Refreshable Braille and the Web
Many people have not had the opportunity to see someone use a refreshable Braille device to access the web. I recently videoed Bruce Maguire describing how he uses the internet with a refreshable Braille display. He also demonstrates finding a book on the Amazon site. Transcript of the video is at the end of this document.
Bruce has been using Braille since he was 5 years old. He also has impaired hearing and his preferred method of accessing the web is to use a screen reader in conjunction with a refreshable Braille display. The refreshable Braille device contains a strip of rubberised material under which, is a row of pins that rise and fall in response to the content of the web page. These pins form the Braille characters, and as the user moves around the content of the page, they constantly refresh the line of Braille characters to read what comes next.
Video: Bruce talks about refreshable Braille
TITLE CARD: “Bruce talks about refreshable Braille”
Bruce: I’m Bruce Maguire. I’ve been using Braille all my life as a blind person and when I use the internet and computers generally I prefer to work in Braille. Mainly because it gives me a greater sense of engagement with the text and the content, I can reflect on it, I can re-read it as much as I want and I can put my own interpretation on what I am reading rather than having a synthetic voice or even a human voice do it for me. I also have a hearing impairment so it is easier for me to use Braille rather than synthetic speech. In this little demonstration today I will turn the synthetic speech of my screen reader on so that you can hear what I am doing as I navigate around the page.
SHOT OF REFRESHABLE BRAILLE DEVICE
Bruce: The refreshable Braille display, at the heart of it is essentially a lot of pins that move up and down to form the Braille characters in response to the impulses the computer sends them based on what’s on the computer screen.
BRUCE SITTING AT DESK
Bruce: So under my fingers I can feel Australian Human Rights Commission, and if I get the …
PUSHES KEYBOARD KEY
Screen Reader: Heading level 1, link graphic Australian Human Rights Commission, heading level 1.
Bruce: And the speech says effectively the same thing. The speech gives you a little more information in terms of; it says that it’s a heading. Umn, I can have my refreshable Braille display give me the same information as well. Now as I use the arrow key I can move down the page to see what’s there …
FINGERS ON KEYBOARD
Screen Reader: Blank, same page link skip to content, alt plus 2. Blank, search alt plus 5.
Bruce: I can move quickly from one element of the page to another, for example from one heading to another …
Screen Reader: After 30 years PML finally in “colon” a great first step, heading level 3 link. About the Australian Human Rights Commission, heading level 2.
CU KEYBOARD. KEY PRESS
Screen Reader: General information, heading level 2,
Bruce: And, in each case, I’m feeling under my fingers the same text as what is being announced by the speech synthesizer, so I can turn the synthesizer off, which is what I normally do, and just use the Braille to navigate around.
CAMERA TILT UP TO BRUCE FACE
Bruce: Braille in some ways; in some areas it is faster and more efficient to use than synthetic speech for navigating web pages, and in some cases it’s a little slower particularly if you want to read long documents, because the Braille display gives you 32 characters at a time. So that, when you’ve read the first chunk of 32 characters you have to press one of the keys on the Braille display to read the next chunk of 32 characters.
CU THUMB PUSHES BRAILLE REFRESH BUTTON –
CU FINGER RUNNING BACK AND FORTH ACROSS DISPLAY PINS
Bruce: So, I am on a line here which says;
Screen Reader: Working towards an Australian society where human rights are for everyone, everywhere, every day.
Bruce: Now, so that’s the text of this particular line on the page. Under my fingers on the Braille Display I can read, “Working towards an Australian …” And I have to then press a key to go to the next chunk which is “society where human rights are …”
CU THUMB PUSHES BRAILLE REFRESH BUTTON
Bruce: “for everyone, everywhere, everyday.”
BRUCE AT DESK
Bruce: I use the internet for many purposes including online grocery shopping, browsing book and music stores. As a blind person one of the things that I found most frustrating over the years is that I can’t just walk into a shop and browse the aisles and as I am an avid book collector that’s been a particularly difficult thing to adjust to, but when the internet developed and we have online stores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble and in Australia Fishpond, being able to browse and buy online has been a great thing. I also use the internet for work related purposes, accessing government information, accessing disability related websites.
TITLE CARD: “Shopping Online”
Bruce (voice over): I’ve turned the speech off now, what I might do is demonstrate how I would buy a book. So the Amazon site has just come up and I know that …
HANDS ON KEYS
Bruce: because under my fingers on the Braille display I can read, “Amazon, online shopping for electronics, apparel, computers, books, DVDs and more.” And having used this site before I know I can just press a key on the keyboard to take me to the first field. And under my fingers I read all departments.
PRESSES ANOTHER KEY, THEN MORE KEYS
Bruce: So I want to arrow down to books. And I want to look for books by an author called Anita Roddick who founded the Body Shop. TYPES And, has written some very interesting books about the importance of advocacy. So I type Anita Roddick on the keyboard and under my fingers I can verify that I have typed what I think I’ve typed by feeling Anita Roddick.
Bruce: Now we’ve got the search results, and the first book I notice here is “Business as Unusual, My Entrepreneurial Journey, Profits with Principles” by Anita Roddick.
Bruce: Paperback May 30 2005. I can buy new for $12.65, or that’s retail price, and the Amazon price is $10.36, or there’s 51 used from $1.59 and I can get it if I am in the US by Tuesday May 12 if you order in the next 22 hours and choose 1 Click Shipping.
Bruce: So that’s the kind of thing that I can do with the Braille display quite efficiently and as I mentioned, being able to do this sort of thing is still something that I find a wonderful thing because being an avid book collector I can now fuel that addiction to my heart’s content.
FADE TO BLACK