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Overemphasis on screen readers?

From: Justin James <j_james@mindspring.com>
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 2008 10:20:25 -0400
To: "'HTML WG'" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <001b01c91350$5df4de50$19de9af0$@com>

Over the last few months, accessibility has been a dominating topic on this
mailing list, and possibly elsewhere for the group members. A few weeks ago,
I introduced the topic of accessibility for video, audio, and other
non-image multimedia content, and the amount of discussion around that has
made it clear that many other people are concerned about this and they are
working hard to find a sensible resolution.

One of the items that came out during this discussion are alternatives to
screen readers. To be frankly honest, I know extremely little about how
disabled people use computers, other than some one-on-one work with a few
people who have used screen readers. So I was pretty grateful when Laura
Carlson sent me a list of links [1] to some resources explaining various
accessibility tools.

Giving this list a cursory examination, a lot of light has been shed on the
topic here. For example, I had always wondered what a screen reader user
would do in a noisy environment if they could not use headphones, or what
someone who was both vision and hearing disabled would do. Now I know. :)

After reading about these devices, I believe that as a group, we have
fixated on screen readers at the expense of considering other devices.
Indeed, I have never once noticed a reference to a specific type of
accessibility device other than screen reader. We either say "screen reader"
or the generic "accessibility tools" (AT). Screen readers are, I'm sure,
extremely popular. Additionally, screen readers are inexpensive enough so
that even non-disabled developers and testers can easily purchase one (heck,
every major OS ships with one, as far as I know) for testing purposes. But
at the same time, I think that it is important that we take into
consideration all of the possible accessibility tools out there, not just
the most popular one or the most easily obtained one.

Can anyone point us to some resources that can give us an idea of the
differences in user experience for using an alternative accessibility tool?
For example, how is @alt handled on a Braille display? What about layers?
Etc. etc. etc.

Thanks!

J.Ja

[1]: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2008Sep/0308.html
Received on Wednesday, 10 September 2008 14:21:25 GMT

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