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Lucy Greco

  Accessibility in Education


An Experiment with Web 2.0 Applications

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This month, G3ict blogger Lucy Greco has taken up the challenge of using only Web 2.0 applications for work. Here's the first in a series of posts detailing her experience with web apps. 

Not all Web 2.0 apps are accessible for screen reader users, says Lucy Greco

Image: Not all Web 2.0 apps are accessible for screen reader users, says Lucy Greco.

I have always enjoyed testing and playing with new tools and applications. However, the older I get, it seems to take longer to learn these more complex applications. Recently, one of the people I follow on Twitter and respect immensely, Marco Zehe has been creating blog posts and demonstrations of some more advanced applications. His work has inspired me to once again take a plunge and commit to new applications. So, over the next month I am going to restrict myself to only using Web 2.0 apps for work, except for this blog. I will try and post frequently throughout the month to keep you all informed as to my progress with this project.

Choosing to work with simpler platforms rather than Web 2.0 has been a decision born out of convenience rather than hard choice. For example, I haven’t had to adopt the standard view for Gmail because there was a basic HTML view that did what I needed. However, from the point of view of accessibility, it’s been difficult to work with Google’s suit of web apps. I have tried and failed to create a Google Doc or read one that somebody has sent me. Keyboard shortcuts and Help documents have only gone a short distance in helping me navigate the menu. I usually end up requesting colleagues and clients to send me their documents in MS Word format because I’m not skilled enough to use Google Docs. If I want to create good, presentable documents and emails, I have stayed within the Microsoft Office environment. 

Recently, Google has done some incredible work with their products. I would occasionally get updates about the accessibility improvements in Google and test the improvements. Most times, these improvements were just not enough for me to be able to work with the application. They seem to be fragmented and sometimes other parts of the interface would break while they were working on the one they had just announced.

A month or so ago, I was at a presentation given by Shawn Lauriat from the Google apps/docs team, talking about some of the work he and his team had done to make Google Docs more accessible to screen readers. I was truly pleased and thrilled to see what he had done. The Google Docs team has worked extraordinarily hard in the past year to bring their application up to the accessible level. I could now read the text in a Google Doc and could create my own.

It also came as a complete surprise to me to discover some of the other features they have added. For instance, while working on a Google document, my screen reader can notify me if someone else is also editing the document live, including the specific paragraph. Needless to say, I am excited about discovering how Web 2.0 apps can help me work better.

This is the reason why I am on a month-long discovery of web apps. I must have one exception to this rule. When I dictate these blogs for you using Dragon NaturallySpeaking I will not be in the web interface. Those who know me personally, are aware of my pet peeve: I make a lot of spelling mistakes. I work much better when I dictate text. Currently I am using Dragon 12 which is not as web-ready as I am.  Therefore, I will be using MS Word to dictate these blog posts out to you. I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking in combination with Jaws using a tool called J-Say. As the developer of J-Say can only create his application once the professional version of Dragon is released I will probably have to wait 6 to 8 months before I can conduct the same experiment using Dragon. I have heard rumors that Dragon 13 will support ARIA and I hope that’s the case. In the meantime I hope all of you enjoy this feature and send back comments on my reports.


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