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RE: What would a screen reader make of this?

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 10:30:53 -0700
Message-Id: <a0510030db74ea318ae2f@[]>
To: Jennifer Sutton <jensutton@earthlink.net>, <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
At 10:52 AM -0400 2001/6/14, Jennifer Sutton wrote:
>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.

Very well said.  In general, I think that my own "screenreader testing"
of a web site, as a sighted user and very irregular user of a screenreader,
is pretty much next to worthless.

As someone who has never had to -rely- on a screenreader (yet?), I can
so easily become confused and think that problems with my understanding
of the tool are problems with the site itself, or vice-versa, thinking
that something is not a problem because it "seems okay" to me.
(Especially as I've probably already seen the visual version of the
site and built my idea of the information infrastructure from -that-.)

There is little value in a "light dependent" (sighted) user sitting down
with a screenreader and testing a web site to see "if blind people
can access it."

An addition to that statment:  There is value in web designers trying
out screenreaders to get a -sense- of what the user experience is like,
but detailed and rigorous testing of a site with conclusions and
changes based upon a sighted user's access via screenreader (or any
other assistive technology) is generally not worthwhile.

Instead, I very, very strongly recommend that you do the following:

* Follow the abstractions of accessibility listed in WCAG and other
   guidelines; these are one step back, conceptually, from the real
   question of "is this accessible?" but someone else has already done
   most of the legwork for you in figuring out what you need.


* Drop the abstraction at least once so you don't lose sight of the
   REAL question, which is, "Can people with disabilities access
   this site?"  And the ONLY way you can tell that is to do user
   testing, despite what guidelines or tools or regulations tell
   you on the abstract level.

In other words, I heartily recommend that you Go Out And Hire A Blind
Guy To Test Your Web Site, if you care whether or not blind guys can
access your web page.

Recruit Some Students From The Local School For The Developmentally
Disabled and ask them to test your site, if you care if their special
needs are being met.

There is no better way to validate accessibility.  All the DTDs, Bobbies,
WCAGs, AWARE Centers, essays, books, and authoring tools in the world
can't give you a clear answer than simple and adequate user testing.


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@reef.com>
Technical Developer Liaison
Reef North America
Accessibility - W3C - Integrator Network
Tel +1 949-567-7006
Received on Thursday, 14 June 2001 13:36:46 UTC

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