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Re: Recruiting software companies ( was One of those pesky questions

From: Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.com>
Date: Wed, 04 Mar 1998 10:02:19 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: Scott Luebking <phoenixl@netcom.com>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

You make some good points but until there's some straight forward honest
talk from the browser companies about the current state of reality how can
we expect them to join in and expect truthful and productive results?  I
know that many people who are blind really question the creditability of
Microsoft for the reasons I'll outline below.

I realize that the debate over Internet Explorer 4.0 and the lack of Active
Accessibility has been talked about so often that most folks are probably
tired of hearing about it.  But Microsoft keeps repeating a version of
events that so slants reality that it borders on dishonesty in my opinion.
It is at the very least extremely misleading.

Below is a brief excerpt from the transcript of a speech by Bill Gates
given at Microsoft's recent accessibility day.  Gates, like many from the
Accessibility Group at Microsoft, keeps saying that yes indeed Microsoft
messed up in a serious way by not releasing IE 4 with Active Accessibility.
 But this claim, again repeated in the excerpt below, is immediately
followed by the claim that the problem was fixed in 30 days with an updated
release of IE 4.01.  There is never a mention that the update included a
new version of Active Accessibility which did not work with a single screen
reader at the time the update was released.

The folks in Microsoft's Accessibility Group know for certain that the
version of IE released in this magical 30 days does not work with screen
readers.  Ask them about it and they give the canned response that users
should contact the vendor of their accessibility aide to find out when they
will have their product working with IE 4.01.  I have no idea what Bill
Gates knows on the topic but to read his statement you'd think that anyone
who's blind and has a screen reader is now happily using Internet Explorer
4 because Microsoft saw the error in their ways and fixed things right
quick.  Simply put this is not true.

To the best of my knowledge only one screen reader (Hal) works with IE 4
and that's a program that doesn't even include Active Accessibility
support.  Artic Technologies, makers of WinVision, are just now recruiting
people to beta test their support of a version of their program that
"works" with IE 4.  To read Artic's slant on things it certainly doesn't
sound like IE 4 is going to be nearly as accessible a browser as IE 3 has
shown itself to be.  Below are a couple paragraphs from their recruitment
letter which has been widely circulated on the net.

Begin Artic Quote

Unlike IE3, which is truly a Gem of Microsoft insight and compassion
towards the needs of blind computer users, IE4 accessibility is so
different deep down inside that it sometimes makes us wonder if we are
dealing with the same company that wrote IE3. We have had to spend a great
amount of precious engineering time to rewrite a whole new IE4 applet from
scratch. That is because Microsoft totally changed the method and format
used for presenting HTML data to MSAA compliant Screen Readers between IE3
and  IE4. (Sorry gurus, but  even ten thousand users writting macros can't
help here.)

Artic hopes to make access IE4 as good as, if not better than, IE3.
However, we are very concerned with the current MSAA-IE4 sluggishness plus
other problems and omissions. Based upon the recommendations from this beta
test cycle we are considering only putting out a separate and temporary
WinVision/IE4 version for those people who are forced to use IE4 right now
(or the upcoming Windows 98 with integrated IE4). This way those people
wanting to stay with the smooth and fast running IE3 can do so until
MSAA-IE4 catches up to their previous benchmark.

End Artic Quote

I have heard rumors that other screen reading companies are at about the
same spot as Artic but to my knowledge Artic is the only company to
publicly talk about support for IE 4.  But my main point is that Microsoft
is distorting reality.  As I said they make the implication, if not state a
fact, that the problems with IE accessibility were corrected in 30 days.
So I ask again how can we expect browser companies to really join on board
when these are the results from Microsoft, and they have at least taken
some public adoption of an accessible web.  I further wonder why straight
forward honest talk is so difficult to get from Microsoft.  In my opinion
part of telling the truth involves giving all the facts, not just the ones
that make you look good.

Begin Bill Gates Quote

 In terms of low lights, I'll just mention two. The first is not
putting enough resources into this area soon enough. And so a
little bit being in a catch-up mode relative to Windows and
graphical interface products, and then most recently where we
actually took a step backwards, where we had Internet Explorer
ship with less accessibility than in the previous version. And
even though we were able to very rapidly turnaround and in 30
days ship version 4.01 that solved those problems, it definitely
sent the wrong message, internally and externally. And so we've
got to make sure that we're not going backwards. In fact, quite
the opposite, that as we're getting major releases out, we're
taking big steps forward.

End Bill Gates Quote

Received on Wednesday, 4 March 1998 12:59:13 UTC

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