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Dutch interview: use of screen readers and frequency of updates

From: Yvette P. Hoitink <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004 21:27:25 +0200
To: <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-Id: <20040407192711.877B7A4C4F@frink.w3.org>

Hello everyone,

I came across an interview with a Dutch (blind) man about the way he surfs
the web. He is one of the ambassadors for the Dutch 'Barriers away' campaign
to raise awareness of accessibility problems. He talks about the screen
readers used in the Netherlands, and how often people upgrade. I thought it
might be interesting for this group to know how people in non-English
speaking countries use screen readers.

The complete interview (in Dutch) can be found here:

I will translate two sections that I thought would be interesting for this


What screen reader is most often used by blind people (so web developers can
use that to for testing) or are the screen readers so similar you cannot
give advise?

In the Netherlands, Webwizzard (http://www.baum.de/English/webwizard.htm)
and Webformator (http://www.webformator.com/hollaendisch/index.php) are
popular. I prefer Webformator. It's a small program on top of Internet
Explorer. That way I can do almost anything on the internet. The major
screen readers such as Jaws
(http://www.freedomscientific.com/fs_products/software_jaws.asp) and Hal
(http://www.dolphinuk.co.uk/products/hal.htm) are very elaborate, but I do
not think that's necessary. Often they complicate matters unnecessarily and
you need to learn keyboard combinations to use it effectively. Webformator
is more target-oriented and I like that. A problem is that not all plug-ins
are supported by the various screen readers. Much has changed during the
last half year and we are improving. To name an example, the last version of
Jaws now supports Java. But we're not there yet by a long shot. 

How fast do blind people and people with limited visility upgrade their
screen readers?

Not fast, in reality really slowly. Many blind people still use Jaws version
2.x. There is a simple reason for this. When you buy a product, you're
entitled to 2 updates, and that's it. The screen reader software has to be
purchased which is reimbursed by the government [1]. You can apply for a
reimbursement once every three years, but the procedure takes a long time
and the application is frequently rejected. If you know that Jaws costs
about 900 dollars at the moment, you can imagine that blind people don't
regularly use the latest software.


I also liked his explanation of how he experiences the internet:
"In most cases it's like a slot machine. If I put in enough time, sometimes
I get a result."

[1] Explanation: Paul used the word 'Ziekenfonds' which is the basic medical
care in the Netherlands. Everyone below a certain income level is
automatically insured through the Ziekenfonds (which is paid by the national
government by claiming a percentage of your income). If you earn more than
that income, you have to insure yourself privately. That income level is
around 22,000 US dollars so a large part of the Dutch population is insured
for medical costs through the Ziekenfonds. This includes most people with
severe disabilities because the majority of them fall in the lower income

As far as I know, both webformator and webwizzard are not real screen
readers. They just transform the web content to text and are used together
with a text-to-speech program or a braille device.

I want to thank naarvoren.nl for allowing me to translate these sections
into English for WCAG use.

Yvette Hoitink
Heritas, Enschede, The Netherlands
Received on Wednesday, 7 April 2004 15:27:11 UTC

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