An interesting article, albeit somewhat inaccurate.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 11 Oct 1996 13:02:41 EDT
From: Jamal Mazrui <74444.1076@COMPUSERVE.COM>
Reply-To: Access to GUI via Speech <GUISPEAK@LISTSERV.NODAK.EDU>
Subject: Blindness & web article
I'm forwarding this for personal reading by individuals with print
Washington Times October 10, 1996
Raymond "Bud" Keith is not your basic on-line Web head.
He has climbed Mount Rainier in Washington state three
times, taught blind children and adults for two years in Panama
as a Peace Corps volunteer, earned a doctorate in special
education, and bikes and skis frequently.
His nine ski trips to Norway won him the Order of St. Olav,
on of that country's highest honors, because of his work on
behalf of sports for the handicapped.
The 56-year-old Arlington resident has maintained his
active lifestyle despite being blind because of a childhood
accident. Mr. Keith lost his left eye at age 10 when a classmate
hit him in the eye with a nail. His right eye began to weaken,
and within six months of the accident he was completely without
Through his proficiency on the Internet, Mr. Keith
communicates with people around the world, and a growing number
of computer companies are developing technology to help him and
other blind people.
"Many people think that the computer is one of two of the
greatest developments for blind people," he says. "It's equally
as important as Braille, and there's an argument that it's more
important than Braille."
Two key developments allowing blind people to use the
Internet are a speech-based screen reader and a voice
synthesizer. The software announces to the user the contents of
the screen through a digitally synthesized voice, bypassing the
graphics, photos, icons, forms and frames that sighted people
Mr. Keith, who speaks Spanish fluently, can program his
synthesizer to pronounce that language correctly, as well as
English. "Graphics are basically pictures and not words," he
says. "The move toward graphic things like Windows [is] slowing
"More designers are getting more caught up in the visual
appearance and forgetting that they are leaving blind people
An exception is Web browser Microsoft Explorer 3.0. The
Redmond, Wash., company has developed blind-friendly technology
that "will run circles around Netscape [for the blind]," says
Dennis Brown of MicroTalk, a small company in Texarkana, Texas,
that serves the blind.
"Netscape Communications of Mountain View Calif., "has been
very, very, very uncooperative with our cause," said Roland
Manning of GW Micro in Fort Wayne, Ind., who creates technology
for the blind and is blind. Blind people, he added, are not
viewed as a large enough consumer group to attract Netscape
However, as many as 62,000 blind people use computers at
home or at work, according to the American Foundation for the
One of them is Cathy Murtha, a Pioneer, Calif., housewife
who navigates through pwWebSpeak, a Web browser specifically
designed for blind people. Created by The Productivity Works
based in Trenton, N.J., it transmits graphics, photos and frames
from Web pages into spoken language.
Mrs. Murtha specializes in creating and finding text-based
Web pages for blind Internet users to listen to through their
speech readers. Her own sight on the Web
(http://www.access.digex.net/~jdixon) has received more than
3,000 hits and 180 letters from grateful blind people since she
started it up six months ago.
Judy Dixon, a blind employee at the Library of Congress,
also has a blind-oriented Web page (http://ww2.cdepot.net/~mist).
A Braille display, which takes the place of the screen for the
blind allows her to read text from TV programs.
"The coolest thing about the Internet for blind people is
being able to read things. Now I can read the phone book. It
doesn't sound like much, but it is," she says.
Ray Ingram, executive vice president of The Productivity
Works, plans to make e-mail accessible to blind and disabled
people by telephone by years end.
"You would hook up to a central number and then you would
hear your e-mail. It turns e-mail into voice mail," Mr. Ingram
Denver Resident Phil Scovell, a blind person trying to
provide the computer-related information that is increasing
demand by the blind, owns an information service and runs a site
on the Web (http://www.crl.com/phil).
The service, called "Internet Phonebook of Blind Users and
Services. He e-mails it monthly to more than 400 blind people
All this is still a drop in the bucket, says Mr. Keith, who
retired in August after 24 years as a senior civil rights worker
with the Department of Health and Human Services. He wants more
organizations to volunteer to make less graphical and more text-
"It's terrible to think we would have to do it through
regulation," he says. "Too often, laws and regulation are the
only way we can acheive equality, because the goodwill of the
public just doesn't make it happen."
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