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Is This the Future...: http://turbotaxweb.intuit.com

From: Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.com>
Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 02:51:57 -0800
Message-Id: <4.2.0.58.20000115011642.02a66b20@mail.teleport.com>
To: kford@teleport.com
Hi All,

The past few years have been witness to helpful advances in web 
accessibility for people with disabilities.  On the technical side screen 
readers and web browsers are getting much better at presenting a very 
functional and friendly web.  Quality guidelines on how to construct web 
sites have also made progress thanks to efforts by many associated with the 
W3C and similar groups around the world.  However at times I can't avoid 
the feeling that those of us interested in web access are a bit like the 
people who set sail on the Titanic so many years ago.

Take a browse to <http://turbotaxweb.intuit.com> and you might see what I 
mean.  This is Intuit's online version of their popular Turbo Tax product.

The combination of design and technology that Intuit is using virtually 
eliminates any of the advances made in web accessibility over the past few 
years.  Those using screen readers and web browsers incorporating 
Microsoft's Active Accessibility might as well turn that feature 
off.  Aside from a few links to leave the Tax return and such, the Online 
Turbo Tax site does not use any links that you can use to navigate the program.

The opening screen of the web site is just one example of what can be found 
throughout Turbo Tax Online.  You are asked whether you want to start a new 
return, continue and existing one or transfer data from last year.  However 
the only links one finds on the page are for information about privacy and 
copyrights for the web site.

To successfully choose any of these start points, screen reader users must 
turn on whatever commands their program uses for mouse navigation and issue 
actual mouse clicks on the text associated with each feature.

Attempting to use Turbo Tax online reminds me of trying to use Netscape 
when that browser first came out and lacked any keyboard navigation.  You 
must ask for the font of text on the screen to determine what is a link 
that you can select.

Microsoft Active Accessibility and Internet Explorer make using Turbo Tax 
online a bit easier.  You can review the onscreen text in a screen reader 
fashion but when moving the mouse pointer to issue actual clicks, you are 
navigating the screen reader unfriendly version of the page.

As an example, choosing the Start New return option takes you to a page 
where you must read and acknowledge a usage agreement.  You can read this 
with the JFW Virtual PC or Window-Eyes MSAA mode on but then must find text 
near the bottom of the page indicating that you Accept or Do Not 
Accept.  These are not links so you'll have to issue mouse clicks on the 
text.  And so it goes with the rest of the program.

I have not used the web site enough to know whether one can successfully 
complete a tax return with the limitations I've described.  The help for 
the web site talks about being able to navigate from section to section of 
the Turbo Tax Easy Step Interview for example but once I've started a 
return I haven't found a way to do that with a screen reader.  Following 
step-by-step I have been able to enter basic demographic and tax filing 
status details about myself.  The income screens come next and my initial 
impression of those was that they were quite cluttered because again it is 
difficult to know what's a link and what is not.

I and I suspect others will write to Intuit asking them to address these 
issues.  The fact that their software programs like Turbo Tax, Quicken and 
alike get more and more inaccessible with each new release doesn't leave me 
much hope that the online version of their programs will be much improved 
for next tax year.  For this year it is more of the trial and error of 
assorted software that's unfortunately all too much of the reality of 
accessing the computer with a screen reader in the year 2000.  While I 
don't desire the days of DOS again, I do wish the state of accessibility 
with the computer would return to one where we are asking: "How do you use 
that program?" more often than "Does that program work with a screen reader?"

I'm a realist though and by no means am I discounting the advances that 
have been made in accessibility.  For anyone, access technology user or 
not, it is plainly obvious that one can do much more with a computer today 
than one could five or ten years ago.  However, as a percentage of the 
total one can do with a computer, I do believe that what screen reader 
users can successfully do has declined as computing technology has advanced 
in the past several years.  As a comparison, suppose at the zenith of 
computing accessibility what someone not using a screen reader could 
accomplish was worth $1,000.  I'd estimate that screen reading access in 
terms of a percentage was worth $800 or eighty percent of the computing 
applications were available to a screen reading user.  Let's say that today 
the total one can do with a computer is worth $10,000 I'd honestly say that 
what one can access successfully with a screen reader is worth about $5,000 
or at best fifty percent of the total available without a screen 
reader.  Obviously we are all better off today than in the past but my 
point is that screen reading users are falling behind.

Kelly 
Received on Saturday, 15 January 2000 05:47:29 GMT

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