NEW TECH ALLOWS BLIND TO 'SEE' ANIMATION, VIDEO ON INTERNET
MANILA, MAY 30, 2007 (BULLETIN) By MELVIN G. CALIMAG - Tech giant IBM has announced a new technology that helps blind and visually impaired people to experience streaming video and animation on the Internet.
Designed at IBM’s Tokyo Research Laboratory, the new multimedia browsing accessibility tool potentially opens a world of rich content to visually impaired people around the world, who number more than 161 million.
The new technology was developed by researcher Chieko Asakawa, who is blind, and her team who wanted to create a tool which did not require developers and content providers to change the page content to make multimedia content such as streaming video accessible.
Around 80 percent of websites are estimated as having accessibility problems, some considerable. Currently, screen-reading software cannot properly recognize streaming video content, making pages that contain them virtually impossible to navigate.
In addition, the audio of a streaming video – which automatically starts playing after the page is loaded -- interferes with a synthesized assistive voice from screen-reading software, a vital assistant for visually impaired users. Furthermore, most multimedia content operates with a mouse rather than keyboard, making it impossible for visually impaired people to use it.
The new multimedia browsing accessibility tool offers people with visual impairment the same multimedia control features sighted people see and operate with a mouse.
To enjoy a streaming video on video-sharing websites, for example, visually impaired people can select the "play" button by simply pressing a predefined shortcut key to control the media instead of roaming the content to search for buttons to control the video.
The tool also allows users to control video replay speed, volume, and even speed up the sound since to people with visual impairment, listening to the sound streaming video offers is painfully slow.
"IBM has a long history of developing innovative solutions for persons with disabilities, and this tool is another example of IBM innovation that will enhance the Web experience for persons with visual impairments," said Frances West, director of IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Center.
IBM said it plans to open source the new multimedia browsing accessibility tool to accelerate the enhancement and adoption of the tool to make multimedia contents accessible for visually impaired.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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