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Re: Web Eyes feedback - ION's response

From: Peter Verhoeven <pav@oce.nl>
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2002 09:08:46 +0100
Message-Id: <>
To: Jill Thomas <jill@ionsystems.com>
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, w3c-wai-er-ig@w3.org
Hi Jill,

This is my responce to Jill Thomas president of ION System about Web Eyes. 
The original message was posted to several mailing lists, but because Jill 
seems not to be subscribed to all these lists the message was not deliverd. 
You find the original message from Jill Thomas after my comments.

First I'm glad to read, that ION Systems agree with us, that Web Eyes is 
not the solution for domain owners to make there web sites accessible. I 
also hope, that they change statements about this on their web site. At 
this moment the only way to make web sites accessible seems to be to 
implement the W3C accessibility guidelines. Most users need specific tools 
to access the Internet. These tools work best if web sites respect and 
implemented the W3C accessibility guidelines.

Web Eyes is a tool, that reformats web pages with low vision people in 
mind. We already know more tools like this, like WebFormator and Web Wizard.

As I already told you. In my opinion Web Eyes can be a useful tool for a 
group of people, but I absolutely do not agree with the registration 
pollicy. This will not work at all. You now suggests, that people can use 
Web Eyes for free, but how much domains will register do you think? And if 
some register, what if the number of tools grow with the same concept? Must 
domains register for 100 or more tools, that improves access to their web 
sites. Users do not only want to read web sites that pay, but only those 
not paying or can not pay?
Do not sell this tool like a way to make a web site accessible!

You have a good point, that the W3C accessibility guidelines and section 
508 pay less attention to the growing group of low vision people. I 
discussed this with the WAI in the past and I agree with the WAI, that 
solutions should be solved in user agent definitons, but I do not see any 
improvements in this area.  Internet Explorer gives some options for 
accessibility settings, but most of them causes a lot of problems on a lot 
of pages. The largest font setting in Internet Explorer is much too small 
for low vision users and setting a large font in Internet Explorer causes 
text to hide on web pages and a lot of track bars, that are difficult to 
handle for low vision users.
In Opera it is possible to set a much higher font size and this browser is 
also resizing images, but also here you get the problem of hidden 
information and trackbars.
For this reason Web Eyes can be a very helpful tool if it will be highly 
improved in  next releases. For example images are not magnified, the color 
scheme make pages sometimes unreadable, setting the largest font causes 
also information to hide, some screen readers can not read the Web Eyes 
page at all, the application menu and buttons are as inaccessible for low 
vision as those in Internet Explorer, because they are also too small  etc. 
If Web Eyes realy wants to be an alternative for a screen reader or screen 
magnifier I should handle JavaScript, flash and Java.

I agree with you, that too less attention is paid to the growing group of 
elderly people with vision loss. Every day I receive messages from this 
group and their children asking me to help. For a lot of them a screen 
magnifier seems not to work, because of the complexity and the difficulties 
they met in moving the magnification.

In my opinion the WAI should specify more guidelines, that improves access 
for this group. To be honest I wished, that user agents were much more 
flexible than they are now. That the user can reformat pages with a press 
of a key. Load and unload images with a press of key. That there was an 
option to present text on a screen without trackbars, without loss of 
information. For example there are a lot of web sites where I can select 
something in a top frame and see the result of the selection in the bottom 
frame. If I specify a large font in Internet Explorer and check to always 
use this font in the IE Accessibility options I can not select anything on 
these pages, because trackbars are disabled and the selection options hide 
under the bottom frame. I see this on thousans of web pages. Why such 
problems can not be solved in Internet Explorer? A growing group of web 
designers is designing their page on a 800 x 600 resolution with a specific 
font size specified in the web page. If the end user sets the display 
resolution to 640 x 480 to get larger text the result is pages that are 
realy difficult to access.

For these problems Web Eyes can help much and I also like to help ION 
Systems to improve the product, but please stop the statements about "cost 
effective" and suggesting, that by registering Web Eyes web sites can  be 
made accessible.

Regards Peter Verhoeven
Internet : http://www.magnifiers.org (The Screen Magnifiers Homepage)

At 16:52 18-03-2002 -0600, Jill Thomas wrote:
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>on audio input since many people with low vision may also have a hearing 
>You are absolutely correct in the assessment that our one plug-in does not 
>all accessibility problems that exist. It does, however, serve the low-vision
>market quite well. The start of screen reader functionality has just been 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 
>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 Tuesday, 19 March 2002 04:40:11 UTC

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