Making ETDs Accessible to the Visually Impaired and the Blind: a Project Under Way




Making ETDs Accessible to the Visually Impaired and the Blind: a Project Under Way


Among the main objectives of the ETD programs in different institutions, one is making the contents of theses and dissertations available to the academic community. This availability knows no borders since digital libraries can be accessed on the Web by users all over the world. At the same time, there are users who can be very close to an ETD program, like students or faculty, but who have difficulties in accessing the contents of digital theses and dissertations. It is the group of blind or visually impaired persons. Cátedra UNESCO de Leitura PUC-Rio (, a project sponsored by UNESCO ( and devoted to reading activities, suggested that the ETD digital library be enhanced to be used by readers who do not have normal vision - either they can have subnormal vision (visually impaired persons) or be blind. In January 2007, the work started after financial support was received from FAPERJ - Fundao Carlos Chagas Filho de Apoio Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro ( The work is divided in two different activities and each focuses two different problems seeking the most suitable solution for each one. The activities are: * Navigation in the digital library - this comprises a set of activities devoted to allowing users navigate in the system and using the search, retrieve and access digital functions of the digital library. Two types of analysis are perfomed to generate sets of specifications for the interfaces for theses users - the solutions in both cases are completely different. * Reading the contents of ETDs - this comprises the activities devoted to allowing users to read the contents. As before, the solutions are different for blind and visually impaired readers. The use of software to read digital files (transforming .doc. .pdf, .html, etc. files into sound) is under consideration; commercial and free products have been examined. The challenge in the use of these products is the nature of ETDs - many have mathematical expressions, images, graphs, etc. The digital library team is working with persons who are blind or visually impaired; some of them belong to the group (at the university) that works towards the inclusion of persons with special needs. This paper presents partial results, problems without solutions (so far) and the next steps of the project.