10/17/07

The Blind vs. Tar-jay

NEW YORK - "Links list dialogue." "Links list view." "Your Account — Two of 164."
This is what the Internet sounds like to Chris Danielsen.
Danielsen is blind. He's using a software program called Jaws that converts the text on a Web page into a computerized voice that comes out through a speaker, allowing him to
surf the Web using keyboard commands instead of a mouse — the same way lots of blind people use the Internet.

In this case, his computer is listing all the Web links on the page he's on and telling him that the highlighted link his cursor is on now will take him to the "Your Account" section on Wal-Mart's Web site.
Danielsen, who writes a
blog called "The Voice of the Nation's Blind" for the National Federation of the Blind, says accessing the Internet has been a "huge boon" for blind people. It's allowed them to accomplish a great number of tasks on their own that would otherwise present difficulties or require the help of a sighted person, such as banking, buying plane tickets and shopping for things like groceries and music.
But like any evolving technology, accessing the Internet has hardly been a smooth ride for the blind. Some sites can be difficult to navigate, particularly if they contain relatively few text links and rely more on graphics and other visual elements that screen-reading software such as Jaws can't interpret.
That's why the NFB, an organization that represents blind people, is suing Target Corp., saying that its Web site is inaccessible to blind Internet users.

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