Web Access For All
WebAnywhere, developed by a computer science graduate student at the University of Washington is a Web-based screen reader for the Web. It requires no special software to be installed on the client machine. Therefore, it enables blind people to access the Web from any accessible computer with a sound card.
Blind people generally use screen-reader software while using computers. However, these products can cost more than $1,000 (Rs 45,000), so they’re not exactly common on public PCs at libraries or Internet cafes. Jeffrey Bigham, the developer of a new free Web-based program hopes his program would let blind people check a flight time on a public computer at the airport, plan a bus route at the library or type up a quick e-mail at an Internet cafe.
To use WebAnywhere, a blind person has to get online. This can be troublesome with computers not setup to be able to respond to voice commands. However, according to Bigham, Web-savvy blind people often know plenty of keyboard tricks and when to ask for help.
Once online, a blind Web surfer can have any Web page read out loud with the help of the WebAnywhere browser. All you need to have are speakers or headphones. The program can skip around the section titles, tab through charts or read the page from top to bottom.
WebAnywhere runs on practically any machine, regardless of the operating system and the browsers are installed. The alpha version released recently, has received significant attention! Professor Richard Ladner, an adviser of Bigham hopes a commercial search engine will adopt WebAnywhere as a module. Ladner hopes Web developers keep blind people in mind when they design Web pages, so that information could be easier to find for everyone.