The potential of Overviews in Assistive Technology


Overviews or an everyday source of information which capture the essence of something, such as a table of contents of a book, a line graph displaying data, an abstract of an article or a computer file manager. Some possible qualities of overviews is that they can provide guidance regarding the location of the detail within, support navigation, point to areas of specific interest to the user and promote exploration. However, to many people, overviews are inherently visual, and there are relatively few examples of them being rendered in audio. There is an inherent dichotomy when designing an auditory overview, in that to be useful, an overview should be easy to apprehend within a short period of time, but sound needs time to be heard, and the more complex the overview, potentially the more time it may take to display. Yet, the advantages to be gained from employing auditory overviews are potentially significant, in that they can save the user of a screen reader considerable time in navigating to the part of a document or web page more directly, may avoid wasting time on less interesting material and bring to the fore aspects of information that may have gone unnoticed.

In this workshop, we shall explore issues concerning the nature of overviews, their characteristics and uses. We shall go on to review examples of auditory overviews, and consider in which applications and contexts auditory overviews may be of value for visually impaired users. Time permitting, we will undertake practical exercises in the design of auditory overviews, and examine how the dichotomy referred to above might be addressed.

Workshop Speakers