Creating Access to PlaneMath
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Header: PlaneMath

Creating Access to PlaneMath

Prepared by:
Kristen Haugen
Paul Hendrix
Mike Birkmire
Lisa Wahl

8/15/97

Updated:
5/15/98

InfoUse, 1998


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Table of contents

I. Built-In Access By Design

II. Internet Browser Access & Assistive Technology

A. Browser Software

B. Input Methods

1. Keyboard Access for Text Entry

2. Keyboard Commands to Replace Mouse Commands

3. Product Suggestions

4. Voice Input

C. Output

1. Enlargement

2. Voice Output: Text to Speech

3. Voice Output: Screenreaders

III. Advanced Assistive Technology Applications with PlaneMath

A. Using ClickIt! to Create Text to Speech for the Macintosh

B. Alternate Button Pallettes

C. Keyboard Access by Browser

1. Netscape for Macintosh

2. Internet Explorer for Macintosh

3. Netscape for Windows (up to version 3)

4. Netscape Communicator for Windows (version 4)

5. Internet Explorer for Windows 95

D. Hints for Using a Screen Reader with an Internet Browser

E. Sample Netscape Overlay for IntelliKeys

F. Sample PlaneMath Overlay for IntelliKeys


I. Built-in Access By Design

PlaneMath is designed to be as accessible as possible for a variety of users, within the limits of the Internet and the browsers themselves. For instance:

Beyond the built-in features of PlaneMath, the activities can be made even more accessible to students with significant needs by using a variety of software and hardware adaptations, such as switches, IntelliKeys, on-screen keyboards, and more. These tools can enhance physical, visual and learning access to PlaneMath and are described later in this document.

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Internet Browser Access & Assistive Technology

Beyond the built-in features of PlaneMath, access may depend on your Internet browser, or the interaction between the browser and other assistive technology.

As you may know, the Internet can be thought of as a huge body of data and programs, all contained on thousands of computers, linked together in a vast network. The World Wide Web, or just Web, is a subset of the Internet, consisting of all of the data on the interconnected computers that is stored in primarily in HTML form. HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) allows data to be stored in a way that can be presented in a graphically interesting manner, and more importantly, allows information in one document to be linked to data in another document on another computer. By activating these links between documents, the user can go from one bit of information to another as though they were all stored sequentially on the same computer, instead of being scattered on different machines around the world.

Information on the Web is accessed by means of software called browsers. These programs interpret the codes embedded in the HTML documents (or Web pages), and display the documents graphically. They also manage the process of following the links contained in the documents to information on other computers.

The tremendous amount of information available on the Web is especially valuable for people with disabilities, it also poses some unique access problems.

While a person's home computer can be modified for access, the data on the Web is not under the user's control, and may not be presented in an accessible manner. For example, some Web pages contain text information, while others display a picture of text - one can be read by a blind user's screen reader, the other cannot. Similarly, some links are designated by underlined text, whereas others may activated by clicking on an area of a graphic image. There is no consistency to the placement of links; they can appear anywhere on a page. The designers of PlaneMath are aware of these problems and have used a consistent design that should ease the creation of access using assistive software or hardware.

A. Browser Software


There are two major commercial browsers: Netscape Navigator (in the newest version, a part of Netscape Communicator), and Microsoft's Internet Explorer. These programs are available for both the Macintosh and Windows 95 platforms. There are also several special purpose browsers, such as PwWebSpeak, a specialized browser for blind access. The America OnLine browser is a version of Internet Explorer, but is very much more difficult to access, due to a lack of menu bar features and a heavy reliance on graphics. Some of the concepts we'll be looking at apply to AOL, but this software is generally not a good choice if you are trying to adapt a computer for access to the Web. As usual, the access issues break down into those affecting the user's ability to input information into the computer, processing aids to simplify or accelerate the operation of the computer, and issues affecting output of information from the computer.

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B. Input Methods

1. Mouse Access
Most aspects of Web browsing can be easily accomplished without a keyboard. Because links can appear anywhere on a Web page, they are most conveniently accessed by clicking with a mouse or alternative pointing device. Additionally, most browsers have toolbar icons, buttons, and menu options that allow everything to be controlled by mouse. As a consequence, people who can use the mouse (or an alternative pointing device) can operate Web browsers fairly easily.

Students who cannot use the standard mouse may be able to use a trackball or an alternative pointing device. Many students are able to use a trackball that has a medium to large-sized, easily movable ball with a "locking" button to allow one-handed point-and-drag. The Kensington, Stingray, and P.C. Trackball II are examples. Alternative pointing devices that use infrared technology include the Headmaster from Prentke-Romich and Madenta's Tracker, for students with good head control. The Edmark TouchWindow is a direct-select alternative.

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2. Keyboard Access for Text Entry
In using PlaneMath, as when browsing the Web, the need to enter text is infrequent. One text item that may need to be entered is the URL (the unique Internet address of each Web page) of a page you want to go to. This is not a lot of text, however, and once you get to the page, you can bookmark it, so that you or your students never have to type in the URL again. Most of the time, you get to a page by following links, not by entering its address. Web users may also need to enter text in a search engine, which is software, accessed with a browser, that searches the Web for pages containing certain words or phrases. This is generally only a few words of text, however. It also may be necessary at times to enter text into a form, such aswhen registering to download software. There's little enough text that occasional use of an onscreen keyboard would provide fairly complete access to a browser for someone who could use a mouse or mouse emulator.

Of course, there are other online tasks that do require text input, such as writing e-mail and communicating in chat rooms. These carry the same demands as writing within a word processor and the same solutions should apply. For instance, a student using an alternate keyboard can use the same keyboard at the PlaneMath site.

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3. Keyboard Commands to Replace Mouse Commands
Some people have difficulty using the mouse, so a crucial physical access issue is the ability to use keyboard commands to control Web browsers. Once we know the essential keyboard commands, we can create a customized keyboard overlay for an alternative keyboard such as IntelliKeys or Discover Board, or we can create a custom switch scanning matrix. We can use Morse Code, or conveniently make speech macros for a voice input system.

Obviously, what's "essential" depends on the user's needs. These functions below, especially if combined with a set of pre-made bookmarks, would be a good starting point for a kid, for example. More sophisticated users, or those wanting to do online research, would need more functions, especially access to a search engine.

Essential Browser Functions

Forward
Back
Access Bookmark
Create Bookmark
Move through Page
Select and activate Links

Other Key Functions

Home
Stop Loading
Open a URL (requires text entry ability)
Move through data entry fields
Access and select from History
Find text in Page
Load Images (if autoload has been turned off for speedier operation)

On the Macintosh, a keyboard utility like ClickIt!, which provides access to menu items, can overcome most physical access barriers except the biggest one: there is no way to select and activate links on the Macintosh with using a mouse or mouse emulation. Netscape Navigator is marginally easier to use than Internet Explorer, primarily because it makes access to hierarchical bookmark and history lists easier.

On Windows-based machines, keyboard access to the menus is built-in. Their primary advantage is that the Windows versions of Internet Explorer, and the newest version of Netscape, allow links to be selected by pressing the Tab key, making the entire program keyboard accessible.

Details on keyboard access techniques for different browsers are contained in the advanced section at the end of this document. More information on Windows keyboard equivalents can be found at: www.microsoft.com/kb/articles/q126/4/49.htm

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4. Product Suggestions
Products that create alternatives to keyboard input include:

Alternative programmable keyboards for Windows
IntelliKeys keyboard and Overlay Maker www.intellitools.com

Morse Code access to Windows 95
EZKeys for Windows from Words+ (words-plus.com )
Darci Card www.darci.org
EZMorse (Neil Squire Foundation, 604-473-9363)

Single switch scanning software for Windows 95
EZKeys
Switch Clicker Plus www.cricksoft.com
WiViK2Scan www.prentrom.com

Morse Code access to Windows 3.1
EZKeys and EZMorse

Single switch scanning software for Windows 3.1
MSI's HandiKey www.handiware.com
Prentke-Romich's Wivik2Scan www.prentrom.com
EZKeys

Alternative programmable keyboards for Macintosh
IntelliKeys keyboard and Overlay Maker www.intellitools.com
Don Johnston's Key Largo and Discover Board www.donjohnston.com

Morse Code access to Macintosh
Discover Ke:nx www.donjohnston.com

Single switch scanning software for Macintosh
Discover Switch www.donjohnston.com

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5. Voice Input
Most voice input systems are not very good at controlling the mouse; it tends to be a pretty cumbersome process ("mouse up", "stop", "mouse left"). Therefore, keyboard based Web access methods will be helpful in using voice input as well. With the keyboard commands listed in the Advanced Applications of this document, you can make a speech macro for use with any voice application that works directly with the browser.

Two very inexpensive alternatives are IBM VoiceType Connection for Netscape (Windows 95, www.ibm.com and SurfTalk for Netscape (Macintosh, www.surftalk.com. These are voice input applications designed solely to control the Netscape Navigator Web browser (version 3); SurfTalk works in conjunction with Apple's PlainTalk speech recognition program. Although limited in features, both programs allow you to activate links on a Web page simply by speaking the name of the link.

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C. Output


Adapting the output of a computer - which is primarily comprised of the information displayed on the monitor screen - can take the form of modifying this visual output, or supplementing or replacing it with auditory output.

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1. Enlargement
Modifying the visual output usually means enlarging the text, or the cursor, or the entire displayed image. Enlarging the text and changing the font can be accomplished within the preferences controls of the browser itself.

There are several utility programs that enlarge the cursor for better visibility: Biggy (from RJ Cooper) and Fat Cursor (shareware) for the Macintosh, MetaMouse (shareware) for Windows 3.1, and ToggleMouse (shareware) and Biggy (RJ Cooper) for Windows 95. Larger cursors are also available in the Mouse control panel of Windows 95.

Enlargement of the entire displayed image can be accomplished with a screen magnification program, like inLarge for the Macintosh (Alva Access), or ZoomText (AI Squared), LPWindows (Optelec), or Magic (MSI) for Windows. Screen magnification programs can be difficult to use, however, since only a part of the enlarged image can be displayed on the monitor at a time; it can be very hard to keep track of your place.

The visual image can also be modified by altering the color of the text and background for better contrast. Most Web browsers allow the user to control this feature, most screen magnification programs also incorporate color control, and Windows 95 has a high-contrast display setting built into its accessibility control panel.

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2. Voice Output: Text-to-Speech
Text-to-speech programs that speak highlighted text can be helpful to people with learning disabilities or low vision in accessing text on Web pages. The primary difficulty is when words on a page are presented as graphics, rather than actual text; the text-to-speech programs cannot read this, nor can the screen readers relied upon by blind users.

IntelliTools' ClickIt! program will read aloud highlighted text, but it can only read a couple of lines. For those who already own ClickIt!, using it with a talking word processor (Simple Text) is described in the advanced section. A better option is MacYack Pro (Scantron Quality Computers, www.lowtek.com ), which has much greater capacity; it also allows you to assign different voices to different typefaces or styles. pronounce different styles and typefaces. For Windows, Text Assist (software bundled with some SoundBlasters) is an option, as is Monologue (www.firstbyte.davd.com and TextHelp(www.loriens.com).

The soon-to-to-be-released version of Ultimate Reader functions like a talking Web browser. It re-formats columnar and framed text to display it in simple format, and will read aloud text while highlighting it. It is very mouse-intensive in its operation. Information can be found at www.cast.org.

The deluxe version of the Kurzweil 3000 text reading system (www.kurzweiledu.com, designed to read aloud and highlight text for users with learning disabilities, will read Web pages aloudwhen used with Internet Explorer.

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3. Voice Output: Screen Readers
A screenreader is software that will audibly interpret the graphical information sent to the display screen by the computer. There are a number of these programs available, all of which deal somewhat differently with the problem of presenting the unpredictable graphic data produced by the Web browsers in audible form. All activities within PlaneMath are mirrored in a text-only version for people who cannot access graphics and/or for people who use screen readers.

The job of audibly representing the two-dimensional, simultaneously displayed, graphical information in the Mac and Windows environment is a complicated one, and these products take some training to be used effectively. On Windows-based machines, they also require a speech synthesizer to produce sound output. There are a number of external synthesizer devices available; some screenreaders support the TextAssist text-to-speech engine packaged with some SoundBlaster sound cards.

Screenreaders include:

Most of these products have a downloadable demo version. Hints for configuring the browser to work with a screenreader are contained in the advanced section of this document.

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III. Advanced Assistive Technology Applications With Planemath

This section is for users who are familiar with specific pieces of assistive technology or who are skilled in creating access using system resources.

A. Using Clickit! To Create Text To Speech For The Macintosh


If you have ClickIt! and SimpleText (or any talking word processor), it is also possible, though somewhat cumbersome, to set up options for speech output when using PlaneMath. ClickIt! allows users to access menus using keyboard shortcuts and in this mode ClickIt! can read menu items aloud. If students need to hear text read aloud, due to low vision or limited reading ability, this can be accomplished by running SimpleText (or a talking word processor) in the background, selecting and copying all text on a PlaneMath page (Command A, Command C), then switching to SimpleText, deleting previously pasted text (Command A, delete) and pasting the copied text (Command V), then using the speak text command (in SimpleText, it's Command H). Using this strategy, it's even possible to hide the SimpleText window off the edge of the screen so the PlaneMath page remains visible while the text is being spoken aloud. While this sounds complicated, macros created by programs like AppleScript, QuicKeys or OneClick can combine all these steps into a single click or keystroke. Alternatively, these steps could be built into key(s) on IntelliKeys, with the help of ClickIt!, or into a Ke:Nx / DiscoverSwitch setup.

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B. Alternate Button Palettes


A customizable onscreen keyboard such as Discover:Screen (Macintosh, Don Johnston), HandsOff (Windows95, Zygo), or WiViK2 (Windows 95, Prentke-Romich), or a macro utility like OneClick (Macintosh, Scantron Quality Computing), can be used to create an alternative button palette for your browser using keys that are useful to the student. The alternative buttons, which activate the appropriate browser commands (create a bookmark, open the PlaneMath Web page, copy and paste text into a word processor), can provide shortcuts for students with physical disabilities, easier to see tools for students with low vision, and graphic reminders of tools, actions and options for students with learning disabilities. These tools can also be helpful for students without any particular identified special need.

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C. Keyboard Access By Browser


The following list of keyboard access techniques is designed to provide the raw materials necessary to create Morse Code macros, switch scanning matrices, and alternative keyboard overlays for controlling Web browsers. Remember , in addition to the functions listed below, everyone will need an enter key.

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1. Netscape for Macintosh:

Keyboard Access to Basic Commands

Built-In Features

Other Features

Problems

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2. Internet Explorer for Macintosh:

Keyboard Access to Basic Commands

Built-In Features

Other Features

Problems

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3. Netscape for Windows (up to version 3):
This program's accessibility is almost identical to the Macintosh version, except that Window's built-in keyboard commands make ClickIt unnecessary for menu access.

Keyboard Access to Basic Commands

Built-In Features

Problems

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4. Netscape Communicator for Windows (version 4):
This program is similar in appearance to the latest Macintosh version, except that Window's built-in keyboard commands make ClickIt unnecessary for menu access. More importantly, it provides keyboard access to links.

Keyboard Access to Basic Commands

Built-In Features

Problems

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5. Internet Explorer for Windows 95
This program is similar in appearance to the Macintosh version, except that Window's built-in keyboard commands make ClickIt unnecessary for menu access. More importantly, it provides keyboard access to links.

Keyboard Access to Basic Commands

Built-In Features

Other Features

Problems

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D. Hints For Using A Screen Reader With An Internet Browser

1. Turn off any unnecessary features in the browser, i.e. Tool Bar, Button Bar and Favorites Bar. All of these take up screen space and are duplicated in menus. They can also be distracting because they will be spoken as "graphic."

2. Turn off "Loading Images." Auto loading of images and multimedia clips slows down access. Not loading images allows display of "alt tags" - text tags which should be present to describe the graphics.

3. Maximize the browser window, minimize all others. Temporarily: Click the middle button in the upper right corner of window Permanently: See directions in Win 95 Help. From Keyboard: ALT+SPACE then press X to maximize and ALT+SPACE then press N to minimize.

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E. Sample Netscape Overlay for Intellikeys

netscape overlay

This overlay was created to provide functions that a student might need while exploring the Internet. Six sites (NASA, PlaneMath, Science Friday, Homework, Exploratorium and Yahooligans) have been given buttons for easy access. Copy, paste, and go to scrapbook allow a student to collect graphics and text from sites for use in a report or project. Netscape buttons include forward, back, home, print, and make a bookmark. Two additional buttons on the lower left side of the overlay invoke macro's for speaking text, and for changing to a word processor.

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F. Sample PlaneMath Overlay


This overlay was created to work with a number of activities by providing buttons that correspond to the location of answer buttons.

planemath overlay

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