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JAWS, Window-Eyes and Character References

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Reply with quote Building on some testing I undertook a couple of years ago, Jason Kiss has published results from testing how various characters are dealt with by more recent versions of JAWS and Window-Eyes.

JAWS, Window-Eyes and Character References

Screen Readers: HTML Character Entities & Numeric Character References

Accessify Forum: How do screen readers read HTML entities?
Reply with quote Firstly: yay for proper link text! You could've made them a 3-item list, though. Twisted Evil

Quote:
[...] the character references are all just there, Unicode- and W3C-approved for some time now, just waiting to be mapped to some useful speech output.
Hear, hear. My understanding is that ATs run on top of web browsers, so the entities would already have been replaced by the Unicode code point. The UA has done the heavy lifting.

Not announcing some entities in normal reading seems like a sensible design choice, initially. Only announcing a few pieces of punctuation probably makes skim-reading (skim-hearing?) the page faster. But when that loses the meaning of the content it's a false economy since you must backtrack and go letter-by-letter.
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Cerbera wrote:
My understanding is that ATs run on top of web browsers, so the entities would already have been replaced by the Unicode code point. The UA has done the heavy lifting.


Rather than "on top of", it's more "alongside". Browsers make certain information available to an accessibility API (typically MSAA on Windows) which assistive technology software can access. However, from what I've gathered from one vendor, this isn't always the case because not all the useful information comes through MSAA.

However, I agree that the appropriate data should already be available to the screen reader.

Cerbera wrote:
Not announcing some entities in normal reading seems like a sensible design choice, initially. Only announcing a few pieces of punctuation probably makes skim-reading (skim-hearing?) the page faster. But when that loses the meaning of the content it's a false economy since you must backtrack and go letter-by-letter.


I'm not so sure it's a "false economy" because, in contrast to the speed at which experienced screen reader users tend to listen to a page, I'd almost expect to have to slow down to read certain things more carefully; an equation for example. However, I've tried to access certain characters in JAWS using different configurations and I cannot get them read out; I blogged about that just that after posting this to the forum earlier. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has managed to configure JAWS to read them.

The other problem is that some characters do not get announced as one would expect:

  • Both JAWS and Window-Eyes read a square root symbol as the letter v.
  • While Window-Eyes makes minor tweaks to what it says to make it a bit more user-friendly, it doesn't always do what I think it should. For example, it says "dash" for the proper minus sign character.
  • Window-Eyes announces quite a lot of things - characters it doesn't understand - as "question", which users will probably realised that Window-Eyes hasn't understood, but it's probably worse than simply not announcing it at all.

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