Tuesday, 24 February, 2009

E-health for blind guys

I wanted to have some more inputs about any kind of handicap be it mobility, blindness, handicapped or deafness to e-health. Some people may be surprised to find out that the blind and visually impaired are about as likely to be on the internet as a sighted person. It can seem like a daunting task to learn to use a computer system, but the fact is, there are plenty of easy ways for the visually impaired to get online.


A common method for computer access for the blind and visually impaired is a screen reader. There are many screen reader programs available; the most common is the JAWS screen reader. A screen reader takes the output from Microsoft Windows and converts it to speech. The screen reader will tell you that you are currently in the Internet Explorer browser, and it will read to you the contents of the web pages. With time, and practice, a blind or visually impaired user can become very proficient at using a computer system.
Screen Readers offer a great degree of flexibility; you have full control over your computer. However, the screen readers are often difficult and time consuming to learn. Each program generally has different button combinations to access different menus and systems. These button combinations must be memorized. There are, literally, hundreds of possible key combinations which provide a great deal of control, but can be very daunting to learn.

How It Works

For example, a visually impaired individual wants to find out what image is showing. The image shows a photo of Mount Fuji taken during sunset. Existing screen reading software may not obtain the same information as shown in the image, or a description of the photo is simply missing. Whenever visually impaired users face such difficulties, they can report that incident by using the collaboration tool developed by IBM Research and ask for adding an improved alternative text to describe the image.


The request then is automatically sent to a server hosting the Social Accessibility Project Website where visually impaired users and any Internet users who wish to take part in help improving Web accessibility will register themselves to use the collaboration tool. Internet users who are registered to the Social Accessibility Project can see this request on the project Website, and may decide to respond to this request by using the collaboration tool by clicking "start fixing it" button, and type a short description, such as "Photo caption: Mount Fuji during a gorgeous sunset." The short description will automatically be transformed to an external metadata. The next time any visually impaired person tries to revisit the Web page showing the photo image, screen reading software will read the alternative text from the metadata to give better explanation of what the photo shows.


Metadata consists of useful information such as description of the content and the physical location of the particular content. By having external metadata to reside at the Web server, Web content will remain unchanged while making the Web more accessible.


To further enhance the usability of Web content, the Social Accessibility Project Website offers an incentive mechanism where screen reading software users can rate the quality of external metadata provided by Internet users along with a comment to show their appreciation. Also, active users are listed at the project's top page to recognize their active participation on the project.


In addition, screen reading software users can place a landmark whenever they find an important position on a Web page, and other users can benefit from those landmarks to help reach important information easier and faster.


One such good initiative is taken in Bhutan ..Read this link below:
http://www.kuenselonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=8415


Another method for computer access is to use an assistive technology device that simplifies the Windows operating system down to a few common workflows. There are a few devices on the market which do this. The SpeakEasy Media System is one such device. It is a system that comes with hardware and a preconfigured e-mail address. The system provides simple, menu driven access to e-mail, typed documents, news articles, podcast audio shows, encyclopedia entries, dictionary entries, and more. The SpeakEasy does not provide as much control over the system as a screen reader, however it is an excellent option for easy access to the most common functions that the blind and visually impaired will use.


Lastly, there are also machines specifically designed for reading typed documents. These reading machines will take a typed document and convert it into speech. They do not provide any access to the internet, nor do they support any function beyond simply reading a document. However, they are very simple to operate. There are a number of standalone reading machines on the market, one such machine is the Simon reading machine.


The options discussed provide a good cross section of the available access methods to computers for the blind and visually impaired. Screen Readers provide the most functionality, but are also the most difficult to use. Reading machines are simple to use, but lack most functionality. The media system provides most functionality of a screen reader, and also provides an ease of use experience similar to a reading machine.


But the question that still persists is how a blind person can read a patient information leaflet. Same explanation is given below:
http://www.ehiprimarycare.com/news/item.cfm?ID=1534


So suggest me some more ideas for the possible outcomes like:

Outcomes:

• Improved health condition of the visually challenged people participating in the pilot project as direct beneficiaries.

• Development of critical awareness and understanding on issues of e- Health for visually challenged people among health professionals, policy makers, development agencies and the blind population at large.

• Financial and social sustainability of the pilots launched as part of the research.

• Adoption of visually impaired people friendly e-health amenable solutions within the national health system.

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