ABSTRACT: Over 3 million people in the United States can be classified as visually impaired. Visual impairment significantly impedes one's access to information. Computers used by fully sighted people for communication, education, entertainment and professional development, are, to a large extent, inaccessible to people with reduced visual capabilities. The need for efficient interaction with computer systems is particularly relevant today as information technology pervades the collection and dissemination of information. Although a number of "accessibility" features have been added to the most prevalent operating systems, visually impaired individuals continue to encounter barriers to interaction when using interfaces composed of visual icons. This research investigates one aspect of interaction: the movement of the mouse cursor on and around a target icon by persons with reduced vision. Low vision computer users experience difficulty positioning a mouse cursor in the selectable region of an icon due to diminished visual feedback in the final approach of the mouse pointer to the target icon. This research addresses this problem by associating 3-Dimensional auditory characteristics to the icons and mouse cursor in a prototype interface. The intent of the system is to supplement the positional feedback that the subject ordinarily receives through visual perception with a real-time spatial auditory component to facilitate an accurate final approach to a target icon.
Previous studies by Jacko et al. (1999) documented that low vision computer users require more time to identify, position and select a target icon, compared to normally sighted individuals. It was observed that a portion of the additional time can be accounted for by the tendency to overshoot the location of the target icon. Behaviors were marked by successive approximation to the icon before successful iconic selection.