M. Zajicek, C. Powell, C. Reeves*
School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane, Oxford, OX3 OBP, UK.
This paper is concerned with the evaluation of a speech output Web browser for the blind and visually impaired, with special reference to how it supports users in building conceptual models of the World Wide Web in the way that sighted users do.
The browser named BrookesTalk reads out the Web page, using speech synthesis, in word, sentence and paragraph mode and offers different views of the page to simulate 'scanning' , ( Zajicek et al, 1998c), ( Zajicek et al, 1998d). Abbreviated views of the page take the form of keywords, summary and abstract and are derived using information retrieval and natural language processing techniques. BrookesTalk also offers a special search facility, a configurable text window for visually impaired users and a standard visual browser so that blind or visually impaired users can work alongside other people who can fully utilise a standard graphical interface.
Since winning a medal in the British Computer Society It Awards 1998 BrookesTalk received considerable publicity and as a result has been requested and distributed free on CD to around 200 blind and visually impaired Web users around the world. It is available from the Web site http://www.brookes.ac.uk/speech.
This paper describes how BrookesTalk functions help blind and visually impaired users to build conceptual models of the Web. It also reports the results of the evaluation program designed to categorise the approaches taken by individuals in scanning the Web using speech.____________________