Browser Options: getting more from your web browser
Are you getting the most out of your web browser? You can customise most browsers to increase the standard text size, and there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts to make your life easier. There are reams of information on the web about this, but here are the tips that we find the most helpful, and use day to day.
- Access and Accelerator keys - a 'cheat-sheet' originally compiled by Loughborough university.
- Accessibility options (Internet Explorer & Netscape) - how to get the most out of these popular web browsers, again originally from Loughborough University.
- Accessibility options (Opera) - how to get the most out of this speedy, highly accessible and feature-filled web browser.
- A-sites - currently the best directory of accessible websites out there.
- B&VI - the Blind and Visually Impaired web ring. Around 180 sites that are run by, for, or about individuals who are blind or visually impaired. We particularly enjoy the audio-games.
- AbilityNet - Plenty of information for the disabled web user
- www.direct.gov.uk - The single point of access to government information and services, wth information on employment, financial support, home and housing, health and support, education and training, right and obligations (including details on the Disability Discrimination Act), motoring and transport, and leisure and recreation.
- Disability Wales - a good resource
- National Library for the Blind - a wealth of resources provided in large print, on tape, or in various braille/moon types.
- RNIB - Various resources and links for the visually impaired and other interested parties
- UCanDoIT (formerly WAACIS) - a London-based Charity that provides computer training to disabled people on how to use the Internet in their own homes at an affordable cost.
Software and Peripherals
Here is a selection of software and peripherals used by people with (and without) visual or mobility impairments for accessing the world wide web.
In our opinion the best of the browsers available at the moment, the Opera browser includes features such as increasing the size of the text and images, removing stylesheets, and removing images, all at the touch of a button or the gesture of a mouse. It is also extremely fast - just compare its speed of page building compared to the often sluggish Internet Explorer. Best of all, it's free, and the newer versions do not pester you with the occasional advert. We would especially recommend Opera to people who get frustrated by small text sizes.
Download for free at www.opera.com
The Lynx text-only browser is used by many people who cannot or do not wish to use a graphics-based browser. It's great for people who are in a hurry, as no images makes for fast surfing. Lynx is available for VMS, various flavours of Linux/Unix, Windows (various), and DOS. Like Opera, it's completely free.
Download for free at lynx.isc.org
- Home Page Reader
IBM's Home Page Reader reads web sites out loud. It has excellent navigational features, and is generally a joy to use. It runs on Windows 95/98/NT, and is another way to hear what your site sounds like.
Download an evaluation copy at www-3.ibm.com
Purchase a copy from www.soundworks.com or www.sightandsound.co.uk
If the cost of HomePage Reader is putting you off, perhaps PWWebSpeak, the granddaddy of them all, is more up your street. The company that produced it is no longer in existence, so support is limited, but PWWebSpeak is still available for download. It reads pages out loud as well as displaying a text-only version of the page in large print. PWWebSpeak runs on Windows 95/98/NT.
Download for free at www.soundlinks.com
- IBM products and research technologies
IBM provides several 'products and research technologies' for mobility impaired users, including speech recognition software, screen reader software, and information on the accessibility of IBM's own product range.
More information is available at www-3.ibm.com
- MontroseSecam's Assistive Mouse Adapter
Following on from an IBM research project, UK company Montrose Secam now manufactures and distributes their Assistive Mouse Adapter which could help some of the UK's estimated 3 million people who suffer from some form of tremor to use a mouse.
More information is available at www.montrosesecam.com
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