The ViewPlus IVEO technology is based on Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) and is being developed to allow scientists to publish graphics that are easy to access and understand by people with special needs. The first release of IVEO was designed to make simple graphics accessible. The paper focuses on the second release, which is being developed to facilitate improved text accessibility, linking and interactivity. It also gives a glimpse of the research being conducted to expand accessibility of quantitative data in IVEO documents by using no-speech audio.
Charts and diagrams are a vital part of the scientific discipline and other professional literature. Typically these are made accessible to people with visual impairments through word description or a tactile diagram. However, neither can do full justice to the diagram, and thus act as a hindrance in learning. The latter, though, is considered a better option, but it requires the blind students to develop an innate tactile sense which has less spatial resolution. Besides, not many blind students are familiar with it.
The IVEO facilitates accessibility of SVG graphic information for many scientific graph-, bar/pie chart-, and diagram-authoring applications that can automatically insert object titles as well as quantitative data. Other features, like the IVEO Creator, automatically structures SVG text into geometrically-associated portions that are normally semantically related. The IVEO Viewer provides access to blind people to view files and is equipped with other helpful accessibility features for people with other visual and learning disabilities.
Development of the IVEO is the result of extensive research. Besides beta testing results, a group of blind users tested the system and helped find bugs and make the software more user-friendly and robust. Also, another concern of the developers was whether the IVEO could provide access to mainstream information without extensive editing by transcribers. The alpha and beta testing clarified all their doubts.
The second release takes care of the recorded voice feature, as IVEO will be expanded to permit recordings instead of, or in addition to, the ability to use synthetic speech. A linking feature that facilitates playing digital recordings provided by links and SVG files that open audio applications in the background to play audio in different formats is defined broadly in the new release. Also, interactivity through SGV will be facilitated in the second release that will act basically as a research tool for ViewPlus and academic researchers.
The new IVEO has an improved touch-and-speak method for reading the short phrases used on diagrams. It will permit users to select regions and read the text with the keyboard just like in a word processor. The color hue or intensity, which represents quantitative information, cannot be represented accessibly in the IVEO release 1. The second release will represent the visual variable by an audio tone whose pitch changes as the user moves the mouse over the diagram.
The second release of the IVEO is equipped with better features and accessibility options for the visually impaired. It is definitely a better product in terms of design, layout and – most importantly – features than the first release.
This article was written by Dennis van der Heijden of www.axistive.com and printed on July 13th, 2006.