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Technology allows us to communicate and collaborate in a number of different ways - email, blogs, videoconferencing, etc. This generally works for people who have good sight and sound. What kind(s) of adaptive technologies are available for those who might need help "hearing" a video, or "seeing" what is on a blog. Please be specific in your examples as well as discussing how well this technology works.


Back in 2007, I had the opportunity to interview Petro Giannakopoulos on the Breakfast Bytes radio show. The resources from that interview can be found here. Petro is what I would call a subject matter expert on the topic of computer accessibility tools for the visually impaired. I think what a lot of people don't realize is that it is more difficult for those who are visually impaired to work with computers than those that are hearing impaired. Closed captioning has been around for a long time and software like Dragon Naturally Speaking has been around since 1997 and possibly earlier.

I remember that Dragon was being used prior to 1997 to translate audio to text for those that were hearing impaired. With that software, they could tell all the time what was going on in videos or other content that had audio that was coming from a computer. The computer is primarily visually-based rather than auditorially-based regarding the presentation of material and applications. So the real difficulties come from assisting those that are visually-impaired with their use of computers.

From my interview with Petro, he basically said that there was very little that he could not do with his computer since he had the right tools to enable him to listen to email, drive the mouse, navigate programs, write documents, and more. Using visual accessibility programs is much more time consuming than it is for those that have to use auditory accessibility programs. The visual accessibility programs read the buttons and options to you and then you have to tell it what you want it to click on.

Petro also talked at length during the interview about the increasing trend for software vendors to include accessibility information in their programming that is directly intended to work and plug into software for the visually impaired. The resource I linked to above gives the names of several applications that work really well for those that are visually-impaired and contains the names of some excellent resources like newsletters and magazines that review software products as they come out.

BlindCoolTech is one of these resources. Blind Access Journal is another resources that reviews products and software for their friendlieness towards those that are visually-impaired.

I found a really well done news piece by CBS on youtube that actually shows you the Internet-browsing experience of someone who is visually impaired. You get to hear how the software translates the text on the screen to words. This video also exposes the fact that websites (as well as software programs) have to be written to work with this software.

Right now, JAWS seems to be the most popular screen reader tool for the visually-impaired. If memory serves correctly, this is the software that Petro was using as well.

So bottom line is that the technology to help both visually and auditorially-impaired individuals has been around for more than ten years. And it is very mature technology now, meaning that it is very effective. Unfortunately, the burden is more for those that are visually-impaired as they rely upon the builders of websites and software to code their products in a way that is compatible with screen readers like JAWS.