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Re: Accessible Live Event software?


From: John Middleton
Date: May 24, 2004 3:25PM

Kelly I share these older WebAim responses I've saved.

John Middleton

----- Original Message -----
From: "Gregg Vanderheiden"
Sent: Friday, February 14, 2003 8:52 AM

New Chat Application Includes Accessibility Features for Users of Screen
Readers and Screen Magnifiers

Dagmar Amtmann, Ph. D., Assistant Director, UW Center for Technology and
Disability Studies
Debbie Cook, Director, Washington Assistive Technology Alliance

Chat is a popular Internet based application that allows participants
to communicate instantly, similar to talking on the phone. Chat
participants typically exchange messages by typing text using a
keyboard. The messages are exchanged instantly, allowing for real-time,
synchronous communication using computer networks instead of

If you think that chat is mainly used by teenagers to exchange gossip,
you may be surprised to learn that instant communication is
increasingly used for corporate communications. Market research
analysts estimate that by 2004 over 5.5 million instant messages will
be sent over the Internet by corporate users.

With the popularity of chat applications steadily increasing,
accessibility of these tools becomes very important to users with
disabilities. In addition to popular use of the chat applications by
themselves, all distance learning packages commonly used by educational
institutions, government, and corporations include a chat feature that
allows instructors to communicate
with students, trainees and other participants in real-time.

From the accessibility point of view, chat presents one of the more
difficult challenges for users of screen readers and magnifiers. How
accessible chat applications are for users of screen readers depends in
part on how they were developed. Screen readers are able to handle some
HTML-based chat applications, but most chat programs use the
language Java to create an updateable region of the screen that can be
used for chatting with other users. Developers using Java typically pay
little or no attention to the application's accessibility to users with
As a result, most applications do not allow the user to control how and
when new messages are displayed. Typically, the window refreshes
automatically, displaying new messages as soon as they arrive, and
making the environment very confusing for the users of screen readers.

The good news is that the Special Needs Opportunity Windows (SNOW)
Project based in Toronto, Canada developed and recently released
A-Chat, a chat application with accessible features.

A-Chat, designed for blind and low vision users, is both keyboard
accessible and screen reader friendly. For example, the user controls
how often messages are refreshed and can even set this feature to
manual so that the screen will not refresh while it is being read. The
user can choose to receive an audible alert each time a new message is
received. Layout of received messages can be set in ascending or
descending order allowing the user to read messages in the order they
were sent or to read the latest
one first. The user selects whether all messages or only new messages
are displayed and that helps reduce clutter on the screen. Users also
have control the type and size of the font,and the color combination
for the display, making it easier to read for low vision users.

The text and voice chat features of instant messaging programs like MSN
Messenger are generally accessible and are well supported by assistive
technologies, but are mostly used for personal communication with
friends and family.

Voice chat products are also becoming increasingly popular and allow
users to chat orally through their computer's microphone and speakers,
but these applications may present a challenge to users with speech
impairments and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

For educational, corporate, and government communications, A-chat
provides an accessible alternative and a viable model of accessibility
for other text chat applications. It is currently available free of
charge to non-profit groups and educational organizations as a freeware
beta and can be downloaded from http://snow.utoronto.ca/chat.html.


We've got an article on accessible chats at

We have developed and used a prototype of an HTML chat with
accessibility features in the past at
http://acropolis.usu.edu/webaimchat/. Though not perfect, this does
demonstrate the ability of synchronous chats to be made more

WebAIM is currently in the final stages of development of a more
accessible chat program that will be available in PHP. If any of you
have suggestions or ideas for an HTML-based chat program, let me know.

On Thursday, October 31, 2002 you sent:
SV> I deserved that!

SV> OK, let me rewrite the question .... Does anyone know of live chat
SV> software / sites that are accessible?


On May 24, 2004, at 2:06 PM, kelly wrote:

> Hello,
> We are considering holding scheduled live online chat events (e.g,
> communicate with your government official at a scheduled time via a
> live
> chat event). Does anyone know of moderated live chat event software
> that
> creates accessible live chats?
> Thanks,
> Kelly
> -----------------------------
> Kelly Hokkanen
> Director of Creative Services
> InforME: Information Resource of Maine
> (207)621-2600 x28
> www.maine.gov
> ----
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