The purpose of this SBIR project is to develop a new tool to improve the ability of blind and visually impaired people to quickly get to the right web pages, to avoid ending up on the wrong web pages, and to reach the desired part of each web page efficiently. The motivation for this effort is that getting a 'big picture'understanding of a web page is one of the biggest challenges facing this population of computer users. Existing tools for blind and visually impaired people, such as screen readers and screen magnifiers, present the entire web page serially, in full detail, either by textual output of the details, or b providing a magnified view of a small part of the page. However, if the user is not already familiar with the website, the resulting lack of context requires a laborious and time-consuming process to scan through sometimes hundreds of details before knowing whether anything of interest even exists on the page in question. In contrast, the proposed technology analyzes web pages in a similar way that sighted users quickly scan pages before reading in detail, to provide a succinct, informative guidance on the context and layout of the page, so that a user quickly gains a much richer "big-picture" understanding. The proposed Phase II project builds on a successful Phase I user evaluation of a proof- of-concept of the software, in which users expressed a strong preference for the contextual cues provided by the approach. Phase II includes creating a fully-functional prototype of the software tool. Throughout the technology development, feedback from users and practitioners will guide the path of the R&D for maximum usability. At the conclusion of Phase II, an end-user, in-home evaluation study will verify the effectiveness of the tool, providing the starting point for full-scale commercialization.
The R&D in this Phase II SBIR project will result in an improved way to use the Internet for individuals with visual disabilities. The technology will help to overcome the lack of accessibility and high level of frustration currently found among blind and visually impaired users. The results of the project will enable such individuals to explore new opportunities and be more productive, thus providing improved employment potential and an increase in the quality of life.