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Re: Web development; How to identify if a screen reader is in use


From: John Foliot
Date: May 12, 2017 1:31PM

Hi Jon

> but rather looking at the user's behavior on the site to predict whether
the user is navigating with a screen reader.

Are you suggesting then that any time a person is using the keyboard only,
that there is likely a screen reader involved there somewhere? I think we
both know that's not always true - people with mobility issues will also
likely be using a keyboard only (or speech input), and / or power-users who
have a preference for the keyboard. It is unclear to me how you would know
the difference between those users, and a user dependent on a screen reader
simply by tracking their progress and interaction through a site. WCAG says
that all content must be accessible to the keyboard for that specific
reason, so meeting that requirement ensures that the content
remains accessible to all of those users.

> I never suggested that the data should be modified or redirected for a
screen reader user.

That is correct, you have not.

However, I've been hearing this request/argument for many, many years now,
and more often than not, from non-Accessibility SMES, who *explicitly* want
to use this information to modify what is being delivered (think Media
Queries), so while *YOU* haven't suggest that, many have. This is a
problem, and has been for at least a decade, when Flash allowed for the
ActionScript *Accessibility.isActivemethod* (https://www.paciellogroup.com/

> for example, we need better data

Agreed 101%!

But that data also needs to be accurate, and I will continue to assert that
capturing and analyzing user-interaction data is not very accurate in terms
of what tools any specific user (or groups of users) is using. There may
indeed be other useful observations derived from that analysis, but
returning to the Subject Line of this thread ("Web development; How to
identify if a screen reader is in use"), attempting to determine if a
screen reader is present and being used is, to me at least, a fools errand,
as those software tools are expressly attempting to "cloak" their presence
for the aforementioned security and privacy considerations.


John Foliot
Principal Accessibility Strategist
Deque Systems Inc.

Advancing the mission of digital accessibility and inclusion

On Fri, May 12, 2017 at 1:35 PM, Elizabeth Pyatt < <EMAIL REMOVED> > wrote:

> Hello:
> The discussion about detecting screen reader use is very enlightening to
> me and I agree that it could be harmful.
> Clearly, it would be unethical to collect that data tied to a specific
> individual. I am also against using any sniffing technique to direct a user
> to a 'text-only- site. In fact, using detection to push mobile devices to a
> less functional site is equally bad.
> However, it should be noted that many reports such as Google Analytics
> provide aggregate reports on detected browsers/OS combinations. This can
> help webmasters make decisions such as whether it is viable to enable a
> particular new web technology (e.g. new CSS attributes, plugins, tags,
> etc) and how much effort must be made to support older systems. Back in the
> 2000s, when use of Netscape 4.7 finally dropped off, I jumped for joy
> because I could finally get rid of many FONT tags and use CSS.
> An example applicable to the screen reader community is when particular
> ARIA attributes are supported or not supported by different screenreader
> platforms. We may know that some older screenreader versions don't quite
> fully support all the ARIA specifications, but knowing generally which
> versions (in an aggregate sense) might be used can help determine what new
> technologies can be fully implemented.
> Based on the responses I have seen, I would not recommend implementing a
> sniffing algorithm at this time at this time. But I did want to point out
> why someone might want to do that for legitimate reasons that could benefit
> the community.
> Best
> Elizabeth
> =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-> Elizabeth J. Pyatt, Ph.D.
> Accessibility IT Consultant
> Teaching and Learning with Technology
> Penn State University
> <EMAIL REMOVED> , (814) 865-0805 or (814) 865-2030 (Main Office)
> The 300 Building
> 304 West College Avenue
> University Park, PA 16801
> http://accessibility.psu.edu
> > > > >