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Access to electronic resources by visually impaired people

Research undertaken by the Centre for Research in Library and Information Management has sought to enhance understanding of information seeking behaviour of blind and visually impaired people when using digital resources. The Non-Visual Access to the Digital Library project (NoVA) aimed to develop further understanding of user behaviour with web based resources, with particular reference to retrieval of information by blind and visually impaired people. Using a sample of 20 sighted and 20 visually impaired people, users undertook a number of information seeking tasks using four different electronic resources. Each step of the information seeking process was logged (at keystroke or equivalent level) and pre-task and post-task questions were asked in order to gather qualitative data. Results revealed that visually impaired users spend more time searching or browsing the web with times varying considerably depending on the design of the site. Overall, visually impaired users have to spend more time navigating around each page, especially if, for example, the page contains a lot of information or has many links. Observations revealed that people with more experience with the assistive technology they were using were more successful with the task. Whereas designers may assume that everyone has access to the new versions of assistive technology, this is not always the case. Designers, therefore, will have to take such realities into account.


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