Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Showcase Part III

(I'm not crazy about the backwards order of these posts...but it'll have to do - such is the nature of the Blog)

Braille Displays

A Braille display is a device which does exactly as its name says: displays input and output in Braille. Connected to a keyboard, there are pins which will rise up and down, displaying text line by line (also known as “refreshable Braille display). Found at, these do not come cheap: depending on the model, the price runs anywhere from $2000.00 to $7000.00 USD.

The visually impaired not only include those with limited or no vision, but also those who have color blindness. This particular condition cannot be alleviated for computer users on the user’s end, but rather on the site developer’s side of the equation. In fact, for the Internet to be made accessible to all users – disabled or not – there are standards and conditions which are prescribed and recommended in order to include all groups of users in the equation. This will be discussed in another section.

For color blindness in particular, there is a website which will simulate the appearance of any website according to a specified colorblindness (Deuteranope – a form of red/green color deficit, Protanope – another form of red/green color deficit, and Tritanope – a very rare blue/yellow deficit). The page is found at and if you go to “run images” or “run webpages” at the left, the simulation is easily done. The results are quite enlightening and very relevant, as will be illustrated later in this showcase.

There are pages which can test a site for accessibility, to be outlined further in this showcase.

The Hearing Impaired

While computers are fairly “more” accessible to the hearing impaired than to the visually impaired (i.e. the hearing impaired have no trouble using a mouse or navigating a screen) there are audio cues and enhancements which help the user identify errors, task completion or need for input (AbilityNet p. 1*) Built directly into Windows XP, Sound Sentry is an assistive tool which gives visual cues to the hearing impaired. Also in the Accessibility package of Windows XP is Show Sound which, when enabled, has the programs display captions for the speech and sounds which are output by the programs on the screen.

Web Accessibility

The Internet has much to offer in its guidelines on accessibility. If a page passes the accessibility test, it can be much more user-friendly to those with visual impairments and in some cases, makes the difference between a viable page and one that is useless. As mentioned before, given the high visual nature of computer use in general, this impairment is the one which faces the most challenges and thus is the one to which more assistive tools are addressed in this showcase. The W3C (Web Content Accessibility Guide) has a checklist which can be found at - it is recommended that all websites be checked against this list for accessibility of content.

There are other tools which will evaluate web pages for accessibility. One such tool is called WAVE and is a product offered by the WebAIM site (Web Accessibility In Mind). WebAIM ( is a site which provides articles and utilitarian sites and tools specifically for the accessibility of sites. WAVE’s output is a graphical interface of a submitted URL (if you enter any URL on their page at as it assesses the content and design for accessibility. Not only is it interesting to check pages against the criteria provided, it is vital to the future of web design if designers are to keep in mind the increasing number of disabled users flocking to the Internet, now made more accessible through the use of tools such as the ones described here. According to AbilityNet, " An accessible website is a staggering 35% easier to use for every visitor!".**

*AbilityNet Factsheet, March 2005, retrieved on October 27, 2005 from

**AbilityNet Homepage, retrieved on October 27, 2005 from and based on a report from the DRC (Disability Rights Commission) Formal Investigation Report: web accessibility, April 14, 2004; found at and retrieved on October 28, 2005.

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