For NIH site, software can turn graphics into text

For NIH site, software can turn graphics into text

National Cancer Institute found a program to help it convert millions of complex graphics on its Web site into accessible text

BY DIPKA BHAMBHANI | GCN STAFF

Though most agencies a year ago were awaiting the Access Board's standards for accessibility under Section 508, Dan Grauman had begun making the National Cancer Institute's Web site accessible.

The computer specialist for the Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics Division was creating a site where millions of graphics could be converted into accessible text in seconds.

The National Institutes of Health site was not completely accessible by the board's June 21 implementation deadline, but Grauman is glad to have found a way to convert the institute's 5 million graphics and easily add more.

Automated conversion

He's using PopChart [D] software from Corda Technologies Inc. of Lindon, Utah, that automates the conversion process.

'We have graphs created dynamically on the fly,' Grauman said. There was no application that could do the automatic conversion, he added. 'This is the amazing part of that technology.'

Under a $50,000 contract, Corda does the Web programming, maintains the PopChart server and hosts the cancer institute's site.

Using a chart template, Grauman creates a graph. Then the chart is sent to the Web via Corda's proprietary Web application server.

Users who click on a graphic almost immediately will see a text conversion of it on the institute's site.

By September, the institute will run the program from its own server, a 700-MHz dual-processor unit with 2G of RAM and Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0.

'We are soon releasing an additional product that will allow a novice, someone nontechnical, to cut and paste data from Microsoft Excel that will generate descriptive data,' said Ron Saffell, director of government and education sales for Corda. The application will come out next month.

Grauman said many agencies have to convert charts themselves, describing in text each picture or table, which can cause errors. 'You have to worry about mistakes,' he said.

'The alternative is that for every chart you have to program and set up a code so there's a link which has the chart, then that link takes you to another Web page,' Saffell said. 'That would be an undue burden; then the agencies could say, 'No way.' '

Fast text conversion

Saffell said many agencies could convert their graphics in less than a day using PopChart. The cancer institute's nearly yearlong project is a rarity because of the number of graphics.

The institute's 5 million graphics cover all states, more than 3,000 economic areas, five race options and 40 types of cancer.

Meanwhile, Grauman already has plans to narrate a 20-minute video tour of the site and convert the video into formats that site visitors can view with Apple QuickTime and RealAudio from RealNetworks Inc. of Seattle.

'That would be beneficial to the sighted users,' Grauman said.

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