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Providing Acces to Graphical-Based User Interfaces (GUIs) for Blind People Using a Multimedia System Based on Spatial Audio Representation

Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) are becoming increasingly a standard in PC and workstation-based computer applications. To ensure the access to computer systems by blind computer users, a multimedia system is under development which is based on two-dimensional spatial audio presentation of speech and nonspeech signals and tactile presentation via refreshable Braille modules. Synthetic speech and digitized sound are used to convey the textual and graphical information contents from a GUI. Two-dimensional spatial presentation of audio information provides spatial orientation and aids navigation on the computer screen. Spatial representation of audio signals is carried out either with a multichannel-loudspeaker system-the sound screen-or with a binaural headphone system using head-related transfer-function (HRTF) processing technology. The results of initial evaluations with 18 blind and sighted subjects and prospects for future research activities are discussed.

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