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Petition Talk: The Value of JAWS

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Reply with quote Originally here, discussing this.

Mike@TheWhippinpost wrote:
Read your rant, interesting - I happen to agree with the essense of your argument and that's why I personally haven't signed it. I would willingly sign one lobbying for all-around cheaper access to the product concerned.


Except that such a thing would be pointless, because software companies don't set their prices based on how many people on the Internet sign petitions requesting that they lower their prices.

You might as well start a petition asking Ford to lower the price of an Explorer -- with the logic being "but it's too expensive for us to afford!" That's not the way business works.

Web developers wouldn't respond well to a petition asking them to lower their prices -- say, to $10 an hour or something -- so why do they expect Freedom Scientific to give away product for free?

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I don't believe however, the argument of the market being small...it's probably small because it's so expensive, and it's so expensive probably because, as you rightly say, they operate in a near monopoly forcing charities like the RNIB to splash out on TV commercials to plea for financial pledges from the public.


So either push for government regulation of assistive technology prices, or get people to create free or open-source screen readers.

Also, I'd like to see proof that the price of JAWS is the cause of RNIB buying television commercials. Has RNIB stated this?

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However - there has to be one doesn't there - i'd like to know your interest in this area as the use of inflammatory language reads like a tabloid press-cutting.

You have some good arguments underneath the sound-bites but the volume of vehemence is not doing either side of the Cause any good at all.


Which side is which? Last I saw, we're all on the same cause.

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If the price came down - which I believe could be done quite easily -


...assuming that Freedom Scientific stays in business. I don't know their business model. Why do you presume that it's our place to demand they lower their prices?

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then it's use would commensurately rise across all interested communities -


That's not what the petition is asking for, though.

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I agree that "we" have a lesser need and Right for cheap ownership than the intended audience but I also believe that that same audience would also welcome more ownership by the web-designer community if it meant more accessible websites too.


Web developers who are untrained in the use of JAWS have little use for the software. The intended audience -- blind users of computers -- would actually benefit more if Web developers would hire them to do testing or development, putting their JAWS proficiency to use.

I have yet to find a blind person who seriously argues that the Web would be more improved by sighted people dabbling with JAWS. On the other hand, I know plenty of blind Web users and Web developers who would love to be paid to design Web sites.

--Kynn
Reply with quote Sorry Kynn but I feel exactly the same as Mike. I actually agree with you that web designers don't need JAWS (or any other screenreader) as I believe designers should design to standards, not for software but, like a recent article posted on the BBC (lost link, sorry) that ranted on about 'stupid designers' your polemic comes across to me as someone embittered and unable to consider that behind this misguided act are people who are trying to 'get it', trying to understand and trying to do their best as they see it at this time to address the issue of accessibility on the web.

Just because you or I don't think them having JAWS will make any difference doesn't mean that attitudes like this-

"beyond hardware which most of them have bought anyway, being computer geeks. Web development rarely requires specialized tools, and most authoring software is pretty cheap. Browsers are free. For supposed "professionals" (few truly are, in attitude at least), the costs are pretty low."

Are even slightly helpful or constructive. You're simply falling into the same generalising and abusive patterns that designers themsleves are/were in.

What I'd recommend is that you tip the chip off your shoulder and maybe think of ways to help designers understand why they're wrong instead of being abusive (and actually plain wrong in a few instances) about designers.
Reply with quote Kev: thank you! You said it far better than I did - http://www.accessifyforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=959#959.

Last edited by Dave S. on 25 Aug 2003 10:13 pm; edited 1 time in total
Reply with quote I'm inclined to agree with Kynn on this issue. Content developers who follow WAI guidelines are creating content that is accessible. I wouldn't think it was practical or advisable for a software house to give away free of charge hundreds of thousands of free copies of their software to web developers, when the target audience is web users with visual disabilities.

The petition requests a stripped down version of the software, which I can't quite get my head around. I assume it's because they wouldn't want to cheat the company out of profit should they give them a fully usable version, but how is that different from the evaluation version? To create a stripped down version would require effort from Freedom Scientific, when they already have an evaluation version that works indefinitely but stops working after 40 minutes until you reboot your machine. The petition states the software stops working after an expiration date. As far as I can ascertain, it carries on working indefinitely, but requires a reboot after 40 minutes of use.

As Kynn has already pointed out, using a stripped down or trial version doesn't mean the developers are going to learn anything from it, as they would have to become as familiar as the web users who use the software all the time. It's quite a sophisticated, highly configurable piece of software. It would however, satisfy their curiosity to how their site sounds when read through a screen reader. The petition seems quite a high demand, for the sake of curiosity.

If Freedom Scientific were to give way to the demands, where will it go next? Will developers claim they can't make accessible sites because they can't see the Braille output, and demand cheaper/free Braille devices?

What would be useful would be to have a list of the technical capabilities of these devices. Does it support CSS, can it properly differentiate between media types, etc. That would be far more useful, and more achievable to get together than the demands from the petition.
Reply with quote
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Content developers who follow WAI guidelines are creating content that is accessible.


And coders writing valid XHTML guarantee their site is consistent amongst all modern browsers. Oh wait.

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What would be useful would be to have a list of the technical capabilities of these devices.


So you see the conundrum. WAI is only as good as the support. I could pretty easily conform to WAI and not give another thought to alternative user agents, but collective wisdom says to test in as many as possible.

Further, support charts would only answer the big, obvious questions. As far as specific implementations, http://www.mezzoblue.com/cgi-bin/mt/mezzo/archives/000234.asp#c001375 - this comment illustrates pretty nicely why developer JAWS would help us on a more frequent basis.

So far what I've been hearing against the petition boils down to "you wouldn't know what to do with JAWS even if you got it" - so, then what? Do responsible developers conform to WAI and leave it up to the various screen readers to get it right?

Honestly, my life is far easier if I don't have to spend the time testing in a screen reader. If you tell me that I can responsibly get away with coding for WAI guidelines and not testing, then I'll be more than happy to.
Reply with quote As with everything, it's a case of getting the balance right. Kev was spot on with the statement that we should be developing to standards, not for software.

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And coders writing valid XHTML guarantee their site is consistent amongst all modern browsers.


It will ensure the content is available for all modern browsers, but I assume by consistent you're referring to the visual rendering? Parallels can be drawn with assistive devices, such as the hiding content from visual browsers but not Jaws issue, but nothing that couldn't be tested with the demonstration version.

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WAI is only as good as the support. I could pretty easily conform to WAI and not give another thought to alternative user agents, but collective wisdom says to test in as many as possible.


Is the demonstration version of Jaws not sufficient to test your content? It works for me.

The following is the comment you state illustrates nicely why developer JAWS would help us on a frequent basis:

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Gary, I’ve actually been wrestling over the accesibility problem that “same link phrases” pose. The Bobby validator has been failing me on my “n Comments” links on my homepage. It’s entirely obvious that any comments link on my homepage goes to the comments section of that particular post (just as it is with the “reply” links on Dave’s homepage)–especially because the title attributes clearly indicate where the links go.

There does seem to be some contention over whether or not the title attribute deals effectively with this accessibility problem. When I wrote about this recently, I found an interesting debate on the topic here:

http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/www/acctools.html

The “Cynthia Says” validator at contentquality.com just lets me of with a warning about these link phrases, but doesn’t fail me for WAI Priority 2. Because of this, I think I qualify for Priority 2 accessibility (even the W3C uses same link phrases that point to different places on their homepage), but I can’t link back to a validator that will claim this like I can with XHTML validation.

As far as the true accessibility issue goes (because that’s really the point, right?), there’s really no way for me to know how this affects a blind person using a screen user without being able to test it.

Posted by Ken Walker at August 25, 2003 06:16 AM


If Jaws is configured to read the title, it will read the title if it exists, otherwise it will read the link phrase. If it's not configured to read the title, it will read the link phrase regardless. By default, Jaws will not read the title attributes for links. These details could easily be given in a specification list, and should saitisfy your curiosity without warranting a cheaper version of the software. If content developers didn't use repeating link phrases, then it's not ambiguous for anyone accessing the page, and satisfies the WAI guidelines. Providing a title attribute will be useful for anyone wanting extra information about that link.

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So far what I've been hearing against the petition boils down to "you wouldn't know what to do with JAWS even if you got it"


I would never be so arrogant to suggest that. The point I was trying to make, obviously badly, is that there are so many variables, you wouldn't necessarily know how a particular user had configured Jaws. Downloading the demonstration version, and playing around with it would give an idea of what to expect, but not necessarily a consensus. And that can be done for nothing, so why the petition?
Reply with quote
Kev wrote:

like a recent article posted on the BBC (lost link, sorry) that ranted on about 'stupid designers'


Do you mean the Guardian's Decorators with Keyboard article, Kev?
Reply with quote
gez wrote:
Decorators with Keyboard article, Kev?


Ahh, thats the one- no wonder I couldn't find. God knows how I got it into my head it was on the BBC site Wink
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Except that such a thing would be pointless, because software companies don't set their prices based on how many people on the Internet sign petitions requesting that they lower their prices.
I wouldn't honestly know - I DO know that internet-petitions/action has changed company policy.

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Web developers wouldn't respond well to a petition asking them to lower their prices -- say, to $10 an hour or something -- so why do they expect Freedom Scientific to give away product for free?

The whole cut & thrust of the business environment IS a petition - Consumers say prices are too high, demand falls, prices fall.

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Also, I'd like to see proof that the price of JAWS is the cause of RNIB buying television commercials. Has RNIB stated this?

Yeah, I concede that the word "forced" was perhaps too literal a word but obviously the use of these things - and demand - is high enough on the agenda to warrant a TV appeal, ergo, I would contend, that the price of it is out of reach to many people and is causing a detrimental impact to the quality of life.

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Why do you presume that it's our place to demand they lower their prices?

Screenreaders have been around for donkeys years (relatively-speaking) - I can download a screenreader for free. It wouldn't have the tweaks the product in question has but the point is, the engine is available.

Furthermore, I can think of much more complex applications with a much smaller market that retail at half the price and offer concessions to students and charities - As you rightly say, this is about monopoly dominance...or they're mortgaged to the hilt!

All I'm saying is that if they priced the product within reach of the mass-market for which it's intended, they'd probably sell more. Also, I daresay employers would be less resistant to investing in the product too - A win-win situation!

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Web developers who are untrained in the use of JAWS have little use for the software. The intended audience -- blind users of computers -- would actually benefit more if Web developers would hire them to do testing or development, putting their JAWS proficiency to use.


I agree - Conversely, I would much rather spend my time working to a known formula governed by a standard that has already done the research than having to organise focus-groups for every project that passes by. I would also like to hear how a site is read out through a screenreader so I can ascertain how words, symbols etc... are being interpreted.

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I have yet to find a blind person who seriously argues that the Web would be more improved by sighted people dabbling with JAWS. On the other hand, I know plenty of blind Web users and Web developers who would love to be paid to design Web sites.


I think Dave admirably answered that with this...

Quote:
Honestly, my life is far easier if I don't have to spend the time testing in a screen reader. If you tell me that I can responsibly get away with coding for WAI guidelines and not testing, then I'll be more than happy to.


At the end of the day, I merely wanted to express how your rant is not doing the debate any good...strip out the vitriol, and you have good persuasive arguments. As it stands at the moment, you're alienating the developer/designer community and (almost) advocating the high prices - I'm sure that's not your intention but that's the perception IMO.
Reply with quote Continuing Mike's thoughts, I've been shocked at the assumptions and scorn coming from those objecting to this petition, here and in this other thread - http://www.accessifyforum.com/viewtopic.php?p=977#977 Somehow this has turned into a 'developers think they have more rights than users' thing.

I'm not going to bother defending this anymore. Let's boil this down to the basics, and move on.

I want to make sure my work is socially responsible and that my users get the best possible experience. I don't need JAWS for anything but this. But even if I have JAWS I can't do this properly since I don't use it regularly. I'm hearing people say that conforming to WAI is the best way to do this. If I conform to WAI and I use techniques that don't work in a particular screen reader (FIR for example), then am I responsible?

Somebody, please tell me one thing (conform to WAI, don't cater to software) or the other (WAI is only as good as the software, test in screenreaders). Which will it be?
Reply with quote Unfortunately, I think Kynn's article has set the tone for the scorn. I think it's a shame its come to this, as we're all on the same side, trying to achieve a common goal. It seems if your opinion falls on one side or the other of the debate, you're putting yourself forward for scorn. In my mind, it's quite OK to see both sides of the argument, or favour one. I've already stated that I agree with Kynn, and don't see the need for the petition. It doesn't mean I'm the mortal enemy of anyone who has signed it, or hold in them in any contempt whatsoever. I would hope people wouldn't hold me in contempt for agreeing with Kynn. I have also already stated that I think it would be useful for developers to know what happens with assistive devices under certain circumstances.

On a positive note, I've started to put together a chart of features that are supported by assistive devices, with some tests for feedback. The tests may need refining, and the results from the start are going to be limited, but the longer the page is open, hopefully we could start to get some useful feedback. It would even help those who have downloaded the demonstration version of JAWS, as it will hopefully point them in the right direction to get the results they want. Understanding how assistive devices work, and their capabilities is a good start to addressing this issue for the responsible developer in my mind. I'm hoping to have the initial page and tests ready by tomorrow.

Dave S. wrote:

I want to make sure my work is socially responsible and that my users get the best possible experience. I don't need JAWS for anything but this. But even if I have JAWS I can't do this properly since I don't use it regularly. I'm hearing people say that conforming to WAI is the best way to do this. If I conform to WAI and I use techniques that don't work in a particular screen reader (FIR for example), then am I responsible?

Somebody, please tell me one thing (conform to WAI, don't cater to software) or the other (WAI is only as good as the software, test in screenreaders). Which will it be?


Catering to WAI shouldn't mean that you're not catering for software. It's the software provider's responsibility to ensure they also cater for WAI. Of course, we all know this isn't the case, but hacks and fixes aren't the only solution to this. The more hacks and solutions developers provide, the less seriously assistive software developers will take the issues, as it will come down to the developer's responsibility. Having said that, you have to draw a balance, and decide what you should do as a sensible developer. Knowing the pitfalls of assistive devices will help this cause, but not just for JAWS.
Reply with quote I agree that software is primarily vendors' responsibility, not developers', but that it is often necessary to compromise, since perfectly compliant code may itself be inaccessible in a particular browser.

But I just wanted to mention that the specific example (FIR) is not particularly pertinent, I don't think, because FIR's problems are inherent in the technique itself, not how software deals with it. In other words, if you use FIR then your page is not WAI compliant, because all of its approaches (known so far) create one or more subgroups of users for whom the content is completely inaccessible.
Reply with quote
brothercake wrote:
I agree that software is primarily vendors' responsibility, not developers', but that it is often necessary to compromise, since perfectly compliant code may itself be inaccessible in a particular browser.


I agree with the sentiment but on the other hand, the longer we pander to software inadequacies, the longer the messy software perpetuates. IMO, it may be worth a period of painful petitioning of software vendors, much like was endured during the WAsP campaign, and refusal to not meet standards then to prolong the necessity over a vastly elongated amount of time.

I guess teh question in my mind is: Can we solve all accessibility issues by coding to standards if the standards in place did what they're supposed to? If we can then I stick to what i say above. If they can't, then we need to do as you suggest and incorporate bug-fixes.
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Kev wrote:
Can we solve all accessibility issues by coding to standards if the standards in place did what they're supposed to? If we can then I stick to what i say above. If they can't, then we need to do as you suggest and incorporate bug-fixes.

Interesting question - is there an example of a situation where perfectly [XHTML and WCAG] complaint code, correctly rendered, is still inaccessible. Can't think of anything offhand - have to ponder that one Smile

But if it turns out that there isn't, and what's really needed is petitioning MS to upgrade IE ... I fear the worst; MS is not interested in IE anymore because the paradigm they originally intended for it (remote application delivery) is no longer being actively developed. In other words, having brow-beaten Netscape out of the market, they now realise they don't want the market after all. Are they going to make up for that behavior by releasing a compliant, cross-Windows IE7? We'll see.
Reply with quote
Kynn wrote:
You might as well start a petition asking Ford to lower the price of an Explorer -- with the logic being "but it's too expensive for us to afford!"


Actually, more and more cars come with the ability to access the internet while on the road. As a concerned web developer I need to test my pages how they display on a wide range of mobile devices, like let's say BMW's iDrive thing. Unfortunately the cost for a 760Li sedan is way beyond what I can afford, so could someone please set up a petition asking BMW (hey, and while we're at it, there's other car manufacturers as well) to lower the price and give at least some models away for free to web designers?

/T

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