User Interface of a Home Page Reader

Chieko Asakawa and Takashi Itoh


Winner of the best paper award at the ASSETS 1998 conference, this is the most highly cited ASSETS paper, with over 800 downloads. It describes the first interface for reading the web and articulates the challenges of providing non-visual access to two-dimensional, rich visual information layouts, that we still grapple with today. The research also became a successful IBM product, available in 11 languages – Home Page Reader was the first product on the market to provide effective internet access for blind people, and represented an important step towards a web accessible to all. Its legacy endures, as many of the innovative features described in the paper have been adopted by today’s screen readers to allow blind users to navigate effectively through hypertext.

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We first discuss the difficulties that blind people face in trying to lie in society, because of the lack of accessible information resources, and then consider the potential of the Web as a new information resource for the blind. After describing how blind people in Japan currently access the Web, we give an overview of our system for non-visual Web access. Our system has five special characteristics. One is the use of a numeric keypad for surfing the Net, with a key assignment designed for intuitive operation. The second is a fast- forward key for quick reading. The next two are that hyperlinks are read in a female voice and HTML tags are converted into voice data. The fifth is that the system can be synchronized with Netscape Navigator. After evaluating the system and offering some conclusions, we discuss our plans for future work

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