For years, we have recommended to developers that they download the trial version of JAWS to perform basic evaluation of the accessibility of their web sites. Our recent, and quite popular, article on using JAWS to evaluate web content again makes this recommendation.
The demo version (which runs for 40 minutes per session) can be a valuable tool for web developers to not only ensure their content is accessible, but also compatible with this, the most popular of screen readers. The ability for every day web developers to test actual accessibility of their web content is not only important, but has greatly increased the accessibility of web content for blind users.
We were recently apprised that the licensing agreement for the trial version of JAWS states:
… these demonstration or evaluation licenses are not permitted for purposes of development and testing of JAWS scripts, applications, HTML coding, or other Web Based code.
In other words, you cannot use the demo version of JAWS for web evaluation. In fact, you can’t even use the demo version of JAWS to determine how well the full version could be used for accessibility evaluation.
Screen readers are very complicated pieces of software. As such, it is mostly understandable that they are so expensive ($895 for the standard version of JAWS). For many developers, the limitations of the demo would facilitate purchasing a license. And certainly the fact that the demo version of JAWS has been used for accessibility evaluation (obviously despite the licensing terms) has resulted in a great number of JAWS purchases.
But for other developers, particularly those that would perform only basic or occasional JAWS testing, the cost is not justifiable. The licensing terms for JAWS hurt these developers’ ability to create accessible web content for blind users. Such limitations are not apparent in demo versions of other screen readers, including Window Eyes.
With technology advancing, the ability for developers to use screen readers to evaluate web content is increasing. Indeed, with some web technologies, such as Flash, AJAX, and PDF, screen reader testing is about the ONLY mechanism available for true evaluation.
If Freedom Scientific has an interest in ensuring that their audience – screen reader users with disabilities – continue to be provided with accessible materials from the developer community, it would be incumbent upon them to modify their licensing terms to allow basic evaluation by developers or to provide a more reasonably priced license for developers who would use JAWS only rarely for accessibility testing.
If you would like to see a license change or version that allows testing, I invite you to contact Freedom Scientific.