AudioMORPH

Project Team

Project Director: Melody Moore
Co-Investigator: Dan Ratanasit

Summary / Outcome Goals

Many computer applications, particularly proprietary corporate systems, are difficult for people with visual disabilities to operate without customized modifications to existing screen readers. These customizations require programming expertise and can take several months to complete. The AudioMORPH project is developing a system that automates the process of creating and customizing auditory interfaces for business applications in order to make them accessible to people with visual impairments. The specific goals of this project are to develop software that will:

Background

Graphical user interfaces have long presented a challenge for users who are blind or who cannot easily see a standard computer screen. Typically, some form of screen reading program is used to scan screens and present information in an auditory form via a voice synthesizer. However, simply reading the entire contents of a screen can be inefficient and tedious, particularly for data-intensive applications such as financial and accounting packages.

The graphical presentation of application software varies widely depending on its purpose and the programming style of its author. Because of the wide variation between programs, adapting a graphical interface for a vision-impaired user can be difficult. A customized configuration must be created so that the auditory interface will behave appropriately for a specific screen layout. This may include enabling features to recognize menus, dialog boxes or other screen objects. It also may include deactivating automatic reading of screen areas that are updated frequently with unneeded information such as a clock display or cursor position display.

The vendors of commercial screen reading programs often provide configuration files for commonly used software such as word processors or spreadsheets. However, any proprietary applications in the workplace must be custom-adapted for an auditory interface. The person performing the customization needs to have a programming background and be completely familiar with the screen reading software’s features and strategies. Most users of screen reading software rarely attain the degree of proficiency required to do the customization; instead, a consultant or employee of the screen-reading vendor must be contracted to do the work. Developing custom software for a small number of users is expensive, and as a result, employees with visual disabilities are at a distinct disadvantage in the general workplace. Experience shows that if custom screen reader scripts are created for proprietary systems, blind employees can perform data entry and data retrieval tasks as efficiently as other employees. Therefore technology that reduces the time, effort, and expertise required to produce customized auditory interfaces for proprietary business systems could open many employment opportunities for people with visual disabilities.

Progress to Date

The initial prototype of the AudioMORPH system is complete. It was designed and implemented for the industry-leading JAWS screen reader (Freedom Scientific). The AudioMORPH toolset includes:

Key Findings

Conclusion

Selected Publications / Presentations


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CATEA