site and tools Thursday to make the Internet more accessible to the blind 
and other disabled users.

To take advantage of some features, users of We Media Inc.'s site would 
need to buy such special equipment as a vibrating mouse that lets the blind 
``feel'' boxes and images on the computer screen.

Walter Cronkite, the former CBS anchorman who acts as an adviser to the 
site, called the new tools ``the ultimate prosthetic.'' The tools will 
enable the disabled to do such things as take online college courses and 
participate in discussion groups, he said.

The announcement comes a month after the National Federation of the Blind 
sued America Online, calling its software incompatible with programs that 
convert text to audio or Braille.

According to the Census Bureau, one in 10 Americans has a severe disability 
such as blindness.

The for-profit site at www.wemedia.com, affiliated with the publisher of We 
magazine, will go into operation Friday, though some of the services and 
tools won't be available for weeks or months.

The site will offer shopping and access to online college courses, chat 
rooms, lists of jobs at accessible workplaces and real estate brokers who 
specialize in accessible homes.

The software will be written so that the Web page is compatible with such 
tools as the vibrating mouse.

Several other sites cater to the disabled. Some of the access tools are 
also available already. We Media, however, brings both elements together; 
it designs accessible sites and works with hardware companies to develop 
tools for the disabled.

For example, someone with paralysis or other motor impairment could surf 
the site using technology that detects eye movement.

A blind person could use the vibrating mouse to feel and listen to the 
site's visual content. The mouse works with software to convert text into 
computerized voices.

The mouse will sell for several hundred dollars, though We Media is seeking 
arrangements with nonprofit partners to buy the tools in bulk and offer 
them for free or at a subsidized price.

Laurence Bergman, We Media's product manager, likened the one-time purchase 
to that of a wheelchair.

John Doyle, a blind college student from Montreal, said the new mouse 
expands what he could do on the Internet. He has an easier time with 
shopping sites that ask for credit card and other information.

``Before it was difficult to fill out this registration info. I'd have to 
ask someone with sight to do it,'' he said, demonstrating the technology. 
``This allows me to do anything a sighted person would do on the Web.''

So far, We Media is the only Web site to use coding compatible with the 
vibrating mouse. But the maker of the mouse, Haptic Technologies, hopes 
other sites will ultimately adopt the coding as well.

Richard Ring, a blind Web user who runs the International Braille and 
Technology Center for the Blind, said a vibrating mouse would be useful, 
particularly if it worked throughout the Internet. ``I wouldn't want to be 
limited to using a special Web site any more than you would,'' he said.
Received on Friday, 3 December 1999 09:44:14 UTC

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