Susanna Laurin, Funka

Browsealoud – a real game changer!

Susanna Laurin, CEO of Funka give us her thoughts about the newly launched browsealoud. Thank you Susanna 

The name browsealoud does not cover all the help that end users get from this revamped service from Texthelp. It is much more than a tool for reading digital content aloud. Helping all kinds of individuals coping with the massive amount of information that falls upon them all in the form of digital text is a crucial task.

All new browsealoud - a real game changer

When we chose to partner with Texthelp back in 2008, we did so because the national organisation of persons with reading and writing impairments in Sweden were first asking and later begging us to develop assistive technology for their members. Really, the problem is more political than technical, because the visually impaired do get screen readers, but for some reason, other target groups that have problems reading or writing get far less attention and support. This ought to be a scandal in Sweden, a rich country with high social standards.

We were well aware of the situation, but we are not a product orientated company, we are accessibility consultants. So we started looking for a partner that offered smart technology with a broad language offering.
We thought to ourselves, surely someone must have thought about this somewhere? And that is how we found Texthelp and their browsealoud tool. We took it to Sweden and carried out large scale user testing with all kinds of end user groups. The result was crystal clear: we had found a solution that end users appreciated - a lot.

We firmly believe that user testing is vital in assessing new products and the benefits they deliver. The recent facelift of browsealoud will mean another round of extensive testing and end user involvement: that’s how we work.  User testing is always interesting and we learn a lot from these sessions. But testing assistive technology, such as browsealoud, is possibly the most rewarding.

We meet end users from different backgrounds and abilities including those who are completely new to technology. I am not suggesting that assistive technology can solve everything, far from it. But it’s wonderful when you witness a person who stops focusing on the problems and instead starts being curious, happy and creative in the digital environment.

As we undertake user-testing we don’t ask for testimonials, we are living the experience with the testers. There are other products that read out text aloud to you, but the functions that the end users we meet really appreciate in browsealoud are the more clever ones. For example, the screen mask is probably one of the more popular functions, clearly helping many users with concentration issues, cognitive difficulties or dyslexia.

The fact that browsealoud now has a mobile-optimized version is an important development, particularly in today’s increasingly mobile world. There will always be limitations to what you can do conveniently on a small screen, but the larger click area is an important improvement and on the whole the new mobile interface works well.

But don’t take my word for it, try out browsealoud yourself – or better still, watch someone with a print impairment as they use browseloud to open the door to the digital world and see how it helps in their life.


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