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WebbIE - A Web Browser for Blind and Visually-Impaired People

  • Synopsis: Published: 2009-10-02 (Rev. 2010-10-27) - WebbIE is a web browser for persons who are either blind or visually-impaired. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Disabled World.

Main Document

WebbIE re-presents information from a web page in a format that is accessible for a screen reader.

WebbIE is a web browser for persons who are either blind or visually-impaired, particularly those who use screen readers.

WebbIE has been in use since the year 2001 all over the world. It comes with a number of Accessible programs that provide access to both news and audio on the Internet in simple and accessible ways, allowing people to use podcasts, listen to radio, and read RSS feeds and news with their screen reader or additional access solutions. Combined, these features provide a means of accessing websites and other items online. WebbIE is FREE.

The creators of WebbIE did not desire to create a browser; instead, they utilized the Microsoft WebBrowser object that gives a program its own, internal Internet Explorer. The object is capable of retrieving a web page and parsing it into a standard Word Wide Web Consortium (W3C) document format which can be queried by WebbIE for information regarding the web page itself. The object takes care of any back-end processing required and allows WebbIE to work with the user interface portion of presentation. The creators of WebbIE are aware that Internet Explorer is a widely-used browser and understand that because of this, nearly every page supports it. What this means is that the creators of WebbIE did not have to be concerned with unsupported web page features. The only drawback is that their application will only work on computers running Windows with Internet Explorer version Five or higher; this includes a minor number of computers in their estimation.

WebbIE uses the WebBrowser to get information on the links and forms on the page because they are vital for both navigation and use. All types of HTML links are supported by WebbIE, to include images and image maps. WebbIE then obtains the HTML for the body of the page from the WebBrowser and parses it directly in order to generate a text-only document that is more like a plain text file than a web page. What this does is allow WebbIE to get rid of images and mark-up that is redundant, such as tables that are used for visual formatting. In the meantime, WebbIE can still communicate important, structural mark-up characteristics such as headers and lists; this is achieved through the use of simple new lines for new paragraphs, headings, or list items. WebbIE follows the principle of, 'maximum output in minimum speech,' meaning the user can choose what non-text content is displayed. The person can either have image descriptions provided to them, or discard them entirely. Output from WebbIE is in plain text format that can be moved around or searched, similar to a text document, yet retaining vital HTML functionality with forms and links.

Another feature of WebbIE allows the person to move a caret around the text, giving them control over what the screen reader reads to them. For example; the person can skip entirely over any links they choose to the next item of text. This is useful when it comes to pages that use navigation bars at the tops of their pages. People are able to fill out forms within WebbIE; people can move the cursor to an item in the form and hit return. The person completes a simple text box, the page is updated, and the input is available for review.

When a person initiates an action which results in them exiting a page; for example, clicking on a link to another web page, or hitting a submit button on a form - the action is passed back to the WebBrowser object. The object then processes it as a user-generated even and retrieves the new web page, or submits the form. WebbIE updates, and the result is returned to the website. What this means is that the person enjoys a fully-functional, text-only web browser.

With plug-ins and support applications installed, the WebBrowser triggers the person's actions automatically when their content type is encountered. This means that people can access features such as streaming audio, news, or radio sites. People can access the native Internet Explorer window should they so desire in order to access JavaScript controls or Java applets. Internet Explorer, 'Favorites,' are available for them to use and amend. People can also access secure web pages and shop with safety.

WebbIE recognizes that a number of persons with visual impairments have some level of functional vision and may benefit from magnification technology. WebbIE does give people the ability to increase the font size of text, as well as the ability to invert colors; it does not magnify images. WebbIE, like other non-visual web browser programs, encounters the same difficulties with web pages that are poorly-presented to users, make poor use of HTML, or provide inaccessible content. On the other hand, WebbIE provides a variety of wonderful features -


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