Hearing the Internet

Rakesh Babu, assistant professor of information studies

Hearing the Internet

Rakesh Babu is trying to get inside the minds of those who browse the Internet with their ears, not their eyes. Online information should be more accessible to people who are blind, says Babu, assistant professor of information studies, who lost his own sight as the result of a degenerative eye disease. His research at UWM can help.

Screen readers – computerized voices that read aloud everything on a computer screen – can help the visually impaired. However, screen readers make background coding audible, which can be confusing, and graphic tags (descriptions) may be missing or incomplete.

Babu focuses on how users who are blind conceptualize online tasks. He’s trying to discover how these users make mental models to comprehend what they cannot see – check boxes or videos, for example. It’s an area where very little work has been done, he says.

“We just need more understanding to design a blind-friendly environment.”