[Accessibleweb] Re: CURR: IBM Tool has an eye for the blind (fwd)

Dan Comden danc at u.washington.edu
Fri Jul 16 14:53:22 PDT 2004

Intriguing tool for assessing accessibility of Web pages. I just
downloaded and installed it and am checking it out.

The irony: the tool itself is not very accessible.

-*- Dan Comden danc at u.washington.edu
Adaptive Technology Lab http://www.washington.edu/computing/atl/
University of Washington

---------- Forwarded message ----------

The actual link to this is: http://www.alphaworks.ibm.com/tech/adesigner

It's amazing.

-----Original Message-----

July 15, 2004
IBM Tool Has An Eye For The Blind
By Jim Wagner

IBM's (Quote, Chart) emerging technologies site, alphaWorks, now features a
Java-based application that lets developers see how their site looks and
sounds to a person with low-vision impairment or blindness.

Called aDesigner, the tool was developed in the IBM Tokyo Research Lab to
make Web access easier for the thousands of Internet users around the world
who go online to conduct their business, read e-mails and shop online.

According to Steven Booth, manager of the Braille and Technology Center for
the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the developer community as a
whole has done a good job and made real progress in making their sites
accessible to visually impaired Web surfers -- but there is always room for

"Labeling [text with images] is a big problem, as well as having too many
links per page -- it's too confusing to get through -- or have forms that
aren't labeled so you can't tell what field you're in," he said. "Overall,
access is good right now and it's getting better all the time."

Booth said there are a growing number of people who are entering old age now
who know what computers are and aren't intimidated by the Internet as many
in the previous generation might have been. As those people get online,
they're going to want to access the Internet as they always have.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), five in 10
Americans expect to work well into their 70s and 80s; with the Internet as
ubiquitous as it is these days, these workers will need Internet access and
the ability to see or hear the site they're visiting.

"Increasingly, tech jobs require you to do something on the computer
display, if you don't see stuff quickly and find things, it becomes a
problem," said Jim Chou, IBM emerging technology strategist. "Anything you
can do to improve that is going to help a lot of people."

The 4.6 MB Java application is easily installed on Windows 2000 and XP, but
isn't supported on any other platform. IBM officials say they are looking
into the possibility of supporting other operating systems down the road.

The software tool evaluates Web sites on their font choices and colors (and
the ability to change them upon request), compliance with accessibility
guidelines, alternate text for images and link navigation.

A five-pane window shows the Web site as it looks for most people. Another
browser pane demonstrates how it looks or will read for blind or low-vision
people, while the bottom three panes list and map out problems aDesigner had
with the Web site.

The site is then scored (from 1 to 100) for compliance, navigability and
listenability and given an overall letter grade from A to D. Also included
in the program is a "simulator" showing how a Web site looks to a person
with low-vision impairment. Using the simulator

Two of the three largest Internet portals, Yahoo.com and Msn.com, each got a
"C" grade with the simulator. AOL.com scored an "A." AOL's grade might have
been helped by a case in 2000, in which it settled a discrimination suit
filed by the NFB on charges it wasn't compatible with screen-reading
software. Other popular sites fell into the "C" grade: RIAA.org - C,
Slashdot.org - C, Universal.com - C, Microsoft.com - C (internetnews.com
also received a C). Apple's itunes.com site got an A.

Chou said there are several software tools on the market today to help Web
designers improve the code on their Web sites, but have limited
capabilities. They deal with navigational issues, he said, not compliance or

As of now, there are no plans to commercially release the product, Chou
said. The program was placed on the alphaWorks site to give developers a
chance to use the application and suggest improvements. If there is enough
interest down the road, the program could get wrapped up in the IBM product

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