Week Three

Assignments
Exercise -> Response
Review-> Responses

Assignments

Online readings:

User Agent Accessibility Guidelines Summary
UAAG 1.0 checklist

Hands-on exercise

    There are three options.
  1. Download, install and use some assistive software.
    Fire up the software and get familiar with how it operates in a basic sense.
    Go and try to use it to surf the web. Try to visit some of those sites which might present some problems -- such as those from week one's exercise.
    As much as possible, try to simulate the way in which someone with a disability would use the software. For example, if you are using a screen-reader, turn off the screen.
    Write up a short report -- no more than 3 paragraphs or so -- which answers the following questions:
  2. Use assistive hardware. Visit somewhere that has the hardware installed. Try to use it yourself, if that makes sense.
    If it doesn't make sense, talk to someone who is using the hardware and find out what it does.
    Find out -- through experimentation or interviews -- what it's like to use the hardware and what the capabilities and limitations are.
      Write up a short report -- no more than 3 paragraphs or so -- which answers the following questions:
    1. What hardware did you use or observe, and what audiences is it usually intended for?
    2. How would you describe the experience of using the hardware?
    3. If you were going to create a web page that would be used by someone with this hardware, how could you make it easier to use?

Hands on exercise

What I did is somewhere between (1) and (2). I hope to download some software next week after my new computer with its faster modem is up and running.

Meanwhile, I used a computer that had a screen reader loaded on it, at the local branch of our state university in their brand new library. This computer, intended for blind or vision-impaired users, is kept in a small, locked, sound-proofed room with two work stations in it, away from the other computers that are used by the public. The assistant let me into the room, turned on the computer, logged on and opened a program for me. She told me to go ahead and then left; the door locked behind her. {Heaven forbid a blind person should sit next to a sighted person at work!}

The program I used was was Kurzweill 1000, which I hadn't seen listed in the text, so I just fooled around with it and tried to deduce its functions. (The computer also had WYNN, by Arkenstone loaded, but it generated error messages "could not locate speech drivers.") I looked over the Kurzweill settings menu with different voices, different reading speeds, etc., then opened a new text document and typed in a few things, including a short rhyme and some typos. It was interested to see what the reader software does with typos, misspellings and incomprehensible. Misspellings it gamely pronounces as spelled; incomprehensibles such as as K;o9dwg8 it spells out. (email addresses, which it ought to spell out, it pronounces, sliding over the words so I couldn't catch the address of the software maker after 3 tries, evenwhile looking at the text.)

After a while, I realized that the main function of the program was to scan text material that could then be rendered in speech. I tried this and couldn't make much of it. When I looked at the text, I saw I had done a poor scan job and parts were missing. The experience was frustrating, and without sight would have taken me far longer for the little I accomplished.

I was unable to surf the web as they had no internet connection. A web page to be used for a screen reader would be as brief as possible and use rather short sentences, but also with more descriptive sentences than usual.

Review Questions

  1. What are three different categories of accessibility tools, and who might use them?
  2. What are three types of features which are built into common GUI browsers which are used by people with disabilities to increase accessibility to the web?
  3. How do you think the experience of a sighted person using a screenreader differs from that of a blind person? In what circumstances might someone who can see images and text want to use a screenreader?

Review Responses

Three categories of tools and their users

  1. Screen readers - for use by blind or visually impaired users and some others, such as people with language or reading inability.
  2. Voice activated commands. These could be used by many people, but would be especially useful for those who can't use a keyboard or mouse. This might include someone whose hands are occupied with another task such as driving or someone with an impairment like arthritis, or paralysis.
  3. Touch screen monitors. These would be useful for those who are in some way speech impaired or cognitively impaired. They are widely used in situations where there is no training time, such as ATMs and other kiosks.

Three types of features that increase accessibility

  1. personal style sheets that can override the designer's choices, to satisfy a users requirements, such as for large text or different colors
  2. alt tags and title tags to label non-text elements
  3. keyboard versatility that lets a user opt for quot;sticky keys" (so someone able to type one letter at a time could achieve ctrl-c type commands

How experience differs

A sighted person using a screen reader probably doesn't listen as effectively or remember what they hear as well as one used to relying primarily on hearing (or know how to take and read notes in Braille). On the other hand, I think sight makes it easier to get an overview. Also it might be easier for the sighted to spell correctly, though there isn't much evidence of this. A sighted person who had trouble with print materials, such as inability to use their hands, could find a screen reader useful.


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