Journal of Software Engineering and Applications, 2013, 6, 91-96
doi:10.4236/jsea.2013.63b020 Published Online March 2013 (
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
An Intelligent Voice-Based eMarketplace for Visually
Impaired People
Fahad Algarni, Yen Cheung, Vincent Lee
Clayton School of Information Technology, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
Received 2013
Today eMarketplaces play a significant role in contemporary life by providing a lot of income and business opportuni-
ties to people and organizations throughout the world. Despite innovations in the field of IT, many of eMarketplaces
lack the ability to prov ide appropriate services for people with special needs, especially the blind. Therefore, this pa-
per is focused on incorporating an interface for blind people to participate in the business of eMarketplaces. A proposed
model of a voice-based eMarketplace has been introduced using voice recognition technology. Specific blind users of
the system are uniquely identified using voice recognition technology to enable them to access the eMarketplace in a
secure manner. Further work of this project involves building such as module on an existing eMarketplace.
Keywords: eMarketplaces; Voice Recognition; Visually Impaired People; eCommerce; Web Accessibility
1. Introduction
Today many areas of life are evolving technologically
where people are adopting digital media, which is be-
coming more efficient and simple to use. Digital tech-
nology is considered as one of the major developments in
the world of technology due to the fact that it has the
ability to be develop ed and spread progressively [1]. An-
other major consideration for digital technology is its
flexibility and capability in being utilized easily without
interfering with the normal way of life. Areas that have
so far exhibited a dramatic improvement on technology
include but not limited to; engineering, agriculture,
transport, gastronomy, communication, finance, trade,
media, management and banking. Overall, technology
has greatly increased the productivity of the people and
comfort has equally increased. Ho wever, despite the ma-
jor innovations in technology, provisions for the physi-
cally challenged community such as the blind are limited.
For instance, many Internet-based systems such as
eMarketplaces remain inaccessible for blind people,
raising issue of information asymmetry and social injus-
According to Leuthold, Baragas and Opwis [2] for
blind internet users, an enhanced text user interface is
more practical than the graphical user interface, and their
results showed a large potential beyond the web content
accessibility guidelines for advancing the Internet prac-
tice of blind users. They further suggest that empirical
studies should be performed to increase insights into
navigation strategies and guidelines to build new naviga-
tions for the blind. Thus, this paper is dedicated to pro-
pose a constructive voice-based eMarketplace that can
improve blind internet users experience while browsing
the internet.
1.1. Incorporation of Features to Aid the
Visually Impaired People in eMarketplaces
An eMarketplace is a form of advertising and exchanging
of goods and services via the internet. An eMarketplace
has greatly provided a chance for buyers and sellers to
exchange a wide variety of items without restrictions
such as time and location. Hence, eMarketplaces have
allowed people to perform different tasks at the same
time [3].
A blind person is a person who can not partially or
fully use his or her eyes [2]. Due to the problem of using
their sense of sight, these people are taught other forms
of communication like the Braille language that assists
them in the communication. This form of communication
can not be easily integrated into the internet. Hence, the
need to develop other better ways to integrate them in
this technology of eMarketplaces is crucial. This will
enhance the internet access and allow the handi-
capped/blind users to access eMarketplaces more easily
An Intelligent Voice-Based eMarketplace for Visually Impaired People
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
and conveniently.
From research, it is proven that the blind people have a
acute sense of hearing. Accordingly, the introduction of
voice technology will be most suitable in this case. Sev-
eral approaches have been introduced for the integration
of the voice technology as one of the facilities on the
internet to help blind people access eMarketplaces more
easily and conveniently. Those approaches seek to un-
derstand blind people, their problems and abilities to ac-
cess the internet [4].
2. Literature Review
2.1. Forms of Communication Used by Blind
Various researchers have suggested more comfortable
and easy ways to be used by the handicapped especially
the blind to access the internet. There are some special-
ized equipments that have been developed by scientists
that are very sensitive to letter and word recognition,
voice and speech recognition. The blind people can
communicate in their daily operations with these major
forms. Among the most sophisticated systems that have
been developed to assist the blind in the area of internet
surfing is the Braille surf. Braille is the language of
communication used by blind people, which comprises
of dots arranged in a specific order to communicate to
the blind. It utilizes the sens e of touch of blind people as
it is proven that besides hearing, they also have the most
advanced sen se of touch. Despite Braille b eing one of the
main forms of communication, in reality not many peo-
ple use Braille as it is very difficult to learn [5]. Another
system called ALVA Braille has been developed. It util-
izes the screen as a display, and it is controlled by the
normal operating system of the computers. The output of
this system is on a Braille bar or through the use of a
voice/speech synthesizer that produces an audible voice
which can be received by the blind people [6]. Moreover,
another development called Haptic [7] provides a special
interface that allows blind users to feel the shapes on the
screen. These techniques have been facilitating blind
people into the internet browsing so become partially
aware of its contents [8].
2.2. Limitations of the Previous Forms of
Despite the fact that various innovations have been de-
veloped to assist the blind in using the internet and its
technology, there are still have some inefficiencies as
they do not ultimately assist the blind people in this
problem. Most of them have poor and unusable forms of
display of graphical f eatures in the internet. As graphical
features are very crucial and inevitable in eMarketplaces,
they have been enhanced for normal people. However,
this has not been done in systems used by the blind to
make them feel recognized as part of the human race.
Consequently, the entire issue of business and markets
will include not just normal people but the blind and
other physically challenged people as well [8].
3. Research Methodology
3.1. Research Methodology
Our aim is to define a basic but an efficient method of
achieving usability especially for blind people. Borodin,
Bigham and Ramakrishan [4] have mentioned that there
is a need for a web browser that assists disabled people to
overcome challenges and limitations of accessibility. Due
to the fact th at blin d pe ople who are not yet appropriately
considered in the field of internet browsing including
eMarketplaces, the main purpose of this paper is to pro-
pose an eMarketplace that assist the blind to utilize
eMarketplaces. For achieving usability of eMarketplaces
we require to have a set of efficient techniques through
which can enable handicapped people especially the
blind to utilize eMarketplaces easily. Our proposed ap-
proach is based on defining voice-based functionalities
over the eMarketplaces’ interface that can be mapped
and connected directly to the entire related databases
which involve all required products details. These func-
tionalities are then specified to an eMarketplace specific
vocal commands and data sharing can then be achieved
through these techniques. Defining these voice-based
functionalities to the eMarketplaces’ interface is possible
through an intelligent voice-based assistant The voice-
based assistant is a function of an eMarketplace in which
enables database text reader, which provide a voice re-
sponds, allowing data to be retrieved across eMarket-
place’ applications. The information then can be
achieved in a well-defined vocal manner enabling handi-
capped and blind peop le to interact with the entire online
market activities. The voice-based eMarketplace module
promises to expose the information content of the eMar-
ketplaces resources which apart from text also includes
images’ condition description. The proposed structural
design is defined and explained with all required suppor-
tive figures and how the voice-based eMarketplace mod-
ule and its techniques are used in making this structural
design is discussed in the following subsections.
3.2. Defining the Methodology
In our architecture, we assume the availability of a stan-
dard eMarketplace database, which consists of all prod-
ucts’ prices and details. For the entire database in the
architecture, voice-based assistance declarations are de-
fined to the eMarketplace system. These declarations
An Intelligent Voice-Based eMarketplace for Visually Impaired People
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
consist of all variables that will be used in data mining
and they expose the eMarketplace contents in its data-
base to the eMarketplace interface. Internal matching is
defined between the eMarketplace database and its re-
lated interface. The aim is to achieve usability of eMar-
ketplace by ensuring that handicapped people especially
blinds utilize eMarketplaces with confidence by referring
to the voice-based assistant. Voice-based assistant takes
the vocal entry from the handicap ped user to perform the
matching procedure on the desired eMarketplace. The
vocal entries that the handicapped user speaks after
hearing the vocal instructions which provided by the
voice-based online assistant referring to the internal
matching of eMarketplaces components and the result is
given back. In case of that the vocal entry was matched
or found, the voice-based assistant will further proceed
the order for the handicapped/blind user. Otherwise, if
the vocal entry is not matched or found, the voice-based
online assistant will divert customer automatically to a
customer care representative (CCR) using voice over IP
call through the eMarketplace system. In such a case, the
handicapped/blind customer will have the full opportu-
nity to speak and explain his/her desired product with the
CCR. The architecture is shown in Figure 1. It show s the
overall plan of eMarketplace voice-based system includ-
ing the relevant database, the voice-based online assistant
which located on the interface, the CCR and how the
blind users interact with it.
Figure 1. Architecture of the Voice-based eMarketplace.
3.3. Role of the Proposed Voice-Based
eMarketplace Interface
The voice-based eMarketplace is an efficient technique
of demonstrating information of traditional eMarket-
places. It represents information in a voice manner that
can easily be understood by handicapped people espe-
cially blinds. It provides an opportunity for them to fully
participate and complete their online shopping without
current difficulties. In addition to the benefits of the
eMarketplaces technology for both buyer and seller such
as, connectivity and flexibility [3], handicapped people
will have the ability to contribute positively to the field.
Considering this segment of society is not only a hu-
manitarian act, but is a quantum leap in the history of
eMarketplaces. Thus, implementing such a technique is
crucial to keep pace with the continuing evolu tion eMar-
3.4. Methodology Architecture Specifications
To demonstrate the architecture, we will consider an
example of an eMarketplaces that sells school products.
Essentially this school eMarketplace will one or more
than one product categories or types stored on its related
database. The database normally stores the information
of its products availability and descriptions. Suppose a
blind person wants to check the availability of a leather
bag. Then, he/she may wish to know the price and buy
the desired product. The vo ice entry ‘leather bag’ will be
received via the voice-based online assistant that built in
the school eMarketplace interface. Then, the voice-based
online assistant will transfer the vocal entry for matching
its availability. In case if the desired product is found , the
voice-based online assistant will read ou t the results back
to the handicapped/blind customer and will follow the
purchasing procedure vocally. Otherwise, if the vocal
entry is not found, the voice-based online assistant will
directly divert the call to a customer care representative
who will be able to further assist handicapped/blind cus-
tomer to complete their online shopping transaction.
Further explanations of our proposed voice-based eMar-
ketplace and its relevant actions that can be performed by
the blind person is illu strated in the event table “ see Ta-
ble 1” and the related use case, activity diagrams.
3.5. Event Table Analysis
As handicapped/blind person could perform the normal
purchasing eMarketplaces’ activities that includes
searching, choosing and buying. “Table 1” represents
sequence of functions for the voice-based eMarketplace
system on an event-by-event basis in a summary form. It
involves the use cases of each event that will then assist
in depicting the Use Case diagram that will comprise the
practical requirements of the system.
An Intelligent Voice-Based eMarketplace for Visually Impaired People
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
3.6. Use Case Diagram Clarifications
The use case model “See Figure 2” describes the identi-
fied events showed in Table 1, and links them to all ac-
tors (Blind Customer, Voice-Based Online Assistant and
eMarketplace system); therefore, it represents the par-
ticipation between all elements.
In order to clarify the functionality of the system we
also produce a relevant activity diagram. Activity diagram
represents in depth the specific internal activities of the
system. It can be used to support any level of use cases
that presented in the use case diagram. In our proposed
system we use it to simplify the scenario of the interac-
tion between the blind user and the voice-based eMar-
ketplace interface including how the system will divert
blind customer call using VoIP technique “see Figure 3”.
Table 1. Sequence of events for voice-based eMarketplace.
Event Trigger Source Use Case Response Destination
1. Customer Checks
Item Availability Item Enquiry Customer Check Item
Item Availability
Details/ Or
Transfer customer’s
call (VoIP)
1.1. CCR Checks
Item Availability Item Enquiry CCR Check Item
Availability Item Availability
Details CCR
2. Customer or CCR
Places an Order New Order Customer or CCR Create New Order Order Confirmation/
Order and Customer
Customer or CCR/
eMarketplace System
3. Payment validates
transaction Transaction
validation eMarketplace
System Payment validationPayment approval
Shipment order Customer/
Figure 2. Use case diagram.
An Intelligent Voice-Based eMarketplace for Visually Impaired People
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. JSEA
Figure 3. Use case diagram.
As a quick glimpse at “Figure 3”, it demonstrates the
scenario of checking item availability use case which is
included with the create new order use case. For example,
when a handicapped/blind eMarketplaces user places a
vocal order to purchase an item, the order then will be
received by the voice-based eMarketplace system for
processing. After data matching there will be tow cases:
the first case is that when the item is found then the
voice-based eMarketplace system will persist the order
with the handicapped/blind user in a vocal manner. The
second case is that when the item is not found, the sys-
tem here will not reject the order, instead it will directly
convert the handicapped/blind users to a customer care
representative to further facilitate the completion of the
purchasing pro cess.
4. Conclusion and Future Work
4.1. Future Wrok
Further studies can be conducted to implement the pro-
posed voice-based eMarketplace. For instance, the pro-
posed system can be developed as a Blind Interface
Module, which can be used as an add-on facility to an
existing eMarketplace. This module can be activated
when needed.
4.2. Conclusion
In conclusion, the assimilation of technology into the
field of eMarketplaces has an important role particularly
in addressing the needs of everybody including those
who are physically challenged. Thus, further develop-
ments and enhancement of Internet applications should
include investigations of ‘comfortable’ forms of eMar-
ketplaces that are suitable for the handicapped, especially
the blind. As mentioned earlier, there has been com-
mendable attempts to generate more comfortable ways
for the blind to be part of the changing technology espe-
cially eMarketplaces. This has included the use of text
readers, voice recognition devices and speech synthesiz-
ers. Although there are challenges in their applications,
they can be of great assistance to the blind and ev en with
some modest improvements they can lead to major
breakthroughs in introducing the blind to eMarketplaces
technology. This will in turn expand business of eMar-
ketplaces. In this paper, we have proposed a voice-based
module for eMarketplaces for handicapped/blind people.
The system can deal with blind people using voice input
and output commands. The event table of the scenario for
the purchasing process has been described to illustrate
the proposed system. Overall, the system can be crucial
for both the blinds and people with typing or browsing
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