The design and evaluation of auditory access to spreadsheets
This project is concerned with the development and evaluation of an integrated approach to sound-based access to spreadsheets. The primary target user population is visually impaired users, employing speech-based screen readers as their main means of accessing the data. Other users may benefit from the approach in situations where sound may provide an effective alternative or complementary means of exploring complex data relationships, when the visual interface being employed is too small to afford effective spreadsheet display or in monitoring situations where the visual attention of users must be employed elsewhere. The paper begins with an introduction to the use of spreadsheets by visually impaired users, including the current state of auditory interfaces as provided by commercial screen reader (SR) systems. The development of a prototype system to enhance speech-based access through the use of data sonification is described. The results of a number of detailed evaluations are discussed, drawn from a number of ``real work'' situations. The paper concludes with an examination of the issues arising from the evaluations, and a program of future research.