The reading interface

A computer is necessary to read an electronic document. This computer shall have a reading unit if the document is provided on a physical support or an Internet connection if the document is available from a Web server. It shall also run a software reader. This constitutes the reading interface.

From this point of view, the situation is not very different for a reader with a visual impairment or for a sighted reader, neither being able to read the electronic document directly with the eyes. For a sighted reader, the reading interface is based on a screen display, a keyboard and a mouse, while a blind person will use a keyboard and a braille refreshable display or a speech output. Both of them will need a set of functions for navigating through the document, marking pages or sections, or even annotating it. In some situations, sighted users will need non visual interfaces as well, when driving a car, or consulting an information server over the phone, for instance.

The reading interface performs operations on the document in order to display the requested information. It can be customized to accommodate to user preferences, like the font, the size or the color of the characters. Displaying the text in braille or reading it via a speech synthesizer are nothing more than alternative customization modes. There may be conversions rather performed by the braille display unit or by the TTS software, independently from the reading software. Similarly the choice of the braille code, depending on the language, the abbreviating system, can be set by the end-user as a customization feature. This last option has not to be decided upstream and imposed to the reader as it was the case with embossed braille.

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