International Details LowBrowse
July 14, 2008
While existing programs
enable blind people to access the web effectively, LowBrowse 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 read the
text on those pages tailored to their own visual needs. The highly
anticipated program, which runs in conjunction with the Mozilla Firefox
browser, will be offered at no charge and is expected to be available to
the public for download via the Firefox add-on site in late summer or
early fall of 2008.
LowBrowse is part of a larger research project on low vision user
interface design headed by Aries Arditi PhD, Senior Fellow in Vision
Science at Lighthouse International, 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 Arditi, a vision scientist and an expert in web
accessibility. Dr. Arditi, who is the current president of the
International Society of Low-Vision Research and Rehabilitation, has
written more than 80 scientific publications about vision and is the
author of Lighthouse International's popular Color Contrast and Making
Text Legible publications.
Arditi vision and an added, "LowBrowse emphasizes efficiency and
accessibility for the unique needs of people with vision loss. This
system further democratizes the Internet and empowers millions of people
with low vision."
LowBrowse is important and useful for many reasons:
- 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.
- LowBrowse™ makes searching and skimming
web pages for specific information much easier than other accessible
- Semantic text features such as "link"
color, italics and boldface are preserved in the special reading
- Users can easily enlarge images simply by
holding down a button and wiggling the mouse.
- Users with severe low vision can use
LowBrowse's speech capability .
- Users can simultaneously view the web page
as the web author intended it to be viewed and access the text (in a
separate reading frame), enabling visually-impaired users to
appreciate the very same view of the page that able-sighted users
- The program performs these functions in a
consistent manner for all pages on all websites.
- The program is very user-friendly, with
few commands, making it perfect for computer novices as well as
- The program is portable and can be
installed in seconds on a flash drive and downloaded from anywhere.
- The program will eventually be available
in multiple languages.
to Tara A. Cortes, PhD, RN, President and CEO of Lighthouse
International, "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. Furthermore, as baby boomers age,
diseases such as diabetes and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
will affect millions, resulting in vision loss. This new technology will
become increasingly relevant." Diabetes affects some 24 million
Americans, while macular degeneration affects some nine million.
According to a national survey by Lighthouse International, 16.5 million
people (or one in six) age 45+ self-report some form of vision
impairment even when wearing glasses or contacts. By 2010, this figure
will grow to 20 million.
Using open source technology, this browser add-on will be free to users
through the Firefox Add-on site. It works with Windows, MacOS and Linux.