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IBM The Internet Technology

Web Guru To the Blind 43

the_newsbeagle writes "Chieko Asakawa went blind at age 14, learned to program mainframe computers by sense of touch, and has spent her 27 years at IBM-Tokyo bringing personal computing and the Internet to the blind. From the article: 'By 1997 she had developed a plug-in that worked with the Netscape browser, mapping Web navigation commands to the computer keyboard's number pad and using text-to-speech technology to read out content. Computer stores around the world sold IBM's Home Page Reader, and Asakawa says its effect on the blind community was immediate, electric, and sometimes touching. ... Other browsers for the blind followed IBM's groundbreaking efforts, and Asakawa moved on to addressing a deeper problem: the fact that designers were unintentionally creating inaccessible websites. She and her team wrote a program called aDesigner ... to allow designers to experience a site as blind users do and to suggest ways to improve navigation for audio browsers.'"
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Web Guru To the Blind

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @05:35PM (#38920907)

    ...nothing to see here

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually, this story is rather interesting. I'd say the blind have finally discovered their Holy Braille.

  • But where is the news? its just a random story...

  • Not the Only One ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 03, 2012 @05:44PM (#38921013)

    See also T V Raman, author of AsTeR and Emacspeak. Has worked at Xerox, Adobe, IBM, currently at Google.

  • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @05:45PM (#38921027) Homepage Journal

    As a web designer part time, I find it frustrating to try to tell my clients "that's not a good idea" when they think because they stand over the shoulder of their 15 year old and watch him surf the web that they are experts on UI design and web compatibility. NO, really, you are going to piss people off and alienate them with that! I usually have to use the "Google won't see it either" trick to get them to agree to simple stuff like redundant text-based menus.

    Looks like it's still in beta, but will see what's up anyway.

    Ironically enough, the Eclipse web site that hosts the install files has a menu that won't work in Chrome.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I admire people who don't let their handicaps handicap them. It amazes me how successful Chieko is at programming, despite her blindness. Sometimes it takes a loss of sight or hearing to stop taking our senses for granted. The loss of a sense, when accepted with a good attitude, motivates one to develop the full potential in their remaining senses.

  • by Spectre ( 1685 ) on Friday February 03, 2012 @05:51PM (#38921081)

    ... works pretty well.

    I've found that as long as sites I'm working on are reasonable navigable with Lynx, then they work for most adaptive technology users (of which my son is one).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But I wish this didn't have to exist. I wish that we had the same enthusiasm for biotech as we do for space... Seeing blind people touch away at our highest technology while we are still unable to master our own biology seems ... odd.

  • The fact that aDesigner requires "Internet Explorer 6.0 or above", thereby making the tool itself inaccessible to a significant portion of the web development community, is almost too much to bear.

    • The fact that aDesigner requires "Internet Explorer 6.0 or above", thereby making the tool itself inaccessible to a significant portion of the web development community, is almost too much to bear.

      That would be the significant portion that doesn't bother to test their sites with the very quirky browser used by an even more significant portion of their users. Something tells me that if they can't be bothered testing for a large segment of their market, then they would not bother to test for the much smaller segment of visually impaired users.

    • I have karma to burn and I was going to moderate this thread, but I think its more important that I comment.

      I'm legally blind. I use JAWS and other software to hear the internet when the little vision I have in one eye goes south; And let me tell you this; Nobody cares about the blind when it comes to computers.

      We are a small market segment because most blind people cant afford technology, and even worse because we are small companies feel like they can get away with screwing us over because they kno

  • I could not come up with a line for the subject and I could not RTFS or TFA for some neuropsychriatric reason, but I think that a plug for Accessible Computing Foundation would probably be in order right about just there: []

    I heard about this on the linux outlaws podcast number 246: []

    They interviewed Jonathan Nadeau, who started the project. He's a blind gnu/linux user/peddler. I think I've repeteadly heard him on the Kernel Panic too.

  • by Deliveranc3 ( 629997 ) <deliverance AT level4 DOT org> on Friday February 03, 2012 @08:10PM (#38922551) Journal
    I worked a lot on software for people with disabilities, did a GPS navigation app for Symbian back in the day.

    Got commissioned by the U.N. to look into adaptive technologies. Summary follows: Products fall into two broad categories: commercial and altruistic. Altruistic products are usually brilliantly designed for a specific person (This is considered the central issue of adaptive technologies and is the major talking point. specificity) usually a relative or friend. These products are ingenious, well made and available for extremely reasonable prices. You can find them if you search hard online, generall,y someone making a TTS engine for his daughter isn't a web guru with a marketing budget. The second group is the commercial products, almost universally INSANELY overpriced. $50 of hardware sells for $5000. Visual basic level software selling for hundreds or thousands of dollars. This exorbitance is rationalized through: Disability being a "small" market (regardless if a product sells 100,000 a year), quality (you shouldn't force a person to learn a new technology every few years, hardware breakdown is a nightmare if it's non-standard and you NEED it to read,communicate or work) which is bullshit I've seen just as much breakdown and poorly written,documented and supported software from the major players as from the passion projects, and source of funding... taxpayers, bureaucrats and contracts. I'm sure you've seen it before, bleeding hearts SUCK at negotiation. Dignity is a problematic area I've encountered a few times as well, products that work ideally but provoke surprise or distaste from those without special needs are discarded. *(special rant follows useful information).

    What I told the U.N.: You have three problems: 1.) This stuff is expensive, and overpriced... getting it to developing countries is going to be extremely difficult and infrastructure for them will also be extremely costly. 2.) Languages most people DO NOT SPEAK ENGLISH. Since this stuff is commercial, not open source, there is little opportunity or motivation to create versions for Swahili speakers. It's bad... if you don't speak English, French, German, Italian or Spanish your options are diminished 99.5%.
    Then of course I got pissed and determined and decided I would let a blind dude in the Phillipines see. I went through the spending of all long term programs to purchase technologies for people with disabilities and looked at the actual distribution of people's needs (People in Africa have an incredibly high level of amputation for example). It turns out that THE U.S. ALONE is already spending 10x to 20x what it would cost to do the job, we're just putting the money into companies instead of open sourcing it or creating a community lead program for development.
    This is obviously speculation and I'd need to provide a lot of evidence to prove how inefficient it is but an example was my call to the Arizona school board. $50,000,000 a year, for approximately 4000 arriving disabled high schoolers.

    My recommendation: move funding towards open source software and hardware, nothing else will solve the language and distribution issues... the technologies are just moving too fast and the users are too clueless for any help from market forces in this direction.

    Rant time! Ok I'd like to introduce you to a man his name is Ray Kurzweil. From now on I will call him The Jewish Nazi or JN for short.

    Mr. Kurzweil was one of the first to market will an OCR device, nothing special a webcam and a flat panel to put the documents on... and only $8000! Because he got in early his company achieved name recognition, which was good because I compiled a LIST OF EVERY ELECTRONIC DEVICE it's about 2100 products or so. Then went to several leading experts to determine which products were excellent and which were popular (huge divergence) JN sells a lot... but his products all suck and are overpriced.
    So now our Jewish Nazi has the disabled community by the balls and starts gouging away. $10,000 for screen readi
  • Rather than copy everything over, take a look here; []

    Summary of points:
    - Accessibility is a good theme, but a bad goal - it never pays for itself
    - Retrofitting accessibility on a pre-existing systems is a bad idea
    - Most apps/sites/etc are 'accessible enough'

  • The main problem with the aDesigner approach is that it is based on assumptions about how a blind individual accesses a webpage with a specific screen reader. Reality is that there are multiple screen readers that are commonly used by the blind, and they have differences in how they present a webpage. As such, a simulation of how a webpage is rendered through a screen reader would need to be configurable based on the behaviour of the various screen readers, and often even different versions of a specific

  • "She and her team wrote a program called aDesigner ... to allow designers to experience a site as blind users "

    You need a program to close your eyes to experience a site as blind users?

Someday your prints will come. -- Kodak