T.V. Raman, Adobe Systems

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University March 8, 1996


ABSTRACT: Screen-readers ---computer software that enables a visually impaired user to read the contents of a visual display---have been available for more than a decade. Screen-readers are separate from the user application. Consequently, they have little or no contextual information about the contents of the display. The author has used traditional screen-reading applications for the last five years. The design of the speech-enabling approach described here has been implemented in Emacspeak to overcome many of the shortcomings he has encountered with traditional screen-readers.

The approach used by Emacspeak is very different from that of traditional screen-readers. Screen-readers allow the user to listen to the contents appearing in different parts of the display; but the user is entirely responsible for building a mental model of the visual display in order to interpret what an application is trying to convey. Emacspeak, on the other hand, does not speak the screen. Instead, applications provide both visual and speech feedback, and the speech feedback is designed to be sufficient by itself.

This approach reduces cognitive load on the user and is relevant to providing general spoken access to information. Producing spoken output from within the application, rather than speaking the visually displayed information, vastly improves the quality of the spoken feedback. Thus, an application can display its results in a visually pleasing manner; the speech-enabling component renders the same in an aurally pleasing way.

Slides for the talk are available in text and in PDF format .


T. V. Raman received his PhD in Computer Science and Applied Math from Cornell in May 1994. His thesis work on AsTeR -- Audio System For Technical Readings was awarded the ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award for 1994. He worked at Digital Equipment Corp.'s Cambridge Research Lab from Feb 1994 to Sep 1995, and and now works at Adobe Systems in Mountain View. His research interests include electronic publishing and multimedia user interfaces.


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