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Re: Digital Web Magazine - Seven Accessibility Mistakes (Part 1)

From: Kynn Bartlett <nextofkynn@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, 01 Feb 2006 17:20:22 +0000
To: Jens Meiert <jens.meiert@erde3.com>
Message-Id: <7C02642B-7293-4B86-8045-7B8A87B9A7EC@gmail.com>
Cc: public-evangelist@w3.org

On 2/1/06, Jens Meiert <jens.meiert@erde3.com> wrote:
> But, Nielsen's "Don't listen to users" [1] applies here as well, so  
> testing
> is still far more commendable than just asking users.

Jakob Nielsen seems to prefer the eye-catching controversial headline
to common sense approach to accessibility.  In this case, it's more
unhelpful than helpful to "not listen to users" who operate
screenreaders; his little dictats get poorly quoted often.  (They're
not scripture, after all.)

Nielsen suggests that instead of listening to what users say, you
should watch what users do.  Fair enough, except that hardly any
visually-dependent designer is going to be able to make even a lick of
sense out of an experienced and competent screenreader user's session.
  For starters, the speech rate will be amazingly fast in nearly every

> And from my experience, trying out assistive technologies (AT) is  
> perfect
> for sensitization. [...]
> Every open mouth I see when accessing a page with a simple voice  
> browser
> shows that trying out does a good job in sensitizing.

Sensitiziation isn't the same thing as finding out how screenreaders
are actually used.  And a single demonstration by a trainer of "this
is what a voice browser makes a page look like" is far different than
using a screenreader with the goal of finding out how to design
accessible pages.  Demonstrations of the sort you describe have their
value, sure, but it's also valuable to sit down with a screenreader
user and ask them how they use the Web in general -- and then have
them go and do usability tests on your site as well.

> While I agree that developers should not rely alone on
> their experience using e.g. screenreaders, I recommend using them
> nonetheless to get a feeling for AT usage and common problems AT  
> users face.

I've never once seen a Web developer who is willing to use a
screenreader as their primary means of access for two weeks straight
in order to become proficient with the screenreader.  (Because that's
about how long it takes for minimal skill in one.)

What you describe is sort of like if you're trying to design a
motocross track for motorcycles, but you don't know how to ride.
Instead of asking experienced off-road bike folks how to do it, you go
out and get yourself a Harley, ride it a couple times, and leave it in
your garage.

Received on Thursday, 2 February 2006 00:08:50 UTC

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