Transforming the Lives of Visually Impaired People through Semantic Web Services

By Mukhtar M. Rana, Tim Reynolds and Marcian Cirstea.

Published by The Technology Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The SWANS(Semantic Web Accessibility Network Services) is a research project which addresses immobility issues of people with visual impairment (VI’s) and explores the ways of transforming their lives using Semantic Web Services (SWS). This project is divided into two parts: a) design and develop a prototype using Web Services(WS) and then examine its usability for VI’s, b) transform this new prototype to semantic and test its accessibility. This paper focuses only the first part of this project. The new prototype was designed and developed in Microsoft Dot Net Framework, Active Server Pages (ASP . NET 2.0) and C #(C sharp) language for VI’s. This research was completed with the collaboration of Cambridge Online-Pathways project and Cam- sight. These are charity organizations and their aim is to raise awareness of how the use of computers can enhance the confidence and independence of disabled or disadvantaged people. These organizations are also helping them to explore new opportunities for education, employment and leisure using adaptive technologies. In this prototype, the author used SWANS’s web services. In addition to these Google web service-Google map was also used to get information about two specific points of journey in the Cambridgeshire. Currently VI’s use commercially available screen reader or magnifier to read or magnify the contents of Web or Internet. However our specifically designed prototype according to the tailored requirements of the VI’s has enabled them to access its contents without using any additional adaptive software. Hence this prototype could be a model for the web publishing industry. It was essential to examine the accessibility level of this new prototype; therefore a qualitative approach was used to examine the human computer interaction (HCI) of the focus group using this new prototype. The author used direct observations, open-ended interviews, participant observations and physical artifacts as sources of evidence to collect data. In order to make the data more reliable the author adopted a multiple-case study approach. Therefore the focus group consisted of fifteen people. One participant was colour blind, three were blind and remaining eleven were VI’s. All participants were eighteen years old or above. A questionnaire was conducted at the end of this study to verify these results. The focus group was asked to complete a series of tasks and answer questions about each task completed.

Keywords: Prototype, Web Services, Semantic, Visual Impairment

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.11-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1004.975KB).

Dr. Mukhtar M. Rana

PhD Student, Department of Design and Technology, Faculty of Science and Technology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Mukhtar Masood Rana, a Ph.D student from Department of Design and Technology, Faculty of Science and Technology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK. In 2003, started to work as a volunteer Tutor in Cambridge Online Pathways Project and became interested to explore assistive technology in depth for the people who have visual impairment to resolve their difficulties to use Internet and computers. In 2005, he has submitted a research project with the name of SWANS(Semantic Web Accessibility Network Services) to the University in collaboration with Cambridge Online Pathways and Cam-sight. Along with these organizations he has been involved to raise awareness of how the use of computers could enhance the confidence and independence of disabled or disadvantaged people and help them to explore new opportunities for education, employment and leisure using assistive technologies. His research interests are Web Servives, Semantic Web and Semantic Grid Framework for visually impaired people to transform their lives. He has published eight research papers.

Tim Reynolds

Department of Design and Technology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK

He is a certified Engineer and is working as a senior lecturer in the Department of Design and Technology at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK. He is a pathway leader of Internet Technology. He is supervising different Mphil and PhD research projects. His research interests are Internet & utility empowerment for developing nations, computer managed learning and assessment, Web Services and UDDI evangelist and empowering the Semantic Web to the SME community and Semantic web accessibility for visually impaired people. He has 16 years of teaching and 29 years of industrial experience.

Marcian Cirstea

Head of Department of Design and Technology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK

Professor Marcian Cirstea completed his PhD (1996) at Nottingham Trent University, after obtaining a degree in electrical engineering (1990) from Transilvania University of Brasov, Romania. He is currently Head of Design and Technology Department at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK. His research interests are in digital circuit design, control systems for power electronics, electronic systems modelling, internet technology and web design. Prof. Cirstea has delivered five international tutorials on VHDL Digital Controllers Design and FPGA Prototyping, has published several technical books and about 95 peer reviewed papers. Prof. Cirstea is Senior Member of the IEEE, founder and Chairman of the 'Electronic Systems on Chip' Technical Committee of the IEEE Industrial Electronics Society, Member of IET and Chartered Engineer (CEng). He is a referee for Elsevier, IEEE Transactions and conferences and Associate Editor for IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics. Three of his IEEE conference papers have received awards.

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