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Vision-impaired son inspires dad to create software to improve internet accessibility

Tuesday, 5 August 2014 | By Kye White

Inspired by the experience of his 10-year-old son Huey, who is vision-impaired, Kenneth Springer has developed a new service which makes the internet more accessible to those that are vision-impaired or have autism.


When he was four-years-old, Huey fell gravely ill as a result of a “fluid build-up inside his head”. He survived many trips to the hospital and surgery, but lost his eye sight as a result.


Four years later Huey was sitting with his father Kenneth trying to play a YouTube music video, when, in a moment of frustration, he told his father everything that was wrong with the internet from his perspective.


“I recall this conversation so clearly because it was an awakening moment for me,” Springer says.


“Huey was trying to play a singing video on youtube.com and every few minutes or so he would call to indicate he is lost and stuck on the page.


“When I asked Huey why are you clicking all these other links and ending up many pages away from where he wants to be, he responded why are there so many links and other content on the screen that I do not need to see for the moment.”


It was in this moment that Springer, an experienced software engineer, decided to try to develop a platform that would help Huey access the internet as easily as possible.


He spent two years researching, validating and designing Hueyify, a tool named after his son, which allows users to control all the content in a web-browser, improves readability on the internet and makes it more user friendly.


Hueyify will be available for free for those who are vision-impaired or have autism.


“This is a mandatory statement that forms the very essence of what Hueyify stands for because we believe the internet should be accessible and fair to all given the importance of the internet in our lifestyles,” Springer says.


Hueyify users can change colours, styles, layout and presentation on the web, annotate and summarise content, control and classify information into different quality levels, simplify and transform information to aid reading and comprehension, and enable text-to-speech without the need to install screen readers to read web content out loud.


Springer says the tools that are currently offered by other services, like screen-readers and individual settings in web-browsers, don’t really address the core challenges facing those with vision-impairments who want to access the internet.


“Hueyify goes further by having a tailored web browsing experience for each individual,” he says.


“The more you use it, the more the system learns about your preferences and tailors the content as per your requirements.


“I don’t believe we have listened enough to those with disabilities as to what they want.”


“Speaking with others with impairments they are full of ideas and needs and all are different.”


Springer says as a consequence the customisation element of Hueyify is crucial, because designing a different set of tools for each individual “isn’t very productive from a commercialisation point of view”.


The startup is raising funds through donations on its website and has got to this stage entirely through those donations.


It’s continuing to raise funds in order to complete development.


To donate, head over to the Hueyify website.


Hueyify is also reaching out to those with vision-impairments and autism to provide feedback on the development of the platform.