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RE: What would a screen reader make of this?

From: Jennifer Sutton <jensutton@earthlink.net>
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 10:52:19 -0400
Message-Id: <5.0.2.1.2.20010614101713.00a0c330@pop3.norton.antivirus>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Well, I have some thoughts about this idea of a site that would represent 
how a screen reader works, to test it.

First of all, I wonder if folks who aren't experienced with screen readers 
consider contracting with folks who are as often as they might.  It'd save 
time, likely yield better feedback,  and employ folks.  I see lots of 
things cropping up that may make sense from the strict letter of 508 and/or 
from a sighted person's point of view, but would immediately be noticed by 
a screen reader user as not a great idea.

And second of all, how could you make such a site, really?  I can think of 
two main screen readers (Window-Eyes and JFW), and then there's IBM's Home 
Page Reader which is, I believe, primarily a web surfing tool. But there 
are other screen readers besides these, and all have different philosophies 
about how to analyze and present a page to the user.  So I worry about a 
concept like this, not to mention the rate at which screen readers change 
and are upgraded, as David suggested.

I think that web page designers can make accessible pages best if they 
understand the basic concepts behind all screen readers, rather than 
getting bogged down in how to use the most complex features of one piece of 
software.  I'd add that I think it would be hard for a web page designer to 
have a grasp of what an average screen reader user does and does not know 
about the complexities of the screen reading software.  Screen reader users 
range in ability, just as non-disabled users range in ability to use a 
basic browser.

Now, I do recognize that this suggestion to focus less on how to use a 
screen reader and more on concepts may be seen as a rather simplistic 
approach, but I sometimes think it'd be better.  Bobby is a good tool, as 
far as it goes, and so could such a testing site be.  But I guess I think 
human judgment, based on concepts, serves the end product better.

I've seen folks who don't typically use screen readers get far too wrapped 
up in how the screen reader *sounds*, and that's not what's at issue for a 
site developer.  It takes a while to get used to the sound of a screen 
reader, and I wonder if that time might be better spent watching someone 
else use one, and/or paying someone to give concrete feedback on pages.

Jim's comment about the lack of some kind of testing site holding back the 
development of accessible pages prompted one last thought.  Sometimes, I'd 
say that the complexities of a screen reader hold back blind web surfers, 
too.  I suppose that's a whole different topic and my observation isn't 
meant to be critical of screen reader developers. But I do mention it, if 
only to point out that if a blind person has taken the time to learn to use 
a screen reader and is trying to get info from a web page, then nine times 
out of ten, that person *really* wants to get at that info.

Jennifer
Received on Thursday, 14 June 2001 11:07:28 GMT

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