Archive for the ‘screenreader’ Category

Flash player update makes screenreader accessible Flash work on Browsers other than internet explorer

October 1, 2007

In the first piece of news worthy of posting for quite some time now, how very disappointing, maybe things will warm up now the summer hols are over, Adobe have released an update to the Flash Player which includes the MicroSoft Active Accessibility (MSAA) support meaning that screenreader users can now gain access to accessible Flash content in Plug-in based Browsers. or in other words, Browsers other than Internet Explorer. Thanks to Niqui Merret for the heads-up and to Steve at dynamic Flash for the links through to details and downloads.


I’m off to ICC the international computer camp for blind students

July 20, 2007

On Sunday I’m off to Finland to lead a couple of workshops in this years ICC camp this is an annual event which shifts around Europe attracting up to 300 visually impaired students from over 30 countries across Two weeks. The first week for 14 to 17 year olds, the second week for 18 to 21s. I’m going along as a member of staff (for the first time) in week one to lead sessions on accessible portable applications, and on running Blogs, not something I know all that much about but hey I’ll be learning too. If you fancy keeping up with the camp then workshop attendees and I will be running a camp Blog at
please comment a plenty so that we all know people are reading.

want to use accessible captcha? here’s one way

July 20, 2007

Formsheild 2.0 makes it easy
version 2 of formshield, which makes it easy to create captchas for 2.0 based site includes the option to automaticly generate audio captchas. If you must use them then use a tool like this.

accessibility and internationalisation are related

July 6, 2007

Yesterday was my birthday and as well as a bottle of my current favourite tipple, the sublime Duncan TaylorsAult Reekie I was lucky enough to get some vouchers for Cheese!!! from local cheese shop Paxton and Whitfield.
Fantastic, as soon as we’ve polished off the Cheeses we picked up at The Cheese Shop, 11 Butchers row in Barnstaple I’ll be round there to restock.

however when I visited the Paxton and Whitfield Website I hit a problem. namely the lang=de tag which appears through out their site. All the text on the site is in English but because of that line my screenreader (Jaws as it happens) believes it to be in German and consequently switches to its german accent making it impossible to read the pages.

the good news for Cheese a-holic Jaws users is that you can get round the problem by telling Jaws to ignore languages specified in Websites but this is one more example of the unintended consequences of sloppy coding.

who’d of thought that internationalisation was as much of an accessibility issue as alt tags, meaningful link text etc.

Massachusetts use of open formats mightent be such a concern for screenreader users afterall

July 4, 2007

When the US state of Massachusetts mandated only using open standards conformant tools when executing government business back in 2005 There was much concern among the visually impaired community. Not because they (we) are a bunch of Microsoft loving no-nothings but because sometimes its better the devil you know. Then, as now there is no office productivity suite which works a tenth as well with assistive technologies such as screenreaders as does MS office. Indeed as far as I know not one of the big name open source alternatives supports any screenreader even for the most basic tasks such as document reading, writing, saving and retrieval.

however I see in news announced this week that Massachusetts kowtows to Microsoft.
or in less journalistic language, the latest draft proposal from the state of Massachusetts recommends approving Microsofts Office Open XML (OOXML) format as an open format meaning that once again employees are free to use MS Office, the most screenreader accessible option.

I’m sure there are many who feel this development is retrograde but for those Massachusetts state employees whose jobs were at threat because the tools they use to undertake their work are suddenly deamed none conformant this will be a great releaf.

Web 2 technologies cut accessibility by 40%

June 14, 2007

That is the shocking headline from this BBC report can it really be that bad? given that various reports over tee years have put the number of sites correctly implementing WCAG1 level AA at about 10%, does a 40% reduction now mean that those dependant on access technologies should now expect to access only 6 in a hundred Websites? well if it does then it’s still 50% more accessible websites than books (4% of books produced in accessible formats) but of course it doesn’t mean that. What it means is that people like me will be spending even longer on sites looking for information before either succeeding or giving up, or that we will have to spend longer searching for an accessible source of the information we are looking for, or more likely that we will find what we are looking for but won’t know it because we aren’t alerted to page content refreshes. and it’s not just access to information, it is also about having a voice. the in pact of web2 on access to information is nothing compared to the complexities of contributing to teh ‘social’ side of the Web. Commenting on Blogg posts, contributing to Wikis and participating in interpersonal activities are among the most challenging online tasks. largely however it isn’t the so-called Web2 technoligy which is the issue, it is the Web 1 elements which are put infront of the interactive elements in the name of for example security. See for example my recent posting re the use of CAPTCHURs by Blogger.

Blooming Blogger and the infamous Capcha accessibility workaround

June 7, 2007

I just tried to post a comment on a colleagues Blogger Blog and was brought stumbling to my knees by their overly complex use of CAPTCHAs. See a run down of the issue and some good and bad examples here.

NVDA 0.5 released

May 25, 2007

Yeyy! version 0.5 of NVDA the free open source rather wonderful screenreader has been posted. major developments for english language users are:
comes with the E-speak synth bundled and selected by default so you can use it straight from a CD, USB drive, or network location even where the workstation does not have any speech synth installed.
a text find feature (control f) in IE and Firefox to aid speedy navigation on poorly structured sites.
better performance in outlook express
sounds like it works well in Windows Live messenger although not tried it for myself yet.

the release notes also claim a talking installer although I’ll need to investigate this more, not sure of the purpose as the software doesn’t require any installation. Excellent news though. we’re one giant leap closer to user friendly no cost access to the technology people who aren’t blind take for granted. sued over accessibility

May 24, 2007

IJust picked this up on Interestingly the online travel company which aledgedly treats accessible hotel rooms as an optional extra because it won’t guarantee reservations for accessible rooms via its Website isn’t being challenged under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because of previous rulings under that legislation which have brought in to questions its applicability to the Web. Very worrying.

It's an interesting area, companies who make 'special provision' but then offer this on less favourable terms, and one which I'd like to see tested. A situation which I am currently experiencing myself is raising just this question. offer visually impaired clients a mobile screenreader free of charge on compatible phones. However in order to get the package you can only buy your contract in store, not via there Website from where discount call plans are available. In short if I want the software I must forgo the three months half price line rental and 10% discount for the duration of the contract. Less favourable terms? I think so. One possible solution which has been put on the table is that I buy my package on the Website, take the handset in to the store who will then send it off for the software to be installed, have it returned to the store from where I can collect it one week later. This seems a little long winded given that I can easily download and install the software myself, all I would require from Voda is the licence code.

So the questions I am asking myself,

"Is this a reasonable adjustment?".

and if not

Given that I am saving the £150 it would cost me to buy the software myself (which is more than I stand to lose by purchasing from the highstreet rather than online) would persuing the matter in courts (if a satisfactory solution were not found) be looking a gift horse in the mouth.


actually is the bigger picture what counts?

you can't treat someone less favourably on the grounds of disability

Even if you are, offering, a bespoke service.

open source or standard conformant screenreaders

May 23, 2007

Following on from the previous post:

open source screenreaders was one area in which a number of people expressed interest. There are a number of these around in various states of maturity, se Screenreader comparisons on Wikipedia the one which is currently generating most interest and which in my own experience is quite promising is NVDA (none visual desktop access). However in terms of Web development and conformance testing I’d suggest that Firevox, the screenreader extension for Firefox is possibly the most useful thing out there. It’s user friendly for a start in that it reads the object in focus and nothing more so you’re not left grappling with trying to control the excessive verbage of Jaws, WindowEyes et al and it’s closer to a standards conformant screenreader than anything else out there.