Thursday, November 02, 2006

Response to comment on "Is the AJAX accessibility problem, really a problem?"

Well I got a great full fat response to my brief take on the screen reading
problem with AJAX. I'll start by mindlessly reiterating my initial stance,
filling it in a bit, and then reply to each major point in turn, and see
if I come to any conclusions... First I should point out that I agree with virtually everything said in said response. So this is a subjective positioning, more than a denial of what was said.

IMO (never a good start to a sentance...) trying to say 'The Web"
must restrict its methods to accomodate old versions of screen readers is
unreaslistic, and impractical.
Yes the notion is moot, even
stipulated by many regulations and guidelines, but we live in a real world,
and sometimes guidelines are inaccurate, or become so as the world around them
evolves. AJAX is here. It will only increase from now on. Yes making it
accessible is great, but some are saying it can not be accessible at all
(because it relies on users upgrading their screen readers, and that
is 'inaccessible'), therefore it is bad... My point is, all the accessiblity
guildines, and regulation litigation in the world can not hold back
inovation on the web. We (screen reader developers, webmasters and developers,
web 2.0 content creators - i.e. users) simply have to keep up. Winging
won't help (at the risk of offending, I hope I don't, it's not intended to).

TV came first. Then subtitles, and now, many decades after TV became
near ubiquitous within the home, we're starting to see commentary services for
VI viewers (previous to this, TV was less accessible than most AJAX
sites). TV media outlets are not forced and are barely encouraged to
offer their content in audio only and visual only
formats. This would be analgous, to me, to the
imposition on Web 2.0 to be backward compatible with old screen
readers, OR (as it is impossible is some cases) offer all content in a format
that is. No, we (those previously mentioned) must demand and/or
create new services for minority users, to make the new tech accessible,
and expect that to involve the development of new thech.

I know this is tantermount to blasphemy in the field I work. But it is not an
absolute. There should be encouragement to do what we can, where
possible and practical, right now. But there should not be laws mandating
this. IMO. Looking at my stance, it seems rather right-wing, 'let the
minorities get their goodies, when someone can be bothered the help them'.
This is far from the case. I'm a developer AND user of scren reader tech.
So I'm putting the onus on me. But how silly would it be to put all the
legal onus on the screen reader companies. Why not make it law that
Freedom Scientific make their upgrade free, in order to make the latest web
standards and feautres/techniques compatible with their stuff (inc
javascript and AJAX)? Because it wouldn't be fair, or practical...

Should we this all as a problem was my question. Note the question
mark in the title. No I don't think its a problem, I think its an exciting
future for screen reader users, as our screen reading tech improves and
evolves to make use of web 2.0. 


 Problem 1: You can upgrade up to two consecutive versions of JAWS if
you're already covered by a Software Maintenance Agreement. But buying such an
agreement is expensive, to the tune of
for JAWS Standard and $260 for JAWS Professional

There are OSS solutions being developed. And JAWS chageing too much is hardly
a reason to impose laws on billions of web users and hundreds of millions of
web developers. This should raise questions though. Like, should the
government be offering larger allowences to VI workers and students?

Problem 2: Upgrading to a version of JAWS released before Vista
entered the Release Candidate stage and that is
optimized for Internet Explorer 7
is not going to be terribly
appealing even to those who can afford it.

This seems very tenuous. Yes its a real life pain, but Vista is to all of
us... Not just those of us useing AT. 

 Problem 3: What about other screen reading and voice browsing software?
Virgo? Window-Eyes? Home Page Reader? HAL? Edbrowse? Orca? Gnopernicus?
ZoomText? Opera? VoiceOver? Thunder? This isn't just a JAWS issue. Screen
readers are extremely complex software
tried one?
) and asking someone to switch to a different screen
reader is not dissimilar to asking someone to use a new operating system. Oh
yeah, and if you go for a commercial screen reader, switching can be even more
expensive than upgrading. JAWS Standard will set you back $895.

Same applies to all of them. If I bought JAWS version 1 and expected all of
todays software and online content to be accessible via it, I'd be sadly
disapointed, and naive (again at the risk of offending, which I'm not trying
to -  its just MHO). And again, the rest of the world should not be
hounded for the cost one company sets for their product, no matter they cater
to. Plus, as you point out yourself, they're not the only solution. As
for have I tried one, I have made two, and am useing one now.

Problem 5: W3C's
Content Accessibility Guidelines
explicitly request that we attempt
to accommodate those users who "have an early version of a browser, a different
browser entirely, a voice browser, or a different operating system". Obviously,
even good principles should rarely be taken to extremes. But from an ethical
perspective, surely the limit of our compromises on behalf of outdated user
agents ought to be what we might reasonably expect users to do (for example,
continuing to use the expensive screen reader of their choice), not what will
make us the most money (for example, going out of our way to support Internet
Explorer 6)?

But reasonably, they HAVE to expect to update their software, if the menas of
creating a displaying content evolves beyond the capabilities of their current
technology. This is far from 'nice', but is practical.

Liked your list of links.

I may come back to this when I have more time.



vacuum cleaners said...

Of course, I think the argument is moot – we all need to upgrade and evolve as the web does. Who's responsibility is this? Well, as users, it is one of our responsibilities to keep up to date with technology and changes; and it's the responsibilities of developers to both (a) make the upgrades seamless and (b) educate on the upgrades.
It is also, in my opinion, the responsibility of Operating Systems or Browsers themselves to keep up to speed with the changes, and do (a) and (b) above.

portrait painting said...

I’m new to AJAX and I still have lots of catching up to do. I will keep your post and will get back to this once I’ve already mastered the basics.