July 19, 2006 9:01 PM PDT

Google site to aid the blind

Google was set to unveil a Web search site on Thursday designed to help blind people find results that will work best with their text-to-speech software.

The new Google Accessible Search site, which will be available at labs.google.com/accessible early on Thursday, prioritizes the list of search results based on how simple the Web page layouts are, said T.V. Raman, research scientist in charge of the service.

For example, a user searching for "weather" will find pages with a lot of other content on them.

"To a user who can see, that might be fine," Raman said. "But if you are listening to the page (via screen reader software), a lot of information can prevent you from finding what you are looking for."

The service, which Raman characterized as an "early-stage experiment" out of Google Labs, looks at a number of signals by examining the HTML markup found on a Web page. It tends to favor pages that have few visual distractions and that are likely to render well with images turned off.

Google Accessible Search is built on the same technology underlying Google Co-op, which prioritizes search results based on specialized interests.

Raman said he built the service "for purely selfish reasons" after joining Google about a year ago. Google hopes user feedback will help it improve the service.

David Faucheux, a blind man who uses Google and writer of the Blind Chance audio blog, said Web search for people who can't see sorely needs improvement. "I hope they can make things easy to use," he wrote in an e-mail. "I do a Google search and usually after the first several hits, I don't continue to look for anything."

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9 comments

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EXCELLENT!!!
Maybe I can use this service and get web pages that have less ads. That would be sweet.
Posted by coryschulz (326 comments )
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Good idea! (NT)
Good idea!
Posted by Andrew J Glina (1673 comments )
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Google searches using speech is great
Yes using Google to do web searches for topics of interest is the way to go for people with visual difficulties.
I use a software program from talkingdesktop.com that lets me do Google news searches using speech recognition and my headset.
Posted by debH (13 comments )
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ONE page per article, please!
maybe it will also cause publications to put the entire article on ONE page only. i hate having to click on page 2, 3, 4 to keep reading.

The first thing I do is look for the "print friendly" link on page. Not only does it have less ads - it's simpler, easier to read and it's all on one page! I use the "printe friendly" links to read all my online information when possible. This would also help blind people with their software -- so maybe this will become the norm.
Posted by ChazzMatt (169 comments )
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Not always!
As long as they let you still have articles spread over more than one page! I agree that the lack of ads makes the printer version nicer, but, I find that the lines are quite long, I tend to prefer the shorter lines of the onscreen versions - and it's a pain to have to reduce the width of the browser to to read articles & then re-widen it when you want to do more general browsing.

While single pages would be easier for those using screen readers, I'm not so sure about those who have text enlargers, as they'd end up with very big pages. Some sites (Man United) have the ability to choose single or multiple pages & columned or single column, as well as font size. That suits most users!
Posted by Emmadw2 (2 comments )
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some like it simpler! ONE page per article, please!
I hate cluttered pages and articles broken up into several pages. Maybe it will also cause publications to put the entire article on ONE page only. i hate having to click on page 2, 3, 4 to keep reading.

The first thing I do is look for the "print friendly" link on page. Not only does it have less ads - it's simpler, easier to read and it's all on one page! I use the "printe friendly" links to read all my online information when possible. This would also help blind people with their software -- so maybe this will become the norm.
Posted by chazzsubscribe (55 comments )
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User experience review on the Google Accessible View experiment

http://www.logblo.com/2008/11/04/UXReviewOnAGoogleExperimentAccessibleView.aspx
Posted by hbesh (5 comments )
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Maybe Google could help us with the Seeing Aid we have designed and would like to manufacture and deploy across the globe? If anyone from Google is listening or reading, or anyone else is interested email us at info@seeingaid.com.
Posted by Manhattan2 (329 comments )
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