Have you heard of ‘Browse Object’?

Well I hadn’t but this non-descript circle that sits on the right hand scroll bar of a Word document is worth knowing about. Thanks, Dominik Lukeš for pointing it out. Choosing ‘browse by heading’ enables a learner who does not have sufficient vision to read the Navigation Pane/Document Map to efficiently navigate a structured document using the keyboard. The re-mix of these cue cards were designed for a training course for teaching assistants and include Browse Objects.

Cue Cards for TA training Jan 13


Listening to Speech-faster than you think

A web designer who is blind ran a training course I attended. When he located information on his computer none of the participants could begin to understand the synthetic speech he was using. It was so fast.

We know that……
Listening to synthetic speech requires practice to become proficient but that understanding and an increase in the ability to listen at speed happens quickly in the initial phase of training
There is an initial preference for more natural sounding voices but it may be possible to listen to more robotic sounding synthetic voices at faster speeds. Ultra fast ‘readers’ can comprehend speech at around 400wpm.
The amazing plasticity of the brain means that for people who are born blind, the visual cortex can be recruited for language tasks.
Context may influence a users choice of whether a more human sounding synthetic voice is preferred.
Synthetic speech is harder to comprehend when there is background noise so will have implications for use in schools.

Some thoughts for educators
Consider the difficulty of teaching a skill that you don’t have yourself.
Do we place enough emphasis on access to information through effective listening or do other things like braille and mobility take preference?
Are there some resources out there that are age appropriate and fun for children?
Be ambitious with the expectation of the speed that learners can use.

RNIB Centre for Accessible Information (CAI) Literature review #2 Exploring the use of synthetic speech by blind and partially sighted people http://bit.ly/115fk0e

Comprehension of ultra-fast speech-blind vs ‘normally hearing’ persons
Anja Moos and Jürgen Trouvain http://bit.ly/WjJpSc

ITD Technotes: Speech Synthesis, Alistair D. N Edwards http://bit.ly/UwyCKd

EA Draffan Introducing Audio and Synthetic Audio for Inclusive Technologies for Reading (#itr12) http://bit.ly/Vu1Yoq

Changing the font size in the Document Map (but only in Word 2003 & 2007)

Structured documents are more accessible to anyone who is print disabled but in order for another column to be visible on screen, the font in the document map is usually around p8. This is a barrier for anyone who needs a larger font

This is a link to how to change the font in the document map in Word 2007


In Word 2003, the font can be changed in the document map as well as highlighting words and changing the colour of the font and the background. It seems that the document pane has had a revamp and that these things are no longer possible in later versions of Word. Is this correct? Has anyone found a way round this?