interfaces for the visually impaired
New technologies promise better access to information for the visually
impaired. Many libraries already use computing and communication techniques for this
purpose. Developers in the field face the twin challenge of making appropriate systems and
achieving harmonisation at an international level.
Two related projects are exploring the use of computers and the Internet in libraries.
TESTLAB builds on previous work to expand these institutions' services. Its goal is to
provide visually impaired people with access to catalogues in public and university
libraries. MIRACLE targets blind musicians, who depend on Braille for access to musical
scores. Production of these scores is labour intensive and expensive, so the project is
developing a European system allowing special libraries to access and download Braille
music in digital form from a central database.
In addition to developing interfaces for the visually impaired, both projects use the
World Wide Web to provide information and to remotely access catalogue databases. TESTLAB
has carried out trials at eleven libraries in four countries, using adapted workstations
to search through catalogues, networks, databases and electronic documents. Links have
also been established to activities funded by national governments. Under MIRACLE, five of
Europe's major Braille music libraries have created a shared catalogue of Braille music
for amateurs and professionals. The next stage involves joining the digital files to a
database, so they can be shared over the Internet.
The stand shows how cultural information can be assessed by the visually impaired.
Visitors can try TESTLAB systems. Laptop computers, Braille bars and speakers will
facilitate the browsing of catalogues at different libraries. The MIRACLE project
demonstrates its Braille music catalogue and database, with live Internet connections.
Most of Europe's major specialist music libraries, it is hoped, will have joined the
scheme by the project's end.