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Re: in-page text-to-speech

From: Patrick H. Lauke <redux@splintered.co.uk>
Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2012 11:01:43 +0100
Message-ID: <50262D87.6080207@splintered.co.uk>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
On 11/08/2012 06:34, Adam Cooper wrote:
> I have encountered some sites recently that use in-page text-to-speech.
> ReadSpeaker and BrowseAloud are two that spring to mind. I'd really
> appreeciate any thoughts about these kinds of supplemental technologies,
> particularly with regards to meeting the WCAG 2.0 conformance requirements.
> An example of one of these TTs implementations is at:
> http://www.health.vic.gov.au/news/new-laws-protect-victorians-in-supported-r
> esidential-services.htm

I'm generally quite wary of these sorts of "features". A user that truly 
needs text-to-speech will need it at an OS level, not on a page-by-page 
basis. So they're likely to have software installed that makes their 
overall experience on their machine accessible to them.

If users already have AT available, additional "self-voicing" features 
on a site can actually end up being quite confusing as they can run in 
parallel to the user's regular voice feature.

The use case that's generally then mentioned it "but what if it's a user 
that is not on their own machine...say in a cafe or library?" and true, 
in those edge cases, this may be a valid situation (though BrowseAloud, 
for instance, actually requires a plugin installed, which you can't do, 
as an end user, on cafe/library machines).

I'm not sure if anything's changed with BrowseAloud specifically, but I 
had some "issues" with them in the past (a "rogue" employee astroturfing 
some accessibility forums, pretending to be dyslexic 
http://www.accessifyforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=22009 - oh, and when their 
marketing claimed that they were recommended by the PAS78 guidance in 
the UK 
http://www.webstandards.org/2006/05/11/all-aboard-the-pas-78-gravy-train/). 
Also, BrowseAloud specifically (again, unless they've changed the model) 
is a plugin that actually works on *any* website, but it includes a 
whitelist of sites where it's allowed to work. By buying the BA service, 
you're effectively getting your URL into that whitelist. Which just 
sounds more like extortion to me...

Just as with things like "should I provide text resizing and colour 
changing widgets on my website", there certainly can be a benefit to 
some users, but the fact that you're providing a site-specific solution, 
that only works within your pages, and probably only marginally benefits 
some absolute edge-case users, should be taken into consideration. It 
definitely isn't "required" as such, AND in my mind doesn't absolve you 
from any other requirements for conformance (in fact, BrowseAloud and 
ReadSpeaker etc work best with an "accessible" - from a technical point 
of view - site, so the site should already meet WCAG conformance anyway 
... they just offer a layer that goes above and beyond).

</rant>

Cheers,

P
-- 
Patrick H. Lauke
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Received on Saturday, 11 August 2012 10:02:21 UTC

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