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Monday, March 21, 2011

vOICe Learning Edition Browser for the Blind

by Thomas C. Weiss
The vOICe Learning Edition’s Internet Sonification Browser for persons who are blind is meant for use in conjunction with a screen reader. People can use the key combination of Control-F2 to mute it, if needed. For the purpose of reading text on web pages, a person can use a regular web browser such as Internet Explorer along with a screen reader; however, the vOICe Sonification Browser makes Internet graphics accessible by allowing people to hear the images that are contained within HTML pages. The vOICe Sonification browser is activated through pressing Control-U, or by traversing the File menu.
Pressing the Control-U key combination gives the person using the software an Internet Access dialogue through which they can enter either the direct URL of an image file or the URL of a web page. The vOICe will, in care an image file URL, first download the image to the person’s current working directory, and then from there automatically sonify the image. In the case of a URL for an HTML web page, the page is parsed by the vOICe for any links or images, presenting a numbered list in the next edit box within the dialogue. Upon tabbing to that, the person may utilize the up and down arrow keys, as well as the page up or page down keys, to move within the list.
Pressing ENTER on any line causes the corresponding item to be loaded. If the selected item references an image file, the image will be downloaded to the person’s current working directory and sonified. If the item selected was a link to an additional web page, the new page is loaded resulting in a new list. The lists of items are always organized so that one line provides the filename while the next line gives a further file description if it is available. For example; if this involves an image, the image filename on one line is then followed by the IMAGE description related to the image on the next line. If it involves a link, the link text is displayed on the following line.
Back and Forward buttons, ALT+b and ALT+f, may be used in order to move either backwards or forwards through web page URL’s, much like you would in a common browser. It is important to note that you must press the ENTER key in order to activate the selected web page URL. Other than image file URL’s and web page URL’s, a person may also provide the URL’s of ZIP files, WAV files, and MP3 sound files. In these cases, the vOICe downloads such files to the person’s current working directory. The vOICe Sonification Browser may also be applied to online visual training materials designed for learning to see with sound via distance learning.
If you visit the vOICe Internet Sonification Browser web page and load it using their sonification browser, you will find an image named, ‘linup.gif,’ which is a single bright line that runs upward to the right. When you activate the image reference you will hear a single tone that rises in pitch in the repeating visual sounds. You will also find an image named, ‘lineflat.gif,’ that displays a bright, horizontal line with constant pitch, as well as an image named, "linea.gif," that displays a stylized capital letter, ‘A.’ There are additional shapes and pillars to be heard on the site too.
While the majority of web pages can be handled without issues, there are exceptions because not every web page contains HTML code that is written correctly. There are also a number of unique situations that have yet to be supported. People may find that they need to press the ENTER or "Get it" button twice before an image actually appears. At this time, the only supported proxy servers are CERN proxies.
The use of sound in order to interpret images on a web page is both wonderful and unique. There are undoubtedly many questions on the minds of people interested in this form of technological approach. The vOICe Internet Sonification Browser creators have produced a web page filled with answers to some of the more common questions they have encountered in relation to their product, you can find it at the vOICe FAQ Page.
If you would like to try this magnificent software for yourself, you can find it at

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