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Re: Wai Aria how useful?


From: Michael.Moore@dars.state.tx.us
Date: Jul 27, 2010 1:06PM

" NVDA is rapidly growing in popularity. Whilst it lacks some of the functionality that other screen readers provide, it's increasingly used as a backup option and in time I think we'll see it gain primary ground as well.

Jaws is undoubtedly the most popular primary option, but the WebAIM survey reports that 49% of people use more than one screen reader. Of the alternatives, NVDA is the most popular with nearly 26% of people choosing it.

I am very familiar with the results of the WebAIM survey. I was one of the respondents. I think that the survey supports my view that NVDA in most cases it is not the best platform for user testing. Only 3% of respondents listed NVDA as their primary screen reader. I believe that user testing should be conducted using the user's primary screen reader and browser combination unless you are testing for use in a closed environment where the user will not have a choice of platform, including their OS, AT and other software.

I believe that there is a risk in assuming that the population of survey respondents is fully representative of screen reader users in general. My gut instinct is that the population may have been a bit more tech savvy. For example 10% of the respondents reported that they do not have a disability. I would be very surprised to find that 10% of JAWS users do not have a disability. I would also expect that 10% is heavily concentrated among accessibility experts. Even among the 90% of respondents who reported a disability I would not be surprised to learn that there was a disproportionate representation of folks who could be considered technology and/or accessibility experts. I am not suggesting that the results of the survey are invalid, just that some of the more surprising findings such as use of multiple screen readers, and recent updates of AT may not truly reflect the screen reader user population in general.

NVDA is a good tool for troubleshooting problems. It helps us confirm when problems are related to the AT and not the application, document, or system under test. We are starting a pilot program to evaluate NVDA and/or SAToGo as a supplemental assistive technology for our staff who use a screen reader. Since most of our staff who use a screen reader are not technologists and most could be considered "average" in their computer skills, it will be interesting to get their feedback on the usefulness of a second screen reader.

Mike Moore