Lighthouse software for the visually impaired

Lighthouse International, an advocacy group for visually impaired people founded a century ago in New York City, is releasing a free software program that will let the blind access the World Wide Web.
The group said that its “LowBrowse” program is the first to enable people with
moderate-to-severe low vision to view web pages as intended and customize the text.
The free, add-on software tool for the Mozilla Firefox browser, is expected to be available for download on the Firefox site in late summer or early fall of 2008. Using open source technology, this browser add-on works with Windows, MacOS and Linux.
While existing programs enable blind people to access the web effectively, the new add-on is the first program to enable people with moderate or severe low vision to both view web pages as the original web author intended - and enable them to tailor the text on those pages to their own visual needs.
LowBrowse is part of a larger research project at Lighthouse on low vision user interface, under a grant from the National Eye Institute.
“This technology enables all the text on a website to be presented in the same readable format - size, color, font and spacing - regardless of which page is being viewed and without having to navigate to the next line,” said Aries Arditi, Senior Fellow in Vision Science at Lighthouse and an expert in web accessibility.
Users spend a few moments configuring their preferences (using a very simple procedure) for font, text size, color contrast and letter spacing. Once the configuration is set, no further adjustments will be needed on any web pages - including pages with photos and graphics.
They can simultaneously view the web page as it appears and access the text in a separate reading frame. Features such as “link” color, italics and boldface are preserved in the special reading frame. Users with severe low vision can use LowBrowse’s speech capability and can easily enlarge images by holding down a button and wiggling the mouse.
The program is very user-friendly, with few commands, making it perfect for computer novices as well as tech-savvy users. It will eventually be available in multiple languages, according to the Lighthouse.
“As a leader in the field of low vision and as strong advocates for accessible technology, we are very pleased to offer this innovative technology at no charge,” said Tara A. Cortes, President and CEO of Lighthouse International.
Founded in 1905, Lighthouse International is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to preserving vision and to providing critically needed health care services to help people of all ages overcome the challenges of vision loss.
Through services, education, research and advocacy, the Lighthouse enables people with low vision and blindness to enjoy safe, independent and productive lives.
For more information, contact Lighthouse International at 1-800-829-0500 or visit www.lighthouse.org

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