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Program seeks Net access for the blind

CompuServe and Henter-Joyce are working to give the blind access to the Internet.

CompuServe and Henter-Joyce said today that they are working on a solution that will give the blind and visually impaired community access to the online service and the Internet.

CompuServe asked Henter-Joyce to help redesign its service to make it easier for blind people to navigate after it noticed an increase in the number of visually impaired users, according to Eric Damery, Henter-Joyce vice president of sales. "CompuServe came to us because they are finding that more and more blind people are using their service," he said.

The CompuServe package is based on Henter-Joyce's Windows application called Jaws. The software works with a voice synthesizer and sound card to give visually impaired users an audio equivalent to menus and arrows and other navigation tools.

The software interprets commands such as open mail, save, and bold, while repeating text back when users type so that they know if they've made mistakes. When users navigate the Net, the system reads aloud content and links.

"Everything is read, no matter where the user is, whether it be in email, in Word, or on the Internet," Damery said.

While the regular Jaws package costs $795, the CompuServe package is optimized to work particularly well with the online service's interface and will cost $495 when it ships in late August.

The full Jaws package works with both the Navigator and Internet Explorer browsers and major online services. While the current version is only 16 bits, a 32-bit Windows 95 version is expected to be available from Henter-Joyce by late summer.

Related story:
Visually impaired get talking browser