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The concern expressed in this paper can be articulated as 'BLIND PEOPLE and the WORLD WIDE WEB'. We read the book. We finished reading the book and like to read newspaper. After reading the newspaper, go online and surf some websites. People have millions of websites to surf from, but the QUESTION here is; What If You Are Blind?
Here the part is to review and give a unbiased critic for:
"NavAccess - Website Navigation for Blind Users"
-Hans Hillen and Dr. Vanessa Evers, University of Amsterdam
Visually impaired people are growing by millions globally. Use of internet is increasing and prominent because of the vast amounts of information array, of services that are available, but the benefits to the visually impaired (blind people) is not much. Internet can be of great importance to the blind (who cannot complete some tasks such as reading mail) as it empowers them to complete some task independently.
Braille is the only way for the blinds that have no other means of technology. Blind people are dependent on information to be translated to braille for them, which takes time to produce. But the concept of the Website Accessibility has described a way the blind can access the internet.
What is Website Accessibility?
Assertive Technology: size, speed, compatibility may all be the problem for this group. Website's level of accessibility is described as 'accessible' when its content is available to everyone, irrespective of any visual, auditory, rational impairment.
"Assuming everyone except the blind students would automatically have full access online - that is a bad assumption".
"While we hear people discuss the issue of acceptability to online learning we assume that everyone except blind students would automatically have full access because of the online environment - that's a bad assumption - which is simply not true."
Is Internet Accessible?
Website is designed in the best possible manner to attract the people, but the website designers are still unaware of the "Web Content Accessibility Guidelines". The reason for not following the guidelines is because the impaired users are too small group to be considered by the designers, when time, effort and money comes in too consideration.
Website Navigation for Blind Users
Since last many decades there are many inventions in the rich graphical technology called DESKTOP. For the significant people who have complete blindness, they have two choices.
Screen Reader: It turns the visual output on the standard/graphical interface which is accessible to the blind user. This application describes the blind reader in speech, what the graphical interface is displaying. A device known as text-to-speech synthesizer or Braille output device - where a collection of mechanical pins that pop up and produce braille characters under the user fingertips. The screen reader acts the same way, reading out the contents on the screen, such as pop up boxes, buttons, links, number list, bulleted list. Screen reader such as JAWS, Windows Eye and Thunder, and Narrator the screen reader in Windows operating system.
Blind people uses braille displays, hardware devices with retractable braille pins, allowing braille characters to be generated on the fly.
What are the successful navigation tools for the blind?
Organization is 'THE' problem - theirs and yours and ours! For successful navigation there should be need for structure, need for consistency, and need for direction. The W3C User Agent Accessibility Guideline (UAAG) provides the rules that can be applied to design the navigational tool for the blind. Applications made for the use of the blind to navigate around the websites must be customizable and configurable to handle multiple inputs and output devices. These applications are able to communicate with the web browsers and the assertive technology.
W3C Accessible Rich Internet Applications specification (ARIA)
Accessibility to the web content requires structures and behaviors to allow technology to deliver suitable information. The role of the user agent comes in here. User agents are any software that delivers web content for the user using assertive technologies. Assertive technology is the hardware or software that acts as the user agent. The service provided by them is the alternate representation of synthesized speech and speech recognition, navigational and orientation transformations.
The traditional application for the blind used to read the contents of webpages such as the, banner, search, main, content info (footers), sidebars and navigation. Example JAWS, which have the role to jump from one landmark to another by pressing the semi-colon key on the keyboard. But besides this the application was not able to skip navigation with the similar links on the same page.
Here come the role of "application "which plays a greater part for navigation.
Considering the Case study of Website Navigation for Blind Users by Hans Hillen and Dr. Vanessa Evers, there goal and approach are clear and specific. The detail described for the navigation for NavAccess in the case study is high and the interface is easy to learn and predictable.
What they did?
Here we are going to discuss in more detail, and get a better understanding about the problem related to website navigation for the blind and the possible solutions.
Hans Hillen and Dr. Vanessa Evers tried to come with new way for providing navigation for the blind, in a way they don't have to uses too many assertive technologies available.
There are two types of navigational style for the blind user:
NavAccess navigational style
Main browser style
The NavAccess Navigational Style allows the user to navigate the website without having to parse and listen to the content of the entire page. In this way the user can build a mental model of the website.
However, in this form of navigation have low-level of detail; the page content is avoided and only the linked content and the pages are included. This creates a list of links of the entire website than just a single page.
The Main Browser style is the regular interface provided by the user's browser. When a particular page of interest is found by the user, NavAccess can be used to navigate that page in the browser window.
The main difference here is; the two styles counterparts each other. To explain in simples words:
NavAccess navigation: - quick navigation but low-level of detail.
Main browser navigation: - slow navigation but high-level of detail.
But the counterpart of this style is the real benefit for the Blind users. The user having the choice to switch between the two styles, the user can be more successful in website navigation.
The Human Integration:
NavAccess controls can be performed using the Numeric keypad and the 4 arrow keys, found to the right of the numeric keypad. The left arrow key and the right arrow key are used to browser to the links available on the currently selected page. The down arrow key is used to go to the selected link and the up arrow key is works as the back button.
Screen readers: Used for sending information through synthesized speech in combination with Braille display.
Text-to-speech: This converts text to synthetic speech.
How will the blind handle Assertive technology?
Will the technology according to the expectations?
Will the developers be able to provide nonvisual access to their applications?
Can they build web applications, so there is no need for the blind, to use the assertive technology?
In answer to this we can say that "The application mode is new and can be confusing to the people, who are not using the screen readers or any assertive technology tools. When the application prompts saying "application mode" means the user is prompted to let him or her know the interface is similar to some application and not the traditional webpage. Again the virtual mode would not be enough when used with dynamic web application."
Reading the above discussion, it is not placid to figure anyway out to make the blind comfortable in using the application. "In desktop applications the 'application mode is definitely an improvement'. The application and the technology that are made and launched in the market are the standardized keyboard interface.
Where they need to focus?
Guidance: The first focus must be given to the guidance for the blind. Where the information can be found and what can be done to find the information. This information can be provided in virtual environment. As an alternative they should be provided with summary information about the current website, and the current page. Preview information of the link targets should be providing to the users.
More Choices: If the user is lost somewhere or click the wrong link, the user lose track on the current webpage. They should have the "undo" option, through which the user can go back some steps to correct the links and can be redirected.
Cognitive Overload: large page in the website are difficult to navigate because of cognitive overloading. The navigation structure of the links should be small and manageable size to work. The links which are available should be categorized by relevance, and type of the subject, by doing so are more manageable.
To assume: Offering a separate interface to a website's overall structure does not improve website navigation for blind users.
For any application it will be too soon to give a reaction and too soon to find out the reaction of the users. The assertive technology for the blind may be around for some years but it is all new enough, and is not widespread.
The critic about NavAccess is not critical. The answer over here is that "users should be given a choice whether they want to go in the Application Mode or not when prompted".
NavAccess even tough having the application as an Add-On on the Mozilla Firefox page and people can use it, the real thing lie-in how it in more robust? And where it complies with the HCI standards?
There are software's like;
JAWS for Windows by Freedom Scientific
Window-Eyes by GW Micro
HAL and Supernova by Dolphin Computer Access (which also handles screen magnification).
NavAccess works with different website, but are the website compliant with Section 508 standards. NavAccess can only work with the website that is evaluated using the
Bobby evaluation tool, provided by Watchfire
The Web Content Accessibility Checking Service, provided by the W3C
TIDY: an HTML cleanup tool
NavAccess used the standards but the reference should be considered in the context to make the application better by getting the review of the following organizations.
American Foundation for the Blind
Royal National Institute for the Blind (United Kingdom)
World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Mozilla accessibility pages
NavAccess is a screen-reader with the application compatibility but the major concern here is the application works only with browser like Mozilla Firefox. Since Mozilla Firefox is open source the designer can write the code needed to make the integration in the browsers extension, but What About the Other Browsers? The integration should also be done in their browsers by uniting and coming out with more way of implementation for the blind.