IBM Web browser talks to visually impaired

At this week's Closing the Gap conference, in Minneapolis, IBM launched a talking Web browser that is designed to give blind and visually impaired computer users access to the Internet.

Called Home Page Reader for Windows, this software solution navigates users through their Web experience by reading aloud the information found on a given Web site.

The expressed goal of IBM's Home Page Reader is "to minimise the information gap between the sighted and the blind", according to Chicko Asakwa, a blind researcher at IBM's Tokyo Research Laboratory who played a pivotal role in the development of the product.

The software uses IBM's ViaVoice OutLoud US English text-to-speech technology and Netscape Navigator to speak Web-based information in a clear and easy to understand format, according to the company.

Home Page Reader uses a 10-key numeric keypad interface so that blind and visually impaired users can interact with their computers and navigate the Internet. A male voice reads text and a female voice reads links, so that users can distinguish Web page information when it is spoken.

Functions such as fast-forward, bookmarks and integrated e-mail are also included.

IBM Home Page Reader for Windows is scheduled to ship next January for Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT.

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