Computer and web accessibility

We've had a long-standing interest in making computers and the web more accessible to visually-impaired people. (Back in 1986 we even published an article about this in BYTE magazine!) Most efforts in this area, like our own early ones, have centered on to making computers and the web more accessible to blind people.  Coming from a vision science background, though, we have believed that it's equally important to address accessibility for those with low vision.  In some ways this is more of a challenge than enhancing access for blind people, because those with low vision benefit most from presentation formats that are customized to their specific needs, and because of the huge range of magnifications required to accommodate the spectrum of users with low vision.  In our work on legibility, described elsewhere on this site, we've spent a lot of time studying typography, color contrast, and other aspects of presentation that make things more accessible to those with both normal and low vision.

Several years ago, while at Lighthouse International, and with funding from the National Eye Institute we developed a free extension for the Mozilla Firefox web browser, that is designed specifically for users with low vision, and accommodates a very broad range of visual capabilities. There are fancier, more feature-rich accessibility programs, but they are costly, challenging to learn, and they generally run on only a single operating system platform. LowBrowse, on the other hand, is a simple program that allows users to view all text in their preferred font at their preferred size, and in their preferred colors,  runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. (It currently runs only on Firefox versions 3.0-3.6, however).  To read more about LowBrowse or to install it, see our LowBrowse Installation and Documentation page.

When it was first released in 2008-2009, LowBrowse received a great deal of media attention, with articles discussing it in scores of publications, some with very wide circulation, including InformationWeek, NetworkWorld,  and the Wall Street Journal. The online version of the Wall Street Journal article also included a video (shown below) solely about LowBrowse™, and was on that day (September 9, 2008) the “most emailed” article on the web site!