WebbIE is a free accessible web browser for the visually impaired. This free accessible web browser is not a speaking web browser, but it does rely on the user having screen reader software installed to do the reading for the visually impaired user. This web browser can utilize the Narrator accessibility feature built into Microsoft Windows 2000, Microsoft Windows XP and Windows Vista, or the free Thunder screen reader.
The WebbIE accessible browser includes the necessary software components to allow visually impaired or blind computer users to browse the Internet and read web pages. It also includes the necessary components that allow visually impaired and blind users to receive news feeds through RSS and listen to radio stations online through an accessible radio tuner. In addition to these components, WebbIE includes an accessible podcaster that allows visually impaired and blind users to listen to podcasts and recordings over the Internet.
This accessible web browser has brought the Internet to those people suffering from some form of visual impairment. It has brought entertainment, shopping and research into the homes of the visually impaired and the blind.
When a visually impaired or blind user browses a web page on the Internet, WebbIE repackages the page in an accessible format that is more compatible with the various screen reader software packages being used. Web pages are presented in plain text format, stripped of any visual content by the accessible web browser. This allows the screen reader software to speak the content to the visually impaired or blind user.
WebbIE parses through the underlying HTML code in the web page and discards any images or visual aspects that cannot be presented in an accessible format. The new page is then presented in the accessble web browser. The screen reader software can easily interpret the plain text and provide a verbal representation of what was included on the page.
Even with the way that the WebbIE accessible browser works, there are still some problems with the software.
The most obvious problem with the accessible browser is being able to represent a non-visual representation of web pages that are designed for visual users. The current technology used to develop websites utilize many different components and the content is often generated dynamically. Graphic images and embedded technologies such as Java make it more difficult, if not impossible for the accessible browser software to provide a fair representation of the web page to the visually impaired or blind computer user.
Many web designers and developers fail to keep visually impaired and blind users in mind when developing web content. Images do not include descriptive tags that the WebbIE accessible web browser uses to identify an image to the visually impaired, make it difficult once again to provide a fair representation of the web page.
With further developments underway and a deeper understanding of the visually impaired and blind user, WebbIE may overcome its limitations.
For more information or to download the WebbIE accessible web browser and its associated software components visit http://www.webbie.org.uk.