IBM announced a new tool this week that improves visually impaired people’s access to streaming video and animation on the Internet.
The multimedia browsing accessibility tool hasn’t been named yet but was developed in IBM’s Tokyo research laboratory. Chieko Asakawa, a senior accessibility researcher at IBM who has been blind since the age of 14, spearheaded the development of the new software out of frustration with streaming video.
Traditionally, screen-reading software and self-talking browsers don’t help bring online video to people who cannot see control buttons on a screen or access the buttons with a mouse. The audio, which automatically begins playing after a page opens, interferes with the sound of screen-reading software.
The new IBM tool lets people use smart keys, or shortcuts on their keyboards, instead of the visual control panel to adjust volume and playback. It also allows users to increase volume and audio speed, because audio from streaming video can seem excruciatingly slow to people with visual impairments.
Developers wrote the software primarily in Java. It supports Internet Explorer. It has been tested for the Adobe Flash Player and Microsoft’s Windows Media Player.
IBM has developed other technologies for the visually impaired, including a talking browser and programs that help people with visual impairments adjust font sizes and color contrast on Web pages.
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