Friday, February 26, 2010

February 25, 2010 Lunch Meeting

Our lunch group was small but the sharing was spirited. Here are some of the topics we discussed:
  1. Thoroughly Updated VoiceOver for Macs

    • VoiceOver in Mac OSX Snow Leopard is much improved over previous versions and includes lots of new features.
    • Why buy expensive software like JAWS when in many cases VoiceOver will give you good workable accessibility to a wide range of sites?
  2. Conferencing Software is Not Very Accessible

    • Conrad Kuehn of CEC/IT, Rehabilitation Medicine is exploring the use of conferencing software for instruction and is finding that most are not designed with the disabled in mind.
    • Basic paradigm of interactive video conferencing is hard to translate into an accessible form. Would you want voice software to be reading the text a PowerPoint slide at the same time a speaker is talking about the slide?
    • Some basic conferencing software such as Talking Communities ( works, but functionality is limited.
  3. Time for a UW Accessibility Gathering?

    • Many groups on campus are doing very good work in the area of accessibility:

      • Disability Services Office
      • DO-IT
      • Computer Science and Engineering projects

        • MobileASL -
        • MobileAccessibility -
        • Tactile Graphics -
        • WebInSight -
      • Rehabilitation Medicine Center for Technology and Disability Studies
      • Disability Studies Program
      • UW Change
      • Disability Advocacy Student Alliance -
      • Disability Law Alliance
    • We don't have to import world class experts, they already are here!
    • How could we bring people together, help make connections, and ignite some synergy?
  4. HTML5 Struggles to Include Accessibility

    • Wendy Chisholm is following the HTML5 discussions
    • One point of contention is whether summary attributes in table elements should exist. Many developers do not use them, the information they contain is hidden from most users.
    • Editor of HTML5 project does not seem to have an inclusive mindset
    • Apple is betting the farm on HTML5 (as opposed to Flash). Apple has a fairly good record on accessibility; maybe Apple could take some stands on including accessibility in HTML5
    • Important to get the HTML5 features right before it develops installed inertia
  5. Noise to Signal Ratio Going Up on Tools

    • Tools once noted for their simplicity and usefulness are being subverted, raising the noise level

      • Google searchs get large numbers of aggregator sites (tripadvisor, yelp, etc) rather than what you are actually looking for. Many of the intermediary sites have no meaningful content, but they know to rank high.
      • Social networking tools are easily subverted by meaningless postings.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Using Free Voice Browsers to Evaluate Web Sites

January 28, 2010

Topic: Using Free Voice Browsers to Evaluate the Accessibility of Web Sites
Speaker: Wendy Chisholm, Technology Research Consultant, DO-IT
Date: Thursday, January 28, 2009
Time: 11:30a.m. - 1:00p.m.
Location: Allen Auditorium

Wendy Chisholm demonstrated the use of two free voice browsers, WebAnywhere ( and NVDA ( to evaluate the accessibility of Web sites.

  • NVDA
    • Non Visual Desktop Access (
      • Documentation is at
    • Runs on Windows
    • Free to download
    • Using FireFox 3, has support of ARIA
      • On sites that use ARIA, Firefox and NVDA can communicate on what is on the page
      • ARIA - Accessible Rich Interface Application (
        • Useful when using Javascript to define roles
        • By using ARIA in setting up a Javascript-based menu, can have standard interaction practice (moving around in menus with arrow keys, leaving menu with ESC, etc.).
    • NVDA is in active development
      • ARIA features are comparable to those in JAWS and WindowEyes
    • Users have many different techniques for using a voice browser on a page
      • Can configure NVDA to set how much information it should give you about each element you visit (clickable, etc.)
        • Useful to get maximum information when you are developer, but may want less info when just browsing
      • At any time a user can hear the headings on a page; each time you press H you go to the next heading
        • Page developers can negate the headings feature; often headings are created just visually, not as h-elements, so not recognizable as headings
      • Can jump down through lists on a page; press L to go to next list
      • For sighted users (such as people with dyslexia) using mouse, NVDA speaks elements as the user mouseovers them
      • Text must be in markup to be read; NVDA cannot read text in graphics
    • Reads ALT tags on graphics
    • Does not seem to have a way to highlight element that currently has focus
    • Can select among various voices for the voice synthesizer
  • WebAnywhere
    • Located at
      • Can be used from anywhere you have a Internet connection to view most sites
      • WebAnywhere is a proxy; your connection to a site is routed through WebAnywhere, processed, and the result passed to your browser
      • WebAnywhere can't do Flash, yet
      • WebAnywhere can only communicate with what the browser gives it through the DOM
    • Wendy is working on the team continuing to develop WebAnywhere
      • Feature set is fairly simple
      • No ARIA support yet
    • Designed to make it very obvious where you are on a page
      • Creates high contrast, large font experience
      • Very nice for demonstrating to people what is happening when a person is browsing a Web page with a voice browser
    • Most of the WebAnywhere features are in NVDA, but NVDA has many more features
  • General Discussion
    • On search fields that offer multiple scoped searches, why do we always put radio buttons for selecting which search below the search field; to use it you select which search and then put text in the search field, but the code is in the opposite sequence
    • Enough people are using headings within their Web pages that it is becoming a common way to navigate people using screen readers navigate pages
      • Most Web design is based on Graphical User Interface (GUI); we do not have a Audio User Interface (AUI) set of concepts articulated yet (We need a grad student to pull together a AUI)
    • NVDA is rapidly gaining popularity; the hope is that people will use NVDA use it instead of JAWS, which is expensive.
    • VoiceOver on Apple stuff
      • VoiceOver on the iPhone is very good, one of the best AUIs out there;
      • VoiceOver on Macs is also very good;
  • New Toolbar
    • E.A. Draffan invites us to try the JISC TechDis Toolbar;
    • Available as a downloaded app or as a temporary toolbar you can load anytime by going to a URL
    • Speaks with a Scottish accent