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Web Designers Alternative for JAWS®

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Quote:
Starting at $ 895, JAWS is too expensive a testing tool for us, freelance web designers, who wish to test our designs, as the intended audience would experience it. We have to rely on making our websites conforming to the existing Section508/WCAG Guidelines and assuming that the audience will have a usable experience on the site designed. Since the free download for JAWS is time limited, it is of no use to the designer after expiration date.

We, the undersigned, request that the developers of JAWS® for Windows please provide us a free/cost effective, stripped down testing alternative. This will lead to more websites being tested to suit your software, resulting in an increased audience and hence increased requirement for JAWS.


Please sign the petition http://www.dreamlettes.net/petition

Thanks and Regards

Ranjan
www.dreamlettes.net
Reply with quote FWIW, learning how to use JAWS takes a LONG time. Blind users doing a lot of intensive work can take a while to learn the behaviour of the application.

A sighted user, using JAWS (or any other screen reading application) once in a while for testing, will never really have a good feel of how accessible their page is. That is, they'll fumble around JAWS commands, not knowing JAWS shortcuts, etc.

Many people recommend designers NOT to try screen readers. If you code to standards, you should be fine.

Also worth considering is that JAWS is NOT the only screen reader out there, and most of them don't behave the same way. Windows Eyes is another rather popular bit of screen reading software that doesn't behave like JAWS. Sooo, testing your page in Jaws may make it hang in WE.

Check your page on Lynx, you'll get a decent idea of what's what, I think.

Smile

Now, I will say that I think it's ludicrous to charge $1200 for JAWS for XP with an SMA (that's what my office paid two weeks ago for a blind employee). Freedom Scientific (makers of JAWS) have a semi-monopoly and are using that to jack up prices. As with most things that are vaguely medically related (don't tell me that my new manual wheelchair, as spiffy as it is, really cost them anywhere near the $3,500 they charged me for it)....

It is sad that people are limited by the exhorbitant cost of the software. Not just designers, but people who really DO need the software.

Nic
"A community that excludes even one of its members is no community at all" - D.Wilkins
http://accessibility.net.nz
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Quote:
It is sad that people are limited by the exhorbitant cost of the software. Not just designers, but people who really DO need the software.


I'm with you all the way there vavroom, it's a disgrace. I wouldn't mind betting that JAWS uses the MS speech engine anyway Confused
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vavroom wrote:
Many people recommend designers NOT to try screen readers. If you code to standards, you should be fine.


Yes, you should be fine -- having said that, it is nice to be able to test certain techniques and snippets of code every once in a while. The solution?

I run a copy of JAWS 4.51 on my laptop, as well as a copy of Window Eyes. Both are evaluation copies -- JAWS gives me 30 minutes and Window Eyes gives me 40 minutes before I require a reboot.

My testing routine for something "new" is usually along these lines: code it, test it in Opera user mode or Lynx, make adjustments, then try it out in JAWS and Window Eyes and see how they react. For simple testing, it rarely takes that long to test. Once you see how they work, you get a pretty good idea of how the screen readers will react to your code and then requires less testing.

I also have some colleagues that I turn to when I want *real* user testing, for entire sites or 3rd party work. Certainly there is no replacement for real users who are experts with the software. But for most items when I need to do a quick test, the Eval versions are just fine...

my 2 cents...
Derek.
Reply with quote Yes, you can code to standards but you cannot guarantee the user-agent will interpret your data as you would expect.

Take for example Micosoft IE 6.0 sometimes fails to render 'alphanumeric' nested lists values that are contained within 'Arabic numbers' lists when correctly marked up as XHTML 1.0. Thus a screen reader, e.g. JAWS may suffer from the browser rendering faults.

I agree the retail version of JAWS is expensive though for testing purposes I find the evaluation version is adequate.

Seen as though there is an evaluation version of Window-Eyes, which just took 10 minutes to download, I'll give it a try at home. I rather liked the IBM Home Page Reader, but then again I'm dyslexic rather than having visual impairment.

};-) http://www.xhtmlcoder.com/

WVYFC chose the Yorkshire Air Ambulance as the main charity to fund raise for in 2006
Reply with quote slightly off topic, but: has anybody else experienced problems installing windows-eyes ? it keeps telling me that it needs to reboot the machine, but after the next startup the installer (which was in a local temp directory) can't be found...
(ok, maybe it's some setting on our work's installation of windows that automatically clears the temp directories...will investigate)

Patrick H. Lauke / splintered
Reply with quote I found it installed perfectly on a standalone Windows 98 SE.

};-) http://www.xhtmlcoder.com/

WVYFC chose the Yorkshire Air Ambulance as the main charity to fund raise for in 2006
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Quote:
Starting at $ 895, JAWS is too expensive a testing tool for us, freelance web designers, who wish to test our designs, as the intended audience would experience it.


If this tool is to expensive for web designers, doesn't that also mean it may be too expensive for the actual users too? I don't see why web designers should get it on the cheap while disabled people fork out the whole amount. Smacks of discrimination to me.

Yes, JAWS (and WindowEyes) are expensive. But there is no reason for a webdesigner to expect someone to sell it at a lower price just to satisfy them. Why not instead create the conditions for the price to drop, typically the availability of reliable alternatives at a lower price will start a trend of the price dropping.
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Quote:
Starting at $ 895, JAWS is too expensive a testing tool for us.

Hmm, you can download it for free? The only problem I have with it (Jaws), is that you cannot run old versions of it for free, which many people still use. (Kind of like testing with older versions of internet explorer.)

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I'm with you all the way there vavroom, it's a disgrace. I wouldn't mind betting that JAWS uses the MS speech engine anyway.

I'd love to see it cheaper to. Many people would, but I think it is very unlikely to be anything to do with the MS engine. Jaws is the only screen reader to 'render' HTML on it's own terms (i.e. it doesn't just scrape IE).

Quote:
Certainly there is no replacement for real users who are experts with the software. But for most items when I need to do a quick test, the Eval versions are just fine...

Totally agreed with that, and also that coding to standards should keep you in the clear. However, apart from Jaws that isn't alway the case with screen readers. Rolling Eyes

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Why not instead create the conditions for the price to drop, typically the availability of reliable alternatives at a lower price will start a trend of the price dropping.

Um, doesn't that usually mean lots of people buying the software?
For actual users, a screen reader is basically a monitor replacement, albeit still a very expensive one. The expence for the web developer is having the monitor as well!

That said, it would really help to have a certain amount of web developers to have use of Jaws to know how it affected the code they put together. For example, does it read out titles on links (answer: no), does it read out test that has been hidden with an @import .x {display:none} (answer:yes, but not when done via a link statement).

I sort of understand why Dreamlettes is putting forward this petition, but given the free evaluation, what's the beef? OTOH, I may be biased because one of my collegues is an expert Jaws user, so I have this kind of information on tap... Very Happy

-Alastair
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Alastc wrote:

For example, does it read out titles on links (answer: no)


By default, Jaws won't read titles on links, but you can configure it to do so. If you configure Jaws to read the title element on links, it reads that if it's present, and ignores the link text on the screen. If a title hasn't been provided, Jaws will read the text link on the screen instead.
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Isofarro wrote:
If this tool is to expensive for web designers, doesn't that also mean it may be too expensive for the actual users too? I don't see why web designers should get it on the cheap while disabled people fork out the whole amount. Smacks of discrimination to me.


I'm not positive about this, but it might be that here in Canada, JAWS might fall under the disability medical coverage. I have a legally blind friend (she can still see some) that gets 20" monitors and ZOOMtext software at discounted prices - it falls under some sort of Canadian disability coverage, which is a very good idea. JAWS might be the same, though I'd have to check. However, I agree that it is a ridiculous amount to pay in order to browse the internet like any other user. Shouldn't that fall under Section 508?
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Alastc wrote:
Quote:
Why not instead create the conditions for the price to drop, typically the availability of reliable alternatives at a lower price will start a trend of the price dropping.

Um, doesn't that usually mean lots of people buying the software?


No. Competition is what causes prices to drop. The availability of genuine alternatives can create that competition.

Alastc wrote:
That said, it would really help to have a certain amount of web developers to have use of Jaws to know how it affected the code they put together.


So a mastergrid of what speech browsers (much like a CSS support) support is then perfectly adequate for your needs.

Alastc wrote:
I sort of understand why Dreamlettes is putting forward this petition, but given the free evaluation, what's the beef?


The petition highlights the ongoing problem of discrimination. Why should web designers feel they deserve to get a copy of JAWS for free or low cost, while disabled people have to fork out full price? Perhaps it would be better to ask for technical specifications of JAWS rather than the software itself.
Reply with quote Isofarro wrote:
Quote:
Perhaps it would be better to ask for technical specifications of JAWS rather than the software itself.


I'm generally in agreement here, what web developers need to know is how Jaws (& other access devices) work with the code. However, the evaluation copy is useful to get a feel of the experience. Perhaps then we wouldn't get sites which use many spacer images with the alt text "spacer gif".
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Alastc wrote:
Isofarro wrote:
Quote:
Perhaps it would be better to ask for technical specifications of JAWS rather than the software itself.


I'm generally in agreement here, what web developers need to know is how Jaws (& other access devices) work with the code. However, the evaluation copy is useful to get a feel of the experience. Perhaps then we wouldn't get sites which use many spacer images with the alt text "spacer gif".


additionally, i'd also posit that - particularly with complex css layouts - there can be quite unexpected effects due to the style cascade and certain unforeseen combinations of style rules which may not be easy to detect by just looking at the spec...hence the need for a real demo version.

as an additional question on the topic (seeing that nobody replied to this when i asked the same thing at http://www.mezzoblue.com/cgi-bin/mt/mezzo/archives/000231.asp#reply ):

Quote:
regarding the demo versions: are you not swimming in murky, grey legal waters if you use a demo version for purpouses other than the evaluation of the full product in the light of a possible purchase ? wouldn’t the use of the continued, consistent use of the demo for site testing purpouses be equivalent to running a dodgy, cracked copy ?

Patrick H. Lauke / splintered
Reply with quote I'm not sure why a complex CSS layout would affect a screenreader? Generally, they will follow the HTML, which (when using CSS for layout) should be quite straightforward.

You just need to keep track of showing/hiding things. Turn the CSS off, if it is still understandable it should be OK.

With regards to the legal murky waters, I guess you'd have to read the terms of the demo. However, I suspect that the people at Jaws would be happy for developers to use it to make sites better for their customers. Smile

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