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RE: [webwatch] Change Column Layout on WAI Page

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Sun, 14 Apr 2002 10:37:34 -0400
Message-Id: <200204141437.KAA2394919@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: webwatch@yahoogroups.com
Cc: www-archive@w3.org
At 10:25 PM 2002-04-13 , Kelly Ford wrote:
>So is this sort of idea helpful for folks who use browsing technologies 
>that don't linearize pages by default?  Should it be encouraged more?

When this web-server function was added, a lot of the motivation was based on what we had heard about older screen readers that did not successfully linearize tabular presentations of information.

Ion Systems definitely believes that this sort of transformation is helpful for people with mild to moderate visual impairments whose needs can otherwise be addressed by screen magnification.  They do the transformation in a plugin, not on the server.  But that doesn't change whether it is helpful to the user or not.


Several of the commentors on that thread seem to confirm that the transform is helpful, but question whether there aren't better ways to get it, such as using the Opera browser.

The question "should [this sort of idea] be encouraged more?" is not a short-answer question.

If you mean consumers nagging webmasters to support something, the answer is probably no.  There is nothing as clear and simple as the skip-navigation link that consumers can explain to webmasters, the webmasters implement it, and the result is what you want.

Part of my problem is in the presumed nature of where the change is coming from.  The processing that takes computer data and puts it in shape to be a user interface is moving from the client computer to the server computer.  This is not happening overnight, and it is not a wholesale replacement.  But the trend is there, to the best of my ability to read the tea leaves.  The driving force is commercial activities wishing to be able to offer services to mobile people via their mobile equipment, whether a pocket organizer or a pocket telephone, and the same information or services to be accessible from a laptop or desktop computer in a different interface arrangement.  You review the options for flights and hotels for your trip on the big screen before you commit to a plan.  Here you look at more options and a tabular presentation is a big help.  You review your options for repair when your booked flight is canceled on whatever is on your person and able to alert you to the prob!
  Here you have a tiny screen and a short list of options with more separate steps to modify the narrow search constraints is how one operates.

This is a two edged sword, a mixed problem and opportunity.  It means that the visually impaired user needs services that understand more than the idioms of the desktop user interface.  This sounds like a problem.  But the content as edited by the authors to be delivered via a voice dialog are intrinsically more usable in audio than the screen presentation that one deconstructs with a screen reader.

In terms of "should this be encouraged?" I haven't learned anything more recently that changes the general picture we at Trace painted for Supercomputing 2000.

 Middleware and the eSCaped Web (handout)

The answer for the screen reader user is more like "it should not be discouraged."  Developers of server-side transformations should be developing their solutions in a way that still supports client-side transforms applied later where there is more knowledge of the user's precise needs.  And user choice of which server-side option they access.  Will the dialog as designed for delivery over a telephone be available as a configuration option when you access a web site?  It might be good for users if it were.

The "it should not be discouraged" line has been cautiously pursued by the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Working Group in their working assumptions.


 Regarding "Client-side and Server-side Solutions"

  S1 - Serving content in different forms to meet different user needs
  and preferences is an acceptable way to comply with the guidelines, as
  long as the different forms:
    * are complete (i.e., they provide equivalents for all the content),
    * can be obtained from visiting the same URI
    * are up to date, and
    * can be easily selected according to user preferences.

  Note: We will not make any assumptions in this Requirements document
  about the method that is used, whether it is content negotiation or a
  link. The issue of where and how the user sets their preferences is an
  item that has not been discussed.


For users of industrial strength screen readers, the process may well feel mostly like bumps in the road.  Consider the on-the-server font and color adjustments recently added to the Access Board website.  They complicate the nuisance factor of the head of page stuff for screen reader users, and add no value to the blind.  But they put easy access to the page within easier reach of people with less need and less assistive technology.  Some of those people have enough need to genuinely need help but not enough impairment to need an industrial strength screen reader which rivals the computer itself in cost.  So we are into the sticky domain of just how do you decide when on some fronts you are giving a little help to many that they need (but don't desperately need) and it has some cost for those who have desperate needs, but it doesn't cost enough to destroy the solution for those with the desperate needs?  Tough questions.

The ultimate solution is going to involve having the server understand how to serve web services that play as readlets in the screen reader for those using a screen reader.

Screen reader developers interested in developing this concept with academic or industrial partners, or via W3C groups, may follow up with me.  On or off the list as you wish and the moderator advises.


>At 02:29 PM 4/13/02 -0500, you wrote:
>>Hi Kelly,
>>With your help I found the link to "Change Column Layout" on www.w3.org/wai.
>>Near the top there are four links "news - about - participation - resources"
>>and then, an icon which shows two vertical bars right arrow one vertical
>>bar" with the alt text and title "Change column layout." What that link does
>>is to take the column of navigation links which appear down the right side
>>and put them at the bottom. It removes the table that is used for formatting
>>and displays the page exactly as you see it, linearized. The two views of
>>www.w3.org/wai are indistinguishable with the screen reader.
>>Accessibility Consulting
>>Constructing Accessible Web Sites, is now available at Amazon:
>>I recommend it. It's a good book! Buy hundreds.
>>-----Original Message-----
>>From: Kelly Ford [mailto:kelly@kellford.com]
>>Sent: Saturday, April 13, 2002 7:50 AM
>>To: webwatch@yahoogroups.com
>>Subject: [webwatch] Change Column Layout on WAI Page
>>Hi All,
>>Can someone explain to me what the Change Column Layout link on
>><http://www.w3.org/wai> does?  I tried to figure it out by exploring the
>>screen with JAWS and Window-Eyes outside their buffered (VPC or MSAA Mode)
>>view of the page.  This is more like moving the mouse around the screen to
>>see what's present.
>>I'm asking for an explanation because it wasn't obvious to me what was
>>supposed to be changing.  Also, is whatever this page does something more
>>web sites should be doing?
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Received on Sunday, 14 April 2002 10:37:53 UTC

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