The Accessible Graphics Reader for Blind People

Period of Performance: 12/01/2003 - 11/30/2004


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Viewplus Technologies, Inc.
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Screen readers (computer applications that display screen text and icons in speech or an online mechanical braille display) can give blind people good access to standard text in many computer applications. In Phase I research we have demonstrated the feasibility of an Accessible Graphics Reader (AGR) that can provide comparable access to more complex information. In Phase II we propose to build a manufacturable prototype of the AGR with design features intended to expand its market significantly and hence to be more affordable by blind people. AGR will have a touch pad that attaches to a "color embosser" - a printer with an embossing head and a color ink jet head. A tactile color image rolls out onto the touch pad permitting users to feel the document, select any part to enlarge, change tactile brightness and contrast, and reprint if desired. Text objects can be voiced with a speech engine (or displayed with an on-line Braille display) when touched. AGR will give good access to all graphical materials that are either already in electronic form (e.g. the internet) or can be scanned from paper copy. It gives particularly good access to graphical information presented in well-structured, labeled Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) format. The labels in these files can be accessed by touch, making even very complex graphics very accessible. SVG is a new World Wide Web markup language, and ViewPlus is working with the Web Access Initiative to define graphics accessibility guidelines that would assure that SVG files will be authored to be very accessible by AGR. The proposed AGR includes a color ink jet head so that it will promote rehabilitation of a broad group of people with disabilities by providing improved access to education and professional opportunity. This group includes people with low vision, dyslexia and other learning disabilities, a market segment that could be a thousand times the number of people who are totally blind. If integrated with a user-friendly talking e-book or network reader AGR could extend user-friendly text and graphic access even to elderly or computer-phobic users.