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Re: Web Eyes feedback - ION's response

From: Jill Thomas <jill@ionsystems.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2002 16:52:36 -0600
Message-ID: <3C966FB4.C2DFDBB5@ionsystems.com>
To: Peter Verhoeven <pav@oce.nl>
CC: David Poehlman <poehlman1@COMCAST.NET>, magnifiers@egroups.com, webwatch@egroups.com, easi@maelstrom.stjohns.edu, lowvis@maelstrom.stjohns.edu, w3c-wai-ua@w3.org
I thank you all for your comments and honest feedback. I am taking this
opportunity to define the scope and status of the Web Eyes(TM) product.
1. Web Eyes is designed to make access to the web pages for low vision users who
need enlarged type but who can not depend on audio such as the elderly. This
community of users is being totally ignored by most 508 solutions. Currently, in
order to make
a website accessible to someone who can not see a letter smaller than 36 point
(1/2"), a second duplicate web page with very large default type size needs to
be made, then the information must continually maintained on both sites. There
is currently very little support for this solution because of the enormous cost
to do this for the almost 1 billion web pages that fall
under 508.  This community, that this  is probably in excess of 15 million users
and growing, has not be well served by the solution of making web pages
accessible to screen readers and leaving it there.

2. As to the business model, the pricing begins at $600 per domain (not web
page) and this was done because it is clearly stated in 508, that the solution
cost should not be borne by the user. When the product is launched we will be
offering a user version that works on all web sites (for less than $50.00). Web
Eyes provides a huge cost benefit by not having to maintaining dual web sites
and instead is charging a small portion to make the solution available to their
end user.

We must apologize for the miscommunication that lead to the impression that Web
Eyes worked with screen reader programs. What we meant was that a screen reader,
such as JAWS, could read the output from Web Eyes in a single column display by
invoking by using the alt-insert-down arrow key combination. When we tested JAWS
on web pages like CNN and MSNBC we found that screen readers did not read them
in a logical way but when we read them in Web Eyes the output was logical and

ION Systems in no ways claims that Web Eyes is a solution for making web pages
completely compatible for 508 guidelines. However, we adamantly feel that it is
an equal injustice effecting a very larger numbers of users, if the only
solution that web pages need to do to be 508 compliant is to work properly with
screen readers. Expecting someone to buy and use a screen reader in order to
read a web page just because they can't see 12 point font is not supported by
Section 508 under either the law or the spirit of Section 508.  In the Section
1194.31 Functional Performance Criteria of 508 it is stated in "Paragraph (b)
provides that at least one mode of operation and information retrieval that does
not require visual acuity greater than 20/70 (when corrected with
glasses) must be provided in audio and enlarged print output that works together
or independently. In the alternative, support for assistive technology used by
people who are blind or who have low vision must be provided. Although visual
acuity of 20/200 is considered "legally blind," there are actually millions of
Americans with vision below the 20/200 threshold who can still see enough to
operate and get output from technology, often with just a little additional
boost in contrast or font size".

In the GSA Summary of Section 508 Standards, Functional Performance Criteria
(Subpart C)

"For example, one provision requires that at least one mode allow operation by
people with low vision (visual acuity between 20/70 and 20/200) without relying
on audio input since many people with low vision may also have a hearing loss."

You are absolutely correct in the assessment that our one plug-in does not solve
all accessibility problems that exist. It does, however, serve the low-vision
market quite well. The start of screen reader functionality has just been added.
When I sent Web Eyes to a select few people whom I knew used screen readers, it
was intended to be an opportunity for constructive feedback, not an assertion
that ION has create a product which will relieve web sites of their need to make
sites accessible. For 10 years, ION has created software with one vision in
mind, make all content readable and usable for all users - sighted, low-vision
and blind. Web Eyes is designed to be a mainstream software product with
usability by many.

We have a long way to go - however I feel this is revolutionary.  Yes, Web Eyes
does not handle JavaScript, perfect image linking or forms - not yet. However,
when Web Eyes handles forms, it will make the form increase in font size as well
as the entry box - specifically important for low-vision users.  All of the
screen reader functions don't work smoothly yet - FYI,  the documentation for
JAWS alone is 5 inches thick!  Since the initial email announcing Web Eyes went
out to such a large population of users of screen readers, I encourage you to
offer your "top 20" keyboard shortcuts and functionality for ION's 2.1 release
of Web Eyes accommodation for screen readers. You can help direct the

I would rather you view ION as your advocate for making content accessible
especially to low-vision users. We encourage web sites to comply with W3C
guidelines as well as other accessibility accommodations - when sites are
compliant, Web Eyes works even better. Web Eyes is not a replacement to making
accessible sites, but rather another tool - one that especially helps the
low-vision community.  When Web Eyes feeds the text from an inaccessible web
site (like multi-column without tabbing sequencing) into a reflowed web page
then to a screen reader, web sites who may have never "designed for
accessibility" will be readable. If a site chooses not to follow accessibility
guidelines, at least Web Eyes will make an attempt to present the text in a
usable fashion. The use of Web Eyes does not relieve a site of their obligations
to follow accessibility guidelines. Maybe our biggest error was not defining the
target market - web site owners with low vision users. I didn't add the
marketing fluff because it was a one-to-one email versus an email to the masses.

Many sites are taking numerous steps to enable accessibility. Many are not and
have no plans to do so. Web Eyes goal is to present the text of ANY web site in
a way that is usable for each person - regardless of their vision or physical

The unregistered site message will occur on all sites which have not purchased
the Web Eyes license. ION does provide you the opportunity to read the content
for 10 minutes before timing out. The low cost for the server license is to
encourage sites to pay attention to, and provide a solution for, the needs of
the vision challenged user.

ION testers are not proficient JAWS users, but we are trying (which is more than
you can say about most software companies). When we used JAWS on the CNN.com web
site, JAWS read the first link, the first line of the first column, the first
line of the second column then the first link on the right column. This made the
site unintelligible.  We then opened Web Eyes (in one column mode in 10 point),
hit Alt + Insert + Down Arrow and JAWS read the entire site with ease and in a
logical manner. Tabbing from link to link worked. It was a start - not the
finish - but a start.

I had expected that the vision challenged community would be encouraging to any
company who is trying to create a solution that meets the needs of the sighted
while also providing accessibility tools for the vision challenged.  I didn't
expect to be slammed. I did expect honest feedback.  I encourage suggestions for
change. Please remember, that not everyone who is low-vision, needs - or has- a
screen reader. Think how your world would have been changed if a sighted,
low-vision and blind user all had access to the exact same information- at no
cost?  This is the ION mission.

Please help us by providing feedback as to what you would like to see changed.
What awareness do we need to make a product that works for you?  Would you like
to be a part of a vision challenged beta tester group?

When I was a teacher in college, I had a student who was legally blind. I
changed my teaching habits, verbal presentations and handouts to accommodate
him. It was an immense learning experience.  As a grade school teacher, I
learned how to accommodate my low-vision students who struggled with the
standard tests because of the low font size and purple ink. As the President and
CEO of ION, I am trying to take my knowledge of how people learn and create
software which facilitates the assimilation of information regardless of the
user's vision or physical need.

You have the opportunity to join ION in a totally different approach to
on-screen reading.

Jill Thomas
President, ION Systems, Inc.
636-937-9094     Fax 636-937-1828
107 Mississippi Ave., Crystal City, MO 63019
www.ionsystems.com     Your Bridge To Usability
www.galaxylibrary.com  Where Electronic And Print Worlds Converge
eMonocle (tm) an XML viewer for simultaneous use by sighted, low vision and, in
the near future, blind readers.
Web Eyes (tm) a web plug-in facilitating compliance with Section 508 and
accessibility to any web page for low-vision users.
Received on Monday, 18 March 2002 17:52:11 UTC

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