WebbIE, the accessible text browser

WebbIE is a freely available text-only web browser for the visually impaired. WebbIE browses web pages, searches the web, allows for filling in forms, ecommerce, and allows for using online email, in a highly-accessible text-only display that works with any screenreader. The software was developed by Dr. Alasdair King, a software developer in England, specializing in accessibility and software for blind, visually- and print-impaired people.

Although there are several keyboard shortcuts for using WebbIE, only a few allow a user to quickly start using the browser: these include  W for web search, TAB for the address box, BACKSPACE for moving back a page, K for removing extraneous links, and of course the ubiquitous ENTER and arrow keys for navigation. When I first started teching the visually impaired, many students were reluctant to use browsers, since the screen reader would indiscriminately read all the extraneous junk on a web page and using a browser was more an exercise in frustration. The result of using WebbIE for these students was that it was difficult to keep them off the web once they used it.

WebbIE enables quick and simple access to the main content on web pages, automatically removing graphics and allowing users to remove the links that can be such a distraction and frustration for the visually impaired.

Features of WebbIE

  • Shows web pages as plain text to so a user can simply cursor around the page like a Word document. Much simpler than navigating complex tree-like web pages using a standard web browser.
  • Easy Google web search: enter search terms, press return, and just cursor up and down the results. Fast and simple.
  • Support for forms, for using eCommerce and online shops and online email like GMail.
  • Jump quickly to headings ((H) and navigate around with single keystrokes.
  • List links on a page and cursor around them to find out where you can go.
  • Quickly crop out the rubbish at the top of a page and scattered around the page, go directly to page content without having to spend time finding it.
  • Access and add to Internet Explorer Favorites.
  • Works with any screenreader, including NVDA, Thunder, JAWS, WindowEyes, Hal, and the built-in Windows Narrator.
  • Change font size and font.
  • Uses system colours to select yellow-on-black and high visibility schemes for maximum readability.
  • Handles Javascript and HTML5 features so the latest web pages have a chance of working.
  • Fully translated into a dozen languages and displays web pages written in any language.
  • Open RSS News Feeds for sites so you can quickly skip to the page you want.

*One caveat: A web search for WebbIE may yield pages on Webbie, the rapper so search terms should also include the term browser.