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Re: Web Designers Alternative for JAWS

for

From: Kynn Bartlett
Date: Aug 29, 2003 7:59PM



On Friday, August 29, 2003, at 03:37 PM, John Britsios wrote:

> But it would solve a lot of problems for blind people who have JAWS!
> Or not?

Likely not. Sites are _not_ inaccessible today because Web developers
are lacking the JAWS software.

Sites are inaccessible primarily for the following reasons, in order:

1. Web developers aren't aware of Web accessibility.

2. Web developers don't care about Web accessibility.

3. Web developers don't know how to create accessible Web sites.

The problem is not one that can be reduced to tools -- there are plenty
of free or low-cost tools (such as Home Page Reader, which at $150
should be affordable to all except the most unsuccessful of Web page
developers) which may be used to improve the accessibility of a Web
page.

But the bigger problem is this: There are few motives for Freedom
Scientific to give in to the demands of the Web developers who sign
the petition.

The designers want free product -- okay. What does Freedom Scientific
get in return? They will be getting no new sales from those designers,
who are simply going to use the free versions. They won't be selling
any tutorial audio CDs or support contracts to these people, that's
for sure.

Will it increase the sales of JAWS, thus benefiting Freedom Scientific?

Answer: LIKELY NOT.

Why? Well, JAWS is already a leader in the field anyway, and blind
people typically don't choose a screen reader based on what Web
designers tell them. What's more, those Web designers fail to realize
that JAWS IS A MULTI-USE APPLICATION THAT IS NOT ONLY DESIGNED FOR
WEB USE.

The purpose of JAWS is _not_ to simply view Web pages, but to enable
access to the entirety of the operating system and its
applications. Email programs, office suites, games, and other
apps are run using JAWS for Windows, all without even getting near
the Web. I have a blind friend who refuses to use the Web, but who
uses JAWS regularly to operate his computer.

So, at best, the increased accessibility of Web pages is only a minor
factor when it comes to one's choice of screen reader. But even
beyond that there's a larger issue: IF WEB DESIGNERS BEGIN TARGETING
JAWS IN SPECIFIC, THIS WILL HAVE A DETRIMENTAL EFFECT ON WEB
ACCESSIBILITY.

In other words, the people who use WindowEyes or other screen readers
or assistive technologies may be screwed, as these "elite designers"
will only be crafting sites which work in JAWS -- at least, JAWS as
they (imperfectly) understand how to use it -- which as we've seen
with browser-specific code is NOT a step towards interoperability.

The goal of the W3C's Web Content Accessibility Guidelines document
is to promote practices which ensure accessibility by a broad range
of users. A focus specifically on JAWS will not help to achieve
that goal.

And if such a focus does NOT benefit users of JAWS in particular --
if it does NOT grant a market advantage, which may be destructive
to accessibility concepts, to Freedom Scientific -- then there's no
point in Freedom Scientific investing the money to do it, is there?

Again, this is a lot of work DEMANDED by designers for a chimeric
justification. There's no benefit to the field of Web accessibility
in granting their demands, there's no benefit to Freedom Scientific
in granting their demands, and there's really no benefit to the Web
developer in these demands either.

Accessibility is not advanced by handing out free copies of JAWS.
There are plenty of ways to make Web sites more accessible, and you
certainly don't need a copy of JAWS to do it. Anyone who says
otherwise is simply not in touch with the reality of the situation.

--Kynn

--
Kynn Bartlett < <EMAIL REMOVED> > http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain http://idyllmtn.com
Author, CSS in 24 Hours http://cssin24hours.com
Shock & Awe Blog http://shock-awe.info
Inland Anti-Empire Blog http://inlandantiempire.org



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