Re: Drawing Program for the Blind

From: John Gardner (John.Gardner@orst.edu)
Date: Tue Jul 02 2002 - 09:50:01 PDT


Hello Lloyd. I heard a presentation by Kamel at the ICCHP (International
Conference on Computers Helping People with special needs) in Karlsruhe
Germany a couple of years ago. He has devised a totally keyboard
navigation and totally audio feedback system for creating graphics. He had
trouble conveying the essence of his method in a lecture format, which may
just be that anything innovative is hard to describe. A hands-on workshop
is needed to "get it" I think. Sounds cool. Hope it does work - god knows
we need some way to create graphics.

John

At 06:15 AM 7/2/02 -0700, you wrote:
>Does anyone know this engineer? Sounds like an interesting approach to
>drawing. I wish he was coming to our convention instead of going to
>Scotland. I found this article posted on the Lynx development list.
>
> >
> > Computer-drawing program allows blind to 'see'
> >
> > Copyright 2002
> > United Press International
> >
> > [1]E-mail this story
> >
> > By LIDIA WASOWICZ, UPI Senior Science Writer
> >
> >(June 30, 2002 11:33 a.m. EDT) - Frustrated by the difficulty of
> >incorporating charts into his school reports, Hesham Kamel, a blind
> >engineering student at the University of California at Berkeley, has
> >designed a computer-drawing program that permits the visually
> >impaired to create - and "see" - illustrations, graphics and other
> >images on the screen.
> >
> >Kamel, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Electrical
> >Engineering and Computer Sciences, has set his sights on refining the
> >prototype, dubbed Integrated Communication 2 Draw, into a viable
> >commercial product.
> >
> >"There's nothing else out there that can help me create and view
> >graphics," said Kamel, 40, who lost his vision 17 years ago through a
> >surgeon's error. "With the IC2D, blind people can use screen readers
> >paired with voice synthesizers to literally hear text on the computer
> >screen."
> >
> >Taking advantage of the universal familiarity with the layout of a
> >telephone keypad, the program divides the screen into nine squares,
> >each labeled with the corresponding numbers "1" through "9." Moving
> >from square to square is just like dialing a telephone number. Each
> >time a user enters a square, he or she has the option of subdividing
> >it into another three-by-three grid, zooming in on increasingly finer
> >details in the drawing. The program is capable of repeating the
> >progression 81 times for a total of 729 possible squares.
> >
> >The recognizable keypad arrangement replaces the traditional computer
> >staple of pull-down menus - which present a challenge to blind users
> >- for controlling commands, shapes, lines and colors. When pointing a
> >cursor at a particular cell, the navigator can ask for audio feedback
> >that describes the location - for example, square 1 - or the shapes
> >or pictures represented within.
> >
> >The system can enable the blind to draw and create animations for
> >school, pleasure or work, said Kamel, who has been showing off the
> >evolving project at conferences on human-computer interaction and
> >assistive technology since 1999, in the United States and Europe. He
> >will present the latest model July 8-10 at a meeting of the
> >Association for Computing Machinery in Edinburgh, Scotland.
> >
> >When he describes his software, Kamel likes to involve the audience
> >in an exercise that demonstrates the struggle the visually impaired
> >face when drawing, particularly on a computer. Standing in the center
> >of the room, palm extended toward his listeners, he asks them to
> >point at his hand, close their eyes, move their finger to another
> >object, then return it to its original position, site now unseen.
> >
> >"Nine-nine percent of the time, I get the whole audience laughing
> >because they're not on target," Kamel said.
> >
> >Therein lies the challenge for those who cannot see. Once they pick
> >up their pen or move their mouse, how do they locate the next point
> >or return to the previous one to continue drawing?
> >
> >Kamel used the simplified phone keypad patterns to help blind users
> >locate those points. In place of the impractical pull-down menus, he
> >converted and organized the program's functions into four more
> >blind-friendly palettes, also set up in telephone keypad formation.
> >One palette includes file options, such as saving a picture. A second
> >is devoted to predefined colors and a third to shapes. The fourth
> >palette contains functions that allow users to create animation.
> >
> >Kamel is asked often why those without sight would need to draw
> >something they cannot see.
> >
> >"There are many people out there who can't understand that blind
> >people have imaginations, just as sighted people do," he said. "For
> >me, it's all about independence."
> >
> >It is a lesson learned over his sightless years.
> >
> >"After I became blind, I found out that most sighted people think
> >that blind people have little or no independence. For example, the
> >prevailing attitude is if you cannot see a piece of steak, then
> >someone has to cut it for you. If you're going to an unfamiliar
> >place, then someone has to travel with you. And if you cannot see the
> >computer screen, then someone has to do the work for you," Kamel told
> >United Press International.
> >
> >"I wanted to make a little contribution and change some of that. One
> >of the main ideas behind IC2D is providing a method for blind people
> >to deal with graphical output without the assistance of a sighted
> >person. It was also important to make the software not dependent on
> >bulky, expensive external devices in order to increase the user's
> >mobility and make the application more widely available."
> >
> >The IC2D software is a remarkable achievement, said James Landay,
> >associate professor of computer science at Berkeley and Kamel's
> >thesis advisor who inspired and guided the project.
> >
> >"It has been amazing to see some of the drawings that Hesham's blind
> >research participants have created," Landay told UPI. "These are
> >drawings they never could have made before. One man blind since birth
> >drew a side view of a car that's as good as anything I could draw!"
> >
> >Victoria Hahn of Susanville, Calif., who has been testing the product
> >since 1999, is sold on the software.
> >
> >"I think the program is fantastic and extremely usable," said Hahn, a
> >blind mother of five grown children who is pursuing a degree and
> >career in art. "It takes a matter of minutes to pick up on the
> >system, on how it works and how to use the different levels and
> >access the different shapes and colors. Each time you move your
> >cursor, the program tells you what colors you have chosen. This makes
> >it accessible to visually impaired or color blind or totally blind
> >people."
> >
> >The audio portion detailing every step enables her to visualize what
> >she is creating but cannot see, Hahn told UPI.
> >
> >"As a visually impaired person, I see great things happening if this
> >system becomes commercially available, with a wide variety of uses -
> >by students for charts or graphs for their presentations, by
> >professors for teaching materials, by business people for instant
> >illustration at company meetings," Hahn said.
> >
> >The computing industry has made some strides in developing software
> >for the blind, but programs - especially for drawing - remain few,
> >and many of them are expensive and require unwieldy equipment to
> >operate.
> >
> >"When you look at technology, the trend is for things to get smaller,
> >faster and cheaper," Kamel said. "That hasn't been true for
> >technology for the blind. The devices we need to use computers - such
> >as a 50-pound Braille printer - are large, expensive or both."
> >
> >IC2D is portable and compatible with any computer screen reader for
> >the blind.
> >
> >"I must have tried everything on the market, and there isn't any
> >other program like this," Hahn said.
> >
> >It was this limited availability that inspired Kamel four years ago
> >to pursue his project. As a graduate student, he became frustrated
> >one day when he failed to meet an assignment deadline because he
> >could not produce the graphics. The person who was supposed to draw
> >the illustrations for him was on vacation.
> >
> >"I had to ask for an extension to turn in the report," Kamel
> >recalled. "Later, at a meeting with my adviser, discussing drawing,
> >he looked at me and said, 'Why don't you work on something so you can
> >draw by yourself?' This sentence was literally what started my Ph.D.
> >research, which evolved into IC2D."
> >
> >Kamel said he inspected every detail of digital drawing by the blind,
> >which he compared to a situation as challenging for a sighted person
> >as using a computer with the monitor turned off.
> >
> >"I studied the advantages and disadvantages of currently available
> >drawing tools for the blind, some of which mimic a pencil and paper,"
> >he recalled. "I wanted to let the blind user have control over the
> >screen, so that they could move a cursor to a specific location and
> >know exactly where it is. I also wanted them to be able to move the
> >cursor away to perform another task and then relocate the original
> >point exactly."
> >
> >The resulting program underwent a number of transformations, many of
> >them guided by input from the 22 volunteers, ages 19 to 55 - some
> >sighted, some blindfolded, some visually impaired, some blind - who
> >have tested the system over the years.
> >
> >"In my final usability study, blind participants' own responses
> >indicated that the grid interface was intuitive," Kamel said. "Most
> >of them remarked that they appreciated the interface because it
> >allowed them to know where they were at all times."
> >
> >The artwork produced ranged from a cube and the side view of a car to
> >a cartoonish pig and a detailed Christmas tree.
> >
> >"IC2D allowed the users to make precise drawings and view drawings
> >done by other users, both sighted and blind," Kamel said. "The
> >animation feature, which has not yet been formally user-tested,
> >allows blind users to make computer-based animations for the first
> >time."
> >
> >Eventually, Kamel said, he hopes the software will enable other blind
> >users to master such projects as designing Web sites and he would
> >like to sell the program commercially.
> >
> >"The visually impaired people who tried it were interested in getting
> >it, so I think this could become a commercial product for a limited
> >segment of the population," Landay said.
> >
> >"I think there might be enough (interest) to make a viable small
> >business," John Freeman, Helzel Professor of Entrepreneurship and
> >Innovation at the Haas School of Business at Berkeley, told UPI.
> >
> >"Kamel's product sounds very interesting and potentially very useful
> >to the visually impaired," added John Myers, professor emeritus at
> >Haas.
> >
> >"The current depressed economic environment is not the best time to
> >be launching a product, but if there is demand for it and the product
> >is 'good,' it can still be done," Myers told UPI.
> >
> >Kamel said his ultimate goal transcends commercial viability.
> >
> >"More than anything, I want to change the way people think when they
> >develop technology for the visually impaired," he said.
> >
> >"What Hasham has accomplished is amazing," Landay said. "He felt he
> >could have a lot of impact because of his different perspective, and
> >what he's achieved can have an impact on all of us, the blind and the
> >sighted."
> >________________________________________________________________
> >
> >
> >References
> >
> > 2. http://nandotimes.com/front/v-text/index.html
> > 3. http://nandotimes.com/front/v-text/story/451682p-3615613c.html
> >...
>
>Braille is the solution to the digital divide.
>Lloyd Rasmussen, Senior Staff Engineer
>National Library Service f/t Blind and Physically Handicapped
>Library of Congress (202) 707-0535 <lras@loc.gov>
><http://www.loc.gov/nls>
>HOME: <lras@sprynet.com> <http://lras.home.sprynet.com>

John Gardner
Professor and Director, Science Access Project
Department of Physics
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-6507
tel: (541) 737 3278
FAX: (541) 737 1683
e-mail: John.Gardner@orst.edu
URL: http://dots.physics.orst.edu



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