Re: Vision impaired interface

From: David Mertz <voting-project_at_gnosis_dot_cx>
Date: Fri Oct 31 2003 - 10:37:29 CST

"Peter B. Maggs" <p-maggs@uiuc.edu> wrote:
|Most blind people don't know Braille. Almost all blind people who know
|Braille also know the QWERTY keyboard. A lot of blind people know the QWERTY
|keyboard but don't know Braille. So I think we don't need to worry about
|the Braille keyboard.

I had a conversation with someone who work in Braille transcription
technologies--specifically, related to the encoding of Braille fonts.
It's interesting stuff in its way: most sighted people (including me
until recently) don't know that Braille is not simply a letter-by-letter
transliteration of English.

Rather Braille works something like a cross between shorthand and markup
languages. Sometimes letters are dropped (or clusters substituted) to
compact text for quicker reading, but in particular contexts symbols
assume a role in indicating typography (i.e. a word is "italics").
Given a fairly limited symbol set, the same Braille symbol can have
different meanings in different verbal contexts.

Those issues apply to proper Braille books though. Braille readers can
work more slowly through a letter-by-letter transcription of regular
English. So in that respect, our voting system would not need optimal
transcription if it used Braille.

However, my conversant--although advocating a Braille interface for
voting--also admitted that only about 7% of blind Americans read
Braille. So that's fairly small coverage for such an interface. She
did, however, point out a concern with blind-deaf voters, for who a
headphone interface is no good (but who likely read Braille). Without
providing numbers, she recognized that blind-deafs are a quite small
percentage of blind people though (much less than 7%, for example,
although the comparison with Braille readers isn't quite the same issue).

What it boils down to in my mind is that headphones-plus-keyboards is
the right system. But there still is a small percentage of disabled
voters who would require voting assistance (besides blind-deaf, some
blind voters with motor disabilities would be unable to use the
interface).

Yours, David...

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Received on Fri Oct 31 23:17:06 2003

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