Technology has developed so rapidly in recent times that the social divide between groups which have access and those who don’t has become wider. The visually impaired is a marginalized group because there are not many types of software to help them to utilize the Internet for work or play. Therefore, the development of WebAnywhere by Richard Ladner, a University of Washington professor of Computer Science and Engineering, and his doctoral student, Jeffrey Bigham, is a useful and essential tool for the visually challenged.
WebAnywhere is a web based application which allows blind users to read the screen without the usual screen reader software. Users need only have a browser and a computer which can play sound. The software works with any operating system such as Windows, Mac, etc. It is fast and efficient –only needs less than five seconds to load. The visually impaired user has to type in the URL of WebAnywhere by pressing Ctrl-R and bringing the ‘Run’ dialog box. The reading will start once the homepage has loaded. Check out WebAnywhere’s intro video:
There are, however, some drawbacks of WebAnywhere. Adobe Flash objects which are embedded cannot be accessed via this software. Besides, the software also cannot read external applications such as PDF files.