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Fw: answers to questions on:AOL Focused Beta Test for Accessibility

From: David Poehlman <poehlman1@home.com>
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2001 12:03:13 -0400
Message-ID: <006301c12a5a$c8857fe0$2cf60141@mtgmry1.md.home.com>
To: "wai-ig list" <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

Hugely snipped from quoted message.  I snipped at the bottom too.

     Questions have been raised about America Online's (AOL's) recently
announced Focused Beta Test for accessibility.  Some people have asked
the National Federation of the Blind's position regarding this test in
of the Federation's lawsuit filed against AOL in November of 1999.
have asked why, as beta test participants, they have to give AOL
information such as credit card numbers, mailing addresses, etc.

     Let me begin by updating you about the status of the Federation's
lawsuit against AOL.  In late July of last year, we agreed to withdraw
suit after receiving assurances from AOL of its commitment to improve
accessibility of its Windows client software (AOL 5.0 at the time).
AOL 6.0 was released in the fall of 2000, some marginal accessibility
improvements were in fact included in the software--in particular,
improvements in the ease of installation and in the use of email.
it was clearly understood that AOL needed more time to complete its
The Federation reserved the right to file another lawsuit against AOL
one year if, in its judgment, sufficient progress had not been made
making the AOL client accessible to the blind

     AOL is now calling for testers to participate in what it calls a
Beta Test for Accessibility.  To quote AOL, "The Focused Beta Test for
accessibility is a call to Assistive Technology users to report on
their AOL
experience using Assistive Technologies such as screen readers, screen
magnifiers, voice recognition, speech output, and alternatives to the
standard keyboards and mouses."

Some people
argue that beta testing software that is known not to work well with
assistive technology in effect places the cart before the horse.  The
reality is that without this beta testing and active participation from
users of assistive technology, AOL will not be able to take the
steps it must take to ensure that the next version of its client
will work for us as well as it should.  AOL needs to receive concrete
widespread verification that either it is or is not doing the right
thing in
terms of making the next version of its client software accessible to

     Anyone wanting to participate in the AOL Focused Beta Test for
Accessibility needs to sign up as an AOL member; this requirement is
for anyone beta testing AOL software, issues of accessibility
notwithstanding.  However, once a person signs up for the beta test
all membership fees are waived.  In other words, other than your time,
is no cost to you to participate in AOL's focused beta test for
accessibility.  Once you have finished doing what testing you feel
to do, you can cancel your AOL membership.
Received on Tuesday, 21 August 2001 12:03:27 UTC

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