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

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