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RE: Assistive technologies

From: John Foliot <jfoliot@stanford.edu>
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2006 10:26:01 -0700
To: <Anna.Yevsiyevich@kohls.com>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <006801c6f3a3$a944b930$428e40ab@Piglet>

Anna.Yevsiyevich@kohls.com wrote: 
> What we would like to do is create a retail website that is accessible 
> to as many people as possible.  This means we will need to test it 
> with the equipment people might use (though not all disabled people 
> would need equipment to use the site).  Would you have any 
> recommendations on what is the most popular or the most frequently 
> used equipment for web use?

This becomes a complicated question, as the myriad of combinations of
assistive technology that may be used is both extensive and spread over
multiple platforms.  

While having different types of AT in your development lab is not a bad
idea, nothing can replace actual user testing, by real users.  When dealing
with screen reading technology, this is perhaps even more important, as the
means by which blind users access content is usually via keyboard, and
learning the numerous keystroke commands for the different screen reading
technologies entails a steep learning curve.  Daily users of this type of AT
will be able to provide you with way more valuable feedback, than
novice/inexperienced users.

> I see that Microsoft has a screen
> reader, there is also JAWS, I also saw a braille reader.  Is there 
> something that a large portion of disabled people use to navigate the 
> web?  We would like to purchase something that would let us
> experience our website the way others might.     

For what it is worth, JAWS is the market leader for screen reading
technology, followed by WindowEyes.  There are other solutions out there as
well - I have IBM HomePageReader installed here for demo purposes. Many of
these screen readers can output either audio rendering, or coupled with a
Braille refresh bar, Braille text. 

But remember as well that the visually impaired are not the only users of
AT, and that in many instances addressing accessibility issues can also
benefit people who do not consider themselves "disabled".  One area here
would be voice-actuated commands; tools such as IBM's ViaVoice or Dragon
Naturally Speaking allow hands free navigation - a huge benefit to those
with mobility impairments.  Yet these mainstream tools are marketed to the
general population ("you talk it types"), and browsers such as Opera have
this type of functionality built right into them - it both accepts audio
commands as well as reads out selected text from the screen.

Then of course there is the whole Macintosh platform situation.  The latest
version of Macintosh has taken great pains to ensure that "accessibility" is
a core component of the operating system (as I happily discovered 2 weeks
ago at a presentation by a Senior Product Manager from Apple).

Perhaps a review of the W3C/WAI page http://www.w3.org/WAI/eval/Overview
will help in developing a strategy for testing and evaluating accessibility
concerns (as well as selecting evaluation tools), but I wish to re-iterate
that you would probably be best served by actually engaging a sample
selection of daily AT users and have them give your content the review,
rather than trying to approximate their experience in your lab.


John Foliot 
Academic Technology Specialist 
Stanford Online Accessibility Program
Stanford University
560 Escondido Mall 
Meyer Library 181 
Stanford, CA 94305-3093 
> Thank you again,
> Anna Yevsiyevich
> Web Usability Analyst
Received on Thursday, 19 October 2006 17:26:24 UTC

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