Web Accessibility Internet Browser for Multimedia

Greetings WOW Members and Web Professionals everywhere! Bill Cullifer here with the World Organization of Webmasters (WOW) and the WOW Technology Minute.

Today s podcast is a continuation of the coverage of the topic of Web accessibility. While researching this topic a bit this week, I stumbled across a Accessibility Internet Browser for Multimedia from IBM that I’d like to bring your attention. Check out: WOW Technology Minute

The Accessibility Internet Browser for Multimedia is a tool that enables multimedia content on the Internet to be enjoyed by people with visual impairments.

As you know first hand the use of multimedia content has increased dramatically over the last few years, but people with limited or no vision have not been able to fully enjoy the benefits of these advances. This new multimedia browsing accessibility tool provides people with visual impairments a level of control more comparable to a sighted person using a mouse. For example, while enjoying a streaming video, visually impaired people can now select the play button by simply pressing a predefined shortcut key instead of searching in the content for buttons that control the video.

According to IBM, users can also adjust the volume of an individual source in order to identify and listen to different sound sources without losing track of the screen-reading software because of the sound of a video. If a content creator wants to provide a voice narrative for a video, he can write a text script as a piece of metadata; the tool adds the audio descriptions by using text-to-speech engines. Future plans for extending this technology include enabling flexible audio speed control and contributing this work to an open-source development project. Such contribution will accelerate development and adoption of tools that make Web-based multimedia content accessible to the visually impaired.

How does it work? (Compliments of http://www.alphaworks.ibm.com/tech/aibrowser)

Usually, people with visual impairments browse Web pages using either screen-reading software (such as JAWS for Windows) or a voice-enabled browser (such as IBM® Home Page Reader). However, these tools cannot handle multimedia applications properly. Visually impaired users cannot see the multimedia control buttons that appear on a screen. In addition, the audio of a streaming video — which automatically starts playing after the page is loaded — interferes with the synthesized assistive voice generated from screen-reading software, a vital assistant for visually impaired users. Furthermore, most multimedia content operates only with a mouse rather than a keyboard, making it virtually impossible for visually impaired people to appreciate multimedia content.
IBM Accessibility Internet Browser for Multimedia is built on top of the Eclipse Rich Client Platform, and it works as a stand-alone application. After a user opens a Web page, the tool automatically analyzes the multimedia content embedded inside the page. Then the tool lets the users control the multimedia content — letting them play, stop, or pause the videos, change the replay speed, adjust the volume, and so on — by using simple predefined shortcut keys.

The tool also has a function for providing an alternative text-based interface for the content based on XML metadata. By using metadata, the tool can reorganize or simplify the original content and can provide additional information or navigation methods. Although someone must create the metadata manually, once created, the usability of the site is drastically improved. Usually, multimedia content is designed only for sighted users with mouse operations, so it is impossible or difficult to understand the visually rich content with a voice interface and or to control it by using a keyboard.

This tool also provides functions for adding audio descriptions to movies based on XML metadata by using text-to-speech engines. Audio descriptions are usually created by content creators as an additional sound track for a movie. For example, we are presently using an existing text-to-speech engine to add audio descriptions. Not only developers and creators, but also volunteers are able to add audio descriptions easily and cost-effectively.

The system can also provide additional information or navigation methods, thus allowing users to enjoy the content using their preferred methods.

The tool can work with screen readers (JAWS and Window-Eyes) by making it speak as well as it might work as a self-talking browser.

1. Is IBM® Accessibility Internet Browser for Multimedia available on Linux®?

No; it runs only on Windows® XP or above.

2. Can I change the text-to-speech (TTS) engines used in IBM Accessibility Internet Browser for Multimedia?

This tool supports Windows Speech API(SAPI)5. After installation of additional TTS engines, please select your preferred TTS engine in the preference dialog box.

3. Can IBM Accessibility Internet Browser for Multimedia work with screen-reading softwares?

The tool supports JAWS screen reader versions above 7.10 and Window-Eyes versions above 5.5.

4. Which language does the tool support?

Currently, the messages and descriptions are available in English and Japanese. Users can read the target content based on the languages of the TTS engines or screen-reading software.

5. What kind of multimedia content embedded inside Web pages does the tool support?

This version supports Flash (Versions 5-8), Windows Media, RealMedia, and Quick Time.

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