Yahoo makes Web surfing easier for the disabled
Web surfing for the disabled can be a daunting experience, but Yahoo's Alan Brightman, an expert in assistive technologies, is trying to make it more accessible. In his technology lab, Brightman creates simulation exercises for Yahoo's engineers so they can better understand what it's like to be disabled, thus making their Web interface more user-friendly for people with physical and visual impairments.
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>> I am Alan Brightman and I'm responsible for making sure that every product Yahoo makes is as accessible as possible to every user.
>> Three years ago we opened up our accessibility lab. And what we do is we bring product teams in to work on their specific products and make sure that they are as accessible as possible. One of the ways we do that is to have each individual experience what it feels like to have a disability. So we can bring engineers in and have them be physically disabled and have to use assistive technology in order to access the web. Today we are looking at two kinds of assistive technologies. One is for people with physical disabilities, people who may have had a stroke or Lou Gehrig's Disease, what have you, and they can't use a keyboard. Maybe their fine motor skills are not great, their gross motor skills aren't great, so we have to have an alternative way for them to access the computer. For example, they have to be able to work on the computer by just banging a switch if that's all they can do. Another way we work with our engineers is to have them place a reflective dot on their forehead and when they do that they're able to move their head to move the cursor and then dwell on certain keys for a certain length of time in order to have that key in effect be pressed. We also, as much as we can, we have our engineers experience visual impairments of different kinds. So, for example, my colleague Victor who is blind will show our engineers how it's possible for the blind user to hear what's on the screen. Our engineers code the website in such a way so they can skip from headline to headline to find those things that a blind person is interested in rather than having to wade through lots of material that they may not be interested in. We can learn that for people with disabilities there really are no longer any ceilings. There is no reason to say this disabled person can't hold that job, for example, because anything anybody else can do on a computer or on the web a person with a disability can do.
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