Blacknegative: Make the Web A (Negative) Place

1

Blacknegative’s ironic claim to make the web a better place.

While Blacknegative’s website claims to make the web a better place, further use reveals its flaws in terms of accessibility, specifically for the blind.

(Audio Transcript Provided Below)

The episode of The Fantastic Adventures of George the Sock fails to effectively communicate and displays a discontinuity between text and speech.

bose

Without the visuals, the BOSE advertisement featured on the website loses all meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcript:

At first glance, Blacknegative’s website is anything but average. While its vibrant moving backgrounds and interactive menus offer a definite change from the standard website, further use reveals its major flaws in terms of accessibility, specifically for the blind.

The Web Content Accessibility guidelines place a high emphasis on the principle of perceivability, or the idea that information should be provided in a way that guarantees that all users, despite disabilities, can gain access to and understand the content.

The Blacknegative website, which relies heavily on visual cues, lacks in several of these areas, making navigation and comprehension difficult. Although the website incorporates audio, it is in the form of background music that does not in any way offer an indication of the user’s location in the menu. This leaves users with impaired vision at a disadvantage. The addition of earcons or even direct verbal cues that play when the mouse hovers over different menu options would drastically improve this issue.  Also, background music that is distinct for each section of the website is something to consider.

Multimedia content, and in particular, the videos on the website, tend to ignore the importance of speech based communication. For example, the advertisement for BOSE only incorporates music and text. Without the visuals, all meaning is lost, making it extremely ineffective for blind users. On the other hand, the episode of “The Fantastic Adventures of George the Sock” does include speech. However, it too is ineffective since the chosen language is French. This introduces a discontinuity between text and speech, which is something that users tend to correlate with mistrust. In order to correct this fault in perceivability, clear speech that matches the theme and language of the website should be included in multimedia content.

Overall, the Blacknegative website is not tailored to meet the needs of blind users. However, through the incorporation of speech and audio alternatives for the visual cues present on the website, the loss of meaning and perceivability can be greatly diminished.

Battling Distracted Crossing

At Georgia Tech, one of the busiest places on campus is Technology Square. Even at nine in the morning, this area is bustling with people, all of whom are on different missions.There are people walking, driving, eating, studying, exercising, talking, and even listening to music. However, where the roads meet at 5th and Spring, all individuals, whether by car or by foot, come together to safely complete one common task: crossing the street. While widely overlooked, it is crucial to the proper functioning of the intersection.

As the name suggests, technology is important in the space. Certain safety features, such as the stoplights and the cross walk lights, rely on it to visually communicate information that facilitates the completion of the task. However, with the increasing dependency on cell phones and other devices that largely utilize visual technology, these safety features are beginning to become less effective. Fortunately, this can be combated through the addition of safety features that rely on vocal cues.

Pedestrians crossing the street at Tech Square. Source:www.glassdoor.com

For the distracted pedestrian or the disabled/blind, the addition of a voice interface would potentially prevent many accidents. Sensors would detect the presence of a person near the intersection, and the voice would alert the user if and when it is safe to cross. This would reduce not only the danger in the intersection but also the anxiety of both pedestrians and drivers. For drivers, a voice interface similar to that of a GPS would provide an additional safety measure when approaching an intersection. The system would utilize the driver’s position, information from the upcoming stop lights, and sensors near the crosswalk to alert the driver about changing lights and potential pedestrians. This information would be transmitted vocally through the radio, allowing the driver to concentrate on the road ahead.

When choosing a voice for both interfaces, similarity attraction is important. This is due to the fact that “people like voices that manifest personalities that are similar to their own”(Nass 41). At the intersection, the pedestrians and drivers have purpose and are determined to reach their destination; thus, it would make sense for the voice to be professional and straightforward, providing only the necessary information. It should have a male voice with a relatively high volume, a slightly deep pitch, medium pitch range, and an average speech rate. These characteristics would ensure that the voice comes across as knowledgeable and trustworthy but not intimidating. This is important because it would eliminate the possibility of the user feeling as if they are being told what to do; thus, a sense of equality between the user and the interface would be established through the voice, which is similar to that of the stereotypical copilot mentioned in Wired For Speech. However, it does differ in that the slower speech rate and higher volume would ensure clear understanding of the instructions given, which is crucial in a chaotic intersection.

In the future, the integration of a voice interface that connects drivers to pedestrians and provides the user with a comfortable experience would increase the safety and efficiency of the intersection at Tech Square.

Auditory Caffeine

After a tiring day of classes at the CULC, you’re almost to the door to leave when a distinct mixture of sound catches your attention. Its liveliness beckons you to come closer, and before you know it, you’re at the counter, waiting for the piercing sound of your name to reach your ears.

Anyone who has stepped foot into a Starbucks knows that the sounds from behind the counter are remarkably different than the sounds from the other side. However, due to the architecture of the space, these sounds have a way of flawlessly converging into a soundscape that is conducive both to studying and to picking up your favorite caffeinated beverage.

clough

At the counter, you hear the machines grinding and brewing coffee, along with the periodic blending of a frappuccino. You hear an accousmatic beeping sound and the conversations from the other customers in line. As the line progresses forward, the increasing sound intensity produces a sense of excitement. The low ceiling at the counter reduces reverberation and increases the intelligibility of the barista’s voice, which is the most important sound in the space. This signal breaks through the noise and carries the meaning that a customer’s order is ready.

This differs from the sounds heard in the seating area. There, the sounds from the counter combine with faint classical music, chatter between students, and clicking of keyboards. The lofted ceilings and the large windows allow the sounds to echo and form white noise, which promotes concentration. When cups are thumped down, sound meets touch as vibrations travel across the length of the wooden tables. This forms a connection between the other customers in the space, and, in a way, provides a sense of comfort that expedites the completion of the task. In this space, fidelity is crucial to the task in that the blending of all of the sounds is what creates the experience. If one sound were more prominent or, on the other hand, missing, the entire atmosphere of the space would be altered.