The University of Washington has developed a new tool called WebAnywhere that allows the blind and visually impaired surf the Web on the go. It turns screen-reading into an Internet service that reads aloud Web text on any computer with speakers or headphone connections. For the past month that WebAnywhere has been available, Bigham, has received inquiries from librarians and teachers who struggle to find the time to locate free software, get permission to install it and then maintain the program. They plan to continue to update the program and make improvements.
Back on January 4, 2006 Google changed up their logo into “Braille” for the day to celebrate Louis Braille's birthday who developed the Braille system allowing the blind to read. The running joke at the time was that Google’s Braille logo was like the Braille they put on drive up ATMs. Although we like to think that it is a silly thing, from my time on the road I am quite sure there are a number of drivers that could really use it. (Down in Boston they tend to change direction frequently and at seemingly random times, as opposed to LA, where they would just assume run you over for getting in the way, in either case seeming oblivious to the fact that you are there.)
For the almost 10 million people in the United States who are blind or visually impaired it is no joke. Using a computer has usually required special screen-reading software installed only on their own machines. Jeffrey Bigham, a University of Washington doctoral student in computer science and engineering believes that people are moving from computers at home, to work, to internet kiosks in libraries, malls, hotels, and schools. Bigham is quoted as saying “Traditional desktop tools such as e-mail, word processors and spreadsheets are moving to the web so we have them accessible wherever we go. Access technology, which currently runs only on the desktop, needs to follow suit.”