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Re: Screen readers - usage stats?

From: Ian Anderson <lists@zstudio.co.uk>
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 20:49:39 +0100
Message-ID: <008f01c42259$9fa9b6f0$0400a8c0@QUIXOTE>
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>

> What compelling reason could there be to have stats of this type?  I can
> think of some that have nothing to do with the web but none that do.

I'd be interested to see information on screen reader market share. I'm
consulting with a UK Internet bank presently, and we are testing in
Window-Eyes 4.5, JAWS 5.0, JAWS 4.5 and IBM HomePage Reader 3.0. You get
problems with the default settings in each configuration, and slightly
different HTML code is required to make site features work well in each one.
Often there are conflicts, where the code that works well in JAWS causes a
rendering issue in Window-Eyes, or vice versa.

While I don't believe in trying to design the accessible experience (because
it's impossible :), where there are conflicts  I tend to lean towards the
JAWS 4.5 rendering if there are choices to be made, because I estimate that
this is the largest user base. In six months time, that may not be the case,
and this is why information about market share would be useful.

It's a situation analogous to the old dilemmas facing web designers when we
cared about NN4 versus IE4 rendering of pages. That was solved as the modern
browsers began supporting the standards more consistently, so that the
latest versions of IE, NN, Opera, Mozilla, and so on all render pages 95%
consistently or better.

Since the screen readers differ so much in their rendering of standard HTML
constructs, there are necessary decisions to be made. If there were no
conflicts, I wouldn't care so much about market share.

Perhaps in a few years the manufacturers of screen readers will get their
act together, but in the meantime the reality is that someone will always
get a poorer experience, and web designers are back to juggling the numbers
again to decide which way to jump for each design choice.

Incidentally, I'm talking about screen readers here because they have
rendering differences that affect the user experience in significant ways,
and are highly affected by small differences in the coding of a page. Screen
magnifiers typically are not, for example, so that's why I'm talking about
screen readers in particular.

Anyone else wrestled with screen reader rendering differences, and have any


Ian Anderson
Received on Wednesday, 14 April 2004 15:53:04 UTC

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