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RE: Audio formats

From: John Foliot - bytown internet <foliot@bytowninternet.com>
Date: Fri, 7 Feb 2003 13:24:53 -0500
To: "Webmaster@EDD \(by way of Judy Brewer <jbrewer@w3.org>\)" <web@edd.ca.gov>
Cc: "W3c-Wai-Ig" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <GKEFJJEKDDIMBHJOGLENCEGCDCAA.foliot@bytowninternet.com>

Interesting proposition.  Since my local bookseller already stocks "books on
tape" it would stand to reason that manuals in particular, available as
stand-alone downloads, could in fact offer a benefit to all users, not just
the visually impaired.

The question then becomes, which format?  Non-compressed file formats (.wav,
.au. ai, etc.) present problems due to file size.  The four leading
technologies would probably be then .mp3, RealMedia, QuickTime and
Microsoft's Windows Media files.  If you are prepared to make the audio
available in these formats as an alternative I cannot see a reason not to
provide them.  I would caution however that it really shouldn't be the
*only* way of accessing the content, as each of these technologies require
helper applications which may not be available in all platform/user

As to effectiveness, while the idea certainly sounds reasonible, how could
you "search" a manual that was a continuous stream of audio content?  I'm
not really sure you can...  Ditto for a Form in audio format.  At least the
current screen reading technologies are using a searchable "base" of text
with which it then interacts.  So, depending on the purpose of the manual or
form, it may or may not be effective or even useful.

Just my $0.02 (I realize upon re-reading that it's actually a non-answer,
but rather musings out loud...)


> I have questions related to the presentation of audio files (.mpg, .wav,
> etc) as an assistive technology for the visually impaired user.
> Does anyone
> have experience using audio files with respect to improving accessibility
> for the visually impaired community?
> My department is working on ways to increase accessibility of our web
> content.  My advice has stressed the importance of document formatting and
> tagging that will ensure navigability/usability in conjunction with screen
> reader browsing software.  I never considered audio files to be a
> particularly effective format for improving accessibility of
> content for the
> visually impaired user.
> One program are would like to deploy audio versions of their departmental
> forms and manuals (some of which are 50+ pages in length), with the
> rationale that visually impaired users can then "listen" to the forms.  I
> don't consider this to be an effective use of audio technology, however I
> have also never seen it used in that way.
> I'm curious to know whether or not others have found a way to use audio
> effectively in the context described.
> Thanks.
> Sean Blackburn
> Webmaster
> State of California
> Employment Development Department
> 800 Capitol Mall, MIC 79-5, Sacramento, CA 95814-7735
Received on Friday, 7 February 2003 13:25:12 UTC

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