Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) play an important role in the workflow of many software developers, e.g. providing syntactic highlighting or other navigation aids to support the creation of lengthy codebases. Unfortunately, such complex visual information is difficult to convey with current screen-reader technologies, thereby creating barriers for programmers who are blind, who are nevertheless using IDEs.

This dissertation is focused on utilizing audio-based techniques to assist non-visual programmers when navigating through large amounts of code. Recently, audio generation techniques have seen major improvements in their capabilities to covey visually-based information to both sighted and non-visual users – making them a potential candidate for providing useful information, especially in places where information is visually structured. However, there is little known about the usability of such techniques in software development. Therefore, we investigated whether audio-based techniques capable of providing useful information about the code structure to assist non-visual programmers. The major contributions in this dissertation are split into two major parts:

The first part of this dissertation explains our prior work that investigates the major challenges in software development faced by non-visual programmers, specifically code navigation difficulties. It also discusses areas of improvement where additional features could be developed in order to make the programming environment more accessible to non-visual programmers.

The second part of this dissertation focuses on studies aimed to evaluate the usability and efficacy of audio-based techniques for conveying the structure of the programming codebase, which was suggested by the stakeholders in Part I. Specifically, we investigated various sound effects, audio parameters, and different interaction techniques to determine whether these techniques could provide adequate support to assist non-visual programmers when navigating through lengthy codebases. In Part II, we discussed the methodological aspects of evaluating the above-mentioned techniques with the stakeholders and examine these techniques using an audio-based prototype that was designed to control audio timing, locations, and methods of interaction. A set of design guidelines are provided based on the evaluation described previously to suggest including an auditory-based feedback system in the programming environment in efforts to improve code structure readability and understandability for assisting non-visual programmers.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Computer software--Development; People with visual disabilities--Services for; Blind--Services for

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Computing and Information Sciences (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Computer Science (GCCIS)


Matt Huenerfauth

Advisor/Committee Member

Stephanie Ludi

Advisor/Committee Member

Vicki L. Hanson


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes