Emacspeak --A Speech Interface

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Emacspeak --A Speech Interface

T. V. Raman
Cambridge Research Lab
Digital Equipment Corp.
Bldg 650, One Kendall Square
Cambridge MA 02139
Email: raman@crl.dec.com
Voice-Mail: 1 (617) 692-7637
Fax-Number: 1 (617) 692-6650

Screen-readers -computer software that enables a visually impaired user to read the contents of a visual display- have been available for more than a decade. Screen-readers are separate from the user application. Consequently, they have little or no contextual information about the contents of the display. The author has used traditional screen-reading applications for the last five years. The design of the speech-enabling approach described here has been implemented in Emacspeak to overcome many of the shortcomings he has encountered with traditional screen-readers.

The approach used by Emacspeak is very different from that of traditional screen-readers. Screen-readers allow the user to listen to the contents appearing in different parts of the display; but the user is entirely responsible for building a mental model of the visual display in order to interpret what an application is trying to convey. Emacspeak, on the other hand, does not speak the screen. Instead, applications provide both visual and speech feedback, and the speech feedback is designed to be sufficient by itself.

This approach reduces cognitive load on the user and is relevant to providing general spoken access to information. Producing spoken output from within the application, rather than speaking the visually displayed information, vastly improves the quality of the spoken feedback. Thus, an application can display its results in a visually pleasing manner; the speech-enabling component renders the same in an aurally pleasing way.

Raman T. V.
Tue Nov 21 15:57:11 PST 1995