ictQatar will launch a series of activities that will focus on the role of technology in helping people with disabilities. It made this announcement close on the heels of the re-designing of its official website to make it more user-friendly for the visually impaired.
The application of new software has come to the aid of many visually impaired students of the Al Noor Institute for the Blind. A dedicated team of professionals, many of whom are visually impaired, is helping at least 300 students learn how to be independent and successful in their lives. Using computers and accessing the Internet is now possible for many of the students, ictQATAR officials quoted Sherif Hassan, a computer instructor at Al
Noor, as saying.
There are two primary software applications that can be used for the visually impaired. The first, and the most common, is the screen reader software, which reads aloud all the text that is displayed on a website. The other is a Braille reader keyboard that follows the text on a page and raises pegs through holes in the keyboard allowing the user to read the text in standard Braille format.
While the software has made the Internet more accessible, it still has limits based primarily on the design and structure of the websites the visually impaired visit. “Web accessibility” is a measure of whether any person who has a physical disability can access, understand and easily navigate and interact with a website. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has developed a series of accessibility standards for websites and encourages web developers to apply them when designing sites.
The most crucial and problematic element in meeting W3C standards is the navigation of the site. Visually impaired users do not use the mouse to navigate a web page, but rather use the ‘tab’ key to scroll through the page.
Hassan believes that the Arab world has a long way to go in the area of web accessibility. “Braille reading is very expensive and Arab-speaking screen readers are still limited. The complexity of the Arab language, with its many pronunciations that can totally change the meaning of each word, makes it more difficult to develop an effective screen reader in Arabic”, he said.
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